2005/11/12, 05:50:43, UTC

 Dolby Zillion.1


Dolby Zillion.1 : - Richard Lee 23nov05


Ambisonic Strategy is how we promote True Ambisonic Surround and preventing the world from being overrun by Dolby Zillion.1

Permanent Ambisonic Systems maintained by members of sursound; the Surround Sound forum which has been running since 1995.

I need to clarify why I keep ranting and raving about the Dolby juggernaut and Zillion.1 especially as some of it is unjustified.

I'm really a fan (well, actually just jealous) of Ray Dolby and the zillion dollar company he built up. Dolby Labs has been one of the most innovative companies in the history of sound recording and reproduction.

My grouse is that 5.1, 7.1 .. Zillion.1 are examples of a false premise that you need one microphone and one channel to feed one loudspeaker and that the more microphones, channels and speakers you have, the better.

Recording, distribution and reproduction of sound are three separate issues and the number of microphones, channels and speakers do not have to be the same.

For example, normal stereo (excellent results with only two microphones) distributed over two channels can be played back over three or more speakers for even better results than two speakers. The most sophisticated implementation of this is Trifield technology from Dr Geoffrey Barton of the original Ambisonic team.

This false premise makes very inefficient use of channels and speakers. More channels often makes things worse. A good example of this is that you are always aware of the speakers in a poor surround system, even 7.1 or Zillion.1

But the position of the speakers should have nothing to do with the original sound! Why should you be limited to only hearing sounds from a direction where there is a speaker? Natural sounds come from ALL directions including up & down. That is why True Ambisonic Surround, even on as few as 4 speakers, is not just impressive but NATURALLY impressive because it lets you hear sounds from all directions. And True Ambisonic Surround with Powered Integrated Super Sub technology can give even more impressive effects than present Home Theatre systems.

Ray's company has led the world in persuading the man in the street (and more importantly, his wife) that more speakers in the home is 'a good thing'. This is a remarkable achievement. Lovers of good music have always faced this obstacle (and still do) to better sound. It is this achievement that allows us to have surround sound in the home. Without it, we would still be in the dark stereo age.

But Dolby's very success has opened them to accusations that they are unaware that the number of microphones, channels and speakers do not have to be the same. This may be true but I'm not qualified to comment on this.

I shall just quote Eric Benjamin, one of Ray's prophets, who was involved in the design of Dolby Digital (AC3 coding) and DVD.

I should first say that I am an employee of Dolby Laboratories and secondly that I'm not empowered to represent the company, so what I am about to say constitutes only my personal opinions.

The reason that Dolby Digital was a success is that it was designed to be a pipeline between the large library of movies with surround soundtracks that Hollywood Inc. had cooked up and the movie-watching public. (sursound) People keep complaining about "Dolby's 5.1 channel format". We didn't have anything to do with that, we just built some pipe and the Hollywood folks poured content into it. It was the video that made the format a success. I'm happy as can be to have been involved in the making of the audio format that went with the video, but I'm under no illusion as to the reasons for success. I don't think anyone ever went into a store and said "can I buy one of those new disc players? The ones that have great surround sound, and also do video?"

I share the concerns of a lot of the Sursound folks that surround sound (of any sort) will never be a big hit with the public. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but the two audio only formats, DVD-A and SACD, are most definitely not successful. And it's not because of the format war. At this point most of the players play both. And they're cheap! You can buy a good DVD-A/SACD player for $100 US. what a bargain! And it also plays DVD-V, CD, photo CD, CD-R with MP3s on it, etc.

But buried in all this is a ray of hope. DVD-V is definitely not going away. So people who want to can continue to make surround sound DVDs. They just may have to do them as DVD-V discs with compression. But here's another interesting idea, and it's one that I've been pushing for years. You can make a DVD-V with multiple kinds of audio program. That is, you can make one audio track with an ordinary pan-potted 5-channel mix. You can make another one that is Ambisonics decoded to 5 channels. Another one that is Ambisonics decoded to 4 channels. Throw in a binaural track for headphone listening. Got any more ideas? We've got eight audio tracks to play with. You can even switch on the fly. Put a pan-potted vs. Ambisonic decode on a single disc and you can switch between the two using the audio button on the remote.

Eric oct05

LINKS : Ambisonic Strategy Permanent Ambisonic Systems

Checked on the Mozilla Firefox browser which I have used exclusively ever since I found from hard experience how Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 .. 6.0 6.1 ... Zillion.1 open you to bugs, viruses and trojans ad nauseum.

This page © Richard Lee ricardo@justnet.com.au Please contact me if you notice any mistakes or wish to add anything.

History : changes 23nov05