Interactivity, Cinema, and Experimentation: The Forking Paths

Interactivity, Cinema, and Experimentation: The Forking Paths

Bruno Mendes da Silva (University of Algarve, Research Centre for Arts and Communication (CIAC), Faro, Portugal), Mirian Nogueira Tavares (University of Algarve, Research Centre for Arts and Communication (CIAC), Faro, Portugal) and Vítor Reia-Baptista (University of Algarve, Research Centre for Arts and Communication (CIAC), Faro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCICG.2016070106
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Based on the triad film-interactivity-experimentation, the applied research project The Forking Paths, developed at the Arts and Communication Research Centre (CIAC), endeavours to find alternative narrative forms in the field of Cinema and, more specifically, in the subfield of Interactive Cinema. The films in The Forking Paths invest in the relationship between the spectator and the film narrative, which is intended to be more active and engaged, and at same time they propose a research on the development of audio-visual language. The project is consubstantiated at an online platform that aims to foster the creation and web hosting of Interactive Cinema in its different variables.
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This article aims to describe the post-doctoral project in the field of interactive cinema The Forking Paths. The project was started in early 2013, at the Arts and Communication Research Centre (CIAC), was implemented at the Film Studies Laboratory (LEF) and follows the Centre’s research line Creation of Digital Artefacts. This guideline from CIAC aims at producing digital artefacts that seek intimate relations between art and technology. This project intends to continue the research begun with the doctoral thesis Eterno Presente, o tempo na contemporaneidade1, which resulted in the publication of the book A máquina encravada, a questão do tempo nas relações entre cinema, banda desenhada e contemporaneidade2 (Silva, 2010). This basic research is the starting point of the current project, which seeks to align applied research and experimental development, presenting the following proposals:

  • 1.

    The production of interactive3 film narratives4, which aim at the spectator’s transition from an extradiegetic level5 to an intradiegetic level6, through a process of immersion;

  • 2.

    The reflection and experimentation on the idea of time in cinema;

  • 3.

    The creation of a web hosting platform for interactive films and/or interactive film projects.

This article begins with a visit to the most significant moments in the history of interactive cinema, both at a purely technological level and at an aesthetic level, which is the result of a balanced combination between creative content and technology. Then, the central issue of this project, time in cinema, is developed, relating it to the theme and form of the tales chosen for adaptation. The working methods and the interactive films produced or invited within the scope of the project will also be given special attention. Finally, the platform, the virtual space to where all content related to the project (from news to scientific articles) converges, will also be analysed in this article.


Interactive Cinema

Since the late nineteenth century many projects were undertaken aiming at absorbing the spectator’s senses, expanding and developing projection screens and consequently the perception field of the audience. In 1924, Paramount introduced the Magnascope, consisting of a circular screen and multiple projectors, giving the spectator the impression of being surrounded by the action. On the other hand, in the '50s, to compete with television and to increase the number of spectators, which had already started to decline, widescreen displays started to emerge. In 1953, appears the Twentieth Century-Fox’s CinemaScope, an anamorphic 35 mm widescreen7. A few years later, Fred Waller introduced another widescreen film process, Cinerama. Originally, there were three cameras with a single shutter. In movie theatres, the images were projected from three 35 mm projection booths synchronized to a high proportion screen with 146° of arc. One of the major drawbacks of this process were the join lines which were always visible where the different projections came together.

In the early '60s, Morton L. Heilig, considered by many the predecessor of virtual reality, developed Sensorama, the Cinema of the Future, an experience that encompassed all human senses, through a screen that surrounded the spectator completely, using stereo sound, 3D images, aroma and kinaesthetic response to the user/spectator’s movements: ‘the screen will curve past the spectator’s ears on both sides and beyond his sphere of vision above and below’ (Heilig, 1992) in order to enhance the cinematic experience.

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