15 June 2011

4D movies in South Korea

A few days ago, in South Korea, I experienced my first 4D film: Kung Fu Panda 2.

4D cinema is like 3D cinema, but with more, and although it doesn't technically include a fourth dimension, it includes everything involved with a 3D movie, plus physical effects in the movie theater itself: wind, vibration, moving seats (more than just vibration), scents and smells, mist and rain, bubbles falling from the ceiling during pre-movie adverts for soap, etc.

I expected it to be gimmicky, but it's not: 4D adds more to 3D than 3D does to 2D.

The movements were well synchronized, not just some added vibration here or there. If there is a low angle looking up at a character, your seats tilt backward at just the right time, and when the bows and arrows start flying, expect bursts of air shooting past your ears, and maybe some mist on your face when the character swan dives into a lake.

It's not perfect (e.g. sometimes bursts of air are distractingly noisy) but it's better than anything I've experienced with 3D, and for me it already makes Avatar feel like yesterday's technology, which by definition it is. When I saw Avatar, I thought the story was horrendous, but the visuals fairly impressive; although, only stories stand the test of time, never special effects. Eventually something will surpass 4D, but for my money right now it's the best thing going.

Unfortunately 4D is not widely available outside of South Korea.