Secrets of cinema: ultimate tips for the best movie experience
28th Sep 2013 | 11:00
Take your movie watching to the IMAX!
Secrets of cinema: from 3D to 4D
There's something magical about sitting in the pitch black of the cinema while new worlds unfold around you and envelope you in their wonders. With tickets expensive, plus pricy popcorn, in this age of VOD services you can watch on home cinema systems growing more impressive by the day, you'd expect nothing less from a trip to the movies.
You can't always guarantee you'll love the film you choose but with a few handy tips you can at least make the most of the very best sound and pictures and the finest 3D on the biggest screens to amaze your ears and dazzle your eyes.
To 3D or not 3D
Avatar kicked off a brave new world of 3D, Clash Of The Titans nearly killed it. Some people love 3D, some people hate it, but for those who are on the fence how do you know when to fork out the extra cash for the extra dimension? Sadly, without reading reviews there's no sure fire answer: Hugo and Life Of Pi proved 3D isn't just about alien worlds and poking you in the eye, while Final Destination 5 showed us there's nothing wrong with being poked in the eye either.
One thing that has changed is that post-conversion is no longer a dirty word. JJ Abrams did it for Star Trek: Into Darkness, Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel is post-converted and Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity - heading to cinemas in November - is not only a post-conversion but also one of the best examples of 3D we've seen, featuring the longest post-converted 3D shot ever done, at 10 minutes 47 seconds.
If you're going to a 3D screening get there early: optimum seating is right in the middle and about half way to two thirds up.
Which 3D to choose?
To make it more complicated there's more than one kind and there are pros and cons with each. Most common, and James Cameron's 3D of choice, is RealD. This uses a single projector onto a silver screen, has the lightest and most comfortable glasses and emphasises depth in 3D. But some people say there are problems with 'ghosting' (a shadow image just behind the true image).
Dolby 3D uses a single projector onto a white screen. It's newer and according to some has less issues with ghosting and truer colours. Dolby 3D can be darker than RealD, though, and the glasses have fatter arms and are slightly less comfortable to wear.
IMAX 3D is the biggest way of watching 3D. It uses dual-projection and according to Brian Bonnick, IMAX's chief technology officer: "IMAX 3D glasses are unique and use the most expensive polarizing materials that have a higher signal to noise ratio to reduce 3D ghosting."
Watching two hours of IMAX 3D can be a bit much, however.
There's also a company called Xpand which partnered with the Venice and Cannes film festivals. Xpand uses active 3D glasses with left and right lenses that open and close - the glasses are battery powered and heavy and also expensive but Xpand produces universal glasses that also work with 3D TVs.
Is 4D even better?
There's no specific definition as to what 4D actually entails. It's primarily used to describe any extra element of interaction in the cinema - generally speaking physical effects. William Castle's 1959 horror The Tingler was famous for its use of 4D - it added vibrating devices to cinema seats that coincided with the action.
Often found at theme parks, a few films like Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and Avatar got 4D theatrical experiences and, last April, Japan opened its first 4D cinema in Nagoya, with a screening of Iron Man 3.
Viewers can expect moving seats, strobe lighting, bubbles and 1000 different smells. Mostly iron-based smells, we are presuming.
Secrets of cinema: from vibrating seats to IMAX
Are you sitting comfortably...
If you are not up for bubbles and smells but still want to make your cinematic experience that bit more interactive and immersive, then Try a D-Box screening. D-Box seats are programmable motorised chairs that move with the action of the film.
You can press buttons on the chair to amplify how much shaking and rolling you want and the chair will react to what's going on on screen, enhancing your viewing experience 'mimicking anything from a punch to a sky dive'.
You can book special D-Box screenings at cinemas in the UK, US and Canada - though it'll up the price a fair bit.
IMAX is expensive but with a screen that spans floor to ceilling it's also incredibly immersive. "One crucial component of The IMAX Experience is our patented theatre design, which refers to the shape of the auditorium and how the seats are placed." explains Brian Bonnick, IMAX's chief technology officer to TechRadar. "Standard movie auditoriums are long and narrow, to get the most people in, with the screen way off at the far end.
The distinctive shape of an IMAX theatre is designed to bring the audience not only closer to the screen, but better-positioned in relation to it. The result is a full panoramic view that fills your peripheral vision more than any other cinematic experience and gives you the feeling you're part of the action."
Sit around the middle and towards the back for the best view with the least neck ache. Watching films shot on IMAX camera will enhance things further.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was partially shot on IMAX, and Michael Bay's Transformers 4, currently shooting, will use a brand new IMAX 3D digital camera.
Dolby Atmos is a relatively new cinema audio system that means it's possible to place sound anywhere in the theatre rather than just where there are speakers "creating the most engaging and life-like cinema sound experience ever," according to Dolby's Guy Hawley, Senior Director, Cinema Sales, EMEA. "Dolby Atmos gives film directors and content creators a new creative freedom to tell their stories and give audiences the full impact and experience, just as the artist intended, and regardless of the size and shape of the cinema."
The first film to use Dolby Atmos was Brave in 2012 though according to Hawley, Dolby Atmos is also great for horror films, heightening the suspense and impact. In the UK, The Empire Leicester Square, Vue Cramlington and Vue Glasgow are equipped with Dolby Atmos, while the first place to have the technology was unsurprisingly, the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
There are currently 75 movies that use Atmos technology, including the upcoming films The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Gravity.
Two screens are better than one
Parent and baby screenings are common but in September Disney introduced a child and tablet screening. The studio re-released The Little Mermaid with a new app it encouraged audiences to download which contained games and singalongs they could interact with during the movie.
For highly media savvy kids second screen experiences could be the way for studios to make older catalogue titles relevant. And second screen movies aren't just for children.
After the massive backlash and subsequent debate caused when ex-Google exec Hunter Walk published a blog calling for specialist tech screenings with low lights and power points for people who want a second screen experience (or just to check your email and mess about on twitter), it's possible we could see segregated screenings popping up in the future where people are encouraged to use tablets and smart phones.
We're not convinced it'll take off, but as long as devices are banned from standard screenings this could be a way to integrate tech for those who want it without disturbing those who want preserve the sanctity of that pitch black magic.
- Read how Monsters University was made in our exclusive Pixar interview.