Dolby: Add some Atmos-phere to your games at GDC

MCV recently sat down with Andy Vaughan, Sr. developer relations manager at Dolby Labs to talk about the latest Dolby technology and how it can be utilised by developers looking to provide the most immersive experience for gamers.

For those who aren’t home cinema buffs, can you explain what Dolby Atmos is exactly and how it relates to games?

Dolby Atmos is a new surround sound format that brings the element of height to game audio, and allows sound designers to treat specific sound elements as objects. Where, we had an array of speakers in stereo, 5.1 or 7.1 configurations to create a surround experience in the horizontal plane before, Dolby Atmos now allows sound designers to place individual sound effects overhead, and to pan those sound effects through the entire room. The effect is stunning and the realism adds to immersion.

Is it easy to create a game in Dolby Atmos?

It is. Thanks to Windows Sonic (Microsoft’s new spatial audio platform), any Xbox One title (including Xbox One, One S and One X) or any Windows 10 title can use existing middleware to add the extra speaker points and panning in less than a day in most cases.

What special equipment does it take? Do consumers have to have speakers on the ceiling?

Consumers will need to add extra speakers, and a Dolby Atmos-capable receiver to their existing setup. If you have the ability to hang speakers overhead, that’s great. Still, not all consumers have the option of doing this, so we’ve worked with speaker manufacturers to create Dolby Atmos speaker sets – those have upward-firing drivers that reflect off your ceiling and create an amazingly precise overhead experience with very little fussing. The only constraint is that they must be added in pairs for the most balanced sound reproduction.

And players who prefer using headphones won’t be disappointed. Using the Dolby Access app (available from the Microsoft Store), gamers can use their existing headphones to enjoy overhead and underfoot audio, with the same smooth and realistic panning home theatre setups provide.

Besides the new speakers and receiver, what is the cost involved?

For home theater users, Dolby Atmos playback is free once you have your equipment in place. For headphone users Dolby Access is a 15-dollar purchase, tied to your Microsoft account. You can apply that purchase to 10 different devices without paying anything extra.

And Dolby also HDR technology for games as well?

Yes we do! Dolby Vision is an HDR technology that allows much brighter video rendering, and allows a much greater range in detail and color saturation. You can see this in action in the cinema already, and with the right setup, Battlefield 1 plays in Dolby Vision as well. This leads to much greater detail in the highlights and lowlights, and brilliant color saturation across the board.

Dolby is located in the South Hall booth #1231. Be sure to stop by to check out Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision for yourself.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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