4D movies: the jury is still out

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-11-28 14:18:53

The 4D edition of director Christopher Nolan's science fiction thriller "Interstellar" may take moviegoers closer to the 5th Dimension Nolan wanted to explain in the film.

When the Endurance, Cooper's spacecraft, travels through the wormhole in the film, 4DX motion chairs judder and shake synchronously with each moment of the wormhole scenes to deliver a true immersion into the space adventure.

"The vibrating seats made me feel like that I was traveling along with them through the space," said Kim Ok, a Korean teacher of Kyung Hee University, "I have read about wormholes in books, but I have never thought that I could actually experience it," Ok said.

It was easy for 4D technology to internalize the aeronautical and space technologies' experiences. In the three-hour long film, the subtle gliding of the seats stimulates the weightless motion of zero gravity.

The vibrations of the motion chairs also made the audience feel they were sitting next to the heroes and looking for a new homeland for humankind.

Interstellar has topped box-office charts in South Korea for weeks.

According to CJ 4DPLEX, an affiliated company of Asia's largest multiplex cinema chain CJ CGV, the 4D edition of Interstellar, during three weeks of showing in their 22 4DX auditoriums, were more than 70 percent times capacity on average, which is by far the highest this year.

4D was initially used for rides in amusement parks. South Korea's CJ Group introduced the 4D format with the brand "4DX" (the "X" means "extreme") in its multiplexes in 2009, when it featured " Avatar." Since then, the 4D business is showing rapid growth every year, proving strong potential in many aspects.

Chairs move and vibrate. Jets of water or air, aromatic vapor, light, smoke, bubbles are diffused, simulating conditions the movie is showing at each moment. In the latest venture to allure moviegoers, entertainment companies are trying to upgrade their technology with the next logical step: 4D, referring to these added physical effects.

As of today, 4DX is running 113 auditoriums in 27 countries worldwide including South Korea, China, the United States, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and others.

However, it seems that not all were amused by 4D. Many complained about the distraction caused by the physical effects. Zhang Cong, a Chinese tourist visiting Seoul, said she felt dizzy when watching the 4D Interstellar.

"Actually, I couldn't concentrate on the story line because of the frequent motion of seats," she said.

Some said they were bothered by other audiences' reactions to the 4D effects such as screams and giggles. Many people complained about the wind and rain effects, which makes them feel cold. Another downside is its higher ticket prices, around two times than the 2D movie.

Even the director Nolan was not in favor of the extra 3D or 4D effects. In an interview with Salon, the online news and entertainment website, he said nobody likes 3D films.

"It's always a source of great concern to me when you're charging a higher price for something that nobody seems to really say they have any great love for," he said.

Normally, a movie in 4DX should involve motion seats, wind, water, fog, smell and flashes of light. But Interstellar in 4DX only featured moving seats. A staff from a CGV theater said it was because "the director requested no extra 4DX effects other than moving seats being offered."

"Actually it was the co-decision of our 4DX team and movie production team to optimize the 4DX effects for this huge scaled space epic genre, focusing on allowing the best motion and effects to enable 'zero gravity' to be experienced in the space shuttle," said Rosa Choi, PR manager of 4DX.

CJ has about 20 4DX editors in South Korea, China and the United States. Normally,it will take at least 16 days for the designated team, called "i-Studio", to design diverse combinations of motion, vibration, and effects to maximize the immersion of the movie-watchers' experience. The procedure, in part, involved the technicians designing the seat on the motion chairs, watching the same film again and again and tweaking suitable effects according to his or her real feelings.

"Interstellar" is a typical example that entertainment companies are starting to limit the amount of effects considering producers and audiences' mixed feelings about 4D.

The films selected for the 4DX effects are also limited, usually to blockbusters, action films or animation. Adding effects to a feature film is both difficult and annoying.

But CJ is still ambitious about its future, especially when moviegoers of 3D have seen a consecutive decline in recent years. CJ has announced that it plans to operate 300 4DX-dedicated auditoriums worldwide by 2015, as demands from the new-emerging market are rising.

In China, CJ 4DX operates 22 screens. Some of them are in small towns instead of large cities like Beijing or Shanghai.

"It is our special strategy as people in small town don't have so much fun after work. Watching 4D movies is one of their best choices," said Brandon Choi, Marketing Director of 4DX.

CJ predicted that China will be the largest country for 4DX in 2015 and they would like to continue to grow and expand to reach more and more Chinese movie-goers.

Choi added that the company has considered adding more dimensions to the 4DX to turn it into 5D, 6D, and even to 9D. When most of the audience can stay at home enjoying movies by their own visual media devices, 4D provides a relatively new chance to re- absorb people back into theaters.

The ultimate future of the technology and the new dimensions it will be allowed to push, however, will ultimately be decided by the patrons and for the time being the jury is still out.

Posted in: Film

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