News and Features


Forty years of cinema innovation: Hollywood & 'FJI' celebrate a Dolby milestone

March 25, 2011

-By Bill Mead


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1228508-Dolby_40_Feature_Md.jpg
Exhibitors and their audiences around the world quickly associate the name Dolby with great cinema sound. What most don’t realize is Dolby Laboratories’ pivotal role in raising the quality of cinema presentations for over four decades and how Dolby continues to advance the entertainment experience with innovations not only in sound but picture. This March at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Dolby is celebrating this milestone, which was officially reached last November, with its international network of partner distributors and exhibitors.

In the 40 years of Dolby’s involvement, cinema technology has undergone a complete transformation. The industry has transitioned from the older analog film-based formats to the completely new digital systems that have opened the doors to exciting innovations such as 3D, new content, and digital delivery of movies to the theatres. All along, Dolby has been involved one way or another, either at the center introducing new technologies or working behind the scenes eliminating obstacles and pushing the boundaries limiting presentation quality.

Dolby’s unique position as a technology innovator, an equipment manufacturer and a service provider is unparalleled in the cinema industry. Their presence in all global cinema markets gives them the ability to work with and understand the needs of filmmakers everywhere. Their encompassing view of the moviemaking process, from the shooting stages, through post-production, to the theatres, gives them the insight and opportunity to view the process as a whole, and devise novel and appropriate solutions to address industry needs.

Dolby Cinema Begins
It all began quietly in London in 1965, with the introduction of an innovative process known as Dolby A-Type Noise Reduction (A-Type NR) that reduces the unwanted buildup of noise in professional recordings. Within a few short years, the music recording industry had adopted A-type NR because it facilitated the use of multi-track recording that allowed recording engineers to build complex, layered mixes without objectionable noise.

Ray Dolby, company founder, recalls, "After our noise-reduction success in the professional recording industry, we began looking at other markets that would benefit from our A-type noise-reduction system. The cinema market was a natural. Motion picture sound in the 1960s was still rather dismal, plagued by legacy equipment, practices and standards that dated back to the 1930s. We knew it would not be easy or fast to change the industry, but we began by researching the problems and made the commitment to do what we could to improve things." Ray’s pragmatic approach and commitment to the cinema industry continues to this day.

Dolby’s cinema program began in November of 1970, with the experimental application of A-type noise reduction to excerpts of the film Jane Eyre, then in production at Pinewood Studios in London. In 1971, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was the first film to use Dolby noise reduction on all pre-mixes and masters, but due to the need to be compatible with the playback equipment in the theatres, it was released with a conventional monophonic optical soundtrack.

While A-Type NR was effective at reducing noise and increasing fidelity during recording, the experiments revealed that to make meaningful improvements in the sound heard by audiences, the entire process, from original recording on the set, through the post-production, to playback in the theatres had to be improved.

Ioan Allen, VP of marketing and current senior VP, recalls, “It was a conundrum, as if we were playing a game of technical whack-a-mole. As soon as we fixed one problem, another popped up. We found it did little good to improve any particular point unless we looked at the entire chain from the microphone to the loudspeakers. This involved not just adding A-type NR, but changing many of the practices and technical standards being used throughout the post-production process. Particularly challenging, we also had to maintain compatibility so that our improvement didn’t negatively impact the sound in unconverted theatres.”

Although the application of A-type NR had helped much of the production process, what the industry really needed was a low-cost and practical way to deliver multi-channel sound—and in particular surround sound—to all theatres, not just a few in the major markets. Stereo and surround sound had been in use since the 1950s using expensive magnetic soundtracks, which were problematic and typically limited their use to the top-grossing theatres. By the mid-1970s, Dolby had combined their improvements into a single 35mm release format: Dolby Stereo Optical. It proved to be a timely solution.

Dolby Stereo Optical
Dolby Stereo optical divided the area used on the 35mm into two channels, each with Dolby A-type NR, resulting in stereo capabilities, lower noise and higher fidelity. The first versions of Dolby Stereo soundtracks were introduced experimentally with the film Tommy, which premiered in London in February 1975. In September 1975, the first feature film for general release with a basic Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack was Lisztomania. By the spring of 1976, Dolby had gone one step further by adding a surround channel using 4-2-4 matrix encoding techniques improved by Dolby for motion picture use. The 1976 remake of A Star is Born was the first 35mm Dolby Stereo optical film in commercial release with an encoded surround track. At long last, the industry had a low-cost alternative to expensive magnetic soundtracks.

The widespread introduction of Dolby Stereo also coincided with the release of some of the most beloved movies in history. In May 1977, Star Wars (later renamed Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope) appeared in 46 U.S. theatres in Dolby 70mm, and with all 35mm prints being Dolby Stereo Optical with an encoded surround channel.

Exhibitors who didn’t have access to the 70mm version realized that by the addition of a Dolby cinema sound processor and other upgrades to their sound equipment, they could improve their sound sometimes dramatically. The runaway success of Star Wars greatly increased public awareness of Dolby Stereo and triggered a wave of installations. In turn, Star Wars won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound the following year. Many other titles followed, and Dolby Stereo Optical became the industry’s choice for widespread economical stereo releases.

Dolby 70mm
For the theatres that were able to get 70mm prints, Dolby also had solutions. 70mm, introduced in the 1950s, had six tracks of five screen channels and one surround channel. Reducing the noise with Dolby A-type NR essentially meant that each of the six magnetic tracks could carry more level with less distortion, resulting in soundtracks that could go comfortably louder when necessary. This led to the awe-inspiring soundtracks on many 70mm releases such as Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

1978’s Superman was the 50th film with soundtracks encoded with Dolby A-type and it was used in Dolby’s first experiments with 70mm stereo surround, though this was never publically announced. Previously, the additional two screen channels (left-center and right-center) on Dolby 70mm were only used for low-frequency information and needed was more surround capability. With Superman, Dolby reallocated the two mid-center screen channels to the rear, resulting in better distribution of audio effects in the auditorium. The configuration of three behind-the-screen channels, two surround channels and a subwoofer channel used on Superman became internally known as a 5.1 configuration.

The following year, Apocalypse Now became the first announced film released in 70mm with the 5.1 stereo surrounds. Apocalypse Now won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound. The 5.1 channel configuration (though it wasn't publically called 5.1 until many years later) went on to become the loudspeaker configuration of choice and is ubiquitous today in movies, broadcast, DVDs, and virtually all other digital media.

Dolby SR

In 1986, after six years of development, Ray Dolby announced the development of Dolby SR noise reduction. Significantly more powerful than A-Type, Dolby SR gave analog recordings a near-digital quality. In 1987, Dolby introduced Dolby SR on film with RoboCop and Innerspace and over the years this became the de-facto standard for 35mm releases. To this day, virtually every 35mm release print made in the U.S. also has a Dolby SR analog soundtrack.

Dolby Digital
The next great leap forward in cinema technology occurred in 1992, when Dolby Digital was born. At the time, there were proposals to put digital soundtracks on 35mm film, but in practically every case they physically replaced the analog soundtrack, creating a double-inventory problem for distributors. Worse for exhibitors and the audience, there was no fail-safe backup should the digital soundtrack become damaged. After studying the problem extensively, Dolby engineers came up with a novel solution: Keep the Dolby SR analog soundtrack exactly the same, thereby preserving compatibility, and add an entirely new digital soundtrack in the unused space between the sprocket holes. The 35mm 5.1 channel Dolby Digital format gave film distributors a single-inventory print that would play in all theatres, whether they be analog or digital.

Dolby demonstrated the combined release print format (known also as Dolby SR-D) to a skeptical industry, proving not only that it worked, but that it worked very well and could withstand the routine wear that occurs during a film’s run. Warner Bros.’ highly successful title Batman Returns was the first commercial film released with a Dolby Digital soundtrack. While originally developed for the cinema, Dolby Digital is now used universally in broadcast and home theatre, and is the foundation for the surround sound experience Dolby brings to gaming, PC and mobile products as well.

In 1999, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was the first to feature Dolby Digital-Surround EX, which employs 6.1 channel sound, adding an additional channel to the digital format in theatrical use at that time. Lucasfilm THX and Dolby Laboratories jointly developed the new theatrical surround sound system, which was overseen by Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, director of creative operations at Skywalker Sound.

Dolby 3D Digital Cinema

In addition to delivering innovative technologies that revolutionized the audio experience in cinemas, Dolby has also been on the leading edge of new digital-cinema imaging technologies and the mainstream adoption of 3D.

Dolby first ventured into 3D early in 2005 by providing their expertise and technical support installing its Dolby Digital Cinema system in 84 U.S. theatres for the release of Disney’s Chicken Little. Learning from Chicken Little, in 2007, Dolby announced their own 3D format, known as Dolby 3D, which works with any high-gain screen—silver or white—by implementing a unique full-spectrum color filter technology that provides realistic color reproduction and extremely sharp images. Dolby’s first 3D title to use the format was the 2007 release of Beowulf, which was launched on 75 screens in 12 countries.

Today, Dolby 3D is installed in major studios and post-production facilities to help content creators better render their 3D movies. As of December 2010, there have been over 7,200 Dolby 3D systems shipped to over 400 exhibitor partners in 67 countries.

Dolby Surround 7.1

The latest audio innovation in cinemas from Dolby is Dolby Surround 7.1, introduced in 2010 with Disney-Pixar's Toy Story 3. Dolby Surround 7.1 establishes four distinct sound zones into theatres, providing filmmakers with more control over the placement of sounds within the theatre environment.

The Dolby Surround 7.1 format had its origins in early discussion with the sound designers at Pixar, who were doing preliminary work on Toy Story 3. They had in mind ideas on placement of sound effects in some of the visual sequences that could only be done with more rear channels. Tests on the mixing stage with sequences from Toy Story 2 showed that splitting the surrounds into four channels was certainly worth the effort.

Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s worldwide technical marketing manager, says, “Sound mixers can now place effects within the auditorium along the sides with greater accuracy. Particularly with animated 3D content, the old rules have changed. Dialogue and effects can come from anywhere. With our new Dolby Surround 7.1 configuration, movement coming in and out of the screen is more dramatic. That’s why it works so well for 3D. In Toy Story 3, you literally feel certain effects fly over you. You’re hearing things come from the screen, running right down the right and left surrounds. We couldn’t do this before.”

Dolby Surround 7.1 is relatively easy to install for exhibitors, usually only requiring software upgrades, simple wiring changes and the possible addition of extra amplifiers. In many cases, Dolby Surround 7.1 can be implemented for under 1,000 US dollars per auditorium. Its low cost relative to its audio improvement explains why there have been more than 1,300 installations since June 2010, making it the most rapidly adopted format from Dolby. Dolby Surround 7.1 is now being used by major studios, including Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks and Fox. In addition, Dolby Surround 7.1 has had international appeal, being released with Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen in Hong Kong, Los Ojos de Julia (Julia's Eyes) in Spain and Lord of the Dance 3D in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Bowling says the audio benefits of Dolby 7.1 are apparent in any size auditorium with properly configured surround loudspeakers. Exhibitors are finding Dolby Surround 7.1 to be the perfect addition to their primary rooms where audiences are expecting to find the latest state-of-the-art technology.

Dolby in Future Cinema

Dolby’s rich heritage working with the creative community puts the company in a unique position to anticipate future audio and imaging needs of the cinema market. In addition to helping content creators deliver on their vision, Dolby works with their cinema partners around the world to deliver the world’s most compelling entertainment experiences to moviegoers everywhere.

“Dolby’s essential role in the entertainment industry is in large part thanks to opportunities we have had to work closely with the true innovators in cinema over the last four decades," states Kevin Yeaman, president and chief executive officer, Dolby Laboratories. "As studios, distributors and exhibitors pursue even more exciting ways to engage audiences, we expect our next 40 years to be just as rich with breakthrough technologies that keep people talking about truly memorable entertainment experiences.”

With 40 years of research, innovation and proven success in the cinema market, Dolby is a driving force for improving the movie entertainment experience. While only time will tell what exciting new technologies Dolby will bring to cinemas in the future, we will be watching them closely to see what is in store for the next 40 years.


Four Decades of Cinema Breakthroughs

November 1970: Dolby’s Cinema program begins with the investigative application of Dolby A-type noise reduction to cinema sound results in first tests with excerpts from a film in production, Jane Eyre.

December 1971: A Clockwork Orange, first film to use Dolby noise reduction on all premixes and masters, releases (with conventional optical soundtrack).

February 1972: Introduction of Dolby Model 364 cinema unit for decoding mono optical soundtracks encoded with A-type noise reduction.

September 1973: Dolby Model E2 Cinema Equalizer introduced for use in theatres to complement A-type noise-reduction techniques for film soundtracks.

May 1974: Callan, first film using optical soundtrack (mono) encoded with A-type noise reduction, shown at Cannes Film Festival.

July 1974: First 35mm stereo optical recorder commissioned by Dolby Laboratories at EMI Elstree Studios, England. Milestone in development of stereo variable area (SVA) soundtrack format now widely associated with Dolby Laboratories’ involvement with film sound.

November 1974: Introduction of 35mm Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack format at Society of Motion Pictures and Television (SMPTE) convention in Toronto using specially remixed sections of Stardust. Advantages include performance comparable to older 35mm magnetic process at considerably less cost to producers, distributors and exhibitors.

February 1975: Dolby CP100 Cinema Processor introduced for reproduction of Dolby Stereo magnetic and optical soundtracks. First units installed for London premiere of Tommy in March.

September 1975: First feature film for generic release with Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack, Lisztomania, completed.

Spring 1976: A Star is Born is the first 35mm Dolby Stereo optical film with encoded surround effects.

October 1976: Introduction of Dolby CP50 Cinema Processor, economical theatre unit for reproduction of 35mm Dolby Stereo optical releases.

May 1977: Opening of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope appears in 46 U.S. theatres equipped for Dolby Stereo, plus release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind later in year, greatly increases public awareness of Dolby Stereo and triggers further theatre installations.

December 1977: Twelve films released with Dolby Stereo soundtracks in 1977, bringing number of films with A-type encoded soundtracks to 30.

April 1978: Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (1977) is the first Dolby encoded soundtrack to win an Academy Award® for Best Achievement in Sound.

December 1978: Superman, the 50th film with soundtrack encoded with Dolby A-type NR, opens simultaneously in over 200 theatres, also used in first experiments with 70mm stereo surround.

April 1979: Dolby Laboratories receives Scientific and Engineering Award for “improved film sound recording and reproduction system” from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

September 1979: Hair, first Dolby Stereo film dubbed into a second language, released in Germany.

November 1979: Apocalypse Now is first Dolby Stereo 70mm film exhibited commercially with stereo surround (in 15 theatres). Apocalypse Now wins an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound the following year.

May 1980: First installation of Dolby CP200 Cinema Processor, comprehensive theatre unit incorporating Optical Bass Extension and format programming for the first time.

June 1981: First Japanese Dolby Stereo mix, Rengo Kantai (The Great Fleet), completed by Toho Films. Number of U.S. theatres equipped with Dolby Stereo processors reaches 2,000.

May 1984: Release of 500th Dolby Stereo film, The Karate Kid. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom released with more than 1,500 Dolby Stereo prints in U.S. alone.

February 1985: Dolby CP55 35mm Cinema Processor with automated features introduced at ShoWest in Las Vegas.

Autumn 1986: Dolby Stereo SR 35mm optical format demonstrated to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

November 1986: Release of 1,000th Dolby Stereo film, Heartbreak Ridge.

May 1987: Release of first Dolby Stereo film mixed in China, The First Woman in the Forest.

July 1987: First Dolby Stereo Spectral Recording (SR) films released: Innerspace and RoboCop.

March 1989: Ray Dolby and Ioan Allen awarded Oscars for “continuing contributions to motion picture sound through the research and development programs of Dolby Laboratories” by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

June 1990: Release of 100th Dolby Stereo SR film, RoboCop 2.

February 1991: Development of Dolby Digital, with compatible 35mm prints providing both digital and analog optical soundtracks, announced at ShoWest in Las Vegas. New format is first application of Dolby AC-3 multichannel digital audio coding.

April 1991: First demonstration of Dolby Digital for film industry held in San Francisco. Further demonstrations are conducted in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Madrid, Munich and Milan during summer and autumn.

August 1991: Introduction of Dolby CP65 Cinema Processor for playback of all 35mm analog optical formats and interface with new Dolby Digital format.

June 1992: First film released in Dolby Digital, Batman Returns, premieres in 10 U.S. theatres equipped with new DA10 Dolby Digital Processor and Cat. No 699 digital soundtrack reader.

May 1993: First French Dolby Digital productions, Ma Saison Préférée and Toxic Affair, screened at Cannes Film Festival.

August 1993: First 35mm soundhead capable of reading both analog and Dolby Digital optical tracks introduced by Cinemeccanica.

January 1994: First shipments of DA20 adapter and Cat. No. 700 soundhead, streamlined second-generation hardware for playback of Dolby Digital films, reduce cost to equip theatres for Dolby Digital playback.

November 1994: Interview with the Vampire is 100th Dolby Digital release. More than 120 foreign-language versions of Dolby Digital titles released to date.

October 1995: Dolby CP500 Digital Cinema Processor introduced at ShowEast in Atlantic City, NJ, combining playback electronics for soundtracks encoded in both analog and digital formats.

December 1995: Dolby Digital prints struck worldwide in 1995 estimated at 400,000; 40,000 in circulation globally at any given time.

January 1996: Lower-cost CP45 analog cinema processor introduced at second annual CineAsia convention in Singapore.

February 1996: Theatres worldwide equipped for Dolby Digital playback top 4,000; released and announced Dolby Digital film titles surpass 400.

March 1996: Dolby Laboratories receives Scientific and Engineering Award from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for design and development of the Dolby Digital Sound System for motion picture exhibition.

June 1996: First cinema multiplex in Latin America with Dolby Digital on all screens, Cinemex Loreto, opens in Mexico City.

October 1996: Shine, 500th Dolby Digital film, screens at ShowEast, Atlantic City, NJ.

March 1997: The English Patient (1996), released exclusively in Dolby Digital, wins Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound.

July 1997: Sales of Dolby Digital cinema processors top 10,000; released and announced Dolby Digital film titles surpass 940, plus more than 1,000 foreign-language versions.

January 1998: Number of Dolby cinema sound processors sold surpasses 50,000 worldwide.

February 1998: Dolby engineers presented with Scientific and Technical Awards by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for design, development and implementation of Dolby CP500 Digital Cinema Processor.

March 1998: More theatres worldwide (13,037) equipped for Dolby Digital than any other digital film sound format.

May 1998: Number of theatres equipped for Dolby Digital tops 14,000 worldwide; 1,380 feature films with Dolby Digital soundtracks, plus 1,700 foreign-language versions, released or announced to date.

October 1998: Dolby Digital Surround EX, new theatre sound format with three surround channels co-developed with Lucasfilm THX, announced and demonstrated at ShowEast in Atlantic City, NJ.

March 1999: With 2,500 SA10 Cinema Processor adapters ordered, Dolby Digital Surround EX becomes most successful new format launch in cinema sound history.

April 1999: Number of cinemas equipped with Dolby Digital totals more than 20,000, surpassing all other formats both in North America alone and worldwide.

May 1999: First film with Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtrack, Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, opens in U.S.

November 1999: The World Is Not Enough becomes first U.K. film production to be released with Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtrack.

January 2000: Number of screens equipped with Dolby Digital exceeds 25,000.

March 2000: Dolby’s Ioan Allen, Robin Bransbury, and Mark Harrah (of Disney Co.) receive Award of Commendation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the concept, design and implementation of the Trailer Audio Standards Association (TASA) Loudness Standard.

June 2000: Dolby CP650, new flagship digital-cinema processor, debuts at CinemaExpo in Amsterdam.

March 2001: Number of cinemas equipped with Dolby Digital sound processors surpasses 30,000 worldwide.

October 2001: Adapter for interfacing Dolby cinema processors with digital-cinema systems (Dolby DMA8) debuts at ShowEast 2001 in Orlando, Florida.

September 2002: Introduction of Dolby ScreenTalk, system that superimposes subtitles over projected image in cinemas without special release prints.

February 2003: At the 79th Academy Awards ceremony, Doug Greenfield of Dolby Laboratories is awarded the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; over 10,000 CP650 Digital Cinema Processors sold.

March 2004: The Dolby Digital Cinema System for presentation of all-digital cinema is announced at ShoWest.

May 2004: Ray Dolby presented the Medaille du Festival de Cannes in recognition of the company's ongoing support and technical expertise at the Cannes Film Festival for the past 30 years.

June 2004: Over 15,000 units of the company's flagship audio processor, the CP650, have been purchased, making it the most successful product of its kind ever and taking the number of Dolby Digital screens worldwide to over 45,000.

May 2005: Dolby Digital Cinema system used in select theatres all over the world with the opening of Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith. Theatres in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and San Francisco, among others, have installed the Dolby Digital Cinema for this premiere event. In addition, Lucasfilm Ltd. selects the Dolby Digital Cinema system for the movie's Los Angeles and New York premieres, key industry screenings, and a special event at London's Leicester Square Theatre—the site, 30 years earlier, of the first Dolby Stereo premiere using the CP100.

June 2005: Dolby announces the launch of its Dolby Digital Cinema system in France at the Gaumont Champs-Elysees Marignan cinema in Paris, part of the EuroPalaces group.

November 2005: Dolby Digital Cinema systems are installed in 84 U.S. theatres to present Disney's animated feature Chicken Little in 3D.

June 2006: Dolby unveils the newest components of the Dolby Digital Cinema system, the Dolby Show Library and the Dolby DMA8Plus at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam.

August 2006: Dolby announces an agreement with Infitec GmbH, a leading provider of virtual-reality 3D technologies based in Germany, to develop a new 3D system specifically for digital cinema.

December 2006: Dolby announces the introduction of Dolby SCC2000 Secure Content Creator, a scalable mastering solution for JPEG 2000 digital-cinema compression, encoding, packaging and encryption that will be accessible by post-production facilities, laboratories and exhibitors.

January 2007: Ioan Allen, Ted Costas and Marty Richards of Dolby Laboratories join nine of their colleagues from other companies onstage to receive an Academy Award of Commendation for their contributions to the environmentally responsible industry conversion from silver-based to cyan-dye analog soundtracks.

March 2007: Dolby unveils details of its new Dolby 3D Digital Cinema technology at ShoWest in Las Vegas.

April 2007: China Research Institute of Film Science & Technology (CRIFST) selects the Dolby SCC2000 Secure Content Creator for its facilities.

October 2007: Dolby Digital Cinema server first to earn Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 Level 3 validation certificate; Dolby announces at ShowEast its CP650DC audio processor designed exclusively for digital-cinema applications.

November 2007: Dolby 3D Digital Cinema launches on 75 screens in 12 countries with Beowulf.

January 2008: U2 3D, the first concert film produced for 3D digital cinema, premieres in Dolby 3D at the Sundance Film Festival.

September 2008: Dolby shipments of Dolby 3D Digital Cinema units reach more than 500 in 24 countries since its market debut less than a year ago; Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D debuts in China in Dolby 3D at the premiere ceremony in Shanghai United Circuit’s Yong Hua Cineplex—the first digital 3D movie released in China.

March 2009: Dolby announces its latest-generation cinema processor, the Dolby CP750 Digital Cinema Processor, and announces Dolby 3D large-screen solution at ShoWest in Las Vegas.

June 2009: Dolby announces its newest cinema server, the Dolby Screen Server (DSS200), at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam.

December 2009: The world premiere of James Cameron’s Avatar presented at Empire Leicester Square, London, using Dolby 3D.

March 2010: Dolby announces it is working with Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios to deliver a new audio format, Dolby Surround 7.1.

June 2010: Dolby Surround 7.1 launches with Toy Story 3.

September 2010: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen released in Dolby Surround 7.1 in Hong Kong. This marks the premiere of Dolby Surround 7.1 in a Chinese film.

October 2010: Dolby Surround 7.1 reaches over 1,000 installations worldwide, becoming one of the fastest Dolby cinema audio formats ever adopted; Los Ojos de Julia (Julia's Eyes) is showcased at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain, the first European film to use the format; over 6,000 Dolby Screen Servers shipped; over 5,500 Dolby 3D Digital Cinema systems shipped; more than 4,000 Dolby CP750 Digital Cinema Processors shipped.

November 2010: Dolby celebrates 40 years of cinema excellence.


Forty years of cinema innovation: Hollywood & 'FJI' celebrate a Dolby milestone

March 25, 2011

-By Bill Mead


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1228508-Dolby_40_Feature_Md.jpg

Exhibitors and their audiences around the world quickly associate the name Dolby with great cinema sound. What most don’t realize is Dolby Laboratories’ pivotal role in raising the quality of cinema presentations for over four decades and how Dolby continues to advance the entertainment experience with innovations not only in sound but picture. This March at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Dolby is celebrating this milestone, which was officially reached last November, with its international network of partner distributors and exhibitors.

In the 40 years of Dolby’s involvement, cinema technology has undergone a complete transformation. The industry has transitioned from the older analog film-based formats to the completely new digital systems that have opened the doors to exciting innovations such as 3D, new content, and digital delivery of movies to the theatres. All along, Dolby has been involved one way or another, either at the center introducing new technologies or working behind the scenes eliminating obstacles and pushing the boundaries limiting presentation quality.

Dolby’s unique position as a technology innovator, an equipment manufacturer and a service provider is unparalleled in the cinema industry. Their presence in all global cinema markets gives them the ability to work with and understand the needs of filmmakers everywhere. Their encompassing view of the moviemaking process, from the shooting stages, through post-production, to the theatres, gives them the insight and opportunity to view the process as a whole, and devise novel and appropriate solutions to address industry needs.

Dolby Cinema Begins
It all began quietly in London in 1965, with the introduction of an innovative process known as Dolby A-Type Noise Reduction (A-Type NR) that reduces the unwanted buildup of noise in professional recordings. Within a few short years, the music recording industry had adopted A-type NR because it facilitated the use of multi-track recording that allowed recording engineers to build complex, layered mixes without objectionable noise.

Ray Dolby, company founder, recalls, "After our noise-reduction success in the professional recording industry, we began looking at other markets that would benefit from our A-type noise-reduction system. The cinema market was a natural. Motion picture sound in the 1960s was still rather dismal, plagued by legacy equipment, practices and standards that dated back to the 1930s. We knew it would not be easy or fast to change the industry, but we began by researching the problems and made the commitment to do what we could to improve things." Ray’s pragmatic approach and commitment to the cinema industry continues to this day.

Dolby’s cinema program began in November of 1970, with the experimental application of A-type noise reduction to excerpts of the film Jane Eyre, then in production at Pinewood Studios in London. In 1971, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was the first film to use Dolby noise reduction on all pre-mixes and masters, but due to the need to be compatible with the playback equipment in the theatres, it was released with a conventional monophonic optical soundtrack.

While A-Type NR was effective at reducing noise and increasing fidelity during recording, the experiments revealed that to make meaningful improvements in the sound heard by audiences, the entire process, from original recording on the set, through the post-production, to playback in the theatres had to be improved.

Ioan Allen, VP of marketing and current senior VP, recalls, “It was a conundrum, as if we were playing a game of technical whack-a-mole. As soon as we fixed one problem, another popped up. We found it did little good to improve any particular point unless we looked at the entire chain from the microphone to the loudspeakers. This involved not just adding A-type NR, but changing many of the practices and technical standards being used throughout the post-production process. Particularly challenging, we also had to maintain compatibility so that our improvement didn’t negatively impact the sound in unconverted theatres.”

Although the application of A-type NR had helped much of the production process, what the industry really needed was a low-cost and practical way to deliver multi-channel sound—and in particular surround sound—to all theatres, not just a few in the major markets. Stereo and surround sound had been in use since the 1950s using expensive magnetic soundtracks, which were problematic and typically limited their use to the top-grossing theatres. By the mid-1970s, Dolby had combined their improvements into a single 35mm release format: Dolby Stereo Optical. It proved to be a timely solution.

Dolby Stereo Optical
Dolby Stereo optical divided the area used on the 35mm into two channels, each with Dolby A-type NR, resulting in stereo capabilities, lower noise and higher fidelity. The first versions of Dolby Stereo soundtracks were introduced experimentally with the film Tommy, which premiered in London in February 1975. In September 1975, the first feature film for general release with a basic Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack was Lisztomania. By the spring of 1976, Dolby had gone one step further by adding a surround channel using 4-2-4 matrix encoding techniques improved by Dolby for motion picture use. The 1976 remake of A Star is Born was the first 35mm Dolby Stereo optical film in commercial release with an encoded surround track. At long last, the industry had a low-cost alternative to expensive magnetic soundtracks.

The widespread introduction of Dolby Stereo also coincided with the release of some of the most beloved movies in history. In May 1977, Star Wars (later renamed Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope) appeared in 46 U.S. theatres in Dolby 70mm, and with all 35mm prints being Dolby Stereo Optical with an encoded surround channel.

Exhibitors who didn’t have access to the 70mm version realized that by the addition of a Dolby cinema sound processor and other upgrades to their sound equipment, they could improve their sound sometimes dramatically. The runaway success of Star Wars greatly increased public awareness of Dolby Stereo and triggered a wave of installations. In turn, Star Wars won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound the following year. Many other titles followed, and Dolby Stereo Optical became the industry’s choice for widespread economical stereo releases.

Dolby 70mm
For the theatres that were able to get 70mm prints, Dolby also had solutions. 70mm, introduced in the 1950s, had six tracks of five screen channels and one surround channel. Reducing the noise with Dolby A-type NR essentially meant that each of the six magnetic tracks could carry more level with less distortion, resulting in soundtracks that could go comfortably louder when necessary. This led to the awe-inspiring soundtracks on many 70mm releases such as Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

1978’s Superman was the 50th film with soundtracks encoded with Dolby A-type and it was used in Dolby’s first experiments with 70mm stereo surround, though this was never publically announced. Previously, the additional two screen channels (left-center and right-center) on Dolby 70mm were only used for low-frequency information and needed was more surround capability. With Superman, Dolby reallocated the two mid-center screen channels to the rear, resulting in better distribution of audio effects in the auditorium. The configuration of three behind-the-screen channels, two surround channels and a subwoofer channel used on Superman became internally known as a 5.1 configuration.

The following year, Apocalypse Now became the first announced film released in 70mm with the 5.1 stereo surrounds. Apocalypse Now won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound. The 5.1 channel configuration (though it wasn't publically called 5.1 until many years later) went on to become the loudspeaker configuration of choice and is ubiquitous today in movies, broadcast, DVDs, and virtually all other digital media.

Dolby SR

In 1986, after six years of development, Ray Dolby announced the development of Dolby SR noise reduction. Significantly more powerful than A-Type, Dolby SR gave analog recordings a near-digital quality. In 1987, Dolby introduced Dolby SR on film with RoboCop and Innerspace and over the years this became the de-facto standard for 35mm releases. To this day, virtually every 35mm release print made in the U.S. also has a Dolby SR analog soundtrack.

Dolby Digital
The next great leap forward in cinema technology occurred in 1992, when Dolby Digital was born. At the time, there were proposals to put digital soundtracks on 35mm film, but in practically every case they physically replaced the analog soundtrack, creating a double-inventory problem for distributors. Worse for exhibitors and the audience, there was no fail-safe backup should the digital soundtrack become damaged. After studying the problem extensively, Dolby engineers came up with a novel solution: Keep the Dolby SR analog soundtrack exactly the same, thereby preserving compatibility, and add an entirely new digital soundtrack in the unused space between the sprocket holes. The 35mm 5.1 channel Dolby Digital format gave film distributors a single-inventory print that would play in all theatres, whether they be analog or digital.

Dolby demonstrated the combined release print format (known also as Dolby SR-D) to a skeptical industry, proving not only that it worked, but that it worked very well and could withstand the routine wear that occurs during a film’s run. Warner Bros.’ highly successful title Batman Returns was the first commercial film released with a Dolby Digital soundtrack. While originally developed for the cinema, Dolby Digital is now used universally in broadcast and home theatre, and is the foundation for the surround sound experience Dolby brings to gaming, PC and mobile products as well.

In 1999, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was the first to feature Dolby Digital-Surround EX, which employs 6.1 channel sound, adding an additional channel to the digital format in theatrical use at that time. Lucasfilm THX and Dolby Laboratories jointly developed the new theatrical surround sound system, which was overseen by Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, director of creative operations at Skywalker Sound.

Dolby 3D Digital Cinema

In addition to delivering innovative technologies that revolutionized the audio experience in cinemas, Dolby has also been on the leading edge of new digital-cinema imaging technologies and the mainstream adoption of 3D.

Dolby first ventured into 3D early in 2005 by providing their expertise and technical support installing its Dolby Digital Cinema system in 84 U.S. theatres for the release of Disney’s Chicken Little. Learning from Chicken Little, in 2007, Dolby announced their own 3D format, known as Dolby 3D, which works with any high-gain screen—silver or white—by implementing a unique full-spectrum color filter technology that provides realistic color reproduction and extremely sharp images. Dolby’s first 3D title to use the format was the 2007 release of Beowulf, which was launched on 75 screens in 12 countries.

Today, Dolby 3D is installed in major studios and post-production facilities to help content creators better render their 3D movies. As of December 2010, there have been over 7,200 Dolby 3D systems shipped to over 400 exhibitor partners in 67 countries.

Dolby Surround 7.1

The latest audio innovation in cinemas from Dolby is Dolby Surround 7.1, introduced in 2010 with Disney-Pixar's Toy Story 3. Dolby Surround 7.1 establishes four distinct sound zones into theatres, providing filmmakers with more control over the placement of sounds within the theatre environment.

The Dolby Surround 7.1 format had its origins in early discussion with the sound designers at Pixar, who were doing preliminary work on Toy Story 3. They had in mind ideas on placement of sound effects in some of the visual sequences that could only be done with more rear channels. Tests on the mixing stage with sequences from Toy Story 2 showed that splitting the surrounds into four channels was certainly worth the effort.

Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s worldwide technical marketing manager, says, “Sound mixers can now place effects within the auditorium along the sides with greater accuracy. Particularly with animated 3D content, the old rules have changed. Dialogue and effects can come from anywhere. With our new Dolby Surround 7.1 configuration, movement coming in and out of the screen is more dramatic. That’s why it works so well for 3D. In Toy Story 3, you literally feel certain effects fly over you. You’re hearing things come from the screen, running right down the right and left surrounds. We couldn’t do this before.”

Dolby Surround 7.1 is relatively easy to install for exhibitors, usually only requiring software upgrades, simple wiring changes and the possible addition of extra amplifiers. In many cases, Dolby Surround 7.1 can be implemented for under 1,000 US dollars per auditorium. Its low cost relative to its audio improvement explains why there have been more than 1,300 installations since June 2010, making it the most rapidly adopted format from Dolby. Dolby Surround 7.1 is now being used by major studios, including Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks and Fox. In addition, Dolby Surround 7.1 has had international appeal, being released with Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen in Hong Kong, Los Ojos de Julia (Julia's Eyes) in Spain and Lord of the Dance 3D in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Bowling says the audio benefits of Dolby 7.1 are apparent in any size auditorium with properly configured surround loudspeakers. Exhibitors are finding Dolby Surround 7.1 to be the perfect addition to their primary rooms where audiences are expecting to find the latest state-of-the-art technology.

Dolby in Future Cinema

Dolby’s rich heritage working with the creative community puts the company in a unique position to anticipate future audio and imaging needs of the cinema market. In addition to helping content creators deliver on their vision, Dolby works with their cinema partners around the world to deliver the world’s most compelling entertainment experiences to moviegoers everywhere.

“Dolby’s essential role in the entertainment industry is in large part thanks to opportunities we have had to work closely with the true innovators in cinema over the last four decades," states Kevin Yeaman, president and chief executive officer, Dolby Laboratories. "As studios, distributors and exhibitors pursue even more exciting ways to engage audiences, we expect our next 40 years to be just as rich with breakthrough technologies that keep people talking about truly memorable entertainment experiences.”

With 40 years of research, innovation and proven success in the cinema market, Dolby is a driving force for improving the movie entertainment experience. While only time will tell what exciting new technologies Dolby will bring to cinemas in the future, we will be watching them closely to see what is in store for the next 40 years.


Four Decades of Cinema Breakthroughs

November 1970: Dolby’s Cinema program begins with the investigative application of Dolby A-type noise reduction to cinema sound results in first tests with excerpts from a film in production, Jane Eyre.

December 1971: A Clockwork Orange, first film to use Dolby noise reduction on all premixes and masters, releases (with conventional optical soundtrack).

February 1972: Introduction of Dolby Model 364 cinema unit for decoding mono optical soundtracks encoded with A-type noise reduction.

September 1973: Dolby Model E2 Cinema Equalizer introduced for use in theatres to complement A-type noise-reduction techniques for film soundtracks.

May 1974: Callan, first film using optical soundtrack (mono) encoded with A-type noise reduction, shown at Cannes Film Festival.

July 1974: First 35mm stereo optical recorder commissioned by Dolby Laboratories at EMI Elstree Studios, England. Milestone in development of stereo variable area (SVA) soundtrack format now widely associated with Dolby Laboratories’ involvement with film sound.

November 1974: Introduction of 35mm Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack format at Society of Motion Pictures and Television (SMPTE) convention in Toronto using specially remixed sections of Stardust. Advantages include performance comparable to older 35mm magnetic process at considerably less cost to producers, distributors and exhibitors.

February 1975: Dolby CP100 Cinema Processor introduced for reproduction of Dolby Stereo magnetic and optical soundtracks. First units installed for London premiere of Tommy in March.

September 1975: First feature film for generic release with Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack, Lisztomania, completed.

Spring 1976: A Star is Born is the first 35mm Dolby Stereo optical film with encoded surround effects.

October 1976: Introduction of Dolby CP50 Cinema Processor, economical theatre unit for reproduction of 35mm Dolby Stereo optical releases.

May 1977: Opening of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope appears in 46 U.S. theatres equipped for Dolby Stereo, plus release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind later in year, greatly increases public awareness of Dolby Stereo and triggers further theatre installations.

December 1977: Twelve films released with Dolby Stereo soundtracks in 1977, bringing number of films with A-type encoded soundtracks to 30.

April 1978: Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (1977) is the first Dolby encoded soundtrack to win an Academy Award® for Best Achievement in Sound.

December 1978: Superman, the 50th film with soundtrack encoded with Dolby A-type NR, opens simultaneously in over 200 theatres, also used in first experiments with 70mm stereo surround.

April 1979: Dolby Laboratories receives Scientific and Engineering Award for “improved film sound recording and reproduction system” from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

September 1979: Hair, first Dolby Stereo film dubbed into a second language, released in Germany.

November 1979: Apocalypse Now is first Dolby Stereo 70mm film exhibited commercially with stereo surround (in 15 theatres). Apocalypse Now wins an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound the following year.

May 1980: First installation of Dolby CP200 Cinema Processor, comprehensive theatre unit incorporating Optical Bass Extension and format programming for the first time.

June 1981: First Japanese Dolby Stereo mix, Rengo Kantai (The Great Fleet), completed by Toho Films. Number of U.S. theatres equipped with Dolby Stereo processors reaches 2,000.

May 1984: Release of 500th Dolby Stereo film, The Karate Kid. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom released with more than 1,500 Dolby Stereo prints in U.S. alone.

February 1985: Dolby CP55 35mm Cinema Processor with automated features introduced at ShoWest in Las Vegas.

Autumn 1986: Dolby Stereo SR 35mm optical format demonstrated to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

November 1986: Release of 1,000th Dolby Stereo film, Heartbreak Ridge.

May 1987: Release of first Dolby Stereo film mixed in China, The First Woman in the Forest.

July 1987: First Dolby Stereo Spectral Recording (SR) films released: Innerspace and RoboCop.

March 1989: Ray Dolby and Ioan Allen awarded Oscars for “continuing contributions to motion picture sound through the research and development programs of Dolby Laboratories” by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

June 1990: Release of 100th Dolby Stereo SR film, RoboCop 2.

February 1991: Development of Dolby Digital, with compatible 35mm prints providing both digital and analog optical soundtracks, announced at ShoWest in Las Vegas. New format is first application of Dolby AC-3 multichannel digital audio coding.

April 1991: First demonstration of Dolby Digital for film industry held in San Francisco. Further demonstrations are conducted in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Madrid, Munich and Milan during summer and autumn.

August 1991: Introduction of Dolby CP65 Cinema Processor for playback of all 35mm analog optical formats and interface with new Dolby Digital format.

June 1992: First film released in Dolby Digital, Batman Returns, premieres in 10 U.S. theatres equipped with new DA10 Dolby Digital Processor and Cat. No 699 digital soundtrack reader.

May 1993: First French Dolby Digital productions, Ma Saison Préférée and Toxic Affair, screened at Cannes Film Festival.

August 1993: First 35mm soundhead capable of reading both analog and Dolby Digital optical tracks introduced by Cinemeccanica.

January 1994: First shipments of DA20 adapter and Cat. No. 700 soundhead, streamlined second-generation hardware for playback of Dolby Digital films, reduce cost to equip theatres for Dolby Digital playback.

November 1994: Interview with the Vampire is 100th Dolby Digital release. More than 120 foreign-language versions of Dolby Digital titles released to date.

October 1995: Dolby CP500 Digital Cinema Processor introduced at ShowEast in Atlantic City, NJ, combining playback electronics for soundtracks encoded in both analog and digital formats.

December 1995: Dolby Digital prints struck worldwide in 1995 estimated at 400,000; 40,000 in circulation globally at any given time.

January 1996: Lower-cost CP45 analog cinema processor introduced at second annual CineAsia convention in Singapore.

February 1996: Theatres worldwide equipped for Dolby Digital playback top 4,000; released and announced Dolby Digital film titles surpass 400.

March 1996: Dolby Laboratories receives Scientific and Engineering Award from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for design and development of the Dolby Digital Sound System for motion picture exhibition.

June 1996: First cinema multiplex in Latin America with Dolby Digital on all screens, Cinemex Loreto, opens in Mexico City.

October 1996: Shine, 500th Dolby Digital film, screens at ShowEast, Atlantic City, NJ.

March 1997: The English Patient (1996), released exclusively in Dolby Digital, wins Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound.

July 1997: Sales of Dolby Digital cinema processors top 10,000; released and announced Dolby Digital film titles surpass 940, plus more than 1,000 foreign-language versions.

January 1998: Number of Dolby cinema sound processors sold surpasses 50,000 worldwide.

February 1998: Dolby engineers presented with Scientific and Technical Awards by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for design, development and implementation of Dolby CP500 Digital Cinema Processor.

March 1998: More theatres worldwide (13,037) equipped for Dolby Digital than any other digital film sound format.

May 1998: Number of theatres equipped for Dolby Digital tops 14,000 worldwide; 1,380 feature films with Dolby Digital soundtracks, plus 1,700 foreign-language versions, released or announced to date.

October 1998: Dolby Digital Surround EX, new theatre sound format with three surround channels co-developed with Lucasfilm THX, announced and demonstrated at ShowEast in Atlantic City, NJ.

March 1999: With 2,500 SA10 Cinema Processor adapters ordered, Dolby Digital Surround EX becomes most successful new format launch in cinema sound history.

April 1999: Number of cinemas equipped with Dolby Digital totals more than 20,000, surpassing all other formats both in North America alone and worldwide.

May 1999: First film with Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtrack, Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, opens in U.S.

November 1999: The World Is Not Enough becomes first U.K. film production to be released with Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtrack.

January 2000: Number of screens equipped with Dolby Digital exceeds 25,000.

March 2000: Dolby’s Ioan Allen, Robin Bransbury, and Mark Harrah (of Disney Co.) receive Award of Commendation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the concept, design and implementation of the Trailer Audio Standards Association (TASA) Loudness Standard.

June 2000: Dolby CP650, new flagship digital-cinema processor, debuts at CinemaExpo in Amsterdam.

March 2001: Number of cinemas equipped with Dolby Digital sound processors surpasses 30,000 worldwide.

October 2001: Adapter for interfacing Dolby cinema processors with digital-cinema systems (Dolby DMA8) debuts at ShowEast 2001 in Orlando, Florida.

September 2002: Introduction of Dolby ScreenTalk, system that superimposes subtitles over projected image in cinemas without special release prints.

February 2003: At the 79th Academy Awards ceremony, Doug Greenfield of Dolby Laboratories is awarded the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; over 10,000 CP650 Digital Cinema Processors sold.

March 2004: The Dolby Digital Cinema System for presentation of all-digital cinema is announced at ShoWest.

May 2004: Ray Dolby presented the Medaille du Festival de Cannes in recognition of the company's ongoing support and technical expertise at the Cannes Film Festival for the past 30 years.

June 2004: Over 15,000 units of the company's flagship audio processor, the CP650, have been purchased, making it the most successful product of its kind ever and taking the number of Dolby Digital screens worldwide to over 45,000.

May 2005: Dolby Digital Cinema system used in select theatres all over the world with the opening of Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith. Theatres in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and San Francisco, among others, have installed the Dolby Digital Cinema for this premiere event. In addition, Lucasfilm Ltd. selects the Dolby Digital Cinema system for the movie's Los Angeles and New York premieres, key industry screenings, and a special event at London's Leicester Square Theatre—the site, 30 years earlier, of the first Dolby Stereo premiere using the CP100.

June 2005: Dolby announces the launch of its Dolby Digital Cinema system in France at the Gaumont Champs-Elysees Marignan cinema in Paris, part of the EuroPalaces group.

November 2005: Dolby Digital Cinema systems are installed in 84 U.S. theatres to present Disney's animated feature Chicken Little in 3D.

June 2006: Dolby unveils the newest components of the Dolby Digital Cinema system, the Dolby Show Library and the Dolby DMA8Plus at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam.

August 2006: Dolby announces an agreement with Infitec GmbH, a leading provider of virtual-reality 3D technologies based in Germany, to develop a new 3D system specifically for digital cinema.

December 2006: Dolby announces the introduction of Dolby SCC2000 Secure Content Creator, a scalable mastering solution for JPEG 2000 digital-cinema compression, encoding, packaging and encryption that will be accessible by post-production facilities, laboratories and exhibitors.

January 2007: Ioan Allen, Ted Costas and Marty Richards of Dolby Laboratories join nine of their colleagues from other companies onstage to receive an Academy Award of Commendation for their contributions to the environmentally responsible industry conversion from silver-based to cyan-dye analog soundtracks.

March 2007: Dolby unveils details of its new Dolby 3D Digital Cinema technology at ShoWest in Las Vegas.

April 2007: China Research Institute of Film Science & Technology (CRIFST) selects the Dolby SCC2000 Secure Content Creator for its facilities.

October 2007: Dolby Digital Cinema server first to earn Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 Level 3 validation certificate; Dolby announces at ShowEast its CP650DC audio processor designed exclusively for digital-cinema applications.

November 2007: Dolby 3D Digital Cinema launches on 75 screens in 12 countries with Beowulf.

January 2008: U2 3D, the first concert film produced for 3D digital cinema, premieres in Dolby 3D at the Sundance Film Festival.

September 2008: Dolby shipments of Dolby 3D Digital Cinema units reach more than 500 in 24 countries since its market debut less than a year ago; Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D debuts in China in Dolby 3D at the premiere ceremony in Shanghai United Circuit’s Yong Hua Cineplex—the first digital 3D movie released in China.

March 2009: Dolby announces its latest-generation cinema processor, the Dolby CP750 Digital Cinema Processor, and announces Dolby 3D large-screen solution at ShoWest in Las Vegas.

June 2009: Dolby announces its newest cinema server, the Dolby Screen Server (DSS200), at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam.

December 2009: The world premiere of James Cameron’s Avatar presented at Empire Leicester Square, London, using Dolby 3D.

March 2010: Dolby announces it is working with Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios to deliver a new audio format, Dolby Surround 7.1.

June 2010: Dolby Surround 7.1 launches with Toy Story 3.

September 2010: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen released in Dolby Surround 7.1 in Hong Kong. This marks the premiere of Dolby Surround 7.1 in a Chinese film.

October 2010: Dolby Surround 7.1 reaches over 1,000 installations worldwide, becoming one of the fastest Dolby cinema audio formats ever adopted; Los Ojos de Julia (Julia's Eyes) is showcased at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain, the first European film to use the format; over 6,000 Dolby Screen Servers shipped; over 5,500 Dolby 3D Digital Cinema systems shipped; more than 4,000 Dolby CP750 Digital Cinema Processors shipped.

November 2010: Dolby celebrates 40 years of cinema excellence.

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