Companies Develop 4D and Smell-O-Vision -- Is This the Future of Film Viewing?

Companies Develop 4D and Smell-O-Vision -- Is This the Future of Film Viewing?

Jun 20, 2011

4D Theater

South Korean company CJ 4DPlex has decided that while viewing movies in 3D is great, the movie watching experience could be a whole lot cooler – so they’ve crafted what they hope will be the next craze to hit the local multiplex: 4D movies.

The concept of the 4D film is a lot simpler than it sounds – it’s just a 3D movie shown in a theater where physical effects compliment the onscreen action. Think of it like Muppet Vision 3D at Disney-MGM Studios in Florida. Guests who view that attraction see their favorite Muppets characters in 3D, but as an added bonus things rub up against their legs in time with the action happening in the film. Sound gimmicky? We think so too.

CJ 4D is currently post-converting existing theaters to show films with their system – which utilizes shaking seats, vapor mist shooters, and smell-o-vision technology to put audiences inside the film they’re viewing. The company started out testing the 4D technology in Korea with screenings of James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar. The enhanced showings reportedly attracted 50% more people than the regular ones, convincing the company they were onto something special. Since that test run, CJ 4DPlex has expanded to 13 4D-enhanced theaters in South Korea in their second year of operation. Plans are underway to add another five locations in their homeland, and they’ve already partnered with chains in China and Mexico to bring the experience to those countries.

However, the company’s real goal is to get Hollywood to embrace the technology. To that end, they’re set to open a 4D Laboratory in Los Angeles this August. This will allow studios to see firsthand how the 4D experience could be used to enhance their product.

4D Theater seats

At the present time, no directors or studios are officially onboard with this whole 4D thing – meaning that the effects in the theater are programmed by someone from the company and not the filmmaker or a person from the production team tasked with handling such duties. As /Film points out, one has to wonder if directors will really want to spend time figuring out how to best incorporate this technology into their films – and whether or not this makes them directors or glorified theme park ride planners.

We remain unconvinced that 4D film viewing will ever catch on. It’s a great gimmick for certain films, but it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to sit in a theater and have water sprayed on them during rainy scenes and the like. Films are films – they’re not amusement park rides. If a movie needs shaking seats and fans to make it exciting, then there’s an issue with the film in the first place. Plus, none of this takes into consideration what it would cost to buy a ticket to a 4D movie. With 3D films tacking on a several dollar surcharge, it’s not a huge stretch to imagine these 4D experiences adding ten or more dollars to the already outrageous price of a movie ticket. Will viewers be willing to pay that, particularly if the experience is as gimmicky as it appears at first glance.

Meanwhile, another film viewing technology that’s been around for ages but never risen above the level amusing oddity is Smell-O-Vision. Operating on the principle that movies would be even more awesome if you could smell what was happening onscreen, the main problem with the concept was that theaters would pump in one smell, but by the time the next one was ready, the first odor was still lingering. By the end of a show, a theater would just stink.

Samsung and researchers at the University of California, San Diego, think they’ve figured out a solution – and all it requires is wearing Silly Putty on your nose…

Their system traps odors inside small cells made from the same material as the popular rubber-like toy. The cells have a hole in the top, which opens whenever the gas inside is heated – something that’s achieved by heating a wire stuck into the substance. Scientists arranged the cells into a grid and have made it so the cells only open when two crossed wires are activated, allowing them to select which specific aroma they want. Even better, since it only takes about 40 seconds for the cells to open or cool down, there’s less lingering odor – something the developers demonstrated using two different perfumes. The first scent was activated and gone within two minutes, clearing the way for a second smell to be introduced.

This all sounds moderately interesting, but we’re guessing that there’s not a huge market of people out there who want to wear Silly Putty with wires sticking out of it on their face while they watch movies – even in the privacy of their own home. Researchers may have cracked the technology end of Smell-O-Vision, but the delivery system still needs some work.

Maybe we’re old-fashioned, but we’re okay with watching standard 2D movies shot on 35MM. Do we really need 4D experiences and Smell-O-Vision or do you think this is just another way for studios and theater owners to charge more for a ticket. We hate to be cynical, but our vote is with option B. 

[via The Nation, New Scientist]

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