: Applications For True Surround Sound :
Some forms of discrete multi-channel Surround Sound have been used in specialized Surround Cinemas such as Disney's “Circlevision” since the 1980s, but there has been limited other use until recent times, due to the expensive and complicated equipment it required. Computer technology has changed all that, and now the recording, mixing and reproduction of very complex Surround Sound is quite practical and achievable.
Surround Cinemas are still the most obvious application for true Surround Sound, where audiences are completely, or almost completely, surrounded by a seamless image, and the accompanying sounds, of real locations. Even though the image is projected onto a two-dimensional screen, ie. height and width, the fully phase-coherent location sound adds the third dimension, depth, to the experience.
Reproduced through a circle of speakers around the audience, these spatial recordings convey both directionality and distance to the listeners, in the same way that sound does in real situations.
True Surround Sound is now being used in a much greater variety of situations, where there is a need to ‘transport' audiences into any location. The increasing use of Soundscapes in display and exhibition spaces has come about because of the ability of sound to alter the audience's aural perceptions of their surroundings. While many of these Soundscapes are made up of mono or stereo recordings manipulated or manufactured into multichannel configurations by sound ‘artists', to limited effect, some producers have realized the potential of using phase coherent multichannel sound recordings to create true Surround Soundscapes.
Film and TV sound has been slow to show much more than a passing interest in true Surround Sound, even with the popularity of “5.1” surround speaker formats. Reasons for this may be that sound is normally recorded on location in mono or stereo for later manipulation by the editor and in the mixing suite, most scenes are ‘manufactured', either on location or in the studio so ‘reality' is limited to the direction the camera is facing, and the industry processes are geared to ‘standard' processes.
However, some uses, especially in documentaries, have started to happen. Many subjects or locations are perfectly suited for the recording of ‘atmospheres' in multi-channel surround, and are able to be incorporated into a Dolby Cinema, Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 or 6.1 mix, adding a true sense of involvement with the scene.
As Digital TV becomes more widespread, and ‘home theatres' are more and more being built into new homes as a standard feature, the demand for multi-channel, phase-coherent, true Surround Sound will increase. Sound mixers will request 5.1 atmospheres, because the final replay medium is now firmly 5.1 as a minimum, with 6.1 and 7.1 surround on some home theatre amplifiers.