[POLYV Insight] Let’s talk about film review aggregation websites

Nowadays, if we want to watch a new film in the cinema, we would check the review of the film first – like IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, MetaCritic, or Chinese sites like Douban Movies (豆瓣电影) and Dushe Movies (毒舌电影). They act like the “testing probe” of the movies, telling us if the movie is worth watching.

Nowadays people rely on movie reviews to determine the quality of the movie.

While many audience search the reviews in these sites, the Hollywood industry – from filmakers to investors – recently condamned Rotten Tomatoes for “ruining their business”. (Source in Chinese)

From the first weekend of May, to the Labor’s Day in the U.S. on September 4, the gross box office in North America during the period dropped 15% compared to the same time last year, a great decline that the industry never has over the last 20 years.

The Hollywood industry is not the only one that got pissed off. Recently, some of the directors from the National Day blockbuster movies, condamned their work got rated poorly with “1 star” way before they are out for public. (Source in Chinese)

Now, are the film review aggregation websites the culprit to the downfall of the box office, or the poison to the film’s box office?

First of all, the reviews on the film review aggregation websites are not just for professional film critics. Everyone who have watched the film can rate and write a review on it. When the rating count gets large enough, the overall rating and review is reliable and basically revealed the judging and thoughts of most audience.

This mechanism works fine and fair for almost every film of every genre. However, there are some KOL critics violate the rules, leaving bad reviews on purpose before the film release, and ask the directors or investors of the film for money to remove the bad reviews. For these malpractice, the operation group of these websites should be checked often, and take out these bad reviews to prevent them from misleading the audience.

But there’s another type of malpractice that make the audience more dissatisfied – the crew or the investors of the film release fake reviews along with ads or other pomotions before the film release to disguise the film as a good one, while it is actually a poor-made, nonsense BS. This means by the time the audience discover the film’s poor quality, the investors have gained a lot of income.

In the case of National Day blockbuster movies, two of the three directors are actually making false accusations of Douban Movies for “ruining the reputation of the film and the crew”. But, is it actually the story?

If you watch the trailer of these movies, you will find the scenes, the costumes, the plot, the music and everything else is rubbish, and never keep your eye a second more on them. Obviously, these accusations just reveal how bad the movies are.

What’s more, the early stage rating doesn’t mean everything. A lot of films that are not well rated at the beginning, eventually get good reviews and reputations, like Mr. Donkey (驴得水), Duckweed (乘风破浪) and Da Hu Fa (大护法), they get a rating of 7/10 or more, even there are a lot of “1 star” ratings before they are released.

We always emphasize, “Content is always the core”. Without the great content, the work is just a white elephant and not worth a second taste. This is not just for movies, but also for other videos, music, literature and other forms of art. The rating in these film review aggregation websites doesn’t mean everything, but it also reveals how the public speaks to the film industry.


[POLYV Insight] Virtual Reality or Mixed Reality?

2016 is the year of Virtual Reality – with headset devices like Oculus, HTC Vive or Sony PlaySatation VR, and VR resources like Resident Evil 7, Rick And Morty VR and Google Earth VR, and even some interactive VR commercials, the technology of VR is rapidly changing the way we feel the world – you can now concentrate to the context of the story, and make yourself more involved into it.

YouTube gamer Sean McLoughlin (a.k.a. Jacksepticeye) demonstrating VR game

YouTube gamer Sean McLoughlin (a.k.a. Jacksepticeye) demonstrating VR game

The issues? You have to wear a heavy headset connected with cables to your computers, and interact in the game with some specially-designed controllers; your vision is “limited within the headset”, and not able to see the surroundings or environment, which causes you to knock things, other people or even yourself down.

Then, some researchers and developers begin to build what we know as “Mixed Reality” (MR).

The users don’t need to isolate themselves from the reality – instead, what they see is the combination of reality and the computer-generated graphics that are projected in the environment. The users can react to or interact with both reality and the CG graphics in real time, without them interfering each other.

Currently the most-mentioned solution of MR is the HoloLens by Microsoft. It seems to be similar with the project of Google Glass, but with stronger computing to generate holograms and other CG graphics, making it able to use in practical needs and demands, such as architecture design, clinical research, product demonstration & experience, K-12 education and more.

Microsoft HoloLens in various productive scenarios

Microsoft HoloLens in various productive scenarios

And for France-based THEORIZ, it has a different perspective for MR.

Their solution doesn’t require user to wear a headset or use controllers. It uses multiple projectors to simulate a virtual environment within a specific space like a room or a hall, and cameras or sensors to locate the user and capture his motions or movements. When the user interacts with the virtual environment, the system simultaneously generates graphic that respond the user’s behavior.

The solution makes it simple and intuitive for user to understand and start interacting with the virtual environment, and is very ideal for solo or even group interaction in some specific scenarios like trying on clothes, psychological experiments and zoology study simulations. And with this breakthrough, THEORIZ rises fast and gains much attention around the world.

Demonstration of THEORIZ MR solution (screenshot from Vimeo)

Demonstration of THEORIZ MR solution (screenshot from Vimeo)

The development of MR shares a lot of things in common with VR, but has higher criteria and needs more work on the environment buildup and motion capture. Therefore many MR solutions are still in small test currently and not yet ready for public test.

And there’re chances for VR to evolve while MR is not widely ready – Intel has announced that a technology of fast wireless transmission, specifically designed for VR devices, is under development. It helps the VR devices go wireless, making users can move and interact freely without the restriction of cables and wires between the devices and the computer. Besides, Oculus, HTC and Sony are improving their VR devices based on the feedback and advice from the users, and upgrade devices will be ready in months.

To draw the conclusion, the fight between VR and MR is still on. It’s hard to tell which is better for now, but we can see that both are changing the way we sense, interact and learn about the world.

[POLYV Insight] A brief introduction to interactive videos

We all know that videos are more attractive than texts or images, and can be more engaged to the audience. Yet it is somehow lack of interactions with the audience since most of the time they can only watch and comprehend the content that videos provide, not feedback or even change the plot.

But what if we can actually do something to the video we are watching? That’s what we are talking about today – interactive videos.

One of the first interactive videos dates back to 2010. It is called Last Call, a horror film made by 13th Street that allowed the audience talk and send commands to the protagonist by their cellphones. It is a good attempt to build connections between the plot of the video and the audience.

“Last Call” is considered one of the earliest attempt for interactive videos.

“Last Call” is considered one of the earliest attempt for interactive videos.

To say it strictly, the audience were not really interacted with the film, but in fact a part of the live action. Still, it was a good attempt to connect the audience and the videos.

Later, with the evolution of mobile video and interactive scripts, it is more likely to make online interactive videos that are available for the audience to click and make their choice for the plot, no matter if you are watching it on PC, mobile browsers or video apps.

A viral example is a web series called Virtual Morality. Consisting of three episodes, Virtual Morality discusses about the influence of social network nowadays and how people use it when bad things (in this case, group murder) hit.

With new interaction ways for mobile and web, “Virtual Morality” gets viral once it is released.

With new interaction ways for mobile and web, “Virtual Morality” gets viral once it is released.

There are a few “checkpoints” which allow you to click on and make your choices that changes the plot of the episode. The protagonist can be killed, reveal the truth or stop the crime, all depends on your decisions in your clicks.

Another example is A Date with Markiplier, an interactive video story made by famous YouTuber and game commentator Mark Fischbach (a.k.a. Markiplier) based on YouTube’s annotation system. At the end of the entry video, you will face two different options, and once clicking on the annotation above the option, you will be redirected to the next video (set as “restricted”, for the sake of “Spoiler alert”) that continues the plot based on your choice.

“A Date with Markiplier” has made good use of YouTube's closed captions and annotations within the system.

“A Date with Markiplier” has made good use of YouTube’s closed captions and annotations within the system.

As Mark reveals, it takes more than two weeks filming and finishing the project, and gains widely positive responses from the audience. He says, not only the plot and the content is good, the way to present it is very engaging, and gives a chance to the audience to interact with the content.

If Mark’s project is just an experiment, then Late Shift – a thriller movie/game that literally brings interactions to the audience.

Developed by CtrlMovie, Late Shift tells a story of a man gets involved with a crime syndicate when he starts his late shift in the parking lot. Throughout the whole movie, you need to make at least 10 decisions, which will lead to different plots and endings.

Game commentator Jacksepticeye (top left corner) playing “Late Shift”.

Game commentator Jacksepticeye (top left corner) playing “Late Shift”.

It is reviewed by lots of players in Steam, as well as professional gamers like Jacksepticeye and PewDiePie, who give positive ratings on the concept and how it is presented.

Besides the setting of the plot, the cinematography is pretty good as well – the transition for making different choices (or even not doing anything) is very smooth, and there’s no abrupt changes when your decision is made; also the grading is well done, in which you can see by the cool tone of the whole movie.

As we have the technique of filming, and different ways for interactions between the screen and the audience, we can see there will be more well-made interactive videos in the near future, and make great changes in the way we entertain and learn.