Dolby Surround Sound Update # 8 - December, 1997

by Bill Barnes



Regular Secrets readers will note that it's been some time since the last update from Dolby Laboratories. This delay is indicative of the general level of activity at Dolby, due mainly to the widespread introduction of DVD. There are now many different DVD players available from a variety of manufacturers, and the major computer companies are equipping their top of the line models with DVD-ROM drives as standard equipment. The distribution of DVDs has gone nationwide in the US, and more major movie companies have begun releasing titles in recent months. This is driving the development of more players, both for computer and home video use, more integrated circuits (ICs), some of which can now decode both MPEG-2 video and Dolby Digital audio on a single chip, and more software decoder implementations for PCs.

In this installment we'll summarize the recent developments in Dolby Digital hardware and media. But first, a few words about Dolby Surround.

Dolby Surround Update

The last six months have seen high growth in the number of commercially available Dolby Surround encoded soundtracks, especially in the video game market. In addition, there are many new Dolby Surround television shows and CDs available. A new tool, called the Dolby Phase Positioner, that allows game developers to encode interactive Dolby Surround effects in real time, has also been introduced.

One of the reasons for this increase in Dolby Surround programs is the introduction of Dolby Surround Tools TDM Plug-Ins for Digidesign Pro Tools workstations, which made their debut in the spring of 1997. During the first few months of availability, over 250 of these Dolby Surround encoder and decoder Plug-Ins were shipped, representing a dramatic growth in the number of DAW-equipped production facilities able to mix in Dolby Surround, including many video game production facilities.

Video Games and CD-ROMs

The past few months have seen tremendous growth in the number of companies that are using Dolby Surround in their games. Some of the new licensees that are releasing their first Dolby Surround games include Blizzard Entertainment, Davidson, Fox Interactive, Infogrames, LucasArts, Maxis, MicroProse, and Sierra On-Line.

Over 15 new Dolby Surround titles were announced at the E3 show including "Sim City 3000" from Maxis; "Jedi Knight" from LucasArts; "Madden NFL '98," "Nuclear Strike" and "Need for Speed II" by Electronic Arts; "Starfleet Academy" from Interplay; "Croc" by Fox Interactive; "Formula 1 Championship Edition," "Colony Wars," and "G-Police" by Psygnosis; and "F1 Racing Simulation" and "Tonic Trouble" from UbiSoft. These new titles bring the total number of announced or released Dolby Surround games to over 75.

For complete information on the latest Dolby Surround encoded games, please see the latest video game and CD-ROM list on the Dolby web site

New Game Development Tool

We are pleased to offer a new game development tool, the Dolby Phase Positioner, to our licensees. This code allows game programmers to interactively place sound effects within the Dolby Surround soundfield in real time. An additional version of the code allows developers that have already panned their material in a "quad joystick" format (L, R, Ls, Rs,) to mix in real time to the Dolby Surround Lt/Rt (left total/right total) format for Dolby Pro Logic decoding. This code is currently available, and is free of charge to our licensees. Please contact [email protected] for more information.


Dolby Surround television programming in the US is at an all time high with more than 60 weekly scheduled shows produced in the format.

New, regularly-scheduled programs produced in Dolby Surround this fall include "ABC Monday Night Football" on ABC; "Touched By An Angel," "Promised Land," "Brooklyn South," "Michael Hayes," and "The Practice" on CBS; "The Visitor," "Ally McBeal" and "King of the Hill" on Fox; "From the Earth to the Moon" on HBO; "Fast Track," "Outer Limits," "Poltergeist: The Legacy," and "Stargate SG-1" on Showtime; and "Fame" on UPN.

Recently broadcast specials in Dolby Surround include "The Indigo Girls Live in New York" (Independent); "Superbowl XXXI" on Fox; "Garth Brooks in Central Park (LIVE)" on HBO; and "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" on WB.

New network "movies of the week" produced in Dolby Surround include "Doomsday Rock" and "Mother Theresa" on the Family Channel; "Double Tap" on HBO, "Twelve Angry Men" on Showtime; and "Heartless" on USA.

Upcoming specials produced in Dolby Surround include "World Series Baseball" on Fox; "Whitney Houston Live," "Sinbad's Summer Jam 70's Soul Music Festival III," and "The Mr. Las Vegas All-Night Party" on HBO; "Edison: The Wizard of Light," "Galileo: On the Shoulders of Giants," "Isaac Newton: A Tale of Two Isaacs," and "Marie Curie: More Than Meets the Eye" on HBO and FAM; and "The Sound of the Carceri" on PBS.

For complete information on the latest Dolby Surround television shows, please see the television show list on the Dolby web site.

Dolby Digital Hardware Update

The proliferation of Dolby Digital technology continues at a rapid pace. Dolby Digital implementation licensees are currently offering a variety of decoder solutions ranging from fully integrated DVD audio-video solutions to software to specialized ASICs.

In the area of consumer decoder hardware, the number of licensed manufacturers now totals 38, accounting for over 1.2 million units manufactured and sold through the first half of 1997. Meanwhile, the number of new hardware license applications related to Dolby Digital-whether for DVD, DVD-ROM, or multichannel decoder applications-continues to increase with another thirty companies actively pursuing licensing.

As of October 1997, total DVD sales exceeded 500,000 in the United States with sales of over 40,000 discs per week. Although laserdisc titles still outnumber DVD releases to date, we fully expect to see the number of DVD titles surpass laser disc releases in the near term. With the continued release of DVD hardware and movie titles in the market, Dolby Digital is becoming well established in both mainstream and high-end audio/video products.

As of August 1997, a total of 90 5.1 channel Dolby Digital decoder models have been announced by the following manufacturers: ADA, Angstrom, AR, B&K, Classé, Daikin, Denon, EAD, LG (Goldstar), Harman-Kardon, JBL, Kenwood, Kinergetic, Krell, Lexicon, Linn, Marantz, McIntosh, and Meridian. In addition, a total of 66 DVD player models (excluding DVD-ROM drives) have been announced by the following companies: Akai, Daewoo, Denon, Elite, Faroudja, Grundig, Harman-Kardon, Hitachi, Hyundai, Inteq, JVC, Kenwood, LG (Goldstar), Meridian, Mitsubishi, Onkyo, Panasonic, Philips, and Pioneer.

Digital Television

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) is now involved in efforts in China, Taiwan, and Australia to promote the ATSC standard for adoption on a global basis. The Committee conducted the first over-the-air broadcast of digital high-definition television (HDTV) in China on August 27th, 1997. The digital signals-composed of crystal-clear HDTV pictures and compact-disc quality sound-originated from the central TV tower in Beijing and were received at the Great Wall in Ba Da Ling, 55 kilometers away. The landmark broadcast was held in connection with the 1997 International Symposium on Broadcasting Technology (ISBT). Additional broadcast demonstrations were held in Beijing for invited guests throughout the symposium ending August 31.

The International Workshop "HDTV'98" will take place in Seoul, Korea, in October 1998 under the auspices of Seoul National University. The workshop program will include all aspects of HDTV. In addition to the more traditional subjects (signal processing, transmission, storage, production, hardware and VLSI design, consumer equipment, etc.) and compatibility with new film production techniques, the workshop is now intended to address operational issues and share the experience of the HDTV implementers.

"HDTV'97" (held during the Television Symposium in Montreux, June 10-11, 1997) was very successful and showed growing interest in HDTV. It took place in the overall framework of a series of HDTV-related events, such as the "ITVS'97" Management Committee's sessions on HDTV during which European (DVB) and North-American (ATSC) HDTV were demonstrated to the public and to the press.

Dolby Digital Media Update

The last six months have been very busy in the Dolby Digital media department. The number and variety of Dolby Digital soundtracks has continued to expand and consumers can now enjoy Dolby Digital on laser disc, DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, and via the Internet. The number of laser discs continues to grow, DVD has gone nationwide in the US, the first DVD-ROM discs have been introduced, two record companies have begun offering the first music for sale on the Internet, and two major satellite television companies, Echostar and Primestar, have announced their plans to upgrade their audio systems to Dolby Digital.

DVD Authoring Seminar

In August, 1997, Dolby presented a three-day seminar on Audio Mastering for DVD. Forty members of the professional recording industry were present for lectures and demonstrations covering topics such as the fundamentals of DVD authoring, creating 5.1-channel mixes, and encoding audio for DVD pre-master. Based on the tremendous success of this seminar and the interest expressed by many others unable to attend, Dolby plans to repeat this event early in 1998. Please contact Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation for more information, or visit the Dolby web site for details.


Introduced in the US in March 1997 and initially available in only seven test markets, DVD-Video titles are now being distributed via retail outlets nationwide. VideoScan, an independent tracking and reporting company, places total disc sales at 412,000 during the first six and a half months since the launch. However, Columbia TriStar Home Video reports selling 300,000 discs in three and a half months, while Warner Home Video claims 1.2 million discs in just five months. The Veronis, Suhler marketing research firm projects 200,000 DVD players will be sold this year (1997), while Paul Kagen Associates, another such firm, believes about 800,000 DVD players have been shipped to date. As of this writing, announced titles have reached 400 with 273 released and in stores. Most discs carry a suggested retail price between $20 to $30.

Columbia TriStar, Elite Entertainment, Home Box Office (HBO), Image Entertainment, LIVE Entertainment, Lumivision, MGM/United Artists, New Line Home Video, Polygram, Simitar Entertainment, Sony, and Warner Home Video all have releases in the new format.

MCA/Universal Studios has also found another way to get its titles to market-by licensing them to Image Entertainment. Under a recently announced deal, Universal will license 50 catalog films to Image who plans to begin releasing titles by December 1997. Universal is reserving more high-profile catalog releases such as "Jurassic Park" for itself, while Image gets exclusive rights to author, compress, manufacture, market and sell selected titles.

Taking full advantage of the format's capabilities, movie classics are often being re-issued with enhanced picture and sound quality. From blockbuster hits such as the 1996 Academy award winning "Shine" to MTV "Unplugged" music performances by Eric Clapton and Tony Bennett, many soundtracks are using Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround.

As this update was being written it was learned that the DVD International Steering Committee, meeting in Tokyo, had just voted 8-2 to modify the mandatory audio requirements for DVD discs in PAL countries (mainly Europe). This modification added Dolby Digital (AC-3) to the list of audio types which satisfy the mandatory requirement. With this modification, PAL DVD discs are now required to have one of the following audio types: PCM, MPEG, or Dolby Digital. Only one of the three is needed to meet the mandatory requirement, and additional audio types are optional. This decision should help to clarify the confusion that has surrounded the use of Dolby Digital on PAL discs, and help to smooth the introduction of DVD in Europe.

First Audio-Only DVD

Dolby recently took advantage of the capabilities of the DVD-Video format and teamed with Delos Records to release the world's first audio-only DVD disc, featuring musical selections in Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound. The new disc, entitled "DVD Spectacular," gives consumers a variety of media options and musical selections, including complete performances of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and Richard Rodney Bennett's "Barcarolle." In addition, the new disc contains a series of audio and video test signals developed by Dolby Laboratories which can be used to calibrate home theater systems, and bonus tracks of four Dolby trailers shown theatrically to announce a film's Dolby Digital format.

The Delos "DVD Spectacular," DV 7001, features the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Andrew Litton performing the Tchaikovsky blockbuster and Carol Rosenberger playing the Richard Rodney Bennett piece on a Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand Piano. The disc has a suggested list price of $24.98, and is available from the Dolby fulfillment house at 1-800-98-DOLBY (within North America).

New Music Initiative

Dolby recently launched an initiative to promote the use of Dolby Digital for music applications with the appointment of John Kellogg to the position of General Manager, Multichannel Music Production. This marks John Kellogg's return to Dolby following a three year stint as Vice President of Strategic Planning & Initiatives for the CurtCo Freedom Group, publisher of Home Theater, Mobile Computing, and other magazines.

In his new position at Dolby, Mr. Kellogg will be the liaison with the music and consumer electronics industries and will organize, promote and manage new video and audio-only multichannel music productions. This initiative will provide opportunities for record labels to release new and back catalog material in DVD-Video and other multichannel formats.

Multichannel music reproduction using Dolby Digital technology provides a more realistic experience than conventional two-channel reproduction. It delivers a more spacious and enveloping sound and takes listeners another step closer to the goal of transforming their listening room into a concert hall. Studio recordings using the 5.1 channel format present endless possibilities for creating exciting new music experiences in the home.

The Digital Video Disc format offers the ability to produce five discrete, full-range, channels of sound using the Dolby Digital system, with the professional standard, 48 kHz sampling rate and 20-bit dynamic range.


The rush for DVD-ROM titles is on, and Dolby is at the forefront of this technology. Working closely with video game companies and the SPA (Software Publisher's Association) we are aiding in the standardization of this exciting new media, and securing Dolby Digital as the standard for multichannel sound on DVD-ROM. Exciting first titles with soundtracks encoded in Dolby Digital include "Silent Steel," from Tsunami, "Spycraft" from Activision, and "Warren Miller's Skiworld '98" from Multicom. Most of these new titles are being bundled with DVD-ROM systems or upgrade kits.

As of October 1997, DVD units for PCs were available from the following companies: Compaq, Creative, Diamond, Dooiin/Elecede, Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, I-O Data, Jazz Multimedia, Kasan, NEC, Pioneer, Sigma, Sony, and Toshiba.

Dolby Digital on the Internet

The use of Dolby Digital on the Internet has expanded with wider adoption of the Liquid Audio system (, which uses Dolby Digital technology to provide both streaming and downloadable audio. With this system, a typical song takes about 12 minutes to download using a standard 28.8 kbps modem.

N2K Records recently became the first record company to offer music for sale over the Internet by using Liquid Audio to offer songs for $0.99 each. N2K releases are available on the Music Boulevard site (, which is currently receiving over 1.7 million visits per month. In addition, N2K and America Online (AOL) recently announced a three year strategic partnership which provides for the creation of an AOL version of Music Boulevard. Customers who wish to purchase music can establish an account with Music Boulevard, pay for songs as they are downloaded, and then listen to the music on their computers or record their own CDs. Many of the songs are available only on the Internet, and in some cases music has been posted for sale within an hour of being recorded.

N2K was quickly joined in on-line music sales by the Knitting Factory (, which is currently selling songs for $0.10 per minute. In addition to Music Boulevard, other popular music sites using Liquid Audio include MTV's CD Lounge, The VH-1 Sound Shop, IUMA, Monster Music, Music 411, and many more.

Capitol Records ( have recently become the first major music label to utilize the Liquid Audio system to sell music on-line. Their first offering was the Duran Duran single "Electric Barbarella" from their upcoming album, which customers could purchase and download for $0.99. A special mix of the song, which is available only on the Internet, could also be purchased for $1.99, and a 30-second preview is available for free. The single was made available for purchase on Capitol's web site a month before the new CD was released in stores. Scott Burnett, the marketing vice president for Liquid Audio, has said that his company is close to closing similar deals with several other music labels.

Dolby Net

Dolby Net continues to be the most widely used Internet streaming audio technology today, thanks to its incorporation in the popular RealAudio 3.0 and 4.0 systems ( According to Progressive Networks, creators of the RealAudio and RealVideo systems, there are 20 million RealAudio and RealVideo players in distribution and 10 to 12 million players in regular use, with over 45,000 new player downloads each day.

To supply these players, there are hundreds of web sites offering RealAudio content, and Progressive Networks customers include ABC, MCI, AT&T, CBS, CBC, NBC, FOX, National Public Radio, ESPNet, c/net, PC Week, Starwave Corporation, Sony, Time Life, Dow Jones, GTE, Interactive Media, EDS, Hewlett Packard, the National Football League, Merrill Lynch, the U.S. Senate, Muzak, NEC, AudioNet, Prodigy, BMG Entertainment, Polygram, MCA Records, Warner Bros., Internet Canada, HotWired, and Pathfinder. Some of the reasons for RealAudio's widespread popularity include its ability to offer live broadcast capability to large audiences, its robust UDP resend technology for more reliable audio delivery, bandwidth negotiation, and HTTP-based pseudo-streaming which allows for the streaming of RealAudio files from a regular web server.

A new Dolby Net implementation was recently introduced by Echo Speech Corporation ( in their EchoCast system. Echo Speech has concentrated on the low bit rate speech delivery market, and the addition of their Dolby Net EchoCast system allows them to also offer a higher quality music deliver option.

Satellite Television

The move toward Dolby Digital for broadcast applications received another boost recently when two satellite television companies, Echostar and Primestar, announced that they will upgrade their audio systems to Dolby Digital.

Both companies plan to add programming with Dolby Digital audio by the first quarter of 1998, in preparation for the late-1998 introductions of digital TV sets with Dolby Digital decoding capability and satellite receivers with built-in DVD drives. Many within the industry feel that DVD and the upcoming DTV will raise consumer expectations and put pressure on satellite broadcasters to upgrade their systems.

Echostar plans to introduce a satellite receiver/DVD combination unit by the first quarter of 1998, and will add Dolby Digital outputs to its 1998 receivers. Primestar will also offer receivers with Dolby Digital outputs, but it has not released details on exactly when these units will be available.

Virtual Surround

In the past six months, our new virtual surround product category has progressed considerably. Products containing Virtual Dolby Surround or Virtual Dolby Digital technology are able to create a 3D audio "virtual surround" soundfield from Dolby Surround or Dolby Digital soundtracks using just two ordinary speakers. This technology is especially well suited to single-listener situations, such as typical PC use. Several new virtual processes have appeared in implementation (IC) form, as have a few products. The list of implementations now includes 3-D Phonic from JVC, A3D from Aureal Semiconductor, TruSurround from SRS Labs, N-2-2 DVS from Spatializer Audio Labs, QSurround from Qsound, Virtual Sonic from Matsushita, Sensaura from EMI/CRL, VMAx from Harman International, and Dolby Virtual Surround from Dolby Laboratories.

We have already reviewed plans for many types of products that intend to use the Virtual Dolby Surround or Virtual Dolby Digital logo. These include televisions, A/V receivers, DVD players, and even an in-line virtualizer meant to connect directly between the consumer's VCR and receiver, or in the tape monitor loop of an A/V receiver.

Dolby Literature Now Available

North American licensees and their representatives and retailers can now obtain bulk quantities of Dolby-developed literature and sales support materials through a fulfillment house that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Literature is available at our printing cost, and other materials include lapel pins, banners, signs, posters, luggage tags, test DVDs, and test laser discs. Retailers, trainers, and those putting on special events can charge the materials they need on a credit card. Simply call 1-800-98-DOLBY (within North America) for more information or to place an order.

For More Information

If you would like to read more about any of Dolby's technologies there are a variety of publications available. Many of these are available on our web site at, and we encourage interested readers to visit the site for further information. Dolby literature may also be requested by sending an e-mail message to [email protected] or by leaving a voice message on Dolby's Literature Request Line at 415-558-0344. Please be sure to include your name and mailing address in your message and specify which technologies you are interested in.

Bill Barnes

© Copyright 1997 Dolby Laboratories, and, where applicable, Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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