On Tuesday morning at ShoWest, Dolby Laboratories announced a new audio format, Dolby Surround 7.1, spurred by the desire of the people at Pixar Animation Studios to deliver something new for the 3D release of Toy Story 3 in June. The sound pioneer has established two back surround channels where currently there is only one, enabling an even more pronounced 360-degree effect for sound effects that pan around the theatre.
Dolby demonstrated the new system at the Brenden Theatre atLas Vegas'Palms Casino, and there to lend his enthuasiastic endorsement was Pixar post-production supervisor Paul Cichocki. "We're always pushing for quality," Cichocki said, "and we thought: What could we do with sound?" Cichockifeels the enhanced directionality of Dolby 7.1 takes audio "to another level," and says the studio is "100% committed" to the new process. In fact, all future Disney/Pixar 3D releases will be in 7.1 audio, he revealed.
The demo for the press utilized sequences from three Pixar movies remixed for Dolby 7.1: Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo and Up. The Toy Story 2 sequences were especially potent, bringing screeching and careening traffic to the back of the auditorium as the toys try to cross a busy highway. The Finding Nemo clip was selected to highlight the enveloping ambience of that undersea adventure, and a frantic chase from Up was amped up higher by the additional rear surrounds.
Cichocki said his team is embarking on a six-week mix of the new Toy Story movie, but the addition of Dolby 7.1 will have a "super-small impact on production," requiring perhaps just one additional day.
Stuart Bowling, Dolby's technical marketing manager, said that theatres already equipped for Dolby 5.1 willface minimal work to adapt their auditoriums for the new format--mainly a "minor wiring change" and the purchase of an additional amplifier.
It seems like a natural combination: 3D imagery getting a 3D audio makeover. We're sure the geniuses at Pixar are salivating over the creative possibilities.