BCS Multimedia Editor Justin Richards talks to Andrew Dymond, CEO of Lightworx Media, about the 3D and 4D film industries, and holographic entertainment.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the film industry; can it survive?

Overall I think it’s just like any other sort of business really; it has its up and downs. Independents are suffering at the moment due to a general lack of investment - there is a particular shortage of investors in the UK, but that analysis also applies worldwide really.

What are your predictions for the film industry for the next five to 10 years?

I think we’re going to see a huge boom in online and digital independent distribution, which means that the digital web store and also the content you can supply for online consumption will really rapidly increase, not only through the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Lovefilm - they’re just the forerunners - but we’re going to see a lot of new independents popping up so people can get access to a lot of new content, which is a good thing really.

How do you think film-related technology will develop over the next few years?

Cameras are getting much smarter. For example, if you look back to even five or six years ago everyone was still using tape. With digital media everything is hardware related and you don’t have any moving parts in cameras anymore - give it a couple more years and I think we’ll have more solid state technology because that’s taking off in leaps and bounds, especially for editing and data storage.

I think that’s the next revolution really because we will have solid state drives, which attach to cameras, and it’s going to be a lot more secure. Vibrations used to be a problem in the past with cameras because you’d have moving mechanisms so if you had a loud bang going off it could affect the image. Nowadays, with no moving parts, there’s less there to be affected by vibrations and the like.

In the past if you went out and got a cheap camera, for example, you’d have to hire most of the equipment, which is quite expensive. Nowadays you can just go into a domestic electrical store and pick up a decent digital camera, use your own edit suite, Adobe or Apple products, for example, and you can do all your own sound, your music, everything, using these off -the -shelf packages.

I think for a lot of filmmakers it’s going to open up a lot of doors - for new filmmakers they’ll be able to produce films or content much quicker without having to use the bigger, more expensive, more professional level, technologies. Software packages now enable you to do such a lot more for much less money.

What are your thoughts on 3D, 4D technologies?

From a movie point of view 4D technology immerses you into the film. In the sixties we had things like ‘Smellorama’ and everyone used to joke about it, but when you go to an attraction ride nowadays, the big ones, which really stand out, when you go to places like Universal Studios, people always remember things like The Terminator 2 ride, The Transformers ride, the Harry Potter 4D stuff and even Shrek. All those attraction films utilise 4D technology because it immerses their audiences and increases their involvement with the film.

With 3D a lot of people get nausea and they can’t really watch them or they think they’re a fad, but, personally speaking, I find that 3D is an artistic tool. Many traditional filmmakers still believe it’s a fad, but I think they’re not looking at the bigger picture. 3D is a huge artistic tool that changes the filmmaking process.

Instead of being negative and saying that it’s a fad, like with any new technologies, you should embrace them because artistically you can do a lot more different things than you could do in the past. And it involves you to an even greater degree in the storytelling process as well as just through the picture and the sound. For me it’s all about choice; having the choice to sit down and watch 2D or 3D movies - the industry needs to have the two formats working hand-in-hand with each other, not against one another.

In a 3D movie, for an hour and a half, you’re somewhat constrained by what you can do physically within that time period because if you go too much over the top - changing convergences and really pushing depth of field - it will give your audience headaches and nausea, but good 3D really embraces you and sucks you into the film, like the 3D Hobbit - that was shot at a higher frame rate. It can really make you feel like you’re there. And that, for me, is the real difference.

The problem is that 4D has been used mostly in theme rides, in attraction venues, but there are 4D cinemas that are now popping up all over the world. For sheer entertainment and for just sitting down for 10 - 15 minutes, in a short film format, it can really grab you. For example, the 3D Saw film that was made into a 4D ride - you see an image of someone being attacked in some way and at the same time you have a spray of water aimed at you so your mind, for an instance, plays tricks on you and converts the water to blood, so it becomes an extra dimension in the viewer’s experience.

I reckon in the future we’ll have something approximating the holodecks from Star Trek where participants will be able to walk onto a holodeck where you’ll be immersed in the film, almost become a part of the film.

Is there a future for 4D feature length films?

Cinemas are already starting to encompass the kind of seat movement you get in amusement rides so I think, slowly but surely, it will become an added function within a cinema. Director Robert Rodriguez included aromas and bubbles in one of his recent films and it encompassed the audiences watching his film. That, in itself, is part of 4D technology because you’re using 3D functionality and then on top of that the smells, the seat movements, and once you’ve added in the bubbles and lighting cues, it really does enhance your movie going experience.

I think on a long-term film you would have to be careful you didn’t have an effect going off every two minutes - it would be distracting and would break your concentration. I think the 4D elements should be brought in within the feature film just to give greater impact to a particular scene. That’s how I think it would work as a long-term thing; it’s not about having things moving around every two seconds.

For example, if there’s a ghost scene and someone’s coming around a corner and the music’s building up the tension, you know something’s going to happen so when you have the apparition appear suddenly you could have the seats dropping at the same time; I think it could enhance the scariness to another level, but I don’t think that for an hour and a half or for two hours you could use 4D enhancements too regularly. It needs to be there to heighten the story and to really give you that added thrill factor. I think it should only be used to emphasise key moments in a feature film.

Where are we with regard to holographic technologies?

Like with any new technology it takes time to develop - I know they’re still developing it - it’s still very much ongoing. I think, give it another five to ten years and we might be getting there. I mean look at the Tupac hologram that was shown at a recent music awards ceremony with Puff Daddy; the rapper reacting to Tupac’s hologram.

They also tried to so the same with Morecambe and Wise at the BBC, but it was a lower budget job. If it’s done properly with a darker screen, like the Tupac version was, you can’t see the mirrors that much, but on the BBC production it was a lighter studio so it wasn’t as effective. I think with holographic stuff we’re still a long way from seeing a full light emitting object, but I don’t think it’s going to be impossible.

I mean in the 70s they said we’d never have TFT screens up on the wall and look where we are now! I remember Tomorrow’s World laughing and joking about it, but things have moved on. In 20 - 30 years: why have a screen when potentially you could have a holographic item in front of you? There’s now a new technology where you can have an implant near the eye and it can send images projecting straight in front of you.

If that is the way technology is moving I don’t think we’ll be having television screens for that much longer - it’s more likely you’ll just have little head sets, which will provide you with all the necessary data projected in front of you, whether it’s for work or for entertainment. I think that will be the next stage of development, where we’ll be getting rid of the need to have screens both in the office and at home. Instead of people taking an iPad or iPhone around with them you’ll have an equivalent of a webcam to project the information you want to see directly from your headset.

What is Lightworx working on at the moment and what are your plans for the future?

We’re expanding the business. We are doing 3D and 4D films now and our future is to make a lot of independent 3D and 4D production films and basically try and look at new technologies and see which areas we can go in. For example, with the 3D tablets, where you don’t need the 3D glasses so I think with 3D technology there’s a lot of different markets out there that people can go into; our company especially.

I’m just happy to be working in the 3D sphere. From an artistic point of view it’s very different from traditional 2D; I find it quite refreshing - the technology is different and exciting and I think if you can get your head around it, it enhances the stories we’re trying to tell. I think a lot of people in our industry are being short-sighted about the format.

I mean if there weren’t creative people out there, willing to push the boundaries, people like James Cameron, who did Avatar, I don’t think we’d be getting much new technology developed at all. (Laughs) If you think back to the 80s, if it wasn’t for entrepreneurial people with technological know-how in the porn industry the video format wouldn’t have taken off!