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