ScreenX, a new film format described as a “horizontal IMAX” by South Korean Theater Chain and format designer, CJ CGV, was unveiled at the Busan Film Festival last week, causing a wide array of reactions from both filmmakers and spectators. As if IMAX wasn’t visceral and sensory-overloading enough, CJ CGV apparently sees a market for the triple-screen, 270-degree viewing behemoth. The projection apparatus is already installed in over 40 South Korean theaters, and is planned to reach theaters in China and the U.S.
Director Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil, The Last Stand) had the (apparently bittersweet) privilege of heading ScreenX’s maiden voyage, creating the 30-minute short film, The X. The film, according to the director, was designed to showcase the unique characteristics of the format with a number of action sequences that emphasize audience perspective and depth of field variations.
Though Jee-woon did commend ScreenX’s efficacy not only in capturing “spectacular scenes,” but “lyrical and creepy” scenes as well, the director was not reluctant to denounce the frustratingly permeating nature of its extremely wide field of view, likening the production process to “hell and nightmare.” As producer, Paul Kim, explains in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “In a (traditional) shoot, you have one façade. Now we need an entire set for a scene. What was usually one wall becomes 270 degrees. It was a lot of trial-and-error.”
Though bigger, more participatory film formats have always been exciting and appealing notions in the past (e.g. Cinerama, Smell-O-Vision), the creators of such “improved” viewing technologies must be mindful of the many inherent difficulties associated with their large-scale implementation. Though the company boasts of ScreenX’s low installation cost (roughly $150k), this figure fails to include the price of seating rearrangement, among other potential expenses.