Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Address of the Ass: D-BOX Motion Code, Personalized Surround Sound, and Focalized Immersive Spectatorship

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Address of the Ass: D-BOX Motion Code, Personalized Surround Sound, and Focalized Immersive Spectatorship

Article excerpt

ON APRIL 3, 2009, THE NEWEST ITERATION of immersive cinema technology quietly rolled into two American multiplexes—the Mann Chinese in Los Angeles and the UltraStar Surprise Pointe in Surprise, Arizona (Harris). In both theaters, Fast & Furious (2009) debuted with the option for audiences to experience the film in D-BOX motion code. Select spectators paid a premium to "live the action" through D-BOX's patented motion effects and specially equipped seats in an update of Hale's Tours (1904–15) and William Castle's Percepto. Like these earlier motion-based immersive technologies, D-BOX offered moviegoers a sense of presence at a remove from one's lived experience and a feeling of embodied participation in the world of the film (Griffiths 2). However, although it shares aspects with earlier visually immersive "movie rides" and other contemporary 4-D exhibition technologies, D-BOX owes more to the development of film sound technology and aesthetics, particularly digital surround sound. As I will discuss, D-BOX is a digital cinema technology that "envelops" the spectator in the cinematic diegesis through a personalization of the surround-sound experience. Rather than amplifying the surround-sound effects to make spectators feel like they are in the space of the film, D-BOX's motion effects prompt the spectator's body to mirror those bodies depicted on the screen and identify with a particular point of view.

As opposed to notions that immersive cinema, and by extension D-BOX, is often focused on haptic thrills rather than narrative coherence, through analyses of recent films featuring motion-code tracks, including Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014), Furious 7 (James Wan, 2015), Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014), San Andreas (Brad Peyton, 2015), and Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs, 2015), I will argue for how D-BOX's address of the ass in addition to address of the eye goes beyond providing an embodied mimetic engagement with the film text. Through the personalization of surround sound, D-BOX not only enhances existing thematic elements but also adds an additional layer of narrative focalization. In the case of the latter, D-BOX can effect changes in the spectator's experience of character identification as compared to the non-D-BOX experience of the film. Due to the technology's standardization of immersive viewing, current uses of D-BOX technology ironically represent a return to the ideological concerns of 1970s apparatus theory—most notably, the solitary, transcendent, disembodied nature of film viewing linked to an empowered gaze. In this way, D-BOX's technology, marketing, and aesthetics currently transform the shared aspects of cinema into an individual experience of renewed narrative absorption that further supports hegemonic ideologies of class, race, gender, and sexuality. As the newest filmic "fourth dimension" focused on identification with the onscreen body, D-BOX offers a counterexample to the discourse of disembodiment often associated with digital cinema and apparatus theory by reinscribing the middle-class, heterosexual male gaze as an intersubjective somatic experience. Regardless of the viewer's embodied identity, the D-BOX apparatus disciplines the spectator's body, at times closing it off as a potential source of resistance to these dominant ideologies.

"True, Intended Emotions": D-BOX Theater Technology and Marketing

Founded in 1998, D-BOX Technologies began as a small audio-speaker company based in Montreal, Quebec. Much like Warner Brothers in 1926, D-BOX developed its cinematic motion system in order to compete in a crowded marketplace.1 Ironically inspired by Universal Studios' development of Sensurround sound for the 1974 release of Earthquake, which promised "technology impossible to duplicate at home" (Beaupre 1), D-BOX developed its motion technology for high-end home theaters in 2007 (Paquette). …

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