Vertical reality? Digitisation has sent cinema in a whole new direction
The use of vast portrait-orientated screens 'is a reset for the eyes, ears and brain'
Sunday 23 February 2014
In the beginning, it was black and white. Years later, it was colour, followed by 3D glasses and the Imax. But could the next big development in cinema be vertical screens?
This weekend, hundreds of film enthusiasts will enjoy a programme of 10 specially commissioned shorts on a vast portrait-orientated screen erected in a contemporary art museum in the Netherlands.
The screenings are part of a "Vertical Cinema" project – including acclaimed showings last month at Rotterdam's Arminius Church for the city's International Film Festival. As the name suggests, the Vertical Cinema project defies the horizontal norm of cinema, and instead opts for a cinematic experiment designed for a tall, narrow space.
Lucas van der Velden, a curator for Sonic Acts, which produces the programme, said that the project was attracting attention because "it makes people rethink cinema, and is a reset for the eyes, ears and brain". He added: "People are excited about it because it's special and different from regular screenings."
The 10 short films, described as a unique blend of abstract cinema and structural experiments, are intended to explore the idea that the format "might well be the crucial aspect of the total audio-visual experience".
Audiences have been impressed. A critic from the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine who attended a screening in Rotterdam praised the "bedazzling intensity of the audiovisual onslaught", adding: "Some of these works grabbed me by the gut, slapped me around the ears and did funny things to my eyes before throwing me out of the Arminius and on to the cold wintry streets of Rotterdam in something resembling a mild state of shock."
Dr Erika Balsom, of the film studies department at King's College London, is giving a guest lecture ahead of the screenings at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam this weekend. She said that the popularity of vertical cinema was linked to technical developments and the "larger variability of frame proportions that comes with digitisation" as opposed to previous eras when the aspect image ratio had to mirror that of the filmstrip itself.
But there are other reasons for the traditional landscape screens. "Human vision is oriented horizontally. Another factor is that cinematic aesthetics were inherited from earlier forms, like theatre, which had established traditions of horizontal presentation," Dr Balsom added. "In 1930, Sergei Eisenstein speculated that there was also an economic factor, claiming it's possible to fit more people in a theatre with decent sight lines if the image is horizontal."
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
- 4 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 5 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
Zoella: YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg's debut novel set to become bestseller
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict