‘Dolby’s specific focus for this year is on streaming services’

Dolby Laboratories is looking to boost its presence in the country. The company works with multiple players to integrate its technology including OTT platforms like Netflix. A key focus area will be to integrate its technology like Dolby audio into original content created by OTT platforms.

TelevisionPost.com’s Ashwin Pinto caught up with Dolby Laboratories MD Emerging Markets Pankaj Kedia to talk about the potential of the Indian market, the importance of technology, and the market trends.


What goals has Dolby set for itself this year?

We are looking at increasing the adoption of our technology across the entertainment ecosystem including cinema, broadcast and streaming services. We work across the ecosystem, from content creation to distribution and finally to devices for playback. Our goal is to continue to increase the adoption of our technology across content, key services and devices. Our specific focus for this year is on streaming services as the OTT industry sees rapid growth and high quality cinematic original content is becoming increasingly important. We are focusing on integrating our technology like Dolby Audio, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision in OTT Originals across streaming services that we work with.

What potential does Dolby see in India and what progress has been made since launching its office in the country?

Dolby began working with partners in India in the mid-90s with a focus on bringing surround sound to the cinema industry and launched its subsidiary in India in 2009. India has a significant opportunity – people love entertainment in all forms – be it in the cinema, on television or on the mobile. India has a robust content creation ecosystem that exists across multiple languages.

Consumption of video, both on mobile and television is on the rise, especially with the advances that are happening in mobile broadband. We see significant potential in the market for local content in cinema, television broadcast, OTT platforms and at the same time enabling the services that deliver this content to consumers. The availability of devices that can deliver the Dolby experience to consumers in continuously growing. Our aim is to enable content creators to deliver spectacular experiences to these devices. This, in turn, helps them to drive deeper engagement and a strong emotional connection to their consumers.

Today is there more awareness among content creators, consumers about the importance of immersive, high-quality sound?

Yes, very much so. The content creation community is extremely important to us. We work very closely with several stakeholders in the content creation chain, right from directors, sound designers and mixing engineers, to the post-production and grading facilities. This is a community we engage very closely with, to provide them with tools to aid their storytelling so that they can use our technology and enhance the impact of their stories.

We’ve done that successfully for a long time now, starting from the mid- 90s on the cinema side, then with HD broadcast and now with OTT. More recently when we brought Dolby Atmos to the market about six years ago, we worked with the content creation community to get them trained, equipped and enabled to use Dolby Atmos as an effective tool to enhance their storytelling and engage audiences more deeply with their content.

We’ve seen a large adoption of the Dolby Atmos format in films in India. We recently achieved a milestone of 500+Dolby Atmos screens and 500+ titles in Dolby Atmos in India. On the consumer side, consumers believe that Dolby enhances their entertainment experiences. One example is cinema owners very prominently display the Dolby Atmos® brand in their cinemas as a message of high quality and spectacular experience for their consumers.

What is Dolby’s USP compared to the competition?

What makes us stand apart is the spirit of innovation that runs through Dolby to bring in the best technology to the market – be it for audio or video and from the perspective of delivering the director’s intent to consumers across all screens – cinema, mobile, television. Our passion lies in bringing new innovations, enhancing the consumer experience, and in aiding storytelling.

Dolby also has a unique approach of working across the ecosystem – starting with content creation, providing the tools and the know-how to content creators;and to distributors/operators to ensure that the content is delivered with these enhanced experiences. We work with OEM partners to ensure that the devices are enabled with Dolby technology to deliver an immersive sound & visual experience to consumers in their living rooms, at work or on the go. This involves solving several key challenges and roadblocks in enabling the entire ecosystem.

What advances in sound technology is Dolby making? How has Dolby Atmos helped take sound to the next level?

We are continuously innovating and inventing new ways of enhancing the consumer experience. More recently we have brought the Dolby Atmos experience to the mobile with leading OEM partners like Samsung and Huawei. We started with launching Dolby Atmos in the cinema and today streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes etc are delivering content with the Dolby Atmos experience to living rooms. The Dolby Atmos technology provides a 3D immersive audio experience on the content and services side.

The technology uses object-based audio, which allows content creators to position and move the sound in a very precise way around the consumer. It has many benefits from a storytelling process and adds the height experience – which was the missing third dimension, to give a realistic experience. DolbyAtmos delivers a rich, clear, powerful sound in the cinema, at home, and on the go to deliver a spectacular sound experience putting you in the centre of the story.

While theatres is your traditional business how are you expanding beyond that?

We have a strong presence in the cinema business through our audio technology – Dolby Atmos and Dolby Audio and also more recently with our video technology – Dolby Vision. We also have a large presence on the consumer entertainment side in television, HD broadcast, live sports and also now with streaming services. Dolby’s technologies are very widely adopted across device categories, including televisions and set top boxes, DMAs, mobile phones, tablets and many other consumer electronics categories. Dolby as a brand consciously works on making the experience seamless across all screens.

How many TV channels and OTT platforms do you work within the country?

On the broadcast side, we have been partnering and working very closely with key broadcasters, from the time of the introduction of HD in India (2011-2012). We’ve done extensive work with them – not only enabling HD broadcast with Dolby Audio but also on training and enabling the entire content creation ecosystem of production companies, post-production studios, sound designers, mixing engineers. Today over 75 HD channels out of the 90 plus HD channels on air in India are broadcasting with Dolby Audio 5.1 surround sound.

As far as OTT is concerned we are also very actively working with a number of OTT service providers that are now streaming content with our technology. When we look at global majors, our technology is adopted by platforms like Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, to name a few. In India, we are working with platforms like Voot, YuppTV, etc and there’s more that’s currently in the pipeline.

As the penetration of HD channels grows and with 4K expected to come in at some point what opportunities do these present for Dolby?

We are deeply engaged in and working with the HD and Broadcast ecosystem. We also see the growth of HD in regional languages and we have been working with regional language broadcasters like Asianet, Maa Television, Star Vijay, Sun TV, etc to enable their HD channels and their content with our technology.

4K is definitely a very interesting opportunity because as globally 4K has been very closely associated with HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. We can see a large amount of 4K content – television drama and sports, being made available with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

What is the difference in sound quality between a Dolby enabled show versus one that is not enabled?

Dolby Atmos creates powerful, moving audio by introducing two important concepts to sound: audio objects and overhead speakers. Together, these completely change how soundtracks are created and heard. Traditional surround soundtracks confine all sounds to a small set of channels that can deliver sound to you from only a few perceived angles. They cannot put sound above you.

Further, sounds exist only as part of a channel mix. If one sound is emphasised in a traditional mix, another must be subdued.

In Dolby Atmos, by contrast, sound can be freed from channels. It enables artists to treat specific sounds as individual entities, called audio objects. These can be precisely placed and moved by the soundtrack creator anywhere in the cinema’s three-dimensional space—they are not confined to specific channels—though the artist can continue to use channel capabilities as desired.

As a result, a Dolby Atmos soundtrack brings alive the onscreen story as never before possible. The sound flows all around you to completely immerse you in the action, heightening the impact of the story and creating a powerfully moving experience.

Most of OTT content in India is consumed on the mobile. How do you adjust sound technology for the smartphone?

In the case of mobile, Dolby Atmos delivers powerful, moving audio over headphones that seem to flow above and around you — while also enhancing sound for built-in device speakers — for a truly spectacular mobile experience. Over headphones, you’ll hear the sounds of people, places, things, and music come alive with richness and depth as they seem to move in three-dimensional space.

Over device speakers, you’ll hear enhancements like crisper dialogue, a more enveloping soundfield, deeper sound without distortion, and consistent playback volume for a wide variety of content. You’ll even get improved sound for music, games, and television shows for content not created in Dolby Atmos, and for content in other audio formats.

We work closely with the OEMs to help with the tuning of the devices both with the onboard speakers and the headphones experience. Each device is custom tuned and certified for providing that experience. The technology makes the audio experience in the device loud and clear, for any type of content.

Which are some of the major shows and movies that Dolby has worked on recently and what has Dolby learnt from that?

One of the latest movies – ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’, saw some great work with the sound design. It is a movie where sound played a very important role because it aided and enhanced the narrative and the movie viewing experience. One example that I remember distinctly is form the opening sequence when the convoy gets ambushed, it is very silent and very quiet and suddenly there is this bullet fired.

For this, the sound designer used directional capabilities of Dolby Atmos to effectively design the sound, in a certain way that the movement of the bullet can be perceived as coming from behind. It’s an important moment in the movie and it sets the tone for what comes next and the action that unfolds thereafter. There are several such key moments in the movie from a sound perspective and there is a lot of appreciation for the role that sound plays overall.

OTT is changing the rules as far as content production is concerned in India and the kind of cinematic content that streaming services are bringing to market is very different from what we traditionally see on television in India. We’ve seen some great work with sound in several shows and two examples that stand out is the kind of work done on ‘Mirzapur’ which is on Amazon Prime Video India Original and with ‘Sacred Games’ on Netflix, to name a few.

Dolby is going beyond sound with Dolby Vision. Could you talk about the strategy in this regard?

Dolby has been working on Dolby Vision for quite some time now and we’ve spent several years in research and development. We’ve brought Dolby Vision to the market across all screens, from cinemas to the television screen, to mobiles, to tablets and we’ve worked with leading OEMs including LG, Sony, Panasonic for them to integrate Dolby Vision into their televisions. On the mobile side, Apple is a big adopter of Dolby Vision, the iPhone, Mac, Apple TV 4K include Dolby Vision.

Close to 200 movies which have been released with Dolby Vision and on the streaming side Netflix itself has over 400+ hours of content in Dolby VisionTM; similarly, iTunes has close to 200 titles in Dolby Vision on the iTunes store. We are also working in India to set up Dolby Vision grading infrastructure with leading post-production companies.

Does Dolby have an R&D Center in India?

We have many R&D centres of excellence globally. We have more than 700 scientists and engineers with expertise in neuroscience, audio, imaging, and conferencing.

Finally, will technology see 3D without the need for glasses come in at some point?

When you do watch the images with the Dolby Vision HDR technology, there is a sense of dimensional depth which comes along with the high quality, the sharpness and the brightness information that is there with the image. Dolby Vision transforms your viewing experience with dramatic imaging—incredible colour, contrast, and brightness that bring entertainment to life wherever you go.

It achieves this astonishing image quality through innovative high-dynamic-range (HDR) technologies that, compared to a standard picture, can deliver more colors, highlights that are significantly brighter, with more light-to-dark contrast than ever before seen on TVs or mobile phone screens. The result is a refined, lifelike image that will make you forget you are looking at a screen. One look and you will know—this is the experience that engages your senses and inspires your emotions like no other.


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