The Fourth Wall

Links / High Tech

The 4th wall is the expression which designates, in a theatre, the invisible wall which separates the stage from the room.

As soon as there is a wall, visible or invisible, the temptation to break it is immense.
& well, I have to say that it’s difficult to break the other 3 walls: the longest is the background wall of the stage – and on the sides the “walls” of the backstages.

While it seemed so easy to break the 4th wall, the invisible one.

For theatres, it could be almost easy: to address directly the public
go down in the room
to throw oneself in the middle of the spectators
build a huge stage in the middle of the crowd :

the means are almost obvious.

For cinemas, for screens, the challenge was much less obvious: to go from 2D to 3D, it’s easy to say.

I imagine that you have tried the famous 3D glasses at the cinema – frankly, the effect is not bad at all
but as a spectator, we are not yet bluffed, because we know that, when we play with these glasses, paf, everything disappears and we have a little pain in the eyes.

What I’m about to share isn’t really anything new – it’s from the summer of 2018.
This took place during EA Games’ presentation at the 2018 E3.

Please, watch from the 36th second :

And remember : you’re watching this without glasses

This is one of the first films, shot in 1895 in the train station of La Ciotat (it’s in France, yes yes yes) by Louis Lumière.
The passengers didn’t know what was going on, they approached Louis and his strange device and its crank – and the spectators didn’t know right away either that this thing was so strange but not really alive at all.

When people saw this for the first time in 1896, they were panicked, they rushed to the exit: the train was going to crush them.

Well, we’re not that far from it again.
They say we’re used to it now – what a joke.
We’re used to 2D, that’s right – and we can have a good laugh about our ancestors being terrorized by a blank canvas.

We’re a little used to the breaking of the fourth wall in the theatre, but it’s codified enough that we don’t get panicky.

But breaking the 2D wall, you’ll talk to me about it again – especially without glasses – especially without warning.

Did you hear the reaction from the very informed audience at E3, 2018?
Can you imagine the reaction of the mainstream audience?

Can you imagine living “that” in virtual reality? Being the monster and entering the room? Being the fighters and flying over the heads?

I said that classical theatre easily breaks this 4th wall – it is true and it is false.
Everyone in the audience knows the tricks – and few fall for them.
But if we add this technique to the directors who dedicate themselves to theatre, dance, music, circus, puppets, we offer them an incredible increase of creation – and the means to use this technique to the maximum, the real and the virtual at the same time on the same stage, in front of real spectators and, I hope, of real but distant spectators – those who follow via screen.

In any case, technology now allows everyone, when they want, to break this 4th wall.
It would be really sad and quite pitiful to deprive ourselves of this.

But to exploit it even more than to the maximum, by using it also for virtual experiences, then there …. the complete dream.

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Featured Image : The arrival of a train at La Ciotat Station – 1896 – Louis Lumière

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