Many Worlds is a short 15-minute drama about a bizarre physics experiment cooked up by a depressed girl and unleashed on her friends. The film “reads the minds” and the bodies of the audience, and changes its plot while they watch it. How is this possible? Well first of all multiple versions of the film were shot (Many Worlds has four possible endings). On the way into the cinema, a sample of four audience members volunteer to represent the emotional mood and interest of the whole audience. They are fitted with small sensors (no more intrusive than say 3D glasses). For each of the four a different biological reading is taken: heart rate, muscle tension, brainwave activity, and what is known as skin conductance. These are then analysed by intelligent computer algorithms developed specially for Many Worlds and used to estimate the audience mood and therefore what version of the next scene should be chosen.
The Many Worlds film has a soundtrack which is controlled live by the mood of the audience sample of four people. This can allow for mood control if the audience gets bored or restless – for example make the music deeper slower and more discordant to create more fear. It can also be used for psychological control – hypnotizing the audience with repetitive sounds; and for physical control – e.g. using very low bass sounds to effect the audience.
Says director Alexis Kirke, “Interactive cinema is a joke. There is no such thing. If it is interactive then it’s not cinema. Any 12 year old can tell you the difference between the latest Harry Potter movie and its video game spin-off. When you’re watching a movie, you can bring out the popcorn and relax – letting the director take you for a ride. We want to forget the world around us and be drawn into the wonders of the screen and the sound system. The idea of somehow giving buttons or joy-sticks to people in a cinema to control how the characters in the movie behave is ridiculous, it would destroy what most people love about cinema: the gloriously immersive world.
“However, interactive cinema would be a tremendously useful thing if it wasn’t such a joke. How often do studios test multiple cuts of a film when early cuts fail? Or worst of all: they release a film into the general public to have half the cinema goers find it boring or unsatisfying. But what else can studios do? Given a particular audience in a particular country, at every point in the movie, the film is at risk of losing peoples’ interest or trust in its story. However you can’t change a film once it’s released – directors and studios have to somehow create a film with a plot and character development which captures and keeps the imagination of as many people as possible. This isn’t just a problem from the studios’ point of view. We film-goers are then bombarded with crap that makes us want to walk out of the cinema, or worst stay in the cinema and suffer because we spent so much on the ticket! It would be great if the film plot or character could change if we were finding them boring. The difficulty is, we’d want it to change without us doing anything! So somehow a movie has to read our mind while it’s being shown – impossible, right? Well actually no – that’s exactly what Many Worlds does.”