For some, the allure of travelling is to enjoy experiences that aren’t available at home. So, the idea of simply going to a movie while on vacation is absurd. Why would you waste precious vacation time doing something that you can just as easily do back home?
But to the truly movie obsessed, the biggest of the film geeks, they know that not every movie experience is the same. Besides the movie themselves, there have been wonderful advances in film exhibition that aren’t available at your run-of-the-mill mall multiplex.
Film Geeks Love Awesome Theaters
For instance, when you’re in Los Angeles, you just have to watch a movie at Mann’s Chinese Theater. Besides the fact that its steeped in Hollywood history (you’ll be watching a movie where many of the greats premiered and eternal stars like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and John Wayne sat to watch them), it’s been recently renovated to a laser IMAX projector system, providing the absolute finest in projection on one of the biggest indoor screens known to man. And if you’re visiting the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, you’ll want to check out the Dolby Atmos system at the AMC Disney Springs 24 Theater.
What is Dolby Atmos?
It’s the newest innovation in surround sound that’s currently only installed in a handful of theaters nationwide. It takes what is generally considered surround sound, which sits on one single plane, and makes it truly atmospheric sound with a complete circle of sound. In fact, Atmos is short for atmosphere.
Most theaters are configured for 5.1 sound, maybe 7.1. What that means is that there are five distinct channels of sound (or seven) that can be sent to speakers around the theater; three behind the screen and two to four on the walls of the theater. This creates a 3D effect with the sound. When, say, a helicopter flies over the scene, the sound can be directed from one of the three channels behind the screen to one of the channels positioned on the walls in the theater. It’s a pretty convincing effect of that helicopter flying into the audience.
But, next time you’re in the theater, look at the walls. You’ll see five or so speakers on each wall. However, each of those speakers on each wall are configured for one channel of sound. That means on the right wall, all five of those speakers are playing the exact same sound at the exact same time. Same goes to the left wall.
More Channels, More Speakers, More Atmosphere
Dolby Atmos goes several steps beyond the usual set-up. Each speaker in the theater is its own channel. That means each speaker is capable of producing a completely different sound at the same time. So, when that helicopter flies “through” the theater, instead of going from one of the screen channels to all of the speakers on the wall, it goes through each wall speaker in succession. It’s a much fuller and convincing effect that sounds truly 3D.
But that’s not all. Dolby Atmos also adds an array of speakers to the ceiling. That way, if the helicopter is meant to fly overhead, then the sound goes to those speakers above your head, again in perfect succession. If the helicopter is meant to stop there, then fly over to your right, and then back around over to your left, Atmos can make that happen. It’s not limited to seven channels. It can support as many channels as speakers can be crammed into a theater since the mixing is handled in real time by a computer. Old surround sound really could not come close to this. Atmos is the truest 3D sound currently available, augmenting the 3D movie experience perfectly.
It’s Sooooo Worth It
That’s a long way of saying that for big film geeks, Dolby Atmos is the proverbial candy store. They will want to experience that type of surround from a big action blockbuster. But since it’s not available in most theaters yet, they will probably be champing at the bit to go to the movies while on vacation in Orlando. Don’t judge them for it. Embrace their geekiness and love them for it.
There is only one theater out of the 24 at Disney Springs with Atmos installed. It’s the same theater that houses the AMC ETX screen, which is AMC’s proprietary version of IMAX, i.e. a very large screen. So, to be sure that you’re seeing the movie in Atmos, be sure to buy a ticket for the ETX screening. It’s typically playing whatever is the latest, largest Hollywood blockbuster of the week.