At the Oscars or in the cinema, the sound that puts movie lovers in the picture

February 22, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – You may be a guest at the Oscars or simply watching one of the season’s hit movies in a hi-tech multiplex, but chances are that, in either case, the soundtrack will make you feel like you’re right at the heart of the action.

Five of the eight movies that will vie for the Best Picture academy award on Sunday use Atmos, the latest sound technology developed by Dolby.

The same goes for the Dolby Theatre where the prizes will be handed out.

The post-production system, which also features ultra-high resolution Dolby Vision Technology, allows directors to place “up to 108 different sound objects in 3D space”, said Julian Stanford, Dolby Cinema Europe’s director of business development.

That creates a soundscape with different angles, intensities, and tonal values. “It’s an immersive system which has speakers that are not only all round you but above your head and behind the screen,” he told Reuters TV.

“So it allows the director and his sound mixer to put objects in sound in three-dimensional space and so it means they can put you right in the middle of the movie.”

For those watching in the growing number of Atmos-equipped cinemas worldwide, sound can nuance the movie-going experience every bit as much as images, Stanford believes.

At one end of the decibel scale, the pivotal beach scene in “Roma” is largely silent, but the tonal textures remain key.

“You feel terrified. There is no music in the background, almost no dialogue at all. The landscape of your emotion is defined by that sound that he (director Alfonso Cuaron) has created,” he said.

At the other, in the wall-of-noise Live Aid segment of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, director Brian Singer can place “the bass to the left, the drums to the back.

“You are placed on the stage with them, and you hear this incredibly intense experience, and you live what (Queen frontman) Freddie Mercury is living at that moment,” Stanford said.

(Reporting by Emily Roe; writing by John Stonestreet; editing by Michael Davidson)

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