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D-BOX Golden Village Bishan Review – ft Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Aaron April 2, 2014

dboxbishan

First, it was 3D. Then came Dolby Atmos, that crazy 67 channel sound system. Now, it’s D-Box.

3D, while gimmicky, can work wonders with the right film. Atmos, in my opinion anyway, works most of the time, because it really fires up the experience. What about D-Box, a motion simulating system, the latest in cinematic technologies designed to make us spend more at the theatre?

Background

If you’ve set in motion simulator rides then you’ll be familiar with the experience. Essentially, you have a chair that moves, shakes and vibrates, based on what’s shown on the screen. This time however, instead of being a ride that’s paired with its own film, D-Box attempts to being the motion simulating experience to blockbuster movies like Need for Speed and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Golden Village has introduced Singapore’s first D-Box Theatre @ Junction 8, Bishan.

Price

At the time of this writing, a D-Box ticket price ranges from $11.50 to $20+, depending on the day, time and whether it’s a 2D or 3D show. There are aggressive offers for students at this time. Will update with specific prices soon.

The Chair

Seat number + Movement Intensity Controls

Seat number + Movement Intensity Controls

Note that this is only for the D-Box theatre at GV Bishan, other installations may vary.

Unlike a normal cinema set up, the chairs are set at a comfortable distance apart, obviously to take into account of the chair’s movement range. Chairs are independently operated, different from most simulator systems that work as a cluster. The chair itself is very comfortable with a smooth fabric cover and cushions that are neither too soft nor too firm.

The chair is able to detect when you’ve taken a seat and will activate accordingly with a quick bout of vibration. A small screen below the right armrest shows your seat number and once seated, allows you to adjust the intensity of the movements. The chair vibrates to acknowledge any changes, much like how an android phone registers an action. Overall, the chair feels very tight and solid, like a well engineered product, with the movements and vibrations feeling sharp and precise.

Oh, by the way, you won’t be able to use different seats as the chair will not activate, so make sure you buy the tickets for the seats you want.

The Experience

I was really looking forward to the experience but there were 2 things that bugged me. First, will D-Box enhance the viewing experience of a mainstream movie, or will it feel like an awkwardly tagged on gimmick? The second was that nowhere in the inevitable cautionary literature (warning, you may feel dizzy, etc etc etc) did it mention anything about spilling food and drinks… which probably meant that it’s not going to be as.. ‘exciting’.. as I’m hoping for it to be.

Because Captain America: The Winter Soldier wasn’t created as an amusement ride film, the D-Box experience was limited to things like vehicle chases, camera panning and (weirdly enough) fight scenes.

The seat will sway with long, slow, wide-angle cinematic panning shots, which may lead to some feeling a little bit of vertigo. In vehicle chase scenes, on top of the expected vehicular movements, the chair will attempt to mimic the engine rumble as it starts, accelerates drives around. The strangest sensation is when the chair stutters and bangs around during fight scenes… and this highlights the fundamental problem with D-Box.

The movies are not made for simulators.

Wanna change seats? NOPE. You can't.

Wanna change seats? NOPE. You can’t.

In simulator rides, there are no pauses in movement. The chair isn’t going to move in conversational scenes, so this start-stop chair movement is weird to say the least. The biggest problem however, is point of view. In proper simulator rides, you’re always in the 1st person perspective. In movies, you’re watching the scene unfold 99% of the time. You’re not in the drivers seat, you’re not in the fight, etc, and this, in my opinion, is the thing that totally breaks the immersion. The fact that the movement itself isn’t that strong (hence the lack of warning about spilling food and drinks) dampens the experience.

After awhile, it just feels like you’re sitting in front of a hyper-active kid.

The ladies though, may enjoy the D-Box more than us blokes. There was a girl in my session who must have been very ticklish as she was giggling and laughing about it the whole time, and especially so when the vibrations kick in ( XD ). When one of the main characters was fatally wounded by gun shots (the kind that would make a fan of the lore gasp in disbelief), she actually burst out laughing/giggling at the corresponding sharp vibrations.

Oh dear.

Conclusion

All I can say is that unless it’s a movie where there’s a lot of first person perspective action going on, it’s going to be hard to use D-Box to add to the experience. One might even say that it takes some of the enjoyment away because after awhile, it just feels like an annoying friend’s shaking you around.

I’ve no issue with cinemas trying out new technologies to enhance the movie viewing experience. I applaud it in fact. It’s this experimentation that gave us some fantastic 3D experiences ( i.e. Avatar) and Atmos, perhaps the biggest jump in aural sensations since the introduction of surround sound in cinemas. As for D-Box however…..nah.

Seriously, unless you’re able to get student prices, or the movie has some fantastic first person scenes (maybe Need for Speed?), I’d rather you spend the extra on Atmos tickets or snacks.

 

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