The picturesque Bratislavan countryside has become home to a revolutionary form of extreme immersive theatre. Hidden away in a reclaimed bunker is the latest creation from the company behind some of the world’s most high-profile immersive experiences; Global Immersion.
Related: Global Immersion company profile / Global Immersion Sneak Preview of Its New SmartPixel [tm] Technology / Global Immersion’s Martin Howe talks about the Morrison Planetarium at the new California Academy of Sciences
Hanging onto the edge of the seat of innovation, Global Immersion has designed and produced a working prototype of the World’s first 9D theatre.
Blooloop has been granted exclusive access to this top-secret site to learn more about the new experience. Global Immersion’s Chief Executive, Martin Howe (below left), guides us around and talks to us about the 9-dimensional cinema:
Blooloop – Martin, it’s great to talk to you again. So here we are inside the world’s first 9D theatre. I’m really excited to be here. Before we ride it, can you tell me more about it?
Martin Howe – Yes of course. As you know audiences are ever hungry for the next best thing and we regularly brainstorm among our team just what that may be. We have all seen the latest 5D, 6D, 7D and even 8D theatres and we wanted to go one step further. We encourage our team to work without limits and that was the driver to build a theatre without limits, literally! Our inspiration came from the Disney® show ‘Honey I shrunk the audience’. It’s a great experience but we wanted to see what we could do to improve on it.
B – That’s interesting, so what have you come up with?
M – Well the first thing to appreciate is that they don’t actually shrink the audience in the original Disney experience. It’s just not possible of course. Not in 10 minutes. It’s a visual trick achieved by filming really tall people. And a really big dog. We wanted to go significantly beyond what has been done before, paying particular consideration to the fact that we couldn’t actually shrink the audience.
B – So what do you do?
M – That’s the clever bit. We employ a proprietary, and highly specialised hydraulic process to facilitate a rapid exponential influx of oxygen and pixelated energy. In other words, we grow the theatre!
B – What do you mean?
M – Well throughout the show we actually make the entire theatre bigger and smaller. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. The walls and ceiling move out to create a much larger box. That gives the director a whole new dimension to play with. It puts the audience right in the action. For instance if the scene is flying over the grand canyon then the theatre opens right out creating a vast space and a really giant screen, enhancing the feeling of scale. If on the other hand we’re exploring a cave, the walls close right in. It’s really realistic and some people feel quite claustrophobic.
B – So what will visitors see when they enter the 9D theatre?
M – We’re working on a design concept that looks at creating a staged environment that would actually seek to enhance the visitor experience, but also mask the many different mechanical contraptions that are integrated around the theatre. We like the idea of having the seats as breakfast cereal, affixed to blades of grass. There are further ‘supersize’ props around the environment to really give audiences a sense of scale – our Design team are keen to use the garden-theme, but of course, the technology is so advanced that this can be manipulated on a regular basis.
B – OK I think I get it. Can you tell me more about the seats?
M – Yes, that took a while to get working. To keep the illusion, they have to grow and shrink too. We’re scaling the theatre up by a factor of 10x and down by a factor of 2x. That gives us what we call a ‘Dimensional Dynamic Range’ or DDR of 20. In future we believe theatres will be rated by this DDR figure. The higher the better of course.
B – Back this seat DDR scaling feature. How does that work exactly? The seats grow by ten times?
M – Yes. There’s a lot of engineering in them and that’s what took the time to develop. The back, sides and base of the seat all have to expand and the seat raises further off the ground.
B – 10 times!
M – Yes – that’s why we like the idea of the blades of grass as the seat base, it gives us a lot of scope move the audience around.
B – That’s really high. Isn’t that dangerous?
M – No, not any more. We did have some problems in testing. Mostly it was just mild abrasions and a few broken bones as limbs and fingers got trapped in the mechanism. We moved over to test dummies for a period until we worked out how to restrain people.
B – Restrain them?
M – Well, there’s a lot of moving parts and during some scene transitions the rate of motion can be quite extreme so we have to restrain the audience quite firmly. It’s important so that we can maintain the suspension of disbelief.
B – It’s not working for me right now.
M – We haven’t turned it on.
B – That’s not what I meant.
B – So how safe is it?
M – We’ve got the accident rate to below one percent now for major incidents and less than two percent for minor ones.
B – So in a 300 seat theatre like this one you’re going to have a least a few incidents during a show.
M – No, not necessarily. Percentages and probability don’t work that way. In some shows for instance we haven’t had any reported incidents.
B – How do you deal with the regulators?
M – We’re still going through final sign off but in the meantime as long as we have a full safety and medical crew on standby outside the theatre then we’re OK to go.
B – And what about indemnity against claims?
M – Indeed. We do get audiences to sign a full disclaimer and waiver before they ride.
B – And they’re happy to do that?
M – Of course. It’s an extreme experience and there’s a high demand. We’ve compared the statistics and it’s safer than many sports.
B – Like what?
M – BASE jumping. We’ve got data to prove that. We do recommend against entire families going on the ride at the same time. We prefer to split them up. Just in case.
B – And the seats shrink too?
M – Yes but only by a factor of two. Any more than that then we have to sit people on top of each other and some find that uncomfortable.
B – I imagine that can spoil the suspension of disbelief.
M – Exactly. I think you get it.
B – I’d rather not.
M – So are you ready? Would you like a go?
B – I’d rather not.
M – You don’t know what you’re missing. You should try it.
B – I’m worried about what I’d be missing if I do try it.
M – But it’s fully immersive, it’s about suspending disbelief!
B – I’ve been doing that since the start of this interview.
M – Oh.
Global Immersion is hoping to launch the 9D theatre experience to the world later this year pending authorisation and approval from the European Union’s Health and Safety office (third time lucky!).
To learn more about the theatre, or to join the demonstration waiting list, visit www.globalimmersion.com
Images at top and above right : CG Render of the new 9D theatre: this particular concept stages the theatre as a ‘supersized’ garden complete with grass and breakfast cereal 9D seating