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Rant

Why 4D is a failure

Having recently watched 'The Avengers' in 4D, it's time to discuss why 'adding dimensions' doesn't always mean an immersive experience for the viewer. For those of you who don't know what 4D is (at the time I was under the impression it would be 3D on an IMAX screen), you have your 3D vision, thanks to a stupid pair of glasses, and throughout the screening you have air blown around you, smoke in front of the screen, lights flickering around the cinema and, of course, your chair gets shaken (a lot). There were moments during 'The Avengers' where I had to look away and stare at the fire exit just to keep from vomiting. The shaking of the chairs often moved erratically against the movements of the screen making it harder to focus and therefore bringing on motion sickness.

I understand the idea of 'adding dimensions' is to create an immersive experience for the viewer, but 4D is just disruptive. Even if the shots of air (like someone spitting in your ear) were actually timed to the on-screen action, I don't thnk I would have found the experience rewarding anyway. The lights flickering in the room simply make you notice what surrounds the screen, the bumps make it uncomfortable for you to watch the film, or even focus on the images, and were even (unnecessarily) during moments of static dialogue as the camera moved, the gusts of air (though refreshing when you feel ill) again make you aware of where you are. Not an immersive experience. If 4D is 'the future of cinema' I want no part in it.

As for 3D I can appreciate why it can add to an experience but still I would choose the option of 2D. Though you are given the depth in terms of background and distance between objects, the foreground (often people) appears flat in comparison. Obviously the subject in frame being the focus, this is necessary to create a distancing effect, but if the objective of 3D is to make films more realistic (unless of course the objective really is to just make more money) then this foreground flatness again serves to disrupt the suspension of disbelief which is considered necessary during a film.

On the same day that I experienced 4D, I also saw a small Danish film at the E.U International Film Festival. The screen was the same size. As was the theatre. But there were no gusts of wind, no shaking seats, and no 3D glasses. I was however engaged from start to finish. It seems to me that there's an oversimplification when it comes to audiences that layering up fancy tricks means more of an immersive experience, when in reality, it's just good storytelling that makes the difference.