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'Many Worlds': A Film That Keeps Its Eye On The Audience

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For decades, Hollywood studios have asked test audiences to watch new movies before they're released. Often, filmmakers are told to make changes, sometimes big changes, depending on what these crowds have to say. Well, researchers at Plymouth University in England want to take that process a step further.

ALEXIS KIRKE: We'll be picking up the bio-signals from a sample of the audience, from four people in the audience, to give us an idea of how the audience is feeling.

SIEGEL: That's Alexis Kirke of Plymouth University explaining how test audience and movie will be hooked up.

KIRKE: We'll be picking up their heart rate, and we'll be picking up their perspiration, their brainwaves and also their muscle tension.

SIEGEL: Kirke's team created its own film for this experiment, with scene variations and four different endings.

KIRKE: If people get very tense, there are actually parts in the filming where we can switch. There's a computer that can detect all these things and switch to different versions of the movie. So if the audience are getting very tense and covering their face with their hands, it can move into a slightly more relaxing version.

SIEGEL: Or if the audience demands more tension, they can get that, too. In the future, long romances can be truncated to make way for more car chases or seemingly endless car chases broken up with a bit more romance.

KIRKE: What I want to do is really take movies to the next level. I foresee a time when cinemas will have movies that are far more intelligent movies that can respond to the general public and increase their engagement.

SIEGEL: Well, all of this got us wondering: Could this technology work retroactively? Could we rework some of the past's almost great films? If you have specific changes to movies that you think would improve them, we want to hear from you. Go to npr.org, and click on contact us and tell us what you would have done differently. Use movie do-over as the subject line.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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