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Dolby Digital encodes 5.1 discrete channels which, for the home cinema enthusiast, is an ideal format. Most of us however live in a world where fewer channels are the norm, therefore some form of 'downmixing’ is necessary. There are a number of possibilities:
In addition, when downmixing to two channels, the result can be Dolby Surround compatible where a Dolby Pro Logic decoder will interpret the signals as matrixed LCRS, or straightforward stereo. All of these are handled in the decoding process, but the person doing the encoding has to be aware of the possible side effects downmixing entails. It’s analogous to checking a stereo mix in mono to make sure it still sounds OK, but here it’s a little more complicated. The encoding engineer has to bear in mind several points: