Dolby Cinema vs. Standard: What’s the Difference, and Which is Better?

Dolby Cinema vs Standard

Dolby Cinema vs. Standard: What’s the Difference, and Which is Better?

Dolby Cinema vs. Standard: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • Dolby Cinema uses Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos technology to bring a new dimension to movie viewing.
  • Dolby Vision has a higher native resolution and as much as 500× the color depth as Standard viewings.
  • Dolby Cinema is best used on films shot on a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Still, it is exceptional no matter what the native aspect ratio of the film is.
  • Standard cinemas use light projectors that cause the colors to appear washed out and lacking in contrast.
  • Standard cinemas lack object-based surround sound, making some sounds appear from unusual directions.

Dolby Cinema is one of the premium movie viewing options when you go out to the cinema. You might wonder what it offers, given that the tickets come at a premium.

We can safely say that you should try out Dolby Cinema at least once to see if you like it. Many people liken the experience to IMAX and have even expressed their preference for Dolby Cinema.

Let’s look at what Dolby Cinema offers to determine why it costs more at the movie theater and whether it’s worth it for you.

Dolby Cinema vs. Standard: Full Comparison

Dolby Cinema and Standard cinemas couldn’t be more different. They essentially differ at every level of production and movie showing.

Dolby Cinema offers better image resolution, image quality, image depth, color resolution, color depth, and contrast. It also provides better sound quality and sound design options than Standard cinemas.

Dolby Cinema’s state-of-the-art hardware allows the cinema to project higher-quality video on every metric. In addition, the state-of-the-art sound systems allow the sound projection to better match what’s on screen and the room you’re viewing the film in.

Dolby Cinema vs. Standard: A Side-By-Side Comparison

 Dolby CinemaStandard
Projection TypeLaserLight
Projector Count21
Projection Definition4KVaries
Sound SystemDolby Atmos, surroundSurround

Dolby Cinema vs. Standard: What’s the Difference?

Dolby Cinema is a step up from your typical AMC viewing experience. But, in every way, it is just better than a standard AMC ticket.

Regular AMC theaters use a single light projector to project the movie onto the big screen.

However, a standard light projector has some notable downsides, making the experience feel cheap compared to Dolby Cinema’s laser projectors. Firstly, light projectors have poor color contrast when compared to laser projectors.

A light projector shines light which means that all colors, including dark colors, have a filter of light through them that can cause the colors to wash out and look dull. On the other hand, laser projectors don’t use a light source to project the image. So, the image contrast is more realistic, and the darks don’t get washed out like with a light projector.

Not only does Dolby Cinema use a laser projector, but each theater is also outfitted with a dual projection setup—that is, two projectors—that allow the theatre to project crisper, sharper images, with over 500× the contrast ratio of a standard projector.

When you combine this deep, fully contrasted color with the washed-out view from a light projector, there’s no comparison—especially with films that use the full spectrum of high dynamic range (HDR) film.

Dolby Cinema’s films don’t just feature deep colors and stark contrast. They’re also shown in the native 4K definition. This means that your movie will be crisp and clear, and you’ll see every little detail that the team put into the VFX and production.

Additionally, Dolby Cinema theaters are outfitted with Dolby Atmos sound systems. These are state-of-the-art surround sound systems to boost audience engagement and provide a crisp, realistic sound quality on every beat.

Dolby Cinema’s Dolby Atmos system also uses object-based audio. That means that the sound you hear will be determined by the shape of the theater to give the sound a more immersive and realistic feel.

While all theaters use surround sound systems, the Dolby Atmos surround sound system is much more advanced. It uses techniques not available to traditional theaters and has more speakers that enhance the direction of your sounds.

Dolby Cinema’s surround sound system has speakers behind the screen, on the floor, ceiling, and walls. This allows the sounds to be split up based on where they would be heard in the movie and within the theater itself.

Cinema with LED lights and Dolby Atmos
Dolby Cinema offers an overall more immersive experience than Standard cinema, from its rich image quality to the surrounding audio features.

A Quick History of Movie-Watching Experiences

Movie watching has been evolving slowly as more interest in the medium grows. At this point, it’s essentially at an apex where new experiences provide additional features to the typical movie-going experience.

Since IMAX’s first launch in 1971, the movie industry has scrambled to make an adequate counterplay to the IMAX theater’s supermassive screen and enhanced 3D showings. Dolby Cinema is just one of many upgrades to the standard movie-watching experience that has been a staple of modern entertainment.

Movie viewing began with the Kinetoscope, which had its first public debut in 1893. The Kinetoscope was a substantial commercial success, and theatres to view Kinetoscope videos popped up nationwide.

However, the Kinetoscope only allowed one viewer at a time. With so much interest in viewing Kinetoscope content, the race was on to innovate the Kinetoscope and make boatloads of cash in doing so.

Kinetoscope films were also concise, with the longest movies being just a few minutes long and most films being less than a minute long. To capitalize on the interest, films need to be longer. They needed to capture the audience for more extended periods.

This would reduce the number of films needing to be made by organizing the effort from hundreds of short films to one long movie. Doing so would also improve the films by bringing in the most talented Kinetoscope cinematographers and having them all collaborate on one long film.

The Kinetoscope also had no function for sound. So, films had to be accompanied by lectures and live music. This function required much more human resources since the sound had to be done live.

So, when more innovations came and the ability to show long films to crowds of people and have accompanying recorded sound became accessible, filmmakers jumped on the opportunity to bring a new dimension to their movies.

By the 1920s, many modern film staples had been invented, and Hollywood had moved to the United States where it set up shop to become the world’s film capital. By this point, feature-length films were typical, and the film had become an art form where people fought to express their designs to the largest audiences.

Fast forward a few decades, and we have the first release of IMAX theaters. IMAX specialized in super high definition and 3D films, cornering a small market and carving out a niche for themselves. However, the raucous success of IMAX meant that a new set of innovations would be necessary to maintain public interest in movie theatres.

AMC first debuted AMC Prime, but this service didn’t see the success they were hoping for.

Soon after, Dolby cut AMC a deal to bring Dolby Vision—Dolby’s dual laser projector setup—and Dolby Atmos to the public. Thus, Dolby Cinema was born. The theaters are not built separately. Instead, each theater chooses the best theater they already have, and the theater is outfitted with new Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos equipment.

Dolby Cinema has been a frontrunner in new film-watching technology since it first debuted. Its goal to compete with IMAX and expand premium movie-watching experiences has been an undoubted success. Dolby Cinema has a dedicated fanbase that prefers to see their movies in an immersive experience.

Final Thoughts

It can be hard to know what the newest technologies offer. Still, we’re happy to encourage every person to try out Dolby Cinema if they can.

This cutting-edge movie-watching experience will wow even the most dedicated film buffs and add an extra dimension to an already-enjoyable experience.

Dolby Cinema vs Standard

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Dolby Cinema better than Standard?

On almost all metrics, Dolby Cinema provides a more in-depth and immersive movie-watching experience than Standard.

When was Dolby Cinema released?

Dolby Cinema was first debuted in the Netherlands on October 18, 2014.

What kind of projector does Dolby Cinema use?

Dolby Cinema theaters use two Christie 4K 6P laser projectors in every theater to provide deep color contrast and crisp images.

What Is dual projection?

Dual projection is the layering of images of two independent projectors on top of each other.

Do Standard Cinemas use dual projection?

Typically, Standard Cinemas use a single light projector rather than dual laser projectors.

How Is light projection different from laser projection?

Light projectors pass light through film to produce a large-scale image to view. Light projectors produce washed-out colors, especially blacks, because the light on the film causes the colors to distort.

Laser projection doesn’t shine light onto the film. So the colors are deeper, blacks show up as black rather than gray, and the contrast is more noticeable.

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