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Touching down in Burbank on the way to Hollywood never gets old. There’s a certain excitement that comes with landing in the epicenter of American entertainment.
I’m here for the premiere of Universal’s Oblivion, presented in Dolby Atmos at the Dolby Theatre. It’s my first time as roving reporter on the red carpet—and it turns out to be even cooler than I imagined it would be.
After surveying the black carpet and snapping a few pictures, I meet up with Dolby’s Josh Gershman and head for the press check-in.
4:30 p.m. Dolby team members take our places in the video area of the red—I mean black—carpet. It’s about two hours before the guests of honor will arrive, and we try to stay cool in the hot Los Angeles sun. A very eclectic group of reporters surrounds us, including videographers from Tom Cruise fan site TomCruise.com; ESPN Deportes; entertainment site Clevver.com; and 2 Femmes a Hollywood.
6:30 p.m. The sun is beginning to set, and that means it’s time for the massive studio lights and the stars’ arrival.
From the screaming that erupts in front of the El Capitan theatre across the street, I can safely assume that the man in the gray suit is Tom Cruise. Morgan Freeman follows close behind.
The rest of the cast and crew fills the red carpet and guests file past massive replicas of some of the spaceships and vehicles featured in the film. I lean over the barricade to talk to Oblivion’s director, Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy), Oscar-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi, Fight Club), and Anthony Gonzalez (the musician better known as M83). Anthony tells me he would love to hear the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey mixed in Dolby Atmos.
8:10 p.m. I’ve stashed my camera and notes in my backpack and headed up the grand staircase to see the movie for myself. The director and stars say a few words, and the audience has down for the film.
As the Dolby Atmos trailer begins to play, we follow the sight and sounds of a leaf falling through the forest canopy to the ground, and the guy sitting next to me gasps and says, “That’s cool!”
I think we’re in for a fun ride.
Find a Dolby Atmos theater to see Oblivion here, and let us know how it sounds!
Thom Brekke is Dolby’s Community Manager and the guy you are likely to hear from on and Twitter. He is also a computer musician, Oregon Ducks football fan, and dance floor freak.
South by Southwest has something for everyone, from the wild first few days of Interactive to the hidden gems in East Austin during Music, there’s much more to do than any mere mortal could possibly contend with.
Even so, I’m trying!
After a great weekend of meeting some longtime Dolby fans and winning some new ones with the Dolby Digital Plus audio on the Kindle Fire HD, most of the Dolby crew took the show back to San Francisco, while I stuck around in Austin for a few more days of sights and sounds.
The week began with a mellow enough Monday, a little bit of wandering, and a lot of sensory overload. As the sun set in Austin I headed back to toward downtown after checking out some of the venues that would play host to music festivities in East Austin. I grabbed a bite and headed to One Night With Mike - the Mike in question being Mike Relm, who recently worked with Dolby on this video mashup featuring this year’s Best Picture nominees.
Relm absolutely killed it, playing his signature mix of heavy bass and lighthearted clips, getting laughs and groans as he dropped heavy dubstep beats in time with YouTube videos of people trying to do various acrobatic tricks and failing miserably. It was almost difficult to decide whether to stand and watch or dance!
That’s been a theme this week.
Whether it’s the sounds of Fort Lean or CHVRCHES in the stunningly lit Hype Hotel or the soulful rock of Divine Fits at Viceland, it’s been important to pace myself, take it all in, cut the occasional rug, and take a minute for the unexpected opportunity.
One such opportunity arose on Tuesday, when, after stopping by the Sennheiser + Paste house and the Hype Hotel, a friend of mine invited me to the MTV party where he walked me through some of his projection mapping wizardry. As an A/V geek I couldn’t help but be awed by what he was doing, reinterpreting sounds into visual art splashed across the walls in bright light.
That’s a good example of what awaits attendees at SXSW, though. As I said before, there’s something for everyone, and I’ve been enjoying all of it.
Today included a lively discussion called Music in Devices - Does Audio Quality Matter? The answer to that question, posed to a panel including Dolby’s Gunnar Larsen, was a resounding yes, but the panel had a wide range of ideas on just how much it mattered, and to whom.
The moderator mentioned a podcast coming out of the panel, which I’m looking forward to sharing with you at a later date. Thanks to everyone who followed along with the panel on Dolby’s Twitter feed, your responses were every bit as intriguing as those coming from the live audience. After the panel, the audiophiles in attendance swarmed the panelists. Is there any sound better than enthusiatic people talking about audio?
If there is, I have a feeling I’ll be able to find it in Austin!
Dolby returned to SXSW this year, bringing just a bit more sound and color to Austin’s annual interactive, film, and music festival. Anybody who’s seen pictures from SXSW knows it’s a little overwhelming - multiple convention centers hosting dozens of speakers, panels, movies, and more. We couldn’t think of a better place to spend a few days (for me, personally, just a bit longer) and so we took our show on the road.
We made camp at the SXSW Gaming Expo, a new addition this year which took place in the Palmer Events Center, a short shuttle ride away from the Austin Convention Center. We had the chance to see some awesome stuff in the main hall, where exhibitors from Nintendo to Blizzard to Wargaming.net - and the gamers who love them showed up in full force.
Upstairs, there were some fascinating talks, including one on scoring the new Tomb Raider game that gave great insight into how the team has worked to create a soundtrack that never feels recycled. From using a dynamic series of musical “suites” rather than static “songs” to creating an entirely new instrument to give the soundtrack a unique feel, composer Jason Graves and audio engineer Alex Wilmer gave us a lot to think about by the time we were done.
Luckily, we had good company for conversation at the Dolby Sound Exchange, Dolby’s island in a sea of SXSW madness. We were hanging out Friday through Sunday, showing off the Kindle Fire HD with Dolby Digital Plus, providing a photo booth for show attendees to remember their visits by, charging faltering phones, and hosting daily happy hours for Dolby fans, with a DJ spinning until the show shut down.
It was a great chance to catch up with some of the gamers and gadget lovers who have long enjoyed Dolby, and to chat with some folks who had no idea we were in games and tablets, too. And while the Dolby Sound Exchange has packed up for the year, there’s plenty more great sound to come at SXSW, and that’s more than enough reason to hang out and keep our ears open!
Check back for more from SXSW, including coverage of a panel featuring Dolby’s Gunnar Larsen, coming later this week, and follow Dolby on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for the most timely tidbits and images from Austin.
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