Vieraana Synes Elischka – Future of Cinema

Helsingin elokuva-akatemian Elävän kuvan seura, 16.11.2015

Synes is a filmmaker and researcher. His research intersts is focused on virtual reality cinema. Particularly, he researches audience responses to traditional media (cinema) vs. virtual reality media.

Synes talked about inter-subject correlation, which means that people respond to (art) stimulus in similar ways. This has been verified in a test environment, where audiences brain responses is similar when they’re shown the same movies.

In terms of the visual world, it is only a part of it that we percieve: visible light wavelenghts. Also, the brain is slow (e.g. half a second from when a photon hits our eye until we are conscious of it e.g. see something). Further, we only see around 2 degrees field of view accurately and in real time. Therefore, a valid question is: “what is ‘reality’”.

Sensation is different from perception (of reality). Perception is mainly based on past expriences; us trying to predict what is going to happen next. If sensation and perception don’t meet (i.e. something unexpected happens), the result is an emotion (e.g. surprise).

Another observation is that the brain is a hybrid computational device: it does parallel as well as serial computing simultaneously.


…is a somewhat futile comparison: we don’t percieve 100% of reality anyway. A different approach: consider VR as mediated experiences through immersion to achieve immediate experience. Immersion refers to being subjected to a sub-set of stimuli (e.g. watching TV) and suppressing everything else. Physical, phsychological, motor, attention immersion are all possible – separate things but all work at the same time. Agency enhances physical immersion but can disrupt psychological immersion. We get used to new experiences over time.

VR isn’t more “real”-we’re just used to the mechanics, they resemble our everyday life (e.g. moving our head to see new stuff).


Psychological immersion is really not compatible with agency. Real choice can be implemented e.g. with cascading storylines (decision-tree model). Another approach , more manageable, is “beads on a string” where choices are made and after the choice we converge back to the main storyline. The problem with the latter is that it won’t necessarily feel like real choices being made, as we follow a predetermined path.

Illusion of choice can be achieved through playing on our biases.


  1. use 360 degree interaction wisely to build suspense & engage your viewer
  2. Treat Oculus as an input device and “looking around” as a mechanic, take it from there and go wild
  3. People are used to the be the “invisible observer”, that’s an opportunity…
  4. Choose the tools that help your story, use the power of text and imagination to your advantage


Among other things, the idea was raised that in traditional (linear) cinema, the author (director) is communicating a story one way, however in face-to-face interaction we tend to modify our communication according to e.g. facial expressions of the recipient. Thus, perhaps virtual reality/non-linear media is in some ways closer to real-life communication than linear cinema.


In the recent years, developments in cell phone technology have spurred VR development, accelerometers in particular.


  • Youtube360 is out there now for publishing 360 video
  • Samsung gear
  • Google cardboard
  • HTC Vive
  • Oculus Rift (coming)
  • Unity game engine


“VR is not the next platform. It’s the last platform” M. Abrash, Oculus Chief Scientist. This quote was cited to highlight that the aim of VR is to simulate our entire sensory input. Virtual reality doesn’t necessarily need to be interactive. 360 degree cinema can be considered VR.


Cinema is the framing of abstraction (or so is claimed). Thus, there’s no cinema in 360 (degree cinema), we might say.


The presentation left at least some of us with the understanding that understanding how we perceive reality is key to trying to reproducing it, e.g. in terms of Virtual Reality applications, such as VR Cinema. Things beyond immediate sensory input affect how we perceive reality: these include past experiences and biases.

It is unclear as to what the relationship between traditional and Virtual Reality cinema will be – whether the former will displace the latter or something else. Perhaps VRC is best suited for applications where its particular strenghts can be best utilized to their fullest extent: such applications may perhaps be found in education applications, for example. However, we’ve noticed how advances in technology have been adopted into what we call traditional cinema. It may well be that we’ll be experiencing VR feature films in the near future.

Nauhoite sessiosta:

Helsinki Film Academy’s Cinema Society is a series of weekly held peer learning events. This blog is based on the session’s content and on the bloggers own observations, experiences and views on the topic.



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