Thursday, May 17, 2007

Watching Movies In Three Dimensions

No one disputes the emotional power of sisomo on screen. Sight, Sound and Motion. But the spirit of creativity is always restless and the temptation to add more senses to these three has sometimes proved irresistible.

The first real attempt to pump up the big screen experience with scent that I know of was back in 1956 for the movie Around The World In Eighty Days. Apparently Smell-o-vision wafted scents into the theater that synchronized with the action using a complicated system of perfumes encapsulated on the side of the film. The verdict? Too noisy and too weird. It could only get weirder when Baltimore movie legend, John Waters, got involved. In Waters’ version, the audience took scratch cards into the theater. When a sign appeared on the screen just as, say, a bunch of roses came into close-up, everyone scratched their card. Inevitably, trickster Waters panned quickly to the floor to focus on a pair of socks. You guessed it, the smell matched the image. The sisomo + scents combo continues to pop up from time to time (The New World was given some aroma therapy in Japan last year) but it seems to attract quirky headlines rather than solid commercial investment.

This odd history comes to mind as I see a bunch of movies in production in Hollywood that push our senses in another direction. 3D. The biggest – and here I’m guessing based on his earlier movies – is James Cameron’s Avatar. You will still have to wear stupid looking glasses, but apparently the 3D effect will be totally convincing. Weta Digital, based in New Zealand, is involved, so that’s cause for confidence. I’m guessing the glasses will just be a phase and that 3D will go on to add its magic to sisomo. But even given its chequered history, I think if they can also get us to smell the roses, we might be onto something big.