The 4th ‘D’
The idea of 4D is that it includes many components beyond the projection screen, and each one caters to different films. It’s no longer purely about the movie – it’s about the experience.
The Museum of Science currently offers a choice of three films at the 4D Theater. All films are 15 minutes long and are meant for different age groups.
For example, Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure is a story of the well-known and beloved Dora the Explorer, a favorite of children under six or so.
“Dora speaks to our younger audience,” explains Doty. “It’s multilingual, with [themes of] environmental awareness, but it does so in a fun, explorative, familiar way with people and children who know Dora.”
During this movie, certain effects fill the theater at very specific moments of the film. When Dora blows bubbles, real bubbles release from the back of every seat, to the delight of the person sitting behind it.
One of the prime effects of 4D theaters are the “bass shakers,” also present in Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure. The seats rumble with low bass tones, creating a vibration. These are generated via bass speakers installed below every seat.
‘Snow’ also falls from the ‘sky’ as ceiling boxes release little clusters of very small soap bubbles as the lights positioned on each wall move to illuminate them.
There is also a spritz of water as Dora jumps into a lake, splashing the audience. The subtle yet significant effect of water also comes from a hidden spout on the back of each chair. And air jets specifically placed on the front of the seats, just behind where your neck will be, can have a surprise effect on the audience.
The museum also offers Happy Feet: 4-D Experience for a children a little bit older. Similar effects make the film come alive (especially the water splash!) as well as wind created by fans around the room.
Specifically programmed house lighting also changes to support the mood of the piece.
“It’s a very complete picture,” says Doty.
As a Boston resident, I had to head down to the Museum of Science to check out the 4D Theater for myself. I chose to see the museum’s third and final film, which is meant for an older audience, called Planet Earth: Shallow Seas 4-D Experience.
It is supposed to have the “most intense effects” of all three films, according to Doty.