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LOS ANGELES, Jan 16, (Agencies): Ever been told a movie is a heart-pounding thriller that’ll have you on the edge of your seat? Thanks to wearable technology, Hollywood has the tools to prove it.
20th Century Fox says that it used a wearable wristband on over 100 people in test screenings for Oscar-contender “The Revenant” before it hit theaters in December. It’s unclear if it’s the first studio to obtain this sort of data from audiences, but experts say it’s unlikely to be the last.
By measuring heart rate, skin moisture, movement, and audible gasps, Fox found the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle had 14 heart-pounding moments where it measured significant jumps in people’s heart rates. Fifteen scenes evoked fight-or-flight responses, as determined by a range of indicators taken together. The audience was also almost completely motionless for just over half of the 2.6-hour movie — in other words, says the studio, on the edge of their seats.
George Dewey, Fox’s senior vice president of digital, said the data complements traditional written surveys and focus groups. One of its advantages, he said, is that it cuts through some of the statistical “noise” that results when audience members influence each other after the movie.
“This is a pure way to measure individual audience response,” he said.
Companies like the Innerscope Research unit of measurement and ratings giant Nielsen have been doing such biometric-based audience testing for nearly a decade, said Carl Marci, Nielsen’s chief neuroscientist. But Hollywood, he said, has been shy about applying these techniques to movies due to the time and expense involved.
Taking such measurements has previously involved bringing viewers into the lab one at a time, where they can be monitored by medical-grade equipment that tracks everything from brainwaves to eye movement. The spread of inexpensive wearable sensors, however, is bringing costs down to the point where even movie producers with tight budgets can consider them.
Sensors that are “wearable and smaller and lighter and less expensive” are starting to hit the marketplace, Marci said. “This is one example of the wave.”
Lightwave Inc, the technology company Fox hired to run the test, said it opted for the sensor-laden wristband to avoid “white coat syndrome” — the sort of elevated blood pressure and heart rate people experience when they know they’re being tested. (Or just going to the doctor.)
“The participant feels like they’re just going to a movie,” said Lightwave CEO Rana June.
For now, Fox plans to use the technology for marketing — for instance, to highlight scenes that provoke more of a reaction among women in advertising that targets them. But “Revenant” director Alejandro Inarritu also saw the results, Dewey acknowledged. And it’s not hard to imagine such pulse and respiratory data influencing the way directors and editors put together their films, much the way test-audience reactions can lead filmmakers to drop certain scenes, or even to change a movie’s ending entirely.
Dewey, however, played down the likely impact on the moviemaking process. “Nothing’s ever going to replace the artistry of filmmaking,” he said.
If he had to be a character from “Star Wars,” US President Barack Obama said Friday he would choose space pilot Han Solo, who is “a little bit of a rebel.”
During an interview at the White House, the US president said he had yet to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the latest installment in the long-running space saga.
But he still remembers watching the first film in the series, his favorite, as a teenager.
“Number one, I still remember when I saw it,” he said. “I was like 14, 15 and I went to the Cinerama theater, right around the corner from my house.”
Asked to pick which “Star Wars” character he would most like to be, Obama said: “I gotta go with Han Solo, he is a little bit of a rebel.”
Solo is a wisecracking smuggler and an irreverent, seat-of-the-pants adventurer. But he shares a romantic history with Princess Leia, and under his cynical exterior lies a big heart and solid principles.
Obama was interviewed by three young YouTube “creators”, each with millions of followers: sWooZie, Destin Sandlin and Ingrid Nilsen.
The three, in clear admiration of the president, were not particularly aggressive questioners, and Obama took the opportunity to elaborate on the key themes of his State of the Union address on Tuesday: gun control, terrorist threats, the fight against cancer and the United States’ world standing.
He also explained why he carries several objects that were given to him, whether by unknowns or world leaders, since he arrived in the White House in 2009.
Obama pulled from his pocket a rosary from Pope Francis, a Hindu statuette “that a woman gave me” and a Coptic cross from Ethiopia.
“I am not that superstitious,” he said, but the objects “remind me of all the different people that I have met along the way.”