Four-dimensional (4D) film refers to a method of entertainment presentation for 3D film that uses physical effects which interact with a viewer’s senses in sync with the film. Some of the effects that are simulated during a 4D film include rain, wind, changes in temperature, changes in lighting, vibration, moving seats, air jets, leg and back ticklers, smoke, lightning, bubbles, and smells.
Since installing these physical effects is rather costly, most 4D films are presented in theatres custom made for such fare at special venues including theme parks, amusement parks, and zoos. Some movie theatres also have the capacity to present 3D films with 4D film effects. 4D films are also shown in mobile theatres built inside buses, trucks, and trailers.
Notable historical formats that served as precursors of modern 4D film presentation include Smell-O-Vision, which was only used once in 1960, and Sensurround, which debuted with the film Earthquake in 1974 and was replaced with Dolby Stereo in 1977. Dolby Stereo made subwoofers a common addition to cinema and featured the use of extended low frequencies.
Other important historic formats for the 4D film viewing experience are Fantasound, which was used for Fantasia and was the first use of stereo sound, and Cinemiracle and Cinerama, which were both widescreen formats that made use of multiple projectors.
Some of the 4D film presentation systems that are developed for use in traditional film theatres are the stereoscopic 3D formats 4DX, D-Box, MX4D, and Super 4D. Most of these systems have moving seats, fog machines, strobe lights, scents, bubbles, snow effects, water sprays, and wind and air effects. Over five hundred screens across the world have installed some technology for use in showing 4D films.
The first commercial 4D film is considered to be The Sensorium, which debuted in 1984 at the Six Flags Power Plant in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The 1960 mystery film The Scent of Mystery was the first and only film that made use of the Smell-O-Vision scent system. Important films in recent memory that made use of 4D effects in certain theatres include: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Avatar, Prometheus, Iron Man 3, Rio, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Television’s capabilities have also been increasing in recent years. The latest resolution standard for TV is 4K, which can provide over 8 million pixels for a high-quality picture. However, 4K television is still two-dimensional. This is where 3D film comes in. 3D film provides viewers with the visual illusion of depth perspective using special glasses or goggles. 4D film tries to do more by stimulating all your senses to immerse you completely in the experience.
Although quite a few theatres have incorporated 4D film technology into certain viewings, having 4D television in homes is another matter altogether. It will be interesting to see where corporations like Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic go with this technology.