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Disney+ And IMAX Bring DTS:X Into The Streaming Era

At the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas, IMAX’s Senior VP Bruce Markoe announced during a panel that Queen Rock Montreal will make its global streaming premiere on Disney+ as the first concert film available with IMAX Enhanced sound powered by DTS. Thanks to this collaboration from Disney+, DTS, and IMAX Corporation, DTS:X immersive audio has finally made the jump from disc to streaming. The Queen concert film got top billing in the joint press release announcing the arrival of IMAX Enhanced sound powered by DTS on Disney+, but it’s not the only way to experience the technology at launch. Queen Rock Montreal will debut alongside 18 popular Marvel movies with IMAX Enhanced sound. Disney+ subscribers who have certified IMAX Enhanced devices will enjoy DTS:X audio, which “delivers the full dynamic range of theatrical content and allows sound to move freely around listeners to make them feel more immersed,” according to the announcement. DTS:X launched in 2015 as DTS’s object-based answer to Dolby Atmos. In the intervening years, Atmos has become a commonplace feature on the major streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, and Max. But DTS:X has only been available on Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray discs, and via high-end movie servers such as those from Kaleidescape. The IMAX Enhanced initiative aims to change that, as Disney+ finally ushers DTS:X into the streaming era.

IMAX Enhanced is essentially a technology partnership between IMAX and DTS, with the goal being to “enable content that can be experienced in-home and beyond with the highest fidelity, ensuring that filmmakers’ creative intent is fully optimized for an IMAX-quality presentation,” according to IMAX Corporation. DTS:X provides the immersive audio element of the presentation. It will be important for many Audioholics readers to note that a new lossy codec will be utilized to deliver DTS:X over streaming, just as Dolby uses the lossy Dolby Digital Plus codec for streaming Dolby Atmos. Both DTS and Dolby use lossless codecs on Blu-ray discs, which still hold a significant quality advantage over streaming services. That said, even lossy Dolby Atmos streams can be quite compelling, and we expect a similar experience from DTS:X. Queen Rock Montreal will made its global streaming premiere on May 15th, 2024 on Disney+. The remastered concert was an instant smash when it arrived in IMAX theaters in January of this year, eventually breaking records to become IMAX’s biggest exclusive engagement of all time. Disney+ subscribers with IMAX Enhanced certified devices should be able to recreate the experience at home, albeit scaled down to domestic proportions. The IMAX Enhanced version will allow viewers to “feel… every heart-pounding moment of the digitally remastered concert film, which captures the world’s most iconic rock band at the very peak of their live powers,” according to the press release. The film captures Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon “at their most exciting and exhilarating,” delivering heroic performances to massive crowds on November 24th and 25th, 1981. The original concerts were reportedly arranged specifically to be filmed for a full-length concert movie in order to document the band’s famously epic live shows. Classic songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Somebody to Love,” and “Another One Bites the Dust” feature prominently. According to Variety, IMAX plans to create and distribute more concert movies, thanks in part to the huge success of Queen Rock Montreal. The concert footage was restored for IMAX by Mercury Studios, a full-service production studio focused on “telling compelling stories through the lens of music.” (Mercury Studios also produced If These Walls Could Sing, the story of the Abbey Road studio directed by Mary McCartney, and American Symphony, the Oscar-nominated documentary following musician Jon Batiste as he attempts to compose a symphony while his wife, writer Suleika Jaouad, undergoes cancer treatment. It’s on Netflix, and I highly recommend it.)

Disney and IMAX have a longstanding relationship, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been presented in IMAX theaters since 2010. In fact, the MCU movies represent the highest-grossing franchise in IMAX history. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were reportedly the first films shot entirely with IMAX digital cameras. Disney+ began its relationship with IMAX Enhanced back in 2021, when the streaming service began offering titles in the taller IMAX Enhanced aspect ratio. It was the first major streaming service to do so. At the time, Disney+ also announced that DTS:X audio would be forthcoming at a later date. Support for DTS:X on IMAX Enhanced titles was eventually slated for 2023, but the launch was delayed until this year. Still, its arrival on May 15th can only be described as better late than never. Despite the delays, Disney+ is the first streaming service to deliver DTS:X audio. The Marvel Studios films available with IMAX Enhanced sound on Disney+ at launch will include the following:

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Doctor Strange
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Eternals
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 2)
  • Black Panther
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 3)
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • The Marvels
  • Black Widow
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Captain Marvel
  • Thor: Love & Thunder
  • In order to experience these titles in all their intended glory, Disney+ subscribers will, of course, need certified IMAX Enhanced gear. IMAX Enhanced devices must meet strict performance standards of resolution, brightness, and sonic fidelity defined by a certification committee of technical specialists from IMAX, DTS, and other leading Hollywood institutions. According to the joint press release, the first devices to support IMAX Enhanced sound via Disney+ will be select DTS:X-enabled Android/Google TV Smart TVs from Sony, Hisense, Sharp, and Xiaomi. DTS:X-enabled AV receivers from manufacturers like Denon, Marantz, and JBL will deliver real-deal immersive audio, while select soundbars from Sony, Denon, Sennheiser, Vizio, and Nakamichi will deliver varying levels of immersive audio performance.

DTS:X Streaming? There Are Caveats
But having the right audio gear won’t guarantee access to the DTS:X experience. If you use a streaming media player to access Disney+ (rather than a Smart TV such as those listed above), you may be out of luck, as most can’t passthrough DTS:X audio to your AV receiver or soundbar. Apple TV and Roku users? You are not invited to the DTS:X party at this time. The same goes for users of Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV devices. In fact, according to Digital Trends, the only streaming media devices devices that currently support DTS:X passthrough are Nvidia’s Shield TV 2019 and Shield TV Pro. Of course, this may change over time if there is sufficient demand. It remains to be seen whether IMAX Enhanced and DTS:X will be seen by Disney+ subscribers as must-have features. Fortunately, Disney+ will continue to offer content in Dolby Atmos alongside DTS:X, and we expect that power-users with the necessary hardware will have the option to choose which soundtrack they prefer.

Gene just tested the Queen Montreal concert streaming on Disney+ using his Marantz AV 10 processor, Sony Bravia 85″ X90L and Apple TV Gen3 and was able to pass IMAX Enhanced but only the Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Audioholics

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