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How to Know If a Movie Is Surround Sound

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Surround sound is a recording process that codes up to eight different audio signals on a movie soundtrack, television program, DVD, Blu-Ray or other media. Stereo sound comes from the left and right front speakers, while dialog emanates from the center channel. Two rear speakers provide sound effects and a subwoofer produces deep bass. Some surround sound systems also include two side speakers for additional audio action. Determining if a movie is recorded in surround sound means checking the information at the start of the feature, such as a television broadcast, or inspecting the packaging that came with the movie, such as a DVD or Blu-Ray case.

Ask the manager at a movie theater whether the film is presented in surround sound. The audio equipment must be activated in the projection booth to produce the sounds recorded on the film's soundtrack.

Check the bottom of the movie's lobby poster for the words "Dolby Digital® and Surround Sound."

Look at the back of the case for a movie on DVD or Blu-Ray to check the audio specifications. Movies will typically be listed as recorded in "Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound." Dolby is a recording laboratory that specializes in digital audio. The company's recording technologies are the reference standard for movie soundtracks.

Watch the beginning of a movie broadcast on TV to check for the "Presented in Dolby Surround Sound" designation.

Listen. A movie played with surround sound will have instantly recognizable audio characteristics. The sound effects from the rear speakers will be different from the front left and right speakers. Dialog will come mainly from the center channel.


Almost all Hollywood-produced movies made since 1977 are recorded in some form of surround sound, although this does not mean that they are always presented in surround sound when broadcast on television. Virtually all movies released on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray since 1980 are recorded in surround sound or Dolby stereo sound at least.

Remember to set the AV receiver to surround sound mode in order to enjoy multi-channel audio. Most home theater receivers can switch between stereo audio and surround sound.

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