Dolby Atmos will bring the 2018 Olympics with all the thrill, none of the chill

PyeongChang winter olympics 2018
International Olympic Committee/Jean Chung

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games are about to get underway, and there are more ways than ever before to feel like you’re right there in PyeongChang, including virtual reality. If you’re less interested in strapping on a headset than kicking back on your couch, Dolby has partnered with DirecTV and Comcast Xfinity to bring you the next best thing to being there.

Both Comcast and DirecTV will be offering coverage from the Olympics in 4K HDR, complete with Dolby Atmos for sound. If you aren’t familiar with Atmos, it takes standard surround sound even further by adding height information, meaning it can emulate sounds coming from above, in addition to your left, right, front, and back. In a theater with Atmos sound, you’ll hear objects moving through the theater, and while that can’t exactly be done with a sporting event, this will still be the most immersive way to watch the games on your TV.

Movies using Atmos are slowly crafted, mixing different sound sources to get the desired result, but that won’t be the case with the Olympics. Instead, what you hear will be captured and produced live using well-placed microphones – a first for Dolby Atmos in the U.S. This means not only will you hear a new dimension of sound, but you’ll likely hear things you’ve never noticed while watching the games before. Events captured with Dolby Atmos will include the opening ceremony, Hockey, Ski Jumping, Snowboard Big Air, and Figure Skating.

While the content will be produced live, you won’t be able to watch it live, at least not with 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos. In the case of DirecTV, it will be airing the Dolby Atmos content on its 4K channel, which is on a time delay, while Comcast Xfinity will be offering Dolby Atmos on-demand. Since Dolby can produce its Atmos for live sports in real time, however, it may not be long until we’re getting live sports with Atmos sound more regularly in the U.S.

To make the most out of Dolby Atmos, speakers either mounted in the ceiling or firing toward the ceiling are used, but you don’t necessarily need these to benefit. If you’ve got a TV with Dolby Atmos built-in like LG’s OLED or Super UHD TVs, or if you’ve got a sound bar that supports Dolby Atmos in some way, you’ll still be getting better overall sound than if you were watching with standard surround sound –more sound sources makes for better sound!

The fact that both Comcast and DirecTV have chosen to air the Olympics with Dolby Atmos, even in this limited fashion, is a testament to how the technology is catching on. That said, they aren’t the only ways to watch. If you’re looking for more ways to stay caught up on the games, make sure to check out our guide on how to watch the 2018 Olympics.