It’s over 20 years old but Dennis McQuail’s work is still relevant today. He argues since the accessibility of DVDs and home stereo systems (more recently streaming/downloadable content) the word audience is becoming a title for an individual rather than a description for a mass. As technology improves there will be headsets for an individual audience. McQuail argues that new technologies such as VR, “clearly extends the power of the audience member to intervene.” (McQuails, 1997, p.144)
When looking at how film and cinema will contribute virtual reality, it’s important for me to first study the audience and how it’s going to change with the technology. Even now cinema audiences remain passive viewers. They’re only being active by commenting and engaging with the feelings of a character in a film, there’s no physical engagement with the films narrative.
The virtual world encourages a users dynamic control of a viewpoint (Brooks, 1996, p.16). Fred Brooks, IBM software engineer, looks at the crucial technologies for VR and sums them up under four titles: haptic world (sense of touch) that blocks our response from the real world, a graphic system that generates 60FPS, tracking system that works along with the participants movements and the database maintaining system that builds the realistic reflection of the virtual world (Brooks, 1996, p.17). We already know that with the high frame rate and IMAX it’s true cinema technology can already offer a realistic visual perception. However the difference between cinema and virtual worlds is that VR responds to audiences behaviour. Will it be accepted as it’s taken us over 100 years to get to where we are now as filmmakers. Morton Heilig is a pioneer in Virtual Reality and we’ve got him to thank for its existence today. He applied his cinematography experience and developed the ‘Sensorama’ (1962). He argued that while watching a film we sit in one reality and simply look at another reality through a screen. However when the screen was enlarged audience got a sense of involvement. By adding cinematographic effects from sound, light, scent and texture, Heilig enhanced the reality of film. “You feel the experience, you don’t just see it.” (Rheingold, 1991, p. 55). Referring back to McQuail, it’s believed audience interactivity will increase. He talks about how the audience will be allowed to shape and manipulate the narration of the film. As briefly mentioned in my aims The Kinoautomat’s director Raduz Cancer had scenes that will be ready to fit and resume multiple scenarios depending on how he engaged with the audience. He directed questions or proposed various options for the next scene – there’s an audience and whichever scene got the highest vote would be the next scene.
The headsets that are currently being rolled out by the likes of Oculus are believed to be one of the best suited for this technology. If the screen size is reduced and enhanced for higher frame rates it’s possible to watch in headsets and have haptic technologies in our own homes as well as cinemas. This clearly suggests that cinema experience could change completely.