You own a 3D home theater (Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or Auro 3D) and want to take advantage of its power. Do you wish you could test its full potential? We have selected some of the most spectacular movies (4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray, streaming) that allow you to make the most of your installation.
Dolby Atmos 3D home theater sound is now compatible with a wide range of audio and video equipment, including soundbars, AV receivers, TVs, headphones and IEMs, and even certain smartphones. Projected towards the ceiling from the top of floorstanding speakers or emitted from ceiling speakers, it is reflected onto the viewer. This creates a real sound bubble. It uses two to four additional speakers to add a vertical dimension to the sound and allow the sound effects to be moved very precisely around the room, in width, depth and height. Very effective for certain movie scenes, it provides a feeling of total immersion, more enveloping than 5.1 and 7.1, which are now conventional.
Dolby Atmos sound is now used by filmmakers and their teams right from the mixing stage. This technology allows sound designers to carefully map out the acoustic field, placing each sound and voice in very specific locations. In addition to the traditional combination of up to 9.1 channels, 3D sound can handle up to 118 simultaneous sonic objects. This creates a richly enveloping soundstage. Not only does the Dolby Atmos/DTS:X immersive sound boost and enrich action scenes, it also increases overall immersion through effects and music.
In the hands of a great sound designer, this tool provides the ideal flexibility to create soundscapes that can sweep you away, terrify and/or move you. This type of 3D audio architecture is also being applied to the music industry. The Son-Video.com team was able to experience this during its visit to the iconic Guillaume Tell studio equipped with Dolby Atmos. The opportunity to rediscover Elton John’s song Rocket Man remixed in Atmos, of a phenomenal complexity.
We’ve selected the most outstanding movies that fully harness the potential of Dolby Atmos sound, and where possible, DTS:X sound. So your system, whether it’s a soundbar or a receiver and speaker system, can reach the pinnacle of surround sound.
Ford v Ferrari, by James Mangold (2019)
James Mangold couldn’t create a film about the 24 heures du Mans without including epic racing scenes. The director fulfills this requirement brilliantly during no less than 30 minutes in the last third of the movie. Juxtaposing the fury of the cockpit and the more atmospheric nature of the circuit, this moment in the film is captivating by its intensity. Accidents, rain, music imitating the sound of the Ford GT40’s engine… the combination of all these effects delivers an electricity that is truly unique.
However, if you had to keep only one scene to illustrate the full potential of your installation, it would probably be the race in Willow Springs at the beginning of the film. Visceral and thrilling without ever becoming overwhelming, the sound layers are harmoniously superimposed. As Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale) continues the race at the wheel of his Ford Cobra, the wind rushes in from all sides and shakes the viewer. Inside the cockpit, you can feel the vibrations of the broken windshield, the rattling of the suspension and the revving due to gear changes.
In the wide shots, the sound precisely materializes the trajectory of the cars as they progress on the screen or skid on the track. The spatialization is amazing. Then there is the moment when the sound design focuses on Miles’ breathing, a quiet moment in the middle of the action. Never disjointed, the audio storytelling of Ford v Ferrari is a true reference. In fact, it received the Oscar for best sound editing in 2020.
4K Blu-ray, French edition – Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD MA 2.0 (original version) – DTS 5.1 (French)
1917, by Sam Mendes (2019)
With 1917, Sam Mendes came close to perfection in terms of a single sequence movie (the rare cuts are hidden thanks to digital effects or are subtly masked, in the manner of Hitchcock’s Rope). The film follows two young British soldiers who are tasked with delivering a message to prevent another battalion from falling into a trap set by the German army. The direction subtly involves the viewer, who closely follows the perilous odyssey of the soldiers across a no man’s land. An ideal setting that results in some inventive 3D sound.
Subtly illustrating the camera’s dance (often POV shots) without being literal, the Atmos soundtrack distills a breathtakingly realistic experience. The sounds reveal themselves to the viewer the moment they manifest themselves to the soldiers. At first atmospheric, the sound of the planes during the barn scene becomes increasingly distinct as the protagonists become aware that air combat is taking place overhead. If the intensity continues throughout 1917, it is also thanks to the calmer moments that follow each devastating scene.
Towards the end of the film, as soldier Schofield tries to stop the attack, he sprints to the top of a trench as soldiers charge into his path. Explosions of shells, shots in all directions, raining debris… his progress is accompanied by brutal and very localized sound waves. Far from being cacophonous, the spatialization of the sound accentuates the drama and the feeling of danger. It is masterful!
4K Blu-ray, French edition – Dolby Atmos (original version) – Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 (French)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, by Luc Besson (2017)
The adaptation of Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ iconic comic book series benefits from a Dolby Atmos mix that is powerful without being raucous. And that’s exactly what’s needed to create optimal spatialization. We actually spoke with the film’s sound mixer, Didier Lozahic, at its release in 2017. A great opportunity for the artist to talk about the renewed creativity made possible by Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Atmospheres, musical effects, a wealth of acoustic details… the background activity is abundant in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, especially during the chase scenes (the one with Valerian in the City of a Thousand Planets, for instance). The verticality (falling spaceships, the Intruder’s voice, the movements of the vehicles, explosions…) and the consistently clear voices of the protagonists are very impressive.
4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos
Ready Player One, by Steven Spielberg (2018)
If you’re looking for immersion and a display of power, the sound bubble created by Ready Player One‘s Dolby Atmos track may exceed your expectations. The lushness of the mix reaches high levels of precision. The spatialization is fine, the dialogues clear and the atmospheres remarkable. With its vibrant effects, the motor race teems with exciting details. As for the virtual world of the OASIS, it is full of countless environments, all very immersive.
Used a lot during the final battle, the surround channels keep isolating specific elements: drones, projectiles, flying objects, coins, a T-Rex, King Kong, Mechagodzilla… the deluge of information is insane while remaining intelligible. The sound editing is done by Kyrsten Mate (from the famous Skywalker Sound company). And to top it all off, the musical scores and their lyrical flourishes are the work of the great Alan Silvestri (the man behind the music of the Back to the Future trilogy, among others). The amplitude is staggering and the bass implosive, without ever dominating the rest.
4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD MA 5.1
Mission: Impossible – Fallout, by Christopher McQuarrie (2018)
The meticulous work done on the Atmos soundtrack reaches new heights. Sound design, acoustic space, the balance of the mix, effects, atmospheres, clarity of the dialogues… not a detail comes to spoil this superb picture. It is probably during the aerial scene (trajectory of the helicopters, gusts of wind, distribution of the voices…) that the activity is the most impressive. As diverse as the camera movements and framing, the sounds are propagated with a supercharged energy and multi-channel effects worthy of a true immersive cinema experience.
For example, the helicopter scene proves to be extremely refined in terms of design and sound mixing. The audio space is vertiginous, pointillistic and features amazing acceleration effects. These scenes are abundant, with multi-channel effects as dense as they are fluid (aerobatics, car chases, crashes…). Masterful.
4K Blu-ray – Dolby Atmos (original version) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
Blade Runner 2049, by Denis Villeneuve (2017)
Taking place 30 years after the events of its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is more of an extension of the universe of Ridley Scott’s movie than a sequel. In this respect, the film plays the fan service card with a soundtrack (written by Mark Mangini) to match. The Dolby Atmos therefore provides a memorable, if not riveting, experience. With the torrential rain, the snowfall, the wind and the many atmospheres of the city, the feature film has a stunning vertical soundstage. A masterful feat that reinforces its crepuscular poetry and contemplative mood. From the carnal voices of the characters to the breathtaking explosions of the action scenes, everything remains perfectly balanced.
The scene in which K and Joi fly from Los Angeles to the orphanage with its contrasting near silence and thunder, orchestration, lightning and gunfire is pretty close to perfection. The distribution of sonic details (buzzing insects, flying vehicles…) is also exemplary. Hans Zimmer’s music (in collaboration with Benjamin Wallfisch), is much more subtle and experimental than usual and continues the soaring and mystical dynamism of the original score by Vangelis. From melodic flourishes to hazy tones and ultra-powerful, rippling bass, the Dolby Atmos processing offers a mesmerizing journey.
4K Blu-ray – Dolby Atmos (original version) and DTS-HD MA 5.1 (French)
Roma, by Alfonso Cuarón (2018)
What if the immersive potential of Dolby Atmos is even greater with more intimist movies than blockbusters? The question is justifiably raised with Roma, a poignant drama that shares the same director (Alfonso Cuarón) and sound design team as Gravity (2013). Unusually, the film does not have a musical score. This gives Roma an incredible freedom, combining density and boldness. Here, the fluidity of Atmos sound aligns with Alfonso Cuarón’s languid direction, meticulously following the slow, long camera movements. As the lens pans, for example, the soundscape is strewn with a multitude of details. Birds, dogs, hail, street vendors, multiple dialogues (protagonists and more distant passers-by)… the progressive change of perspective is accompanied by a sumptuous and shimmering atmosphere.
As a result, the atmosphere of Mexico City in 1970-1971 is translated exclusively through the sonic dramatization, almost devoid of words. Enveloping and full of vertical effects, the sequence in which Cleo rescues the children at sea is as bewitching as it is terrifying. The intensity of the waves, which keep getting dangerously close, is one of the climaxes of the film. Pointillist effects that further illustrate the psychology of the character. Simply magnificent.
Dolby Atmos (original version) on Netflix
The Wolf’s Call, by Antonin Baudry (2019)
Like Ready Player One, the audio mixing of The Wolf’s Call was handled by the geniuses at Skywalker Sound (Lucasfilm). Even better: the film benefited from the obsessive perfectionism of sound engineer Nicolas Cantin – a performance that earned him the César for best sound in 2020. So it’s no surprise that the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of The Wolf’s Call is so accurate and exciting. As in any submarine movie, the most important thing is to accurately reproduce the life and the sensations on board a submarine. A mission that is accomplished here with faultless accuracy.
Whether it is the pressure of the water on the hull, the hum of the turbines and various equipment, the sonar, the song of the dolphins and whales, the impact of the explosions, the path of the torpedoes, the commander’s instructions in the speakers, the adjacent seabed… everything radiates with clarity. The soundtrack covers every corner of the submarine’s listening room. As if the spectator was literally in the place of “golden ear” sonar officer Chanteraide. Epic and pointillistic, this mix with crystal-clear dialogues is also full of infrabass. Unmissable.
4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD MA 2.0
Spider Man: Homecoming, by Jon Watts (2017)
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack of this installment of the Spider-Man saga is stunning. When Spidey projects his webs, the viewer feels their movement all around the room. Likewise, you can hear the trajectories of the Vulture (the bad guy) to the sides and above you – especially during the confrontation about halfway through the film. Perfectly balanced, Michael Giacchino’s music is distributed with gusto throughout the room without ever drowning out the clear voices and plethoric sound effects.
Special mention for the final act whose LFE track may put your subwoofer to the test. This is even more true when the ferry breaks into two parts. The sense of volume and other differences in scale are then incredible.
4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos (original version) and DTS-HD (French)
Dune, by Denis Villeneuve (2021)
Adapted from Frank Herbert’s famous science fiction novel of the same name, Dune places sound at the center of the narrative. The result is an experience where dialogue matters much less than perception. The movie’s sound designer is Mark Mangini (Mad Max: Fury Road, Blade Runner: 2049) and he collaborates with the composer Hans Zimmer, more skilled than ever. The resulting Dolby Atmos soundtrack, mysterious and metaphysical, is extraordinary and puts every single driver to work. Dizzying and finely sculpted, the sound field exudes a sense of intimacy and vastness.
The scene in which Paul and his father fly in an ornithopter (a dragonfly-like plane) and encounter a giant sand worm illustrates this unique atmosphere. Composed from organic sounds (insects, felines…), the noise of the ship hums above the infinite desert in a symphony of reverberations. The sudden and swooping movements of the machine during the sandstorm give rise to fabulous vertical effects. A polyphony to which are added innumerable effects: desert winds, whistles, grains of sand, howling of the gigantic worm. This cocktail of sounds stuns as much as it mesmerizes.
4K Blu-ray – Dolby Atmos (original version) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
Mad Max: Fury Road, by George Miller (2015)
To unleash the full potential of this exhilarating manhunt, you’ll need a powerful system. A system that can translate the thunderous roar of the supercharged engines. A system capable of reproducing the infinite desert, the sandstorms, the power of the rusty and raging roadsters, the explosions and the shredding metal panels.
With its frenetic drums, the soundtrack by Junkie XL is a monument of fury and impetuosity. Its thrilling orchestration sets the pace for the hellish chase while strings and electric pulses underline and accentuate the slightest action. The coordination between the syncopated and precise music, the permanent tension, the sound effects (every detail is organic, like the effects in Jurassic Park) and the noise of the cars and the incessant explosions, is a masterpiece.
Each gunshot, engine roar, grunt from Tom Hardy (Max) and dialogue stands out clearly. And the saturated guitar riffs, one of the most striking sound effects in the film, always sound sudden. They arrive as soon as the camera approaches the Doof Warrior – the assailant whose double-necked guitar spits flames. A particularly enjoyable roller coaster ride.
4K Blu-ray – Dolby Atmos
Uncut Gems, by Joshua and Ben Safdie (2019)
Throughout Uncut Gems, the Atmos soundtrack fluctuates between being almost an overwhelming presence and a sensitive, captivating immersion. A semblance of an invisible Greek chorus nestles in the mystical flourishes of Oneohtrix Point Never’s experimental electronic score. The viewer is constantly carried away on a kind of hallucinogenic trip. The opening sequence is a monument in itself. It begins outside an Ethiopian quarry where a miner has just been seriously injured. Then from the crowd outside, we move to two lonely miners in the depths of the mine. Distant voices, reverberating sounds… something dreamlike unfolds. Finally, the melody and the camera transport us off-screen, into a sort of backstage area. From now on, the action will follow the destiny of the central protagonist, a New York jeweler addicted to danger named Howard…
An almost permanent feeling of claustrophobia emanates from the images and sounds of Uncut Gems, and Dolby Atmos wonderfully illustrates this oppression and Howard’s chaotic life. The feeling of being enveloped and enclosed in the character’s universe is worth the watch.
4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos (original version) / no Dolby Atmos on Netflix, unfortunately.
Saving Private Ryan, by Steven Spielberg (1998)
In 2015, Dolby Laboratories asked its Twitter followers which movie they would like to hear in Dolby Atmos. Saving Private Ryan immediately appeared at the top of the list. A few years later, Paramount celebrated the 20th anniversary of the film with a Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1) remastered version. Even more impressive than the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, the original Atmos soundtrack is a masterpiece. More vast than ever, the spatialization offers incredible sensations of immersion. As a reminder, Saving Private Ryan‘s mixing earned the brilliant Gary Rydstrom (Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Titanic…) the 1999 Oscar for best sound. A guarantee of excellence.
The soundtrack unfolds in a dynamic and violent way. Its mix places the spectator in the center of an hellish battlefield. Almost incessant, the sound uses crystal clear and sharp high notes while deep, thundering bass resonates during the gunfights. The bullets raining down, the mortar fire, the erratic running and screaming of the soldiers, the roar of the tanks, the blast of the explosions, the planes flying overhead… rarely has a soundtrack reached such a degree of realism and conveyed the horror of war so vividly.
4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos (original version) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (French).
Other contestants that also warrant consideration
Bohemian Rhapsody, by Bryan Singer (2018) – Dolby Atmos TrueHD (original), DTS 5.1 (French)
Soul, by Pete Docter (2020) – Dolby Atmos TrueHD
Bad Boys II, by Michael Bay (2003) – Dolby Atmos (original), DTS-HD MA 5.1 (French)
Gemini Man, by Ang Lee (2019) – Dolby Atmos (original), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, by Jake Kasdan (2017) – Dolby Atmos (original), DTS-HD MA 5.1 (French)
The Matrix, by Lana and Lily Wachowski (1999) – Dolby Atmos (original), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
Mortal Engines, by Christian Rivers (2018) – Dolby Atmos (original), Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 (French)
Lucy, by Luc Besson (2014) – Dolby Atmos TrueHD (original), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
Gravity, by Alfonso Cuaron (2013) – Dolby Atmos (original), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
What about DTS:X?
Less common than Dolby Atmos soundtracks, DTS:X tracks work wonders. But only if editors and distributors choose to use them. The 4K Blu-ray versions of the Fast & Furious, Harry Potter and Jurassic Park sagas, among others, benefit DTS:X soundtracks. As well as some of Hitchcock’s classics. Here are two of the most significant examples…
La La Land, by Damien Chazelle (2017)
The original DTS:X soundtrack of La La Land is a stunning experience that is astonishingly detailed. The viewer feels as if they are in the middle of the orchestra during each musical scene. The jazzy moments, in particular, benefit from an impressive spatialization and balance.
The voices are clear, each instrument perfectly recognizable. From the opening scene and its magnificent sequence shot, the effects (vertical, among others) are plentiful. Road traffic, car horns, the atmosphere inherent to each vehicle… the sound joins the slightest movements of the camera. The sound details stand out both on the edges of the soundstage and in depth.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, DTS:X [DTS HD MA 7.1]
Gladiator, by Ridley Scott (2000)
While the famous neo-peplum from Alien‘s creator had already won the Oscar for best sound in 2001, its DTS:X version goes even further. In addition to the epic scale of Zimmer’s score, the distribution of sound effects and sound effects is breathtaking. During the fights, especially in the Colosseum, the surround speakers’ energy is remarkable.
Clashing swords, roaring tigers, jubilant crowds in the stands of the Colosseum… the spectacle is constantly changing. The spatialization and the aerial scene are also rich and stunning. The feeling of the crowd above the basement of the arena, the catapult, the arrows…
DTS:X (original version), DTS 5.1 (French)
And Auro 3D?
Agreements between Auro 3D and some Blu-Ray publishers have allowed the release of movies with an Auro 3D audio track. However, these partnerships (with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, for example) only concern the United States.
Note: the German version of Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg, 2020) includes Auro 3D on the Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Where does the future of immersive home theater sound lie?
Although films with an Atmos or DTS:X soundtrack are still rather rare (especially in French), things are changing. Proof of this is the growing number of Atmos and DTS:X theaters in France. Aware of the advantages offered by these formats in terms of experience and immersion, production studios are changing. They are increasingly investing in this approach in the pre-production phases of feature films.
Also, many 4K Blu-ray publishers are responding to the expectations of home theater enthusiasts. For example, they do not hesitate to remix movies in Atmos or DTS:X. Similarly, 4K Ultra HD Blu-Rays with Atmos are becoming more and more common – most recently Halloween Kills (David Gordon Green, 2021) and Dune, not to mention the upcoming The Matrix Resurrections (Lana Wachowski, 2021). Streaming giants (Netflix, Amazon Prime…) are gauging the extent of the trend by offering films with immersive soundtracks. All these signs make it possible to envision a bright future for immersive home theater sound.