PITTSBURG -- First came 3D movies, which brought a whole new visual element to films. Now, Dolby Laboratories is bringing 3D to the audio side of the business.
Known as Dolby Atmos, it is the San Francisco-based sound design pioneer's latest innovation to enhance what you hear when you go to the movies. Pittsburg's Maya Cinemas is one of just 18 theaters worldwide and seven in California to have it. It is featured at two other Bay Area theaters, including the AMC Metreon 16 in San Francisco and the Cinemark Century at Pacific Commons in Fremont. Dolby expects to install more systems next year.
The system was recently installed at one of the 15 screens at the Maya Cinemas multiplex. "Life of Pi," which opened on Wednesday, will be the first movie shown to feature Atmos sound.
"We are very excited," said Frank Haffar, president and chief operating officer of Maya Cinemas, at a demonstration last week of Atmos. "This is the new technology. It's what we call 3D ... It's the future of the cinema experience."
The technology allows for up to 64 individual speakers in the theater to be individually controlled and adjusted. Sounds can be moved around the theater, even overhead, to create a more realistic and dynamic audio experience.
"It's a much more immersive effect ... Sound editors take a bullet, move it half way across the room and move it back," said Medwyn Gillespie, Dolby's sales manager for cinema following a clip that showcased the massive sounds of crashing waves in the "Chasing Mavericks" surf movie.
And while Atmos brings a new sonic dimension to action scenes such as the obligatory blockbuster car chases, Gillespie noted it also enhances quieter moments such as a creaking rocking chair or the sound of a bungee cord holding down a surf board on top of a van.
"It can be subtle," he said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.