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How Does Dolby Atmos Work and How Do You Master for Spatial Audio?

Music in Dolby Atmos sounds amazing, but how does it work and how do you master for the spatial audio format?

When Apple recently announced that certain Music tracks were available in a spatial audio format using Dolby Atmos, we all rushed to get our earbuds in to see what the fuss was about. The marketing angle is that the music sounds as if it is outside of your head, rather than the 'ear to ear' experience of stereo. It does sound good and makes stereo feel very restricted afterwards.

So how can music be mastered to sound outside of the head when wearing headphones or earbuds?

That's a question I posed to sound engineer Mike in the pub when I was working with him on a recent live job. I like to know how new formats work. Can I see myself mastering in spatial audio directly from Final Cut Pro? No, but I can see many films and TV shows getting the Dolby Atmos treatment after picture lock.

The answer to how to master in Dolby Atmos is slightly complicated, however, perfectly timed, Mike sent me this new explainer video from Ian Shepherd that does a great job in demonstrating how it works.

 

I had a thought it was a pseudo-binaural recreation for headphones, Ian's video cleared that up nicely. Binaural isn't new, many of us older folk will remember listening in to Andrew Sachs' The Revenge aired on the BBC back in 1978!

What do I take away from my first experiences diving a bit deeper into Dolby Atmos? First of all, if you are producing a film, now or in the future, then Dolby Atmos is well worth looking at to give your production longevity. Being able to engineer custom mixes for cinemas, 5.1 living rooms and earbuds all in the same deliverable package will give a much better experience for the viewer/listener.

Secondly, Ian is mastering with Dolby Atmos using Logic Pro, one of the DAWs that it supports. So the current workflow for edits would be to output an AFF and let the sound engineer do the mix in Pro Tools, Logic or the DAW of their choice.

But a bit of Googling also shows that you can already master in Dolby Atmos within an NLE - DaVinci Resolve! So my final thought is that Final Cut Pro's Roles seem like a very good fit for Dolby Atmos objects. Interesting.

 

A seven-part tutorial series on Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos FAQs

Dolby Atmos Production Suite (£250) 

 

Just in, a new video from Ian that compares Atmos and stereo music tracks.

 

 

 


Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

I was made a Freeman of Lichfield through The Worshipful Company of Smiths (established 1601). Though I haven't yet tried to herd a flock of sheep through the city centre!

Current Editing

great house giveaway 2020

2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. The shows have also been nominated for a 2021 BAFTA.

Tour de france 2020
Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.

 

BBC snooker the crucible

BBC's Snooker has played a big part in my life, I've been editing tournament coverage since 1997. I'm proud to be part of a very creative team that has pioneered many new ideas and workflows that are now industry standard in sports' production. This is currently an Adobe Premiere edit.

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Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

Plugin Design & Development

I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

I also take on custom work, whether it is adapting an existing plugin for a special use or designing new plugins for clients from scratch. Having a good knowledge of editing allows me to build-in flexibility and more importantly, usability.

FCP.co

Now in its 10th year and 4th redesign, running FCP.co has given me knowledge on how to run a large CMS- you are currently reading my bio from the database! Although it sounds corny, I am pretty well up on social media trends & techniques, especially in the video sector. The recent Covid restrictions has enabled live FCP.co shows online. This involves managing a Zoom Webinar through Restream.io to YouTube and Facebook. 

The Future

I'm always open to new ideas and opportunities, so please get in touch at editor (at) fcp.co. I've judged film competitions, presented workflow techniques to international audiences and come up with ideas for TV shows and software programs!

 

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tangierc's Avatar
tangierc replied the topic: #115533 26 Jul 2021 16:59
Thanks for this insightful information Peter. Appreciated as always.
trevora's Avatar
trevora replied the topic: #115732 12 Aug 2021 13:48
We just edited the Olympics in immersive. (We've edited them 5.1 discreet since Beijing 2008, pro-logic surround since Sydney 2000)

Basic approach was channel (rather than object) based. Truck generated bespoke 5.1 and on-passed the 4 host height channels + extra 4 spot mics. The immersive part was then mixed in control room as it aired (trucks generally not that well suited for immersive monitoring).

Edit was mostly to replicate/match truck 16 channel output but plenty of rebalancing, replacing, revoicing. Had to keep immersive tracks matching the rear surrounds.

Used Avid, would've possibly been a bit easier with PP adaptive tracks.

FCPx doesn't have output or export options for it to work, at least not as far as I could figure. Network + freelance editors heavily tied up with Avid anyway.

www.sportsvideo.org/2021/08/01/live-from...mentators-connected/