On the Move: Motion seats gain momentum in Europe and the Middle East

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ICTA Insights

In the course of one year, German-based European Cinema Consulting (ECCO), a specialist in integrated cinema concepts, has installed "motion seats" by the Canadian manufacturer D-BOX across several countries in Europe and the Middle East. Besides several new installs in Bulgaria, Germany and Slovakia, the Israeli market leader Cinema City has now decided to equip all its future locations with D-BOX systems after having tested the system in a first rollout.

The idea behind movement in cinemas

Space gliding as if in a pod racer, taking curve for curve Fast & Furious-style, experiencing zero gravity with George Clooney or dinosaurs stomping in Jurassic World? The idea behind motion seats is to create pure emotions perfectly in synch with picture and sound whenever it makes sense in a movie: no wind, water or smells as in a theme park that distract the viewer, but coordinated movements and simulations matching with the action on the screen. Instead of adding gimmicks or one-time effects, the system is designed to allow the viewer to become immersed in the movie.

Motion design: the art of movement

As in every application, the right dosage and nuances are key. Therefore, dozens of motion designers have been vying to create the best motion sequences and effects for over six years. They are now working on 50 movies of all genres each year, from action, animation and horror to aviation and science fiction. Neither random algorithms nor simple bass shakers or software programs are able to imitate the work of the engineers in California and Montreal.

Already in the final stages of editing a movie, the track is complemented by motion effects coming from a "sound and effects" database (e.g., available in AVID) that comprises thousands of effects. Depending on viewing angle, perspective, playback speed and sound effects of the movie, an additional layer is added to the 13th AES track and, scene by scene, new life is breathed into the film. After extensive testing and approval by the Hollywood majors, this additional track is supplied together with the original DCP. Moreover, it is also stored in a D-BOX database.

The D-BOX servers located in the cinemas on-site control each seat individually via an independent IP network, and the intensity of the seat movements can also be individually adjusted by the cinema spectators themselves. As a link between the D-BOX server and the cinema projector (or its IMB), the AES track is tapped before the Dolby processor and passed over the network in the auditorium to each seat via daisy chain. Depending on the seat model, the two to four motors integrated in the seat are able to reproduce up to 42 different types of movement at a frequency of 1Hz to 11kHz, which allows for a seamless and 100% synchronous motion experience.

After many years of careful integration and further development of the D-BOX system, the Canadian manufacturer accounts for over 400 cinema installations worldwide, so that it is a worthwhile investment for both exhibitors and manufacturer. Furthermore, the technology is now available for many industries (such as aerospace, aviation, automotive, military and entertainment). Especially large aircraft and car manufacturers are impressed by the attention to detail and lasting quality. The authenticity of the D-BOX simulation is especially valuable in aviation, aerospace and military operations, where it saves a considerable amount of costs.

The D-BOX MFX132Eu cinema seat has been especially developed for European customers, as its design takes the local ergonomics, body height, load and comfort into account. Therefore, the shell comes from the Spanish company Euroseating, the European market leader for seating for all kinds of applications. The lower part with motors, control unit, mini-controller and its robust construction is still produced in Canada.

In view of technology, D-BOX is a perfect example for modern integration of audio, video, control and network technology. Both for the integrators, motion designers and the end users, various technical levels are brought to a common denominator.

After millions of cinema tickets sold, all studies show that D-BOX moviegoers have remained loyal for years. For both sexes, there is a huge, constantly growing fan base, because one is not forced to join an experience as in the 2D/3D question but has complete freedom of choice, including the personal intensity of the experience. That’s one reason why this technology has seen such strong growth.

Flexibility and modular integration

To adapt the system according to the individual requirements of a cinema location, ECCO has elaborated various seating and integration concepts. An investment can already be worthwhile from just 16 to 20 seats and is refinanced by a higher ticket price. Whereas in Jerusalem more than 50 seats are installed in a single screen, other exhibitors opted for fewer seats in two to three rows per auditorium.

The mission of a movie theatre? Entertainment!

In addition to art-house and avant-garde cinema, mainstream blockbusters that embrace all special effects and technologies available to the customer are playing a key role in cinema entertainment. This is where D-BOX steps in. To attract more patrons and give them an unmatched experience they cannot have at home—a social event with a lot of fun and that "special something"—that is the reason why D-BOX locations are so popular. They are creating pure emotions.