The energy of a music festival, the creak of a door as the killer creeps into the house, the escape through the tunnel as the police are searching overhead, the laughs of hyenas surrounding their kill—all of these scenarios are being brought to even greater immersion with Dolby Atmos for podcasts.
Podcast streaming platforms like Earshot in India, Anghami based in the Middle East, and Wondery+ in the US are already streaming podcasts in Dolby Atmos to their subscribers, and studios like QCode, CurtCo Media, and National Geographic are now mixing new narrative fiction, true crime, sci-fi, and documentary podcasts, as well as remixing catalog content, so that they’ll be ready to launch when additional platforms light up with Atmos.
Dolby Atmos has been a cinema technology for over ten years, and a home entertainment technology for almost as long. But it’s not just a cinema and living room story. With virtualized Atmos available on iOS and Android devices, podcast listeners can have a headphone Atmos experience from right in their pockets.
Mixing professionals who are experienced with Dolby Atmos are currently in high demand, with several studios saying they’re actively looking for more talent to bring Atmos to the podcast world. But when mixers think about Dolby Atmos, they probably think of large dub stages and decidedly not podcast-sized budgets.
However, just like many creatives in the music world have turned toward mixing Dolby Atmos purely on headphones as detailed in Ceri Thomas’ earlier article, podcasts are particularly well suited for a headphone mixing workflow. While we won’t reinvent the wheel here on Ceri’s info-packed article, we should point out that the Dolby Atmos Renderer has had multiple updates since then, most notably with improvements to the basic binaural algorithm for headphone monitoring, as well as a Personalized Rendering app currently in beta, that can customize the binaural experience through the renderer for every mixer.
Creating podcast content in Dolby Atmos is simultaneously future-proof and provides backwards compatibility. Dolby Atmos allows for a mix-once workflow making it easy to automatically derive a stereo mix for delivery to traditional stereo platforms where Atmos is not supported as well as re-renders and stems.
Pro Tools Studio and Ultimate users with a current subscription or active support plan can purchase the Dolby Atmos Production Suite renderer software for only $99—to purchase go to the My Special Offers tab in your Avid Account. So, with a Mac laptop running Pro Tools Studio or Pro Tools Ultimate and Dolby Atmos Production Suite, and a good pair of wired headphones, mixers can create and deliver in Dolby Atmos at an affordable cost of entry.
Although mixing on headphones is a robust experience that mixers say translates well to speakers, we do still recommend that mixers do a confidence check through a professional or even a consumer speaker system, especially while they’re first learning the craft. Once you’ve printed your Dolby Atmos Master File, you can easily create an encoded file with the “Export to MP4” function in Dolby Atmos Production Suite. This process creates an encoded Dolby Digital Plus JOC file and wraps it in an MP4 container. This file can then be played from a thumb drive through a smart TV or Blu-ray player’s USB input and monitored on an Atmos-capable home theater system or soundbar.
As an audio-only entertainment medium, podcasting has unique creative potential to transport listeners right into the middle of a story. Listeners can be part of a virtual audience with events happening in front of them as if they’re watching a performance, or they can even be the protagonist of the story, with events happening all around them. The creative potential is unlimited with the mixer’s imagination.
So how do podcast creatives get started with Dolby Atmos? Avid has developed a comprehensive Dolby Atmos training and certification curriculum, available here. Dolby also has a self-guided training curriculum here. And finally, Dolby is working with the Pod People organization to “train the trainers” with a two-part virtual event series.
To watch the two-part virtual event series, please see the links below.
Creating Podcasts in Dolby Atmos
I help demystify the Dolby Atmos tools and techniques through this introductory workshop, where you will learn the basics of various software tools to expand your artistic expression.
Podcasts in Dolby Atmos: A Conversation with CJ Drumeller
Dive into the professional and creative process of mixing podcasts in Dolby Atmos with CJ Drumeller.
CJ Drumeller, an accomplished sound designer and mixer known for works like Solar (2022) and In Another Room (2020), will be diving into his professional and creative process on mixing podcasts in Dolby Atmos. With CJ and the Pod People Community, learn how you can elevate your storytelling and unlock a new dimension of audio-only storytelling using Dolby Atmos.
You can also learn more about how to create immersive mixes with Pro Tools and Dolby Atmos here.
Dolby is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories.