James Jung-Hoon Seo
Exhibition project
Computational Media Design | Prof. John Maeda | MAS 968 aka masxxx | Fall 2001

Have you ever gone to see a movie, only to sit behind the tallest person you'll ever meet? There you are, you and your friends, actually arriving early for once at the local gigaplex. You take your time purchasing choice food and beverage products. Inside the theater, you have a powwow about the best place to sit back and relax. You pick, you sit, you settle in. You wait, trembling in excitement, consuming most of the food and beverage products before the movie has begun. Most likely you have a clear view of the screen. The movie starts, and along come the late stragglers: they just happen to choose the empty seats right in front of you. For the next two hours and eighteen minutes, your cinematic entertainment is accompanied by craning of the neck and straightening of the back. Not to mention intermittent homicidal fantasies. It's no way to see a movie. It's no way to live.

Obscure is a modest attempt to think about a different kind of interactive cinema, where physical interaction affects the visual presentation of the narrative rather than the course of the narrative itself. In the cinema of Obscure, if the field of vision is clear, then the film takes up the entire screen. If part of the field is blocked by, say, the back of someone's head, the screen is divided into multiple frames of imagery, occupying only the areas of the screen visible to you. The frames contain different sequences of shots, synchronized with each other. The movie is both visually and temporally reedited, depending on the currently visible area of the screen. Such a film will change your experience depending on your physical surroundings while conveying a uniform, consistent story.

Obscure is composed of a physical form and a graphical interface.

  • The physical form is a model of a movie theater. A set of five levers represent the audience members blocking your view in five different positions. By moving the lever and having the member "sit up", you specify which part of the view is being blocked.

  • The graphical interface is a model of the self-transforming film. By default, the interfaces displays a whole image, filling up the (wide)screen. As different levers are set off to indicate which part of the screen is obscured, the image breaks up into multiple frames, each with unique imagery.