Busan 2012: South Korea's CJ E&M Pictures to Screen 'Tai Chi Zero' in New Multi-Sensory Format

Nathan Willock/Viewpictures.co.uk
Busan Cinema Center.

The 4DX technology engages all five senses with motion chairs and environmental effects synchronized to the onscreen action.

As a frantic car chase scene unfolds on screen, the cinema seat jerks from side-to-side while a whiff of burning rubber and gust of wind blow through the air.

It's all part of South Korea’s CJ E&M Pictures' move beyond 3D audiovisuals with 4DX, a technology that engages all five senses with motion chairs and environmental effects synchronized to the onscreen action. The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is showcasing this new system by presenting a 4D film for the first time.

Stephen Fung’s Tai Chi Zero, a China-Hong Kong actioner that was shown in 2D at Venice and Toronto earlier this year, has gotten a 4D facelift for Asia’s largest cinema event. BIFF organizers say this is a case that exemplifies what a film festival is all about – introducing trends and connecting supply with demand.

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“Today, if you take your kids to the movie theater they will expect it to be in 3D. It has become the norm. We felt showing a 4D film would be a great way to demonstrate the cinema culture of the future, and Zero, which was originally created as a 3D film, seemed very appropriate given the fact that it’s packed with action and fantasy,” says BIFF program coordinator Park Sungho.

CJ group, which operates Asia’s largest cinema chain CGV, has 34 theaters in six countries dedicated to 4D movies. In addition to China, Thailand, Israel, Brazil and Mexico, it is planning to create more CJ 4DPlex theaters in the United States, South America, Russia and Western Europe.

“BIFF is Korea’s oldest film festival and has been a venue for presenting new films and industry developments. We felt that it would be a great place to show what our 4DPlex is all about and that it can show various genres of movies,” says Kim So-young, senior manager of CJ 4DPlex’s marketing department.

Since debuting with James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009, CJ 4DPlex shows about 20 Hollywood films a year for the global market and works with several major studios on international releases.

“Even though our technology is very well known in Korea and Asia, we hope to show that local movies, including dramas, can be fun to watch in 4D,” says Kim.

A CJ 4DPlex theater features gyrating chairs with a tiny nozzle that sprays water, mist and bubbles as well as some 1,000 odors ranging from coffee to gunpowder. “Back ticklers” move to make sure the onscreen action is felt skin-deep. The cinema, which can house up to 240 seats, also features large fans and strobe lights that add environmental effects such as lightning and wind. Outfitting a theater with the technology costs about $2 million.

It takes between two to three weeks using special software to program the 4D effects into a movie. Scents, for example, are programmed to spread only within blocks of six by six seats.

Programmers hope these features can add to the fun, and moreover, the viewer’s appreciation for the film. It is not, for example, about creating quasi-theme park rides, they say.

“We didn’t have any examples to follow when we began this so we did actually try the 4D rides in theme parks around the world. But our goal is to make the viewing experience entertaining and to heighten the realism of the movie. We try very, very hard not distract the flow of the movie,” says CJ 4DPlex programmer Son Young-in.

“We began our project with James Cameron’s Avatar and focused mostly on action films and animations, which bring out the best features of 4DX. So Zero, which has many elements of action, fantasy and even animation, was ideal for the movie. But even Titanic, which is mostly drama, works surprisingly well. 4DX is basically about making the audience feel as if they are really breathing inside the movie.”

Zero, featuring action sequences designed by Sammo Hung (Ip Man 1 and 2), explores the origins of martial arts during the 19th century. It is the first of a three-part installment.

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