Ever wished a movie should have been different? Ever thought you would change the music, the scenes, the animation? We usually let the story unfold, just criticizing something if we don’t like it, but incapable of doing anything. But what if we actually could?
Ramchurn, a graduate student at the University of Nottingham, is an artist and director who has spent the last years creating The Moment, a movie that you can control with your mind.
Shown also at a film festival in Sheffield, the short movie (approx. 27 minutes long) revolutionizes the way we interact with a film by actually interacting with it.
How “The Moment” works
The movie focuses on three characters in a dark future where brain-computer interfaces are the norm. While watching the movie, the viewer can shift between characters, but only if he’s wearing NeuroSky Mindwave, an EEG headset that detects brainwaves and is capable of interpreting and use them on various devices and apps.
Specifically, the cap will track the level of attention of the spectator by measuring the electrical activity of the brain within a frequency range that is believed to correspond with attentiveness. This score is sent wirelessly to a laptop, where Ramchurn’s software alters the editing of the scenes and/or the background music.
Whether the viewer changes the film actively or not, this technology creates a two-way feedback loop. In fact, the film changes because of the feeling of the spectator, and the way he feels changes because of the film.
The attention sine wave rises and falls as the focus shifts: Ramchurn uses this dips to signal the cut to a new shot. In the movie there are three narrative threads: every time the viewer’s focus changes, there’s a switch between the story strands.
Considering all the possible changes in the mind in a little time, there could be millions and millions of The Moment versions. To fit everything in a 27-minute long movie, Ramchurn created three times as much footage as one would normally, and six-time much audio.
“The disadvantages of time travel”
The Moment is not the first brain-controlled movie Ramchurn produces. Back in 2014, shortly after he first came across a NeuroSky headset, he made his first brain-linked film, called “The disadvantages of time travel“.
Having a more abstract plot, this first movie was flitting between a state of dream and reality. In this case, the control was possible through blinking, that determined when to cut from one shot to the next one, and through the attention of the viewer. This caused a shift between fantasy and real-life modes, and vice-versa.
Looking back, Ramchurn was not completely satisfied with the movie. He said it was too chaotic. Also, the people were aware of their own physiology so the interactive experience was not that good.