On Thursday, Dolby, Pixar, and Disney gathered to display the new audio format, Dolby Surround 7.1, which will make its official debut when ‘Toy Story 3’ is released on June 18. Not satisfied with Dolby Laboratory’s current 5.1 format, Pixar pushed Dolby to innovate. Having worked on meticulously animating their upcoming film, and releasing it in 3-D to further immerse the audience into their world, Pixar wanted even more. Video was covered, so they encouraged Dolby to give them something more in the audio department.
There have been many advances in the visual department, with many films being released in 3-D and being shown on large IMAX screens. However, there has not been much said about audio in theaters. That does not mean Dolby has sat on the sidelines. They have been introducing new technology over time: ‘Batman Returns’ became the first film to utilize Dolby Digital, and with ‘Chicken Little’, Dolby 3D made its entrance. Dolby Surround 7.1 is being rolled out with about 250 theaters in the United States currently outfitted. International theaters are also upgrading, with also about 250 theaters ready to utilize it.
By upgrading to 7.1 technology, theaters will be showing the audience’s ears a more sophisticated time. Think of the last time you went to the movies: You’re sitting there watching the film, when all of a sudden a car crashes in the left corner of the theater. Only, it was the car that you’re watching in the film. Pixar’s mantra has always been story, story, story. They want to immerse you into the story they are telling by having you forget about your current surroundings. The most significant way to do that is by perfecting a script the way that Pixar does, fostering connection with the characters you are watching on screen. Inventing new visual and auditory technology is a subsidiary of that. Randy Newman’s ‘Toy Story 3’ score sweeps over you, the characters are all around you, and you are no longer in a movie theater. You are in a ‘Toy Story 3’ world. By placing people in a theater with Dolby Surround 7.1, the audience will be closer to the movie than ever before. Thank Dolby and Pixar for that.