October 10, 2013

When Film Invades Your Brain: New Technologies Pushing the Cinematic Experience

Here on No Film School we're pretty divided about where we think the future of the theatrical experience is headed. Should we bother saving the popcorn and scratchy seats, or is a decent screen and speaker setup, where you can watch movies in the comfort of your underwear, all we need? In a new installment of Tribeca's The Future of Film, guest writer Andrei Severny takes a look at new technologies that reinvent the experience of film, and predicts that future theater-going may happen "in your mind." [Cue Phillip Glass and ethereal AE template.]

The title of filmmaker Andrei Severny's Tribecafilm.com guest post reads: "The Movie Theater of the Future Will Be In Your Mind". And he means it, literally. Severny goes over technologies that are being developed now, and how he thinks they will affect the form of filmmaking in the future. First, he says the old habit of watching Talkies at the Picture House is on its way out altogether:

Theaters will gradually move away from looking at a rectangle of light in a dark room and evolve into large-scale public attractions becoming urban theme parks, where cinema is only part of the experience.

Severny starts by pointing out technologies that are taking the traditional four wall experience to a new level, like with the pairing of SEGA and BBC Earth to create the Orbi in Yokohama, Japan. Here is a model of the new space (help with translation for the ending, please) that opened in August:

The BBC describes this fantastic looking place as a multi-sensory approach to a theater:

Spanning an incredible 40 metres across and eight metres high, the Main Theatre screen is uniquely curved to surround the audience with nature.  A sophisticated 22 point sound system adds to the experience with 3D soundscapes that create the effect of polar bears stalking up behind the audience, birds soaring overhead and ocean waves crashing all around.  The experience is completed with scent technology, wind, fog, strobe lighting and vibrations to create the ultimate nature film experience.

This looks like an amazing way to watch BBC Earth, and sharing the experience in a big museum-like space certainly would encourage one to get off the couch to see it. However, some of us have probably been on Disney's California Adventure ride -- the one where they pump orange smelling puffs into the audience as you sit a few feet off the ground, simulating flight over California orange groves -- and it didn't exactly alter cinema as we know it. Is the concept of being tethered to a screen itself the very thing that is holding us back from a higher form of film? Severny points to current technology that will take us beyond the one-way screen:

There will be a merging of gaming and movies. First, through technologies emerging today – flexible screens, motion controls, haptic - or tactile - technology, smart glasses, virtual and augmented reality. The merging of real and projected worlds will produce a seamless experience – a complete illusion of being part of a film.

Engadget highlighted two haptic display technologies that will be featured at this week's symposium on User Interface Systems and Technology, the first being Disney's new algorithm for 3D tactile features on live content:

The second comes from UltraHaptics, who are using high-frequency sound waves that don't require users to touch a screen at all:

There is still a screen present in both examples I've given, so how exactly would these technologies become the future of a screenless cinema? Skipping a few points, Severny ultimately feels that they will eventually bring the story experience to a cognitive level where it will replace our world with a virtual one:

A truly dramatic change will come once scientists discover a way to manipulate senses directly through the brain. That is when cinema will quite literally start to merge and replace real life. In the new, enhanced reality people will visit other planets, venture deep into the oceans and inside volcanoes, or travel in time, all from wherever they happen to be. Software and sometimes robots will explore the unreachable physical world instead of people to collect real-time data and feed human senses.

If you're imagining Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall right now, then that makes two of us.

While there is no doubt that technology is heading in the direction that would make these full-sensory virtual playgrounds possible, how much better will this be than current storytelling experiences? Which technologies are gimmicks, and which might actually elevate the human experience? I mean, there is already a technology that manipulates the brain into experiencing other planets, travels in time, and so on: reading a book.

Do you think a virtual inter-brain experience is the way forward for storytelling? Which technologies are actually elevating our experiences? And lastly, it may just be nostalgia, but isn't the 1990 Total Recall so much better than the remake?

Share your thoughts below!

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10 Comments

VR directly into your brain in 25 years, conservatively. Hipsters at that time will only watch 2D on vintage Retina iPads and nostalgic LED 4K TVs.

October 10, 2013 at 7:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

Lol... sorry but this argument seems wrong to me. That's like saying, "People will no longer paint -- instead there will be only moving paintings." To a certain degree, the FORM and the MEDIUM have become intertwined and embedded themselves in the greater unconscious. People still paint and sculpt, though we have photography. People still write and read physical books, though we have TV. I don't think the Matrix is coming any time soon.

October 10, 2013 at 9:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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d

looks like a NFS writer found the Disney research hub part of youtube :))) teim to write an artikle! oh right, it wasn't even from the source. Awkward. Disney wasn't actually laughing, pretty sure that's something the article made up. accuracy = good articles :)))

October 11, 2013 at 6:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

Mickey looks like he's laughing to me: http://www.disneyresearch.com/project/3d-touch-surfaces/

October 11, 2013 at 6:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Oakley Anderson-Moore
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Well, I'm not sure I would call it Total Recall, where they inplanted memories and back-stories temporarily as a substitute for real vacations. But instead I would probably more call it Strange Days where there was total sensory playback-machines and you could recorded memories and play them back real-time. The Total Recall route was supposed to be kindof instantaneous, not real-time. You could implant 50 years of memories in a single day. Strange Days you played them back realtime from a futuristic looking MiniDisc.

October 11, 2013 at 9:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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allthough... it's just nitpicking :P

October 11, 2013 at 9:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ha Johan I appreciate that you thought it out, and you are right, Strange Days is probably much more accurate -- but then the still at the top of the article wouldn't be nearly as fun.

October 11, 2013 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Oakley Anderson-Moore
Writer
Director/Shooter/Editor

Oh and the Sega BBC-earth... I can't see the video because of restrictive work-servers... but as I understand it, it's basically a modern version of CineRama-travelogues? Even they sometimes had people chucking in water at the audience at times for a multi-sensory experience with their giant curved screens.

October 11, 2013 at 9:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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No thank you.The moment a spectacle becomes its own story, the story on screen becomes peripheral. I admit this has already happened to a large degree, but I want no part of this other future experience.

October 11, 2013 at 3:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ignacio Genzon

And please, don't tell me that they will actually use dubstep for the Orbi Planet earth exhibits. That would just be as horrible as in that promo video...

October 16, 2013 at 3:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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