Action The button that makes films

The button that makes films

Defining Cinema Experience

Action! explores interactivity in the everyday passive cinema experience. The experience focuses largely on creating self-recorded and produce films to enhance the cinematic experience.

Cinema experience is always known to be passive; audience’s role is to view the film per se. However, the interactive cinema experience that we know today such as 4D and IMAX merely focus on offering the additional recreational attribute instead of exploring the audience relationship with the film itself. The so-called interaction experience doesn’t stay true to interactivity because interactivity is two-ways, providing feedback loop for each other. Realising that cinema experience is sitting and watching a film made for the audience, my experiment introduces a simple interactivity in the process.

To achieve this, I questioned if the end-to-end cinema experience can be automated.

The Experiment

I created a prototype of the experience during the critique session by using the appropriate device to execute each experience stages.

Acting: Using a projector that projects scenario for the audience to act on.

Filming: A camera records the audience’s action in following the scenario.

Producing: Using laptop to replay the recorded video in the previous session.

Viewing: Play the recording on the projection in front of the audience.

The experiment was conducted in front of 30 classmates and most of them were surprised to see their own recording played back to them. Some were embarrassed, but most just didn’t see it coming and seeing their own recording is an awkward experience.

How might we design an interactive cinema experience that allow audience to contribute to the narrative of the film itself?

From the insights I’ve gathered through the critique session, I tried to created an automated system from the prototype. The system was tested several times to individuals using different scenarios mostly adapted from my favourite movies.

I assumed that audience understand the concept which turned out too complex to grasp. The scenario didn’t have any storyline nor context to it, I was mainly focusing on creating the system and ensuring it works as expected. When creating the scenario, I had to ensure that the audience’s action forms a content which they can enjoy themselves.

I experimented with the split screen scenario by allowing other audience to interact with the initial audience to enrich the content.

The solution was to create a split screen for the experience where they can witness their action alongside the audience before them. The storyline will also adhere to the experience’s setup, if you are the first actor, you will be assigned to act as a restless individual and if you come afterwards, then you will be assigned to act as a slow individual. When acted correctly, the audience can witness the contrast between the 2 actions.

The Exhibition

The automated experience was triggered by a giant button – once pressed it triggers the entire end-to-end experience on the webcam, computer and projection. Action! was exhibited at the Chelsea College grad show in 2013 and successfully collected 70 footage of people’s videos.

In 2015, Action! was again exhibited at the Future Assembly event in Melbourne and again gather around 50 footage.

The journey of creating a film itself is a cinematic experience which is triggered by a green button – by pushing it, participant could act, produce and film their own film. Moreover, participant gains full control of the result of their experience.


To allow audience to leave a legacy and be part of a bigger compilation, I edited the video with clips of the spectator’s footage collected during the exhibition, released it and emailed it to the viewers. They were both impressed and embarrassed viewing it.