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What is Dolby Atmos Mixing and Mastering?

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

When you think about what goes into creating a movie, it’s pretty crazy. There is so much more than just the actors and the script. There are lights, cameras, editing, special effects – and even audio. Because of how much detail goes into creating a film, there are many different tasks that need to be done in order to finalize the production process. Each step must be completed with care and precision to ensure the final product is high quality and ready for release to the general public. Mixing and mastering audio for movies can be tricky because of all the new standards that have been introduced in recent years. One of these standards is Dolby Atmos mixing and mastering. Today, filmmakers are capturing more and more immersive audio. Whether it’s with the help of a dedicated microphone or just through natural cut, modern movies tend to be packed with a surprising amount of spatial information. A Dolby Atmos mix is going to capture all that audio and use it to create an impactful listening experience. So what exactly is a Dolby Atmos mix? It stands for “AC3 Embedded” (commonly referred to as “Dolby Digital”) – however, that doesn’t fully answer the question. Fortunately, we have you covered. This guide will give you everything you need to know about mixing and mastering in a Dolby Atmos format.


Read on to learn more about what this standard entails.

dolby atmos mixing and mastering

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is a new audio technology that allows sound to be more immersive and realistic than ever before. It is great for headphones and home theaters that also have Dolby Atmos sound systems. With this technology, you can hear sounds coming from above your head, as well as around you, at any given time. This makes for a more realistic and engaging experience when watching a movie. Sounds that are emitted from speakers in the front of the room are typically reserved for dialogue and other important sounds. Sounds that are emitted from speakers behind you can be distracting and overwhelming. Dolby Atmos is a sound processing technology that allows engineers to better manage these sounds. This allows them to place the sound where they want it to be, and keep it away from other sounds that may be competing for the same space.


What is Dolby Atmos Mixing?

A Dolby Atmos mix is the final product of a post-production audio engineer’s effort to capture and reproduce audio. The final product is a file of audio that contains every bit of spatial audio that was captured during the production. It’s an audio mix that has been processed by special software to enhance the listening experience. The Dolby Atmos mix will be accompanied by a Dolby Digital metadata file that tells Dolby Atmos enabled audio systems how to replicate the sound of the original production. This is the key component behind a Dolby Atmos mix.


During Dolby Atmos mixing, audio engineers create the audio tracks spaces for your music, making sure each sound is placed in the best possible location. This is the stage at which the majority of the work gets done. In a film setting, audio engineers work closely with the director, cinematographer, and other team members to make sure the audio is perfect. Mixing the audio is a long and tedious process, and there are many different aspects to consider when completing the task. For example, you need to make sure that each sound is at the right volume, and that there is a good balance between the different audio sources. You also need to make sure there are no unwanted sounds (like a plane passing overhead), and that the sound levels stay consistent throughout the entire film.


In order to create a Dolby Atmos mix, audio engineers will make use of an audio mixing console. A console is a piece of hardware that controls the input, output, and gain of audio signals. While a console will often be controlled manually, it can also be controlled by a software program. This is the case with Dolby Atmos mixing, in which the audio engineer uses a software program to do the mixing.


A Dolby Atmos mix will consist of the following channels:

  • Front Left

  • Front Right

  • Center

  • Left Surround

  • Right Surround

  • Back Left

  • Back Right

Each one of these channels will have at least one audio track running through it. The more tracks there are, the more immersive the audio will be.

dolby atmos mixing and mastering in logic pro x 7.1

What is Dolby Atmos Mastering?

When an audio engineer is finished mixing a Dolby Atmos audio mix, they transfer the entire mix to a mastering engineer. This engineer will take the audio mix and process it in order to create a file that can be played through an audio system. A Dolby Digital metadata file is then added to the processed audio. This file tells the Atmos audio system how to replicate the sound of the original production. During mastering, audio engineers create a final mix of the track. This mix contains the audio from all of the different recording sessions and it is ready for distribution. Mastering audio is a crucial part of the film production process. If the audio isn’t mastered properly, then it will not sound as good as it should. This can be frustrating for both the film crew and the general public. Thankfully, there are specific standards for mastering audio that have been created to make the process easier. One of these standards is Dolby Atmos.


5.1 vs 7.1 Differences in an Atmos Mix

The channels listed above are the ones you’ll see in a Dolby Atmos 7.1 mix. A 5.1-channel Dolby Atmos mix will be very similar to a 7.1 mix, but it won’t have the Left and Right Surround channels. As you can see from the channel list, a 5.1-channel Atmos mix does have a dedicated Back Surround channel. The difference between 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby Atmos mixes is that the 7.1 mix has two more channels, which will give the listener more of a surrounding sound effect.


A professional audio engineer will first create a main mix by selecting the audio tracks they want to include in their Atmos audio mix. This audio engineer will then run the tracks through a console and use their software to adjust the sound. The audio engineer will then output everything to a mastering engineer where the audio will be processed and the Dolby Digital metadata file will be added.


Why Is Dolby Atmos Important for Movies?

Dolby Atmos brings new life to audio, making it more immersive and realistic than ever before. Because of this, it is an incredibly important standard for the film industry. One of the major benefits of Dolby Atmos is that you can hear sounds above your head and behind you. This makes the audio much more realistic, as it sounds just like it would in real life. Before Dolby Atmos, movies had certain audio restrictions that made them sound less natural. With Dolby Atmos, these restrictions have been lifted, giving filmmakers more creative freedom. Another big benefit of Dolby Atmos is that it allows sound to be more dynamic. This means that the audio can change to fit the scene, making for a more engaging movie experience. With Dolby Atmos, you can hear the rain falling behind you, or the plane overhead. You can also hear the sound of car wheels squealing when there is an intense car chase scene.


Benefits of Dolby Atmos Mixing and Mastering

There are many benefits associated with using Dolby Atmos in the mixing and mastering process.


Here are just a few of them:

  • Enhanced Surround Sound

  • With Dolby Atmos, you can hear sounds all around you, even behind you. This makes the audio sound much more realistic. When you hear a plane overhead, or a car driving past, it sounds just like it would in real life. - Improved Volume Management

  • Sounds can be placed exactly where they need to be, which makes the volume management much easier. This means that there is a better balance between all of the audio sources, and there are less unwanted sounds. - More Creative Freedom

  • One of the best parts about using Dolby Atmos is that there are less audio restrictions. This gives filmmakers more creative freedom, which can lead to better films.


8 Steps to an Audio Only Dolby Atmos Mastering Process

Let’s take a look at how an audio-only mastering process works:

  1. Create an Atmos Mix

  2. Create an ADM BWF

  3. Create a Dialogue Feed

  4. Create an Metadata File

  5. Create an Audio File

  6. Create an Archival File

  7. Create a Final dolby file mix-down

  8. Create a Blocking Sheet

Conclusion

Dolby Atmos is a new audio technology that can make audio both more realistic and more immersive. This makes for a better movie-watching experience, and it is great for movie theaters and home theaters that also have Dolby Atmos sound systems. With this technology, you can hear sounds coming from above your head and behind you, as well as around you, at any given time. There are many different aspects to consider when completing a task such as this, as each sound must be placed in the best possible location. During Dolby Atmos mixing, audio engineers create the audio tracks for a film, making sure each sound is placed in the best possible location. This is the stage at which the majority of the work gets done. The ability to create immersive audio is something that is becoming more and more accessible thanks to Dolby Atmos. With its focus on heightening the audio experience, it’s no doubt that Dolby Atmos is the next big thing in the audio industry. This guide will give you a complete understanding of what a Dolby Atmos mix is, what it consists of, and how it’s created. With this knowledge, you can produce immersive audio for any project.

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