Filmmakers revolutionising how audiences watch and interact with films are gaining worldwide recognition for their research.
I believe that interactive filmmaking can further develop and scale up for collective engagement of audiences – it could be online, it could be in theatres. I think that offers the opportunity for a new type of entertainment.
Dr Polina Zioga, Director of the Interactive Filmmaking Lab
The Interactive Filmmaking Lab was established at Staffordshire University in 2017 by Dr Polina Zioga to explore the niche area of interactive filmmaking and related media.
The lab’s research is focused on the use of innovative and emerging technologies in filmmaking which could see audiences using the power of their thoughts to interact with a film as they watch it.
The group’s members include academics, technical specialists, as well as students, and their work explores the use of 360o cameras, Virtual Reality (VR), Motion Capture and scientific methodologies, like Neurocinematics.
Since 2014, Dr Polina Zioga has also conducted research on Live Cinema and the use of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) - devices which allow direct communication of the brain with a computer.
Global companies are already developing such brain-machine technologies including Facebook which is working on a headset that can transfer a person’s thoughts directly onto a computer screen.
Polina's work sheds new light on how our brains can control a film or live cinema event, creating a new, engaging and collective experience for the audience.
“There are different opinions about where interactive filmmaking can go. Right now, the vast majority of productions are designed for single users - so you watch an interactive film on your screen or wear a VR headset and you are making choices by yourself.” Polina explained.
“Personally, I believe that interactive filmmaking can further develop and scale up for collective engagement of audiences – it could be online, it could be in theatres. I think that offers the opportunity for a new type of entertainment.”
Polina developed a system that allows multiple brains to interact together and this was tested at a live cinema event. The technology enabled one performer and two members of the audience to interact simultaneously using their passive brain-activity to control live visuals.
The research is discussed by different authors in the recently published ‘Brain Art: Brain-Computer Interfaces for Artistic Expression’ (Nijholt, 2019) - the first book that aims to explain how these interfaces can be used for artistic goals.
Polina has presented research at conferences across the world and has been invited to the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) Film Studies conference, taking place this October in Ghent, Belgium. She has also previously been interviewed about her work in The Guardian technology podcast.
Polina said: “I am very happy for the international recognition that we have received which confirms the originality, significance and rigour of this body of research, but also the growing interest for interactive filmmaking.
“In our lab and in Staffordshire University we are passionate and work hard to enhance our research excellence, but we are also dedicated to delivering research-led teaching and supervision to our students. They are introduced to both the theory and practice of interactive filmmaking and they create professional-standard interactive productions.”
In addition to student productions, the research group is currently working on a new project with local creative communities which is due to be released at the end of the year.
Matthew Bennett, a PhD researcher working with the Interactive Filmmaking Lab, said: “The level of expertise on hand is excellent. In addition to the existing support from Staffordshire University, the lab and its members have allowed me to expand my knowledge and curiosity within the many realms of interactive filmmaking alongside developing additional transferable skills that I can take into my professional life.”
David ‘Ed’ Edwards, Technical Specialist for Visualisation & Simulation, added: “Interactive Filmmaking represents an entirely new area, as it’s a concept neither of us were especially familiar with before joining the team. It didn’t take long for us to recognise the potential for original narrative experiences and we’re excited to be contributing to the lab’s upcoming projects.”
Find more information on the Interactive Filmmaking Lab's blog