Heart-pounding action? Hollywood can now measure that

LOS ANGELES -- 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.

See Full Article

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 theatres 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.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Study on health impact of mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows to be released

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO - Grassy Narrows First Nation is to release a study today on health impacts in the northern Ontario community linked to eating mercury-contaminated fish. It says the report includes recommendations for government actions to support improving health and well-being in the Indigenous community. Source
  • Europe's tough new data privacy laws will benefit Canadians, too

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Chances are, over the past few days you've been getting emails from the apps and mailing lists you subscribe to, alerting you to their new privacy policies. That's because on Friday the European Union will bring into effect some of the world's strictest online privacy rules — new regulations that some experts say will afford Canadian internet users more protections, as well, if companies opt to extend the privacy features to users worldwide. Source
  • Trump can't legally block Twitter users just because they criticize him, court rules

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users because doing so violates their rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The ruling by U.S. Source
  • China's plan to land on the far side of the moon could be historic, experts say

    Tech & Science CBC News
    China's ambition to soft-land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon later this year faces considerable challenges, but if successful would propel the country's space program to the forefront of one of the most important areas of lunar exploration, experts say. Source
  • Study offers new look at why our brains evolved to be so big

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Why do people have such big brains? Some researchers asked a really powerful brain -- a computer -- and got back a surprising answer. In relation to body size, our brains are huge, about six times larger than one would expect from other mammals. Source
  • Twitter introduces 3 new features and kills off 3 others

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Out with the old, in with the new. Twitter's main account has just introduced three new features (night-time mode, real-time updates and updated compose box) while @TwitterSupport bears bad news for fans of Twitter's tv apps. Source
  • France's Macron takes on Facebook's Zuckerberg in tech push

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron took on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other internet giants Wednesday at a Paris meeting to discuss personal data protection and taxes as France pushes for tougher European regulations. Source
  • Digital Life: Cutting back on a constant smartphone habit

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Why are we checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, then Facebook again when we just wanted to check the weather? Turns out, smartphone addiction is by design. Think of the constant stream of notifications, colour schemes in apps and all the "likes," followers and in-game trophies. Source
  • Archeologists discover Greco-Roman era building in Egypt

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAIRO -- Egyptian archeologists say they have discovered parts of a huge red brick building dating back to the Greco-Roman period north of Cairo. The Antiquities Ministry says Wednesday the building was found in the San El-Hagar archaeological site in Gharbia province. Source
  • Feel awkward unfollowing that Instagrammer? Just click 'mute'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Instagram has announced that it is rolling out a new ability to secretly 'mute' annoying accounts -- for both posts and stories. Here's how it's done... Instagram is finally letting users block stories and posts from Instagrammers that they may find annoying. Source