The story itself was nothing special: stylish secret agents toting ribbed, metal briefcases carrying confidential contents, double-crossing lovers with a penchant for the extravagant, motorcycle chases that defy physics, a predictable plotline… it could have been another pedestrian episode out of any old spy series.
But the audience was absolutely gripped.
It wasn’t with a riveting plotline that South Korean director Kim Jee-woon (The Last Stand) wanted to entrance his viewers during the premiere of his short film The X this week at the 2013 Busan International Film Festival. Clever plot twists and acting prowess weren’t the intentions – the 31 minute film served as the debut for an innovative cinematic technology fresh out of Korea, ScreenX.
ScreenX extends the movie onto the sidewalls of the theater, effectively wrapping the audience in certain scenes by filming at 270 degrees, a feat the director said was exciting and unusual, as the crew was constantly trying to stay out of the way of the camera. Action scenes featuring gunfights, explosions and auto chases utilize the off-screen space to enhance audience immersion.
“We want it to be overwhelming at first,” Kim Jee-woon said. “But then you begin to see how other things are represented [in ScreenX], and how other parts of the story are revealed, other information is added.”
And overwhelming it is. The film began as an audience would expect, with the action right in front of them. But when the 270 degrees of ScreenX are fully activated, it comes unexpectedly and does take your breath away, transforming an otherwise straightforward scene into one that is experienced.
ScreenX is not limited to just visual enhancement, however. The development team, which also included CGV Chief Strategy Officer An Goo-choul and Dr. Noh Jun Yong, an associate professor at KAIST University in Korea and the R&D technical supervisor, also introduced “SoundX” to help convey an appropriate sense of space.
The X takes advantage of the technology’s aptitude for enhancing action/adventure sequences, but the developers believe that its applicability doesn’t stop there. They say ScreenX is the apex of where technology meets art and can be applied to other genres, especially horror.
In The X itself, a fuller breadth of ScreenX was showcased through the plot’s quieter, more passive moments – scenes that splash characters and details across different angles and viewpoints, offering a fuller sense of immersion than could ever be achieved by 3D.
The development was originally spearheaded by Korea’s CGV multiplex chain in order to “give more freedom to the filmmakers,” according to CGV Chief Strategy Officer An Goo-choul. While response to the short film was positive, it’s unclear how this technology will fare in a full-length feature – as the film does heighten the senses, and at times, exhaustingly so. An Goo-choul said, however, that ScreenX has already received good reactions from production teams in Hollywood, and the team’s hope is to take ScreenX global.
“[The X] is a starting point,” Kim Jee-woon said. “A feature film and better storytelling could leverage the technology, show the full capabilities of what ScreenX could do, how it could be more sophisticated.”