Film with Feeling

Alex Kirke is a director with a keen interest in the cinematic experience, and, as it turns out, an equally keen interest in the measurement of biophysical responses to storytelling. Inevitably, this led Mr. Kirke to the development of software that would read sensors attached to the bodies of audience members. The sensors provide real-time feedback on muscle tension, perspiration, heart rate, and brain wave activity. As the software collects the data, it compiles the results, and, in accordance with the director’s wishes, the film automatically branches from one audio-visual file to another.

By using this technology, a director can amplify or dial-down emotional impact, shorten or lengthen the story, cut to another sequence entirely, and so on. Of course, all of the branching must be worked out before production begins because each sequence must be produced, edited, and integrated into the file management system.

Says one of the actresses:

It will be quite interesting to know, so well, how the audience reacts. The ending they choose reflects their reactions.

Not just the ending, of course. Anywhere in the film, the story can change course. So, too, can the soundtrack. Or any visual or visuals. In theory, there may be a large number of branches (for the professional, this becomes an obsessive, difficult way to tell a story, but it’s interesting to consider the possibilities). And, in theory, the sensors could be connected to the seats or the armrests throughout the theater, but that’s all in the future.

For the present, do watch the video. It’s rough, more of a professorial demonstration that any sort of slick production, and, if time permits, have a look at Mr. Kirke’s blog, too. There, he covers an interesting range of technical innovations related to entertainment and storytelling.

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