20 April, 2016
A new technology might change the way people watch movies in the theater.
Instead of watching a film on the screen, you would enter the scene and watch the action take place all around you.
This is what Virtual Reality, or VR, and 360-degree video promise to give audiences. The idea is to make you feel like you are in the movie.
Online websites like YouTube and Vimeo already offer some VR films. Both professionals and amateurs have made these kinds of films. To watch, people wear expensive headsets that cover their eyes and ears.
There are less costly ways to see VR films. Many people use their smart phones, placed in a special cardboard box. Then, they hold it up to their eyes to watch. The boxes can be bought from Google for $15.
People are experiencing the technology in many places.
South by Southwest (SXSW) is a media and technology conference held every year in Austin, Texas. This March, people put on headsets there to watch part of a funny crime film shot in VR in Baltimore, Maryland.
The people who produced "Career Opportunities in Organized Crime," say it is the first full-length film made in 360-degree Virtual Reality.
But with 360-degree filming, there is a problem. If viewers looked away from the main action on their headset and "turned around," they could see the crew shooting the film.
To solve this problem, they made the film a "mockumentary," in other words, a fake documentary. In this way, making the film became part of the story.
VR headsets are also being used to view films that allow people to travel around the world without leaving home.
A company called YouVisit has films that can be used to advertise trips. It can also help people who cannot physically travel, but want to feel the experience of going places.
VR headsets have been used in some computer games. But many people experience sea sickness, or nausea, when using them.
Also at South by Southwest recently, companies showed off other movie technologies. Some used special screens.
One company, Japanese NHK Media Technology Company, showed their 8K resolution 3-D, or three dimensional, film. The sound system for the film used 24 speakers. As music played around the people watching, images appeared to jump out of the screen in sharp detail.
But this high technology comes at a high cost. A company spokesman said the video and sound system costs $500,000 to set up. That is more than average movie theaters would pay.
Another system shown at South by Southwest was more accessible.
A Utah company, Fulldome.pro, uses a dome—a structure that is shaped like half a ball. The company set up a dome at an angle to the floor with a film playing inside. Viewers sit back in comfortable seats inside the dome to watch the images in front of them with a 180-degree view.
It is too early to know how these technologies will change the movie business. Theater owners are not quick to invest a lot of money in devices that might be popular for only a short time.
However, the movie theater business faces tough competition from home theater systems, online streaming and piracy.
Theaters may have a brighter future if they can provide a movie experience that people cannot get at home.
I'm Anne Ball.
Greg Flakus reported this story for VOA News. Anne Ball adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
amateur – n. not professional
nausea – n. the feeling in your stomach when you might vomit
accessible – adj. able to reach or be approached
angle – n. used to describe a something that leans or goes to the side instead of straight up and down
streaming – v. watching or sending out audio or video on the internet
piracy – n. the act of illegally making television or radio broadcasts