The future of film

Published: 16 July 2017 - 10:06 a.m.
By: Adrian Pennington

While most attention was focussed on the red carpet and the critical reception for movies in competition at the Cannes Film Festival some eyes were looking toward the future of film.

At Hewlett Packard this starts from envisaging how the world will look – and thus what computing needs might be - not just a few years hence but decades down the line.

HP works with sociologists and futurologists to predict the future based on macro socio-politico-economic trends and then uses these anchor points to guide HP’s long term roadmap.

Leading the whole effort is CTO Shane Wall who terms the sum of this vision ‘blended reality’. “The goal is to create experiences and applications that work seamlessly and where the technology disappears into the background.”

HP trains this vision on healthcare - for example in the potential to have an AI assisted brain command over prosthetic limbs for amputees; and for end to end digital manufacturing, notably just-in-time 3D printing using polymers and then metals.

The future of film and entertainment is a small subset of these global problem solving goals but nonetheless an intriguing one.

“Rapid urbanisation which will see over 60 megacities by 2050, will profoundly change where we live and how we live,” says Wall. “There will be demands on resources, how we get rid of waste. It will force us to look at problems and experiences in a different way.”

There will no longer be mega theatre complexes containing a dozen cinema screens, he predicted. Instead one might find single cinemas focused on the experiential shared experiences.

This was a theme taken up by Anish Mulani, President and COO of VFX and animation facility based Prana VFX house Prana Studios. Prana plans to reinvent the theatrical experience with massive screens encompassing entire theatres, animatronic dinosaurs, and actors performing live on stage.

“The whole canvas of the theatre will be used to tell a story,” he explained. “The moment you walk in, 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 there with you.”

The giant size of the auditoria, with panoramic screens in excess of 40 metres, and display resolutions up to 24K - or 12 times that of 2K conventional exhibition - are also intended to attract audiences.

Prana Studio 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 sites worldwide within the next decade,” he said. “The main issue is the cost of rendering images at such extreme resolutions and in 3D that content will initially be short form.”

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 metres wide and 18 meters high – the world’s largest film screen. Prana created the short 5D experience that accompanies it.

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