April 2016 Archives

The Dolby Atmos(phere)

I watched my first Dolby Atmos movie, tonight, and had to come home and write about it. This isn’t a long post, as I don’t have a ton to say and I don’t want to get into the super technical details.

Paired with the AMC Prime experience, I’ll start by saying this: it was awesome.

My first movie in this format was Hardcore Henry, a first-of-its-kind First Person action film. The movie isn’t anything worth winning awards unless those awards are for over-the-top violence-and-lack-of-plot-while-still-being-raunchy-and-fun. What I’m focusing on right now is the Atmos aspect of this experience.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Dolby Atmos is a theater sound experience that involves the position of movie sounds in two dimensions, not just one. A typical movie theater (and home entertainment setup, as well) features sources of sound on a single plane. The speakers are positioned around you, but are generally just across the X axis in your space. With Atmos, the vertical Y axis is considered, as the theater (and your home entertainment setup if you’re brave enough and have the cash) contains an array of downward firing speakers on the ceiling.

This creates a sound field that allows the audio engineers to pick a point in 3D space where the sound is supposed to travel through, as it would in the real space represented in the movie, and the hardware does the rest of the work.

An easy example would be a plane. You see it flying toward you and above. This plane will pass over your head dead center. In a regular theater, the sound would be played through the left and right surround channels (along the side walls) and probably be adjusted to fake being above you. In an Atmos theater, the sound would pass through those same channels for effect, but the primary source would be the ceiling. Given the array of speakers above you, the sound would be more precise and its source more accurate.

I promised I wouldn’t get too technical and I think I failed, there, so if you want to read more about how it works, hit up the Dolby Atmos site. Moving on.

This sound experience is subtle. The fact that the sound came out of the ceiling wasn’t immediately apparent until a scene in the movie that involved a sudden audio position change from around the field of view to abruptly above. I don’t want to describe the scene because it would be a spoiler, and I hate spoiling movies for people on the Internet. You don’t know what you were missing until it’s given to you. But then you can’t not have it… kind of like heroin. Atmos = heroin.

The majority of the movie the effect was subtle but reflecting on it, I feel the sound was more naturally placed because of this technology. Dolby Atmos isn’t something that can just be had in any movie. During the mixing of the audio tracks in post-production, the engineers have to mix it for Atmos.

I mentioned earlier that this can be had in home theaters, as well. The effect is slimmed down a bit as most won’t have the budget or the space for some 30 speakers in an array in their ceiling. The premise is the same, though. That blu-ray movie you purchased has to come with an Atmos audio track. Some newer movies will have this, but the effect will be lost unless you have an Atmos-compatible receiver and blu-ray player.

Back to the experience, again. I paid about 30% more for my ticket, but I’m pretty sure that some of this price was due to the fact that this was also an AMC Prime theater which features leather reclining seats and assigned seating (my favorite).

Given my maiden voyage into Atmosland, I would spend the extra, again, to experience a movie in this format. Note how I said “experience.” I feel this is how traditional movie theaters are going to have to stay relevant. Offering unique and super-standard exeperiences making it worth the time and effort versus grabbing your TV remote and ordering a rental from there for a few dollars or buying the disc from a retailer six months after the movie came out.

I don’t see many movies in the theater for this exact reason. Most are average experiences so I’ve limited myself to IMAX and Prime/Atmos showings. Sure it’s $16-20 a piece, but when I only see one a month at most, it’s not a huge deal.

I’m glad I don’t have kids. A family of four to an AMC Prime showing would be $100 easy counting food. Rough.

Internet Arguments: Even Garbage Fires Can be Extinguished

It might not seem like it, but every argument on the Internet has a winner. While everyone can agree there’s always going to be Internet fights, there’s a little bit of secret sauce you can apply to come out on top, so long as you’re ok with laying waste on a metaphysical level. I’m not talking about an actual disaster, but what I’ve learned over the years is actually pretty good advice.

Also, let’s be clear here. This is completely tongue-in-cheek. I wrote this because to me it’s an interesting topic that everyone can relate with all too well. If you get offended by this, I can’t really help you. You can email all you want. If it’s unsubstantial, I’ll probably just delete it, to be honest.

This solution comes in two flavors, and I want to address them both. First, though, a preface.

We all know what a good old-fashioned Internet argument looks like: party A has an opinion and party B has one, too. Party A tells party B and party B. It’s at this point where be diverge and either convert to a debate or an argument. The debate track is an obvious one and I don’t think it needs discussion. Let’s not get confused, though. What you see on TV during an election year are not debates. Don’t be foolish.

The argument track is where I’m headed, and more often than not, the scenario progresses by one party providing counterpoints, the other starting flaming up and eventually both are flipping their s–t all over the place like monkeys. That’s never a good thing. Twitter is full of them. I’ve been in many of them.

Before I explain how to get out of this scenario on top, lets look at why this happens.

Everyone has their opinion. Unfortunately, not everyone that has an opinion has made it on a well-informed foundation. Oh well, there’s nothing we can do about that. This, by itself isn’t a deal breaker as some are open to the idea of seeing the error in their judgement and conceding. That’s a debate, not an argument.

The guy on the right is showing the guy on the left his opinion. The guy on the left doesn't care.

The guy on the right is showing the guy on the left his opinion. The guy on the left doesn’t care.

It’s when these opinions become the heart and soul of a person, otherwise known as being closed-minded, if I may be so blunt. (Sure we could throw politics and religion in here and talk about this all night, but I really don’t want to write a million words on the topic, so we’ll keep those out and stay at a higher level.) Again, nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s all these quirks that add that unique flavor to our personalities, to our being. It helps describe who we are. Not even this closed-mindedness has anything to do with what I’m talking about.

By now, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about, then because it sounded like I just said what causes a lot of people to argue is ok.

And in reality, I did. Because it is. Except not on the Internet.

See, here’s the thing. Something crazy happens when we mix polarizing topics, hard-and-fast viewpoints, and a virtual protective layer between people that makes for this odd and sometimes nasty concoction that people think is a license to do whatever they want. Social media is full of these people. You see them as those who say “you’re wrong because I said so” or “lol ur and idiot go die” or something around that. If you hit the latter, you probably don’t need those people around, in your life. In reality, you probably don’t need the former in your life, either, if we’re being honest, here.

Social media gives a false sense of power and authority that what we’re saying is true. We have a tendency to propagate fear, anger, divisive ideals, and try to “get people on our side.” Depending on your political assignment, you might be more likely to do so, but I couldn’t find more than a few articles on this that were from the last decade so the five I’m linking will have to do. I don’t want to get too deep into that as I’m not a doctor. That’s not my field of expertise (we’ll come back to the expertise bit).

Where we're going, there isn't going to be much enLIGHTenment... get it?

Where we’re going, there isn’t going to be much enLIGHTenment… get it?

Let’s get down to how this scenario is going to play out and how you can keep yourself from going crazy. We’ll roll back the clock just a bit to right at the point where you thought you’d have a lively debate. This all assumes you didn’t roll up and just smear your words around on the walls like a jerk. If you did, I can’t really help you, there. That’s just provoking someone. Not cool.

For this, we’ll use names, but make them up. Thanks to the random name generator I found, Arthur and Brent are our victims, this evening. Arthur posts something on a social network. Brent, a friend of Arthur for a while, who has a pretty good idea of the kind of person Arthur is, provides some information as a counterpoint. It’s short, not a speech. It makes sense.

Arthur doesn’t like that, at all. Usually around this time if things are going to go sideways, you’ll start getting attacks right away. Here’s where you can pick which route you want to take, both of which lead to wins: send them on their way or watch them explode. I’ve done both, personally. I use these types of scenarios to weed out people who probably shouldn’t have been a friend in the first place. It’s helped me curate those I want to be in regular contact with and I’ve had more meaningful relationships because of it. If I really want to gauge someone, I’ll go for the latter. Depending on it turns out determines if they’re a decent friend.

These two stayed together because when they have differences of opinion, they're not douche waffles about it... probably.

These two stayed together because when they have differences of opinion, they’re not douche waffles about it… probably.

If Brent takes the first route, Arthur just got dressed up with nowhere to go. An instant deflation is a solid move. In real life, this is just walking away. On the Internet, it’s a removal of the connection that’s established between you and them. Now if Brent takes the other route, a bit more self control is required. Be on the lookout for some of these things:

  • grammar… going out the window
  • spelling… that’ll probably be shot, too.
  • targeted attacks… if they take a shot at you, whatever you’re doing is working.
  • mockery… see targeted attacks.
  • citation of the same reference from earlier… while not as clear cut, using the same piece of material repeatedly at different times doesn’t make a case stronger.
  • links… there’s going to be a lot of them.
  • videos… points for creativity, I think.
  • passive-agressiveness… everything is going to be coated in this stuff.

It’s a good thing Brent isn’t the kind to just walk away from a fight. No sir. Brent isn’t going to put up with stupid people. Brent is smart. Brent will make them lose their minds.

The angst is going to get real, so be ready.

The angst is going to get real, so be ready.

Ready? start by playing dumb, otherwise known as baiting. It’s like how when cops know there’s a drug dealer in the neighborhood but they need to catch him in the act to do something about it? Yeah. Brent’s going to bait the hell out of this conversation. Boom. Arthur drops a YouTube video link. That covers two bullet points above. We’re off to a great start.

Brent counters with a short, but logical response on how YouTube isn’t real source of authority on anything besides cat videos, science clips, video games, music videos, and makeup tutorials. There’s a shot fired across the bow. Arthur is pissed now.

Once you’re at this point, it’s smooth sailing. It might take a few tries to get them to 100%, but once you do, the rest is cake. Logic is cruise control for cool. Wait, that’s not right…

Start dropping the logic bombs. This’ll toss them for a loop, for sure. Get ready for the personal attacks and mockery, because that’s usually what happens by about now. Keep playing the logic cards in your hand and watch the tire fire grow. Odds are no one else will join in at this point. They’re either not going to touch this with a 10 foot pole because it’s so diseased or they’re too amused.

An artist rendition of what a logic bomb looks like within a one-sided conversation on Facebook.

An artist rendition of what a logic bomb looks like within a one-sided conversation on Facebook.

The back and forth might go on for a while, so it’ll be up to you to determine how long you want to drag it out. The most satisfying take a while, so be ready. Pee before you start, if you have to, because you might be sitting there for a while.

So Brent and Arthur have traded some shots, or rather Arthur shot Brent several times and Brent literally shrugged his shoulders, to Arthur’s bewilderment. Usually this laissez-faire response will be enough to deal the death blows to this argument. If you’ve done it right, they’ll rage quit. If it was on social media, they’ll probably “unfriend” or block you. Cool, they made it super easy.

All in all, you probably said a total of 50 words, and they lost their mind. Most importantly, though: you won. I guarantee you didn’t actually get your point across. That’s not what this is about, though. This is about winning. You showed them you’re number one. Their tiny brain couldn’t handle it. They collapsed under the weight of their nonsense and you’re standing tall like the Internet king you are.


This is what winners on the Internet look like.

You put out the garbage fire you started because you rock.

On Going Back to Regular Books

Last week, I bought my first regular, good old-fashioned book with the intent of reading it in longer than I can remember. It felt satisfying, but it make me think about how technology has progressed in my daily life (I’ll cover this more in a future post). In regards to reading material, I haven’t picked up a digital book or magazine in months. The last digital magazine I bought was over a year ago.

I bought The Talent Code, something I already owned in Kindle format. I read about 1/3 of the digital book, but stopped after a while. I’m not 100% sure why I did it, but if I reflected long enough, I think one of the biggest reasons for doing so was that because I was reading this book around bed time, the harshness of the light was making it difficult for me.

Obviously that’s no longer a thing, but even with the advancements in the iOS operating system, I’m still not reading any books on my iPad. I still visit Web sites. I still check my email. I still do all the things that were always digital to begin with. I didn’t hesitate to stop reading books and magazines digitally.

And here’s what I think is the reason. For me, reading is an experience. I make it an event. If I want to read a book or magazine, I make the conscious decision to do so. I grab a beverage, I sit down on a comfy chair or couch, or even lay in bed, and read. During that period of time, I don’t want any distractions. If I’m in the throes of a deep plot, I don’t want anything to tickle the back of my mind and make me want to check my email.

I don’t want to get too deep into the distractions of technology and social media, just yet, and will cover that in the very near future, but I will say the last couple of months has really allowed me to think about what I really want to get out of my various methods of communication.

Back to the book story.

Buying this actual book, made of actual paper, and occupying an actual unit of physical space on my actual bookshelf felt good. This in and of itself seems counterintuitive to how I obtain other entertainment media: out of every video game I bought in the last year, only one of them was on disc and that was only because it was cheaper than digital; out of every movie I’ve seen outside the theater, the vast majority I rented through my cable provider or Netflix; I don’t buy music anymore, I pay for Spotify.

It seems strange, but having an actual book to read really helps me get into the mindset of consuming the information therein. This extends to magazines, as well. I subscribe to four magazines: Time, Men’s Health, Fortune and Wine Spectator. Granted, I used about-to-expire airline miles to pay for them, but nonetheless, I give my mailman something to do every month.

The way I treat these magazines is the same way I treat a book. When I want to read it, I make it a thing. I sit down, I read it. I might read the whole thing in a day, or I break it up, but I don’t ever read when I’m distracted, or multitasking.

I have a slightly strange way about doing all this. It’s 2016 and I’m sitting here enjoying the fact that I can buy a book instead of get it on my iPad. Maybe we’ve hit the point where technology isn’t going to get much more useful than it already is when it comes to consuming information.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography