Korea’s Screen X technology aims to expand the way we watch films

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Korea’s Screen X technology aims to expand the way we watch films


Screen X, a new film format developed by Korea’s CJ CGV, promises an innovative cinematic experience for audiences by using three walls to project a film. Provided by CGV

An audience in Seoul has become the second ever to see a film in the Screen X format, a Korean technology first developed in 2012 in which one movie is shown across three screens.

At a premier hosted by the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) at Hongdae CGV in western Seoul last Thursday, two films shot in the format were unveiled, along with acclaimed director Kim Jee-woon’s “The X.”

The latter movie, which was filmed using the techniques that are necessary to make the most out of the format’s 270-degree view, was showcased at the Busan International Film Festival in 2013.

While the left and right screens mainly provide a panoramic view by acting as an extension of the front, Screen X has more to offer than this.

The additional sides, which are 1.8 times longer than the center, can supplement the movie’s storyline being viewed by delivering several messages and giving out clues at the same time.

For example, in one scene in “The X,” the side screens project flashbacks that show the memories of the protagonist, Agent X, who is played by Kang Dong-won.

While the main screen shows the character’s face when he discovers the shocking truth about his girlfriend, the flashbacks on the sides juxtapose the present with the couple’s happier times to emphasize the betrayal he feels.

The multi-sided cinema is also a useful tool for the director to use to increase tension or emphasize the importance of a certain scene by projecting the same picture on all screens at the same time.

In addition to “The X,” the two short films that were unveiled to the audience were Choi Yang-hyun’s “Gray Whale,” produced by local film company Paran52, and Hong Sung-hoon’s “Mother,” created by the KAFA.

Camera director Kim Young-no of “Mother” revealed that he chose to create a slow-paced drama in order to test out the limitations of the 270-degree technology.

He admitted, however, that the action or horror genre could maximize the effects of Screen X.

The director said he replaced splashy action scenes and noisy gunfights with ordinary backdrops such as hospitals, schools and restaurants, mostly using the side walls to extend the natural background scenes and give off an “expansive view.”

This way of using Screen X is called “passive,” according to Kim, a form that doesn’t force the viewers to turn their heads to see what’s happening on the two sidewalls but repeats the same information, such as an extension of a line of trees seen on a street.

However, if a characters appears on the sidewalk - which leads the audience to turn their heads to see what’s happening outside of the front screen - this is identified as “active” use.

Kim added that the interior area of a car or a narrow alleyway is most suitable for using the Screen X technology because the structure of the theater’s inside resembles these types of locations.

When protagonists appear on the front screen while situated in the backseat of a car the audience feels as if they are actually inside the vehicle.

But there are some shortcomings. The vacant space on the side walls hinders the viewer’s concentration when the director is trying to emphasize a character’s emotion by zooming in on their faces. Also, when filming in a crammed area, shooting with three cameras at the same time gets challenging.

The Screen X technology, exclusively developed by CJ CGV, has been only shown to the public through a few commercials in two of its branches Yeouido and Hongdae.

It is said that Hongdae CGV is the most suitable location among others to watch a Screen X movie because it has the narrowest gap between the two side walls with the frontal wall, minimizing any discrepancies between the screens when projecting a panoramic picture.

“We expect the Screen X technology will open a new window for the creators to make their imagination being realized in its closest forms. It will extend the storytelling as well as give birth to a whole new genre as well,” said a CGV official.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jes@joongang.co.kr]

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