Dolby continues to see momentum grow for its Dolby Atmos immersive sound technology and Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR) format in theaters, as well as in home and mobile devices on both the content and hardware fronts, according to Dolby CFO Lewis Chew.
“We were very well-represented in the big winners” at this year’s Oscars, Feb. 24, he said Feb. 27 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco.
For example, the 2018 film remake “A Star is Born” represented “one of the first times we saw a director [and] a company do sort of a minimal pre-release in Dolby Cinema,” Dolby’s premium cinema offering that combines Atmos and Vision, and director/star Bradley Cooper made positive comments about Dolby’s technology and how it helped him create the movie, Chew told attendees at the conference.
That’s “an example of how far we’ve come” in a relatively short period of time, he said, pointing out: “When we first started doing this conference … Dolby Cinema as an initiative didn’t even exist and now there are many people out there who will say that Dolby Cinema is one of if not the most awesome ways to experience a movie out there.”
In 2018, meanwhile, “most if not all of the highest grossing movies were done in Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos” and targeted for Dolby Cinema-equipped theaters, he said.
Meanwhile, at CES in Las Vegas in January, Dolby continued to “see some great, encouraging signs in terms of the full ecosystem” of Dolby being supported by companies, he said, explaining: “At CES, we see more and more evidence of people adopting and buying into Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos in terms of proliferation amongst devices and also carriers … like Netflix and Amazon and iTunes committing to these formats as something they want to provide content in.”
Samsung is now the only large TV maker not including Dolby Vision support in its TVs, he said, pointing to that manufacturer’s support of the competing HDR standard HDR10 and the new HDR10+. That’s “a hurdle to overcome,” he conceded.
But Samsung, as well as Huawei and Sharp (in Japan), are using Atmos in select smartphones, he noted, adding that when it comes to Atmos support in mobile devices: “We’re getting there slowly. I think we’re still in the very early days of adoption of these newer Dolby technologies on the mobile devices.”
Dolby is seeing “a lot of momentum on the content side” for Dolby Vision and is also “very happy with the momentum we see in” Atmos soundbars, he said, calling their sound quality “totally kick-ass.”
On the broadcast side, however, he said “we’re still early days … on live sports.” Historically, “live sports can be a big catalyst” when it comes to new TV technologies, he said, adding: “We have some live sports that have been broadcast in Atmos.” But Vision has been pretty much in the “on-deck circle” when it comes to broadcasting, he said. Although there have been some Dolby Vision broadcast trials, he said, “there’s nothing really running out there.”
As a result, there’s still a huge opportunity for the Dolby technologies in the broadcast arena, according to Chew, who told attendees: “If the day comes where you do see more live sports being broadcast in either or, or both Vision and Atmos, we think that that will be a way to drive adoption.” Even when Atmos and Vision become widely used in live TV sports broadcasts, however, there will still be “reasons to go to the game because you might want to pay $15 for a beer,” he joked.
Dolby also continued to see promising signs for its new Dimension headphones that, for now, are targeted at in-home use, he also said. There have been “lots of positive reviews about the functionality” of the $599 headphones, which were announced in the fall.
“It really was to show that we can do that sort of technology, and I think time will tell which direction we go with this,” Chew said of its headphones, noting: “It’s really only been out for a couple of months.” After a “soft launch” on Dolby’s website, the headphones were made available via Amazon about a month ago, he pointed out. Select b8ta stores also started carrying them shortly after that.