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Gravity in Dolby Atmos Movie Review with Video Discussion

by July 15, 2014
Gravity Movie Poster

Gravity Movie Poster

RPX Regel CinemaMy wife and I were fortunate enough to check out the new Gravity movie at a somewhat local Regal Cineplex in Pinellas Park, Florida on its premier night, Thursday October 3rd, 2013, courtesy of Dolby Labs.  That’s right, they sent us on a date to experience Dolby Atmos for the very first time.  When I entered the theater, it was too dark to take good quality photos but it was nonetheless interesting to see full sized speakers wedged into the ceiling at key locations around the theater.  Normally I’m not a fan of 3D but this theater gave me no choice.  If I wanted to experience Dolby Atmos, I’d also have to endure 3D in the process.  

Gravity Background

Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron has said that watching Gravity in Dolby Atmos is as important as seeing it in 3D and has explained:

“Just as 3D offers added visual dimension, Dolby Atmos creates a virtual reality of sound, which fully immerses the audience in the aural journey.  There is no sound in space, so we incorporated music as an integral element of the movie. The music was composed  and designed for a surround experience—different harmonies emerging from the different speakers around the room, constantly moving, crashing and blending to create a dynamic experience.  A special sound mix was created for Dolby Atmos, taking full advantage  of the amazing nuance, spread and separation of the speakers on the ceiling and the total range of all the speakers in the room.  Dolby Atmos is the sound experience I have always dreamed of.”

Source: http://www.dcinematoday.com/dc/pr.aspx?newsID=3392

Here’s a link to a video interview where he talks about how he used sound to tell a story in space, where there isn’t any.

And here’s a behind-the-scenes video  from SoundWorks Collection on the mixing team’s masterful work on the sound of Gravity.  (The Dolby Atmos mix for Gravity was led by multiple Academy Award nominated re-recording mixer Skip Lievsay in collaboration with re-recording mixer Niv Adiri. Academy Award nominated Glenn Freemantle was the supervising sound editor and sound designer on the Dolby Atmos mix. Other people pivotal to the Dolby Atmos mix were music editor Chris Benstead and composer Steven Price. )

The reader is also encouraged to download the History of Sound PDF attached at the bottom of this editorial for further insights about how sound in the movie theater has changed and improved throughout the years.

Gravity Dolby Atmos Experience

Gravity Overview

I won’t get into the plot of the movie as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.  Let me just say that it was one of Sandra Bullock’s finest acting moments and I’m no fan of her acting skills.  George Clooney was a natural for the part and you really felt his intelligence and thoughtfulness as if he was a real NASA astronaut.  I believed in him and I trusted him with my own life.  He was that good!  Most of the movie takes place in space centered around a routine repair mission of the Hubble telescope to a mission of survival initially using the Space Shuttle as the vehicle that propelled them there in the first place. One has to wonder if this film was supposed to take place nearly a decade ago given the events and equipment being used throughout.

Dolby Atmos Theater

Dolby Atmos Theater - photo courtesy of Gear Patrol

I attempted to snap a photo of the Regal Dolby Atmos theater we were in, but the lighting was poor.  Our theater appeared to be retrofitted to integrate box speakers in the ceiling.  The theater pictured above seemed to be built around the true Dolby Atmos concept of properly positioning and angling speakers all around the ceiling both front and back.  This would surely be something incredible to experience.

The Dolby Atmos Experience

As I previously mentioned not being a fan of 3D, I have to admit enjoying this viewing experience not just because a very toned and supple 49 year old Sandra Bullock popping out at you in her yoga shorts, but because the space scenes were quite breath taking.  The height speakers from the Dolby Atmos brought a very enveloping and spacious effect different than anything I’ve ever experienced in a movie theater.  I actually had to fight the impulse to duck a few times during the scenes where space debris was flying over your head. There were times my wife and I felt the sound was a bit too loud and the surround effects a bit overbearing.  However I don’t blame Dolby Atmos on this.  It’s quite possible the calibrator from the theater we were listening from was a bit too generous on the master volume levels and surround channel levels.  The other patrons in the theater seemed to enjoy the experience and we did as well for the most part.


It was refreshing to see a modern space movie with a plot and believable storyline rather than the typical lens flare, over CGI, poor plot developed dribble from the typical JJ Abrams movie or alike.  Gravity was a well produced, well acted, involving movie that greatly benefited from its 3D video and Dolby Atmos sound treatment.  This is a movie worth seeing at a Dolby Atmos theater instead of waiting to bring it home as a rental.

About Dolby Atmos

Dolby Laboratories is equipping the cinema world with its new Dolby Atmos technology. Dolby Atmos unleashes the potential of sound in storytelling by making it easy for filmmakers to place or move specific sounds anywhere in the movie theatre. The result is what moviegoers have described as a virtual reality of sound and the most engaging and lifelike cinema experience ever.

Introduced in April 2012, Dolby Atmos has been embraced by all major Hollywood studios, six Academy Award®-winning directors, and 10 Academy Award-winning sound mixers, among others. More than 300 Dolby Atmos screens have been installed or committed to in 30 countries with more than 85 exhibitor partners. More than 75 films from 10 different countries—representing a broad range of genres—have been or are scheduled to be released with Dolby Amos sound since the first film debuted in June 2012. Dolby Atmos has received technical achievement awards from both the Hollywood Post Alliance and the Cinema Audio Society.

For the latest list of Dolby Atmos titles, visit dolby.com/atmosmovies.

To learn more about Dolby Atmos, visit dolby.com/Atmos.


About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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