Dolby Atmos is a buzzword in the movie industry – but what is Dolby Atmos? Worry not, because today, we’re going to answer that question. We’re also going to show you how Dolby Atmos is used in televisions, soundbars, and cinemas. By the end, you’ll know what Dolby Atmos is, and where to look for Dolby Atmos content.

Watch: Dune Sound Design Explained

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

Dolby Atmos Meaning

What does Dolby Atmos mean?

Sound technology has come a long way since the days of Thomas Edison. Before we jump into our Dolby Atmos definition, it may be helpful to first define a couple sound technology terms.

  • Mono: sound recorded and played back using a single audio channel

  • Stereo: sound recorded and played back using two audio channels

Mono sound is the simplest form of recorded sound technology. Think about it: mono uses one audio channel. Conversely, stereo uses two audio channels. With stereo, sound engineers are able to split audio for two speakers, thus building a more immersive viewing experience.

In today’s world however, surround sound and spatial audio reign king(s). 

  • Surround sound: multiple audio channels split onto speakers that surround the listener

  • Spatial audio: software/hardware headphone system that replicates surround sound without the need for external speakers

So, where does Dolby Atmos come in? Well, Dolby Atmos is regarded as a pioneer of surround sound and spatial audio. This next video from Dolby shows Dolby Atmos in action.

How Does Dolby Atmos Work?  •  Dolby Atmos Presents the World of Sound

Dolby Atmos has certainly been a game-changer for sound technology. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s first define Dolby Atmos.


What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology system that was originally released in 2012. Dolby Atmos began as a cinema-only surround sound system – but has since gone on to be offered in commercial capacities, from home theaters to phones and more.

Benefits of Dolby Atmos:

  • Spatial Audio
  • Height Channels
  • Pinpoint Audio Precision

Dolby Atmos Examples

What does Dolby Atmos do?

Dolby Atmos is, first and foremost, a movie theater technology. Dolby Atmos premiered in 2012 alongside the theatrical release 0f Disney Pixar’s Brave – and has since become a staple of high-end cinema. Essentially, Dolby Atmos (as a movie theater technology) is high fidelity, pinpoint-precise audio delivered through a collection of speakers placed around an auditorium. 

With Dolby Atmos, sound engineers are able to place sounds exactly where they want moviegoers to hear them. Rain falling from the heavens? Trickle down a ceiling speaker. Cars driving towards the camera? Vrooms emanate from the audience-facing speakers. The opportunities are near-endless.

What is Dolby Atmos Dolby Atmos Example Visual Representation of Dolby Atmos via Major Hi Fi

Dolby Atmos Example  •  Visual Representation of Dolby Atmos, via Major Hi-Fi

This video from Digital Trends breaks down everything you need to know about Dolby Atmos technology.

What is Dolby Atmos?  •  Everything You Need to Know About Dolby Atmos Explained by Digital Trends

Over the years, Dolby Atmos has grown outside cinema. In fact, Dolby Atmos has been artificially reproduced in a spatial audio format so that listeners can enjoy many of the same features without needing external speakers. But still, there’s no denying that the best way to experience Dolby Atmos is at the cinema.

What is Dolby Atmos at Home?

How to get Dolby Atmos content

Since 2012, filmmakers, music makers, and game-makers have made a concerted effort to work with Dolby Atmos. Here’s where Dolby Atmos content is supported:

  • Dolby Atmos is supported on a wide array of Samsung Galaxy phones and OLED TVs, via Dolby.
  • Dolby Atmos is supported on Apple TV, Disney+, Netflix, Tidal, Amazon Music, Wondery+, and Vudu, via Dolby.
  • Dolby Atmos is supported on Xbox One X, Xbox One S, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S. Certain games from Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, and more support Dolby Atmos, via Dolby.

It’s worth noting that more hardware and software services probably support Dolby Atmos – but the ones listed above were taken directly from the Dolby Atmos website.

It’s certainly not cheap to experience Dolby Atmos at home; remember, you need compatible hardware, software, and streaming/playback capability.

In recent years, other technology providers, such as Apple and Sony, have experimented with their own spatial audio services. Apple uses spatial audio in almost all of their new products; supported by AirPods. Sony uses Tempest Audio; supported on the PlayStation 5. 

The end result of at-home spatial audio is a bit of a mixed bag; Dolby Atmos or otherwise. Nothing can truly replace dozens of speakers strategically located and utilized in an auditorium. 

Up Next

What is Dolby Cinema?

Want to learn more about the Dolby moviegoing experience? Up next, we break down everything there is to know about Dolby Cinema, from 3D to Dolby Vision. By the end, you’ll know why Dolby Cinema is considered by many to be the best cinema experience money can buy. 

Up Next: Dolby Cinema Explained →
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.

Learn More ➜

Tags: ,
  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copy link