There is currently a great deal of interest around 3D audio. It's widely expected to be the next real step forward in the cinema experience. A way of creating the most life-like and immersive listening experience. As dramatic a development as digital surround sound was 20 years ago.

The concept behind 3D audio is not particularly new. Surround sound focus on the horizontal plane. With 3D audio, we have added height into the system and the left and right channels are supplemented with a central channel. This makes a 9.1 configuration appropriate for home cinema but professional cinema configurations are more likely to take 11.1 or 13.1 formats.

Properly positioned speakers and a precisely tuned room allows for highly accurate localization of the sound event. The sound is natural to the listener, moving them to the center of the action.

The key to the success of 3D audio is the ability to deliver it cost-effectively to the cinema exhibitor. It must offer an easy upgrade path both in terms of theater design – adding height speakers rather than redesigning your entire speaker arrangement – and digital format so that the movie plays in 3D audio where available but folds down seamlessly to 5.1 and 7.1 where the cinema has yet to upgrade.

Datasat Digital Entertainment is committed to 3D audio. The Datasat AP20 is capable of delivering true 3D sound today and the Datasat AP243D is the audio processor at the heart of the commercially available 3D audio system, the Auro3D.

 

The standard speaker configuration for 3D sound at home is 9.1. This positions four speakers above the horizontal axis at each corner and places the sub woofer centrally:




For professional cinema implementations, this configurations is augmented with left and right speakers between the 'corner' speakers to provide an 11.1 set-up (see diagram below). It is likely that 13.1 will also become a common configuration for 3D sound in theaters.



Auro3D, the first commercially available 3D cinema sound system, follows the 11.1 configuration shown above.

 

Auro3D is the next generation 3D sound format jointly development between Barco and Galaxy Studios. It turns conventional cinema surround sound into a full 3D sound experience to the point where a mono input can be upmixed to full 13.1.

Key to Auro3D is the intelligent use of the headroom available in today's audio standards. Its 24 bit capabilities allows it to carry extra channel information in the used bits within the audio stream. This means that a single version of the movie can be distributed that will play in 5.1, 7.1 and full 3D systems. The team needed an audio processor that could seamlessly switch from 5.1 playback to Auro3D 11.1 or 13.1 automatically or at the push of a button.

They turned to Datasat Digital Entertainment. The result is the Datasat AP243D that has been developed on the Datasat platform exclusively to deliver the exacting requirements of Auro3D in terms of channel count and time alignment functionality. The new audio processor contains 24 channels of input and output and supports all existing interfaces required for today's digital cinema. Click here for more information on the Datasat platform.

The 2012 launch of Red Tails saw the first release of a movie in full Auro3D sound with Auro3D systems now being installed in cinemas across the globe.

It is central to the operating strategy of Datasat Digital Entertainment to work closely with partners such as Barco to deliver breakthrough solutions such as Auro3D. If you'd like to partner with Datasat Digital Entertainment, visit our Partner section.

 

Partner Profile

Partner Profile: Barco

Datasat teamed up with Barco to develop the audio processor for Auro3D. Find out more

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