Dolby Atmos and Vision should be killed with free versions, but it might be too late

Dolby Atmos and Vision should be killed with free versions, but it might be too late ...

According to a protocol, Google is planning to introduce its own-brand equivalent to Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos 3D audio, and is attempting to persuade manufacturers to support it (open in new tab) (via FlatpanelsHD, (opens in new tab)). Protocol claims that it has seen a video of Google''s presentation to hardware makers, and that the strategy is called Project Caviar.

Dolby Vision is a professional HDR format used in the majority of the best 4K TVs, while Dolby Atmos is supported in the majority of the finest soundbars, and it is now a massive selling point.

The major push Google is making to manufacturers is that the two new formats would be royalty-free, implying that manufacturers would not have to pay Google any fees to include support for them. Dolby Vision costs up to $3 per device to include, and Dolby Atmos'' costs are unconfirmed.

AV aficionados will notice here that there is already a royalty-free alternative to Dolby Vision: HDR10+. I suspect that it is relevant for Google''s final strategy here.

It appears that while YouTube is the main focus for Google, the streaming site currently supports basic HDR (known as HDR10), but not the more advanced Dolby Vision version or HDR10+. It does not support any 3D audio standards, as the two currently in use generally are Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but Atmos is by far the best-supported option.

Apple''s new formats include Dolby Vision and Atmos, but you mostly don''t get this on Android Samsung supports HDR10+ and Dolby Atmos, but that''s just about it. Google is certainly attempting to persuade Netflix, Disney, and the rest to support its new formats, ensuring that you can get the same quality of HDR and audio on all Android devices as you get it on iPhone.

Are there real need for more HDR and audio formats?

The video and audio world is already too dreadful, with endless naming conventions. The last thing we need is more, but it sounds like Google''s entire objective is to avoid that, which is smart for two reasons.

Protocol states that the purpose of the program is to "make use of existing codecs" for its new formats (a ''codec'' is the name for the technology that encodes and compresses video or audio into the files we use). I''d guess, since Google''s new HDR format will use the AV1 video codec and HDR10+ support, both of which are also free for use.

The audio component is a bit confusing, but there is already a royalty-free 3D audio technology. Dolby Atmos is the creator of Multi Dimensional Audio, which is used as the basis for the DTS:X competitor. My assumption is that Google will implement this technology in an existing audio file type.

Both approaches may require minimal technical modifications from TV/phone makers. All of this is likely to be done in most TVs today, so it might only require a software update to support Google''s ability to combine existing technologies into a''new'' format. It should therefore increase the chances of it being supported on televisions especially.

The second thing that''s smart is that Google''s intention here is to acquire all of this technology under an "umbrella brand," and I suspect that the names of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos will be as simple as you may know. Like many of the above technical terms, they''ll be described as something like "HDR Sight" and "HDR Sound."

Contra to HDR10+ or DTS:X''s odd names, this gives them a chance of being honored.

Opinion: It''s a great idea, but it may be too late.

I''m going to follow Google''s plan for hardware. There''s no good reason Dolby should have all the fun here, and the price of including Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support in hardware is a significant part of the total price of something like a streaming stick, so having a chance for hardware manufacturers to avoid those charges while still providing high-quality audio is incredible.

Dolby has basically been left to enthuse that its formats are the best way to watch, and that''s going to be challenging to overturn. Dolby does not offer streaming services to support Dolby Vision or Atmos, and they are also available on Netflix, Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, Paramount Plus, Blu-rays, and more. Dolby has completely embedded its name as the thing you need if you want the best quality from movies and TV.

Google is dealing with a difficult time if its own format appears to be different from the budget alternative to the good stuff, according to the evidence. Even if Google''s new formats are exactly as good as Dolby, they''ll still struggle to make people believe they are, and Dolby will certainly accelerate its own game to ensure that people feel that way.

With that in mind, Google has to persuade streaming services to support it. On YouTube, it''s easy to get auto-create different versions of videos on the site, all based on the original best-quality one you upload. However, it''s likely not how it will be for movie streaming sites the studios and directors will not want versions auto-converted to a different HDR or audio format. They''ll want movies remastered and checked. That''s a lot of work.

Google is likely to believe that the promise of assistance on a wide spectrum of Android devices will enable services to gain access, but I''m not sure about this. If people who purchased phones didn''t care about 3D audio before, how many will care just because a software update is added?

Why would hardware companies get on board if Google isn''t capable of supporting the services? I mentioned that while it might technically be straightforward to support Google''s new features, it would still take time, effort, and money, and why not simply save it and stick with Dolby Vision and Atmos only on the best TVs?

I hope that Google can prove me wrong and add some more competition to this space, which might require some vision.