Dolby’s big focus: Take over the big screen, and the one on your mobile

Dolby is known for making your device sound much better, further enhancing visual and audio experiences. Bob Borchers, Senior VP and CMO, Dolby Labs, talked about Dolby’s big plans for India, creating an ecosystem and forging relationships with key local content creators. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi | Updated: June 10, 2017 9:44 am
Dolby, Dolby Laboratories, Bob Borchers, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision Dolby is known for making your device sound much better, further enhancing visual and audio experiences.

Dolby Labs is a well-known brand, and the San Francisco-headquartered company is the reason why many of your devices sound much better. But for those won’t know, Dolby works on enhancing both audio, and visual experiences. You can find Dolby in a cinema hall, Dolby-powered speakers on your mobile phone, and their sound technology is part of television sets as well.

Indianexpress.com spoke to Bob Borchers, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Dolby Laboratories in Delhi recently, where he was attending the launch of LG’s 2017 OLED TV lineup. This new series of television sets supports both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos for sound.

Borchers had previously worked under Steve Jobs on the original iPhone. Prior to Apple, he was heading Nokia’s Vertu business unit. Borchers talked about Dolby’s big plans for India, creating an ecosystem and forging relationships with key local content creators. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Most tech companies have made considerable inroads into the Indian market? Do you also see India as a growth opportunity?

Dolby, as a company, has a number of things that are going on in the imaging and audio space. India is a critical part of our business from the very earliest days through today. There is a tremendous amount of content that is developed here in India, and we invest heavily working with content creators – whether it’s in Bollywood or any other studios. We have 11 Atmos mixing facilities in India. In addition, we work with number of key partners. Folks like LG, for instance, and for them India is a critical market as well.

Tell us about the initiatives the company has taken in India so far, to make Dolby Atmos audio technology popular.

One of the things Dolby does uniquely well is that we look at the complete experience – what we call the ecosystem. It starts from the very earliest beginnings when somebody has the idea of the movie they wish to make. We want to be in their mind when they are creating it, we want them thinking of us when they choose their sound mixers, sound designers and when they choose their director of photography.  We want them choosing people who are thinking about how to leverage the technologies that we have. So, we work very closely with educational institutions, film studios, content creators, both big and small.

Then we work to make sure that every step of the way what they have imagined in their minds actually gets created, and then delivered to the consumer. So when you going to do Dolby Atmos mix, you need to have a mixing facility. But then you also need to have cinemas where you can playback Dolby Atmos. We have got over 300 in India today, and hopefully many more coming in the future.

We also want to make sure if it’s going to be on a mobile phone, or if it’s going to be a living room or wherever it is, the same Dolby Atmos experiences is being delivered to all of those. We’ve a close relationship with Yash Raj Films, just to give an example. Then there are so many production houses and we practically work with all the major ones. We also work with studios and individual producers.

Consumers’ media consumption habits have changed in the digital age, giving rise to mobile screen viewing. In India, this trend is gaining, although consumers still enjoy a movie at a cinema hall. So where does Dolby see the future for India? 

Consumers have choices on where they want to consume their entertainment, and how they want to wish to do it. It may be a long form video like you see in a movie cinema, or maybe short form as travel on a bus or train moving around. Our goal is to make sure that whatever entertainment screen you choose, whether its your mobile device, your home TV, home theater or the big movie screen, you are getting the Dolby Atmos experience.

Our goal is to make every one of those screens to be a spectacular experience. They are going to be different because in a movie theater you got 80 speakers, and on a mobile device you got a pair of headphones. But the magic of what we do at Dolby is we know how to make those experiences relate to one another, and have the same kind of attributes.

On the TV side, there are now multiple HDR formats to consider including Dolby Vision. While brands like LG have adopted Dolby Vision for its 2017 generation of OLED TVs, however, Samsung and Panasonic still don’t support the format. Your take on that? 

It’s not really a choice because at the end of the day, Dolby Vision will playback HDR 10 technology. At the end of the day, we think the market will go to where the content and performance is. Obviously we have a conversation with everybody in the ecosystem; Samsung is a great partner of ours as is Panasonic from a number of different dimensions.

Meanwhile, LG G6 is the world’s first smartphone packing a Dolby Vision screen. Are you working with other vendors as well?

Nothing to announce right now, but obviously our intent, like with the audio, is to make your entertainment experience on any screen – be it larger or small – as compelling and spectacular as it can be.

The market for AI-powered smart speaker segment has started to get bigger. Amazon, Apple and Google are perhaps the biggest players in this segment. How do you see this segment, and what role Dolby can play to make the audio quality better?

If you look at Amazon’s product portfolio Dolby Audio is fully supported. We worked very closely with them. Apple has brought out Dolby Audio into their iOS and macOS line. The audio ecosystem has lots of components to it and whether it’s on the playback side in the smart speakers or in the source side, we have got a role to play.

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