Over the weekend on the 11th November 2019, Filmhouse Cinemas unveiled the very first Mediamation MX4D cinema in West Africa at Landmark Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria.
The Mediamation MX4D technology aims at providing a much more immersive movie experience, by engaging the additional senses of touch and scent and enhancing visual effects. The in-seat features like neck-tickler, back poker, air blast, water blast, seat popper, rumbler, leg-tickler etc. along with the cinema’s atmospheric interventions like snow, fog, rain, bubbles, strobe and scent activate in sync with the movie in order to allow you to feel it as though you were part of the action.
So, one of our staff members decided to put these claims to the test. Here is a review of his experience accounted in the first person. Enjoy.
I went to have a look at Ford v Ferrari, which is, by the way, an excellent movie.
But although the story was good enough to keep me enthralled, I was looking out for the enhanced experience that the MX4D was supposed to provide.
What I immediately noticed, was that not every type of movie would benefit from this technology in a significant way. Trying to overuse it instead comes across as gimmicky and unnecessary. One example of this was a scene of someone driving a motorbike at a somewhat slow pace. My seat vibrated and moved from side to side for apparently no reason. It didn’t match what you would expect to feel in such a situation. They would have been better off simply activating the seat popper and none of the other effects. It would have delivered a slight vibration to the chair without excessively moving it in random directions, which would have been much more in line with what it actually feels like.
There were other instances where the technology was misused. A scene in which a car crashed and started burning delivered a slight scent, which I presume, was meant to match the smell of a burning car. The effort must be applauded but it smelt nothing like a burning car. More like essential oils or incense. Although the strobes in the cinema flashed in sync with the explosion, giving it an additional touch, one wonders if it actually contributed to any sort of immersion. I’m still wondering if I would have noticed it happening at all if I hadn’t been looking out for the effects of the MX4D technology.
Another example of a similar occurrence was when an air blast hit my face as a helicopter took to the skies. A little surprising, sure, but not much more than that (the helicopter ride, incidentally had moments when the chair tilted in sync with the motions of the helicopter and moments when it just seemed to move for no reason).
Another problem I noticed with the technology was that your seat somewhat determined how much of the technology you got to experience. An example of this was a scene in which a car blew up. I was seated at the top row of the cinema and I noticed that smoke came out from vents located at the front row. I’m sure that for those who would have been sitting there (because I was alone in the cinema, by the way), it might have made for a more immersive experience, but to me, seated where I was, I wondered what point there was to it if the audience wasn’t going to experience it in equal measure.
But that’s not to say that everything is wrong with the technology. Ford v Ferrari being a movie about cars and racing, there were moments that involved sudden accelerations, brakes, sharp turns, accidents and a host of other driving-related experiences. These were perfectly enhanced by the technology, with my seat tilting and vibrating appropriately, in sync with the action. I believe that MX4D elevated those scenes to a higher level of intensity and truly delivered on what it claimed to achieve, making the whole experience somewhat worth it.
So to answer the main question you’re probably asking yourselves: Is it worth it to go and see a movie in MX4D or would regular 2D or 3D deliver pretty much the same experience?
Considering that Filmhouse also brought the IMAX franchise that enables Nigerians to watch movies in 3D, I’m in a position to make a comparison. Not that we’re trying to stir up an MX4D vs IMAX debate here, but how do MX4D movies compare to IMAX 3D movies?
I would say that IMAX movies would trump MX4D movies if visual effects are the main feature of the movie. I don’t know yet if MX4D can be combined with 3D, but that would definitely make for an interesting experience. On the other hand, if the intensity and action-rich scenes are the predominant aspects, then MX4D cinemas are where you want to end up.
In my opinion, the movie in itself is what would determine how much technology adds to it. I suspect that if I had watched an action movie, I would have enjoyed the extra effects much more, because of the intensity of the scenes involved (still hoping Terminator: Dark Fate will come up in MX4D so I can confirm this claim). A romantic movie, for instance, wouldn’t benefit at all from this technology. But I can see it being put to interesting use in horror flicks, for instance, with the right poke on your back or the right tickle at your neck, at the right time. I might have to wait in order to form a definite opinion because the current Filmhouse Cinemas movie schedule for MX4D movies only features Charlie’s Angels and Ford v Ferrari.
At this time, the MX4D ticket price is N5,000 per adult and N3,000 for children. Is it worth it? I would say that it can definitely be the case, but you might have to pick your movie wisely in order to maximise the additional features brought about by the technology, thus making the whole experience one to remember.
So are you thinking of giving the MX4D experience a try? Let us know in the comments below!