News from Cannes: VFX and 3D animation facility Prana Studios plans to reinvent the theatrical experience with massive screens encompassing entire theatres, animatronic dinosaurs, and actors performing live on stage.
Speaking in Cannes at a session sponsored by Hewlett-Packard forecasting the future of film up to thirty years from now, Anish Mulani, President and COO of Mumbai-based Prana revealed plans to develop two massive format immersive theatre projects.
One of these projects, branded Theater Next, is likely to see its first install within the next two years, according to Mulani.
“The whole canvas of the theatre will be used to tell a story,” he explained. “The moment you walk into Theater Next, every wall will be covered with giant projection. There will be moving seating and sensory effects like wind and heat. Life-size animatronic creatures and characters relevant to the story such as pirates, aliens and dinosaurs will be with there with you.”
The giant size of the auditoria, with panoramic screens in excess of 40 meters, and display resolutions up to 24K - or 12 times that of 2K conventional exhibition - are also intended to attract audiences.
“Cinema exhibition is moving toward ultra-scale large format experiential experiences while conventional movie releases will be streamed for projection on walls within people’s houses,” Mulani predicted.
Prana Studios is also developing dome-style theatres featuring 180-degree field of view and reclining seats.
“The seats would be able to change angle so that you could view a stage and see actors performing part of the story live as part of the overall experience,” he said.
“We imagine 25 or more Theater Next sites worldwide within the decade,” he said. “The main issue is that the cost of rendering data at such extreme resolutions will limit content, initially, to being short form. However, any conventional film could be created for display in the dome theatre today."
The proposals build on existing theme park projects at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure ride, Skull Island: Reign of Kong – for which Prana created the six minute movie in 24K resolution – and the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom attraction in China which features a curved screen 88 meters wide and 18 meters high – the world’s largest film screen. Prana created the short 5D experience that accompanies it.
HP'S CTO Shane Wall agreed, "In 2050, there will no longer be mega theatre complexes containing a dozen cinema screens. Instead one might find single cinemas focused on experiential shared experiences."
He also predicted that Virtual Reality has the potential for total body, total sensory immersion. "We will be able to craft images using lightfields that capture every angle and nuance of light in a scene for us to reconstruct holographic moving images. Right now with VR, we are operating at the equivalent of DOS 3.0 or punch cards."
Filmmaker Winslow Porter, who made the VR film 'Tree' using a scent track (organic molecules) to greater immerse the viewer's experience as a growing tree, said, "There is an obsession with simulating reality in VR when we should be looking to surreality. We can be any person from the past, or a lion or a pyramid. That's what this technology enables.”
Speaking at the same session, Marcie Jastrow, senior vice president, Immersive Media and Head of Technicolor Experience Center, suggested that studios could soon sell VFX assets, like characters and computer generated worlds, as products for consumer VR experiences.
“Often when studios build these assets for a film they are simply archived and never used again,” she said. “What Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality offers is the potential to use these assets again. What would it be like if rather than playing with a fluffy toy, you could gift your children one of those assets to play with and interact with in a VR or AR environment? It is all about extending the experience of the film through interaction.”