Earlier in the year, our own Sebastian Anthony had the opportunity to experience the new "IMAX with laser" cinema in Leicester Square, and it didn't disappoint. Not to be outdone, Dolby Laboratories invited Ars UK to the new JT cinema with Dolby Cinema in Hilversum, the broadcasting capital of the Netherlands.
Middle-aged Ars readers may remember Dolby from the Dolby B noise reduction system used with cassette tapes. Younger Ars readers are probably more familiar with Dolby through Dolby Digital, the codec used to encode most digital audio on DVDs as well as TV broadcasts and Blu-ray discs. (Dolby Digital started out as a way to add digital surround sound to film, where the digital information is encoded on the unused space between the perforations of the 35mm film, where it can be read optically.)
The latest Dolby audio technology in cinemas is Dolby Atmos, which supports a few more audio tracks than older systems—128 of them, in fact. However, Dolby Atmos improves upon previous surround sound technologies not by simply adding more channels. Instead, it allows sounds to be dynamically placed in a 3D space. This is used to great effect when noisy objects fly over the audience; it sounds very realistic. To allow for these effects, the JT cinema in Hilversum has no fewer than 60 speakers on the walls and the ceiling of its Dolby Cinema-equipped auditorium. Dolby Atmos is currently installed in several thousand cinemas worldwide and films such as Spectre and the new Star Wars are available with a Dolby Atmos mix (in compatible cinemas).