The other night when I went to see "9." I spent a few minutes talking with a couple of fine gentlemen from Canada about getting the shakes in a movie house.
The Canadians were Philippe Roy ands Guy Marcoux, who both work with D-Box, a company which makes chairs designed to make movie watching, and video-game playing, what Philippe calls an immersive experience.
I was at the Theaters at the Mall of America, one of only seven multiplexes nationwide to feature D-Box seats.
Basically what happens is when something shakes, rumbles, or even explodes on the screen you feel it through your D-Box. Philippe says after the introduction of Surround Sound in theaters, making your seat part of the action was the next step.
The idea is to link a mechanical system in the chair to what is happening on screen. Guy says this is done through a code created by a motion designer.
"A what?" I asked.
"It's like a sound designer, except it's for motion," he said with a smile. They described how the motion designer watches a move frame by frame to create the code which is fed into the chairs as the film rolls. It's only been done with a few titles: "The Fast and the Furious," "Terminator Salvation" "Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince," and "The Final Destination." Now "9" becomes the first animated film to get the D-Box treatment.
Being of that age, I brought up how I had seen "Earthquake" back in 1974. I was convinced that this had been a similar mechanical system all those years ago.
Philippe looked mildly pained as he explained that system depended on banks of sub woofer speakers mounted at the front of a theater, pumping out low frequency sounds. I remember even now how the sensation was quite frightening. Every time a shock hit in the film, your knees started shaking.
The D-Box is much more sophisticated. Watching "9" it was quite remarkable how small movements on screen caused your chair to react. They were actually much more effective than the moments when the action on-screen became very violent. Good sense and insurance companies mean a seat can only whip around so much when while the characters were being thrown across the landscape. So the immersive experience didn't match the visual and the magic dimmed a little.
You'll pay a premium to sit in a D-Box. At the MOA Theater they are $16.50 as opposed to the $9.50 for the plain old stationary seats. However you can buy a D-Box seat for home use, either with your DVD or game system. There are even ways of converting certain existing seats to the immersive experience.
Actually, you can try it out for free. There's a demo chair outside the theater at the MOA.
I must admit I was intrigued by the D-Box, but I think I'd want to carefully select the next movie I see with it, to maximize the effect.
Has anyone else tried them? Let us know your reactions.