10 of the biggest changes on the big screen and small

From drones to neuroscience, Richard Fitzpatrick runs through the big changes in the worlds of filmmaking and TV.

1. The Big Screen will get bigger: In a recent panel discussion of film industry heavyweights, George Lucas envisaged a day when there will be fewer cinemas.

They will, however, be bigger and plusher, with more frills, offering the cinemagoer a richer experience. Films will run in cinemas for a year, like a show at Broadway and tickets will match Broadway prices “or a football game”.

In an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Batman director Christopher Nolan echoed these thoughts.

He foresees a cinema experience that is different to the home entertainment one, one that will “enthral”.

2. Will the next cinema screen be round? Steven Spielberg, the man who brought 3D Jaws to cinema screens over a generation ago, argues also that cinemas will have to get rid of the square screen and put the cinemagoer inside “a three-dimensional experience”.

3. Drone cinematography: There is a film festival in New York devoted exclusively to drone cinematography.

It’s another strand in a larger fascination with flying robots. Corporations such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and DHL (which revealed it’ll deliver parcels by drone to isolated German islands in the North Sea) are all examining ways to harness unmanned flight technology.

10 of the biggest changes on the big screen and small

Drones are now used for filmmaking

For the filmmaker, a drone camera, which can be hooked up to an iPhone to monitor what is being shot, is obviously preferable for aerial photography than the alternative — using a helicopter, which is louder and far more expensive.

4. Virtual Reality and Oculus Rift: Facebook caused a stir last year when it bought the virtual reality company Oculus Rift for $2bn. It’s part of a punt that virtual reality could be the next big thing.

The Oculus Rift headset, conceived for gaming, is an ungainly contraption, that blocks out peripheral vision and has headphones that cover one’s ears so outside noise is drowned out. The result for filmgoers is, however, an immersive, interactive experience.

Objects can fly past. Questions can pop up on screen, and if looked at long enough will trigger short interview clips on the topic or if the filmgoer is mobile, their movements are tracked so environments move accordingly and they enjoy the effect of floating around 3D spaces or 3D buildings.

5. The Second Screen: Many people already watch films or TV programmes while fiddling on their phone.

They will, for example, watch a film or a sports match and comment about it at the same time on Twitter or check out what other people are saying about it on WhatsApp.

This development is greatly exercising the minds of filmmakers. Some of them are trying to factor in the divided attention span of audiences into their storytelling.

APP, a Dutch horror film that screened at last year’s Tribeca film festival, for example, is supposed to be viewed alongside an app on your smartphone, which can pop up different camera angles to the movie’s camera angles at the same time.

6. Cloud computing: The cloud allows small companies to access data from any internet-enabled device and handle almost limitless amounts of data in seconds. “Cloud computing means that companies go where the talent is.

It’s made the film industry more competitive,” says Birch Hamilton, founder of Digital Biscuit. “One amazing example is Brown Bag Films in Dublin.

They did the number one preschool animation for Disney, Doc McStuffins. They do their voice recordings in LA or Dublin — they’ll have an engineer in one of the cities, and someone else in another city, they’ve opened up an office in Manchester doing the graphics. It all happens much faster.”

7. Neuroscience: Professor Charles Spence from Oxford University is a neuroscientist. He’s on the bill at the Digital Biscuit forum.

He will investigate the impact neuroscience has on filmmaking and marketing strategies. “He will look at how the experience of watching a film impacts people,” says Hamilton.

“He’s designed a neural network that gauges emotional response to films. In the old days, filmmakers — and I did it a lot — used to have sheets of paper questionnaires: ‘How did you feel when that person died?

Do you think they should have killed off the brother? Should they have got married?’ Now you can have algorithms and software that can measure how audiences feel — whether they’re happy or sad at moments.

We’re going to give people a lemon to suck while they watch a movie. With that, we’ll be able to measure if you have a sweet in your mouth, do you react a particular way.

It’s almost scary for us to be able to know our audience that well.”

8. Short or long films? Both.

With the advent of YouTube and Vine, films, on the one hand, have got short, pandering to the perceived shorter attention span of the modern viewer who has been brought up on a diet of flashing visual stimulation rather than reading, say, the great novels of the Victorian Age.

On the other hand, the golden age of TV — with long, complex hit drama series such as The Wire and Deadwood — has shown that audiences also have an appetite for complex storytelling.

As Malcolm Gladwell noted recently: “I don’t know why people think attention spans are getting shorter.

"Thirty years ago, you could go and get a sandwich in the middle of a Kojak episode, come back and still follow it.

"Today, if you get a glass of water in the middle of Homeland, you have to pause and go back.”

10 of the biggest changes on the big screen and small

Brich Hamilton of Digital Biscuit

9. Who will come after the bad men have gone? We have had lots of bad men on our screens over the last decade.

They were ushered in by the captivating antics of Tony Soprano, and followed by the likes of suave 1960s seducer Don Draper, whose story will conclude this spring, and the everyman misadventures of Walter White in Breaking Bad.

We wait to see who will follow these great male anti-heroes on our screens in the coming years.

10. Heightening the audio experience: Film made a splash 100 years ago when it had live orchestras accompanying the action on screen.

With Dolby’s latest Atmos sound system, which adds speakers in a cinema’s ceilings and more speaker inputs all around the cinema, sound is pushed out from a greater number of directions, making the sound of a killer turning a doorknob even spookier.

Many of these innovations will be discussed at this week’s Digital Biscuit: The Film and Technology Forum, Wednesday to Friday, Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin.

More info at www.digitalbiscuit.ie


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