We've written a lot about Dolby Atmos of late, especially about the audio tech's ability to enhance movie viewing. But it doesn't stop there.
BT Sport has taken the bold step to accompany some of its Ultra HD presentations of live footy matches with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. And we were amongst the first to try it out.
We were invited to an exclusive screening of Liverpool vs Chelsea to find out if 4K visuals and Dolby Atmos audio are a match made in Heaven. It was the first game to be broadcast live in the format, even for viewers at home with a BT Ultra HD YouView box, a 4K telly and the right sound system. And what a match it was.
- Best TV footy ever? Liverpool v Chelsea to be broadcast in 4K and Dolby Atmos
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- Dolby Atmos explained: What is it and how do I get it?
Watching football on the TV has always been an immersive experience. The love for your club, hatred for others, getting your mates round for food and drinks, it's a weekly ritual. We've seen progress from standard definition to high definition, which made the action noticeably better, the fuzzy lines around the ball disappeared for example.
Then came 4K, with BT being the first to the punch to broadcast live sport in 4K Ultra HD.
As long as you have BT Infinity fibre broadband, the BT YouView+ 4K UHD box and the accompanying TV subscription, you can get super-sharp football in your home. BT then had another first in November 2016 when it announced it would be bringing Dolby Atmos to the home for select sporting events. We attended an exclusive event in London to watch the world's first football match in 4K Ultra HD and Dolby Atmos, complete with half time punditry from Robbie Savage. Here are our thoughts.
Football in 4K: A thing of beauty
We've already experienced sport in 4K via BT's Ultra HD sport channel as the service has been live for just over a year now. Sky Q presents matches in 4K too.
You may think that an increase in resolution won't affect things that much, but we'd beg to differ. The extra clarity on offer really does make for an incredible viewing experience. Each screen at our event was different, so it was hard to judge exactly what BT's service was delivering, but we settled on one display and were happy with what we saw.
The colours of the red and blue shirts were bold, punchy and vibrant, as was the green grass. The extra detail on offer meant we were also able to clearly see spots of mud all over the pitch where boots had dug up the ground. Slow motion replays really benefit from 4K, not only do they make tackles and tricks easier to see, but you're able to see individual beads of sweat running down the players' faces.
If you haven't seen football in 4K, but have the opportunity to, we urge you to. Once you go 4K, you won't want to go back.
Football with Dolby Atmos: "...as if we were sitting in the Kop..."
But it was the Dolby Atmos sound we were really interested in. Could the extra height channels and microphones placed around the stadium deliver a more immersive experience?
In a word, yes.
Right from the kick off, it was apparent that Atmos worked. The noises and cheers from the crowd were all around us, just as if we were sitting in the Kop with the other Liverpool fans. BT and Dolby were using Kef speakers with upward firing modules to deliver the height and they worked perfectly. We'd say in-ceiling speakers would be even better, but it was good to hear a more realistic setup that most people will have in their home.
We did find that commentary was lost quite a bit in the cheering. We were in a noisy environment anyway, but we could barely hear a word of what was being said.
We could hear the commentators talking, but what they were saying wasn't clear. We'd have to listen to a match in Atmos at home to find out if this will be a regular thing or not. We didn't feel it detracted from the experience though, the point of watching football in Dolby Atmos is to make you feel as if you're right there in the stadium, and to that extent, it certainly did its job.
These are also early days for the format, and it's likely BT will refine the mix for future matches. Even as it stands, football in the home (or a pub) has never sounded better.