Very special effects

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2007, 12:00am

Watching a 3-D white horse galloping out of the screen, the audience inside the dark cinema can't resist raising their hands to 'touch' its shiny mane.

As two lovebirds make their wedding vows in front of a snow-capped mountain, a shower of man-made snow sprinkles over viewers' heads.

Instead of being the far-fetched fantasies of film fans, these surreal scenes are played out in a cinema at the new terminal of Hong Kong International Airport.

Opened earlier this year, 4-D Extreme Screen shows 35mm (the type of films we see in ordinary cinemas), 3-D and 4-D films.

Boasting a five-storey-high super-sized screen, the cinema has terraced seats in an arc shape that ensures no one has an obstructed view.

With state-of-the-art facilities installed at different corners of the theatre simulating natural phenomena, the cinema adds a whole new physical dimension to the cinema experience.

'Our 4-D movies are shown with a maximum of seven effects - snow, wind, smoke, scent, rain, light and bubbles. Appealing to visual and audio senses, traditional movies try to overwhelm the audience with thumping sound effects and eye-popping action. In contrast, 4-D movies stimulate the senses of sight, sound, smell and touch,' said Angela Wong, marketing manager of 4-D Extreme Screen.

The sensory extravaganza is made possible by technical wizardry and some strange looking shades. The red-rimmed glasses transform flat images into animated objects.

An air vent beneath the big screen spews out smoke to add dramatic effect to scenes involving volcanoes or fires.

Pipes attached to the walls emit winds to go with breezy or stormy scenes.

Currently showing is Legend of the White Horse, set against a wintry backdrop which allows the audience to experience the magical feeling of 'snow'.

Running for about 20 minutes each, all the 4-D movies are from overseas.

'With limited options available locally, we buy the 4-D movies from places like the US where there are companies which specialise in making these films,' said Ms Wong.

The cinema sometimes spices up screenings of 35mm films with special effects to give the audience more variety.

'Charlotte's Web and The Last Mimzy were shown with special effects which gave the audience extra excitement,' said Ms Wong.

Most children enjoy the new experience.

'I liked the movie. In some scenes, I felt like the characters were jumping towards me,'

said Anna Hau, nine, who saw Legend of the White Horse with her family.

Her elder brother Harvey was less impressed, despite enjoying the breath-taking battlefield scenes.

'The 3-D glasses are bulky and heavy. Besides, I thought the movie was too short. It should be at least 30 minutes long. Twenty minutes of 4-D graphics and action is not enough for me,' said the 14-year-old movie buff.

Address: 6/F, Terminal 2 (SkyPlaza), Hong Kong International Airport

Enquiries: 3559 1070

Ticket price for students: $40 for 4-D movies and $45-55 for Hollywood blockbusters

3-D glasses

4-D cinema consists of 3-D images and additional effects that must be watched through 3-D glasses. The concept behind the glasses has to do with how we see things. The glasses work by using LCD lenses to 'shutter' the eyes, blocking each eye in turn. It happens so quickly that the brain is unaware of the two images merging together into a 3-D view.