Dolby Atmos is a surround sound experience set to radically change the way we watch sport and movies, and BT Sport viewers will be able to experience it first.
BT Sport is the first UK broadcaster to offer the technology. Find out more about how it works and how it improves your viewing experience.
What is Dolby Atmos?
When you watch TV, audio is typically constrained to channels, but because Dolby Atmos sound moves around a three-dimensional space, you get a immersive experience, so you feel part of the action.
For instance, if you are watching a film and a plane flies overhead, you can heard the sound of the plane moving above you – like in real life.
The technology is currently used in selected cinemas - find out if there is one near you.
How does Dolby Atmos work?
Traditional speaker systems can’t realistically replicate the sound a moving object makes in real life.
When you listen to a traditional surround soundtrack on a 5.1- or 7.1-speaker set-up, sounds are given an allotted channel. Sound can move by swapping between channels, but it can’t go above you or exactly replicate the position of a moving object on a screen.
With Dolby Atmos, sounds aren’t constrained to channels. Instead, they are what Dolby calls ‘individual entities called audio objects’ independent of channels. Dolby Atmos supports 128 of these objects mixed together simultaneously.
With Dolby Atmos, the sound of a moving object – such as an aeroplane - can move anywhere in the room, including over your head.
What happens during BT Sport's Dolby Atmos broadcast?
According to the Dolby Lab Notes blog: “During the game, a soundfield microphone will capture the sound of the crowd in 3D, while a range of other microphones will capture many different elements, from the referee’s whistle and the spectators’ cheers to the thud of the football being kicked.
“A total of 12 microphones placed around the edge of the football pitch and near the crowd will capture all of the multidimensional sounds.”
Sports commentators and reporters based pitch side or in the studio are also equipped with microphones. All the sounds are then mixed into Dolby Atmos audio in two broadcast trucks located outside Anfield.
“The broadcast team monitor the live Dolby Atmos audio from all around the stadium, whether on the pitch, in the crowd, or from the public address system in the stadium roof. Inside the trucks, speakers have been installed in the ceiling to enable the monitoring of a Dolby Atmos mix with overhead sound, while the microphones from around the pitch are connected to an audio mixing desk.”
When they leave the stadium, they are quality checked and adverts are added. The signal is set via BT's Infinity superfast fibre optic broadband network into people’s homes.
How good is Dolby Atmos?
Jamie Hindhaugh, Chief Operating Officer for BT Sport and BT TV believes audio is overlooked, as people focus on picture quality. “Believe it or not, sound increases viewing quality by 60%, so it’s a really important factor, but sound has sort of become the forgotten medium” he told BT.com.
"TV viewers are used to having the best pictures when watching sports, but sound is often overlooked. Now sports fans will be able to feel like they’re in the stadium, with the combination of Dolby Atmos and UHD providing the most immersive experience possible”
Watch a movie or football match in Dolby Atmos and you really feel part of the action, hearing sound all around you. All sound – including dialogue, action and quiet moments – has clarity, richness, detail and depth.
What can I watch in Dolby Atmos?
BT Sport will be broadcasting more matches in Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Atmos-compatible movies are being released on Blu-ray disc, including Gravity and Mad Max.
How can I get Dolby Atmos?
To watch movies in Dolby Atmos you need a Blu-ray player or games console.
The box needs to be connected to a Dolby Atmos receiver, this can be part of a home cinema package like the Onkyo HT-S5805 5.1.2 (£648.99, below) or you can buy a standalone receiver like the Yamaha RXV581B (£442.22)
When it comes to speakers, in a Dolby Atmos home-theatre setup the key is to replicate overhead sound.
1: Dolby-Atmos enabled speakers: These channel sound upwards where it is reflected off the ceiling. Dolby Atmos ready-speakers come in two types – integrated units or add-on upfiring speaker modules you use with your current speakers that reflect sound up.
2: Overhead speakers: These can be any brand but full-range speakers are better. These will work with your Dolby Atmos receiver.
A Dolby Atmos ready home cinema package like the Onkyo HT-S5805 5.1.2 (£648.99), is a convenient all-in-one system which contains everything you need to get started.
If space is at a premium a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar like the Onkyo Pioneer LS7200 3D (£898) (which includes speakers that fire upwards), is a good option.
Where can I buy Dolby Atmos-ready kit?
Many online and high-street shops are selling Dolby Atmos-ready equipment. Check out the BT Shop, which has a section dedicated to Dolby Atmos.