The global movie-going industry is facing a very real crisis, with cinema chains closing down and industry insiders predicting worse to come. Falling admissions at cinemas across the world have hit theatre owners hard and recent events have exacerbated the situation. Companies that were already in a precarious financial situation have been faced with widespread closures at a time when they were least prepared to deal with more bad news. Against this backdrop of doom and gloom, a beacon of hope has appeared: 5G. But what does mobile network technology have to do with the big screen and how can it possibly help to revitalise the film industry? Well, the impact of 5G effects on the movie-going experience is potentially huge.

How 5G can power movie theatre technology in the future

5G offers a level of mobile network performance that can support the widespread adoption of exciting technologies in cinemas all around the world. Technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have already been tried on a small scale by filmmakers but until cinemas have access to a mobile network that can provide the speed and capacity to fully support them, it won’t be possible to make VR and AR experiences more readily available. The continuing rollout of 5G in Australia and elsewhere could be the lifeline that the film industry has been waiting for.

Why 5G can enhance the movie experience

5G sets new standards in key areas that make it a great choice for supporting brand new cinema experiences. If you know very little about the technology and have heard people asking, ‘Does 5G go through walls?’ and similar questions, the information below should bring you up to speed.

  • Impressive speed — 5G is roughly 10 times faster than the previous generation of mobile networks as far as data transfer speeds are concerned. This makes it ideal for any application that needs to send a lot of information over the network as quickly as possible. Applications that use AR, VR and 3D volumetric capture are three very good examples. Large image files require a lot of network bandwidth if they are to load without issue, and this is an area in which 5G truly excels.
  • Penetration — 5G uses both low-band and high-band frequencies. Whilst high-band mmWave does have some issues going through walls, the use of frequencies under 1 Ghz resolves this problem. In other words, we can expect similar indoor coverage from 5G as we currently enjoy with 4G.
  • Low latency — The time it takes for a response from the network when a device requests a webpage or a certain action to be performed is known as latency. In basic terms, the lower the latency, the more instantaneous the experience will feel like when interacting with apps and services over a mobile network. Latency on 5G networks is drastically lower than what we are used to, which makes it perfect for technologies such as VR and AR. The ability to provide users with instant feedback is crucial to applications that rely on these technologies.
  • Network capacity – Existing mobile networks can already support thousands of connected devices per square kilometre but it will be possible for new networks to support up to a million devices in the same area with 5G. Movies shown in normal-sized theatres won’t necessarily benefit from this extra capacity but if you consider the possibilities it offers for larger venues such as sports stadiums and music concert arenas, you can see why the entertainment industry is excited about the future.

5G movie innovations you can look forward to

There are a number of exciting innovations that it will be possible for cinemas to introduce once 5G is available in all regions.

  • Improvements to the production process — The ability to transfer huge video files from any location with 5G will streamline the film production process, allowing editors to view the dailies as soon as shooting is completed at the end of each day. This will potentially make it possible for studios to produce more films at a lower cost, providing audiences with much greater choice in the cinemas. It will also make it easier to release films on topical subjects and recent events, while they are still fresh in the mind of moviegoers. Whether the large Hollywood studios take advantage of these possibilities remains to be seen but it seems certain that smaller studios with fewer resources will seize the opportunities that 5G presents.
  • Mixed reality experiences — One example that is exciting for the film industry and its fans is AR/VR technology in cinemas. The extra bandwidth provided by 5G networks will enable filmmakers to target mixed reality technologies, producing immersive cinema experiences that really put the audience centre stage. The fast data transfer speeds and low latency of 5G are expected to solve the nausea issues that some viewers experience due to poor connectivity and will enable a variety of exciting new experiences that make going to the cinema a far more appealing proposition.
  • Really feel the action — Imagine a cinema where every member of the audience is wearing a haptic vest: a vest that provides physical feedback as the action takes place on the big screen. You’ll be able to feel every hug, along with every punch and gunshot (in complete safety, of course). Such a reality is possible with a low-latency, high-speed 5G network to which every vest is connected. You will enjoy instant physical feedback from every action you see on screen, really drawing you into the story. If you’ve ever used a game controller with haptic feedback, you’ll easily be able to imagine how much more engaging films will be when you are wearing a haptic vest.
  • Appear in your own version of the movie — With 5G streaming speeds, it will be possible for cinemas to screen truly interactive movies. Using ultra hi-res scan and capture technology, it’s already possible to quickly render anybody’s image into existing digital content — but it takes a lot of bandwidth to achieve this feat in real-time. 5G provides the necessary speed and stability for this technology, opening up the possibility for cinema-goers to see themselves in the films they watch in the future. After you have been scanned, a 3D digital reproduction of you, in full colour, can be inserted into the scenes you are watching at the cinema. You will be able to play a starring role in the movies you go to see in the future.
  • Interact with other characters — Seeing yourself on the big screen is an exciting proposition in itself, but what if you could interact with the other characters too: actually take part in the action as it unfolds? Haptic feedback devices, ultra hi-res scan and capture technology, and interactive AI can combine to create realistic experiences for audiences, where they can interact with characters from the film they watch in real-time. Such experiences can easily be supported by 5G network technology. The fast data transfer speeds that it provides are high enough to support this type of application without annoying interruptions due to bandwidth constraints.
  • Posing with the stars — Stunning selfies with lifelike, full-size digital images of movie actors is made possible through a technology known as 3D volumetric capture. In simple terms, this innovative technology offers a way to capture every detail of an object or person in 3 dimensions. The captured image can then be projected to remote locations. 5G has the network performance to make it easy to stream the large data files that are required to display these three-dimensional images, creating what we could call a 5G hologram. In the future, you will be able to watch a new film then take a picture of yourself with the lead actors on your way out of the cinema.
  • Pre and post venue experiences — One way in which cinemas can broaden the appeal of going to see a film in a theatre is to extend the whole experience. By streaming exclusive content before and after movie premieres, delivered by 5G networks to customers’ mobile devices, cinemas will be able to extend and add real value to the in-theatre experience they provide. As mentioned earlier, 5G streaming speeds are around 10 times faster than those we currently enjoy, which means that it will be easy to stream very high-definition content to mobile devices in areas where 5G networks are available. It will even be possible to use AR and VR, to enhance this streamed content, getting moviegoers excited about new premieres well before they arrive at the cinema.

As 5G is rolled out across Australia, we can look forward to an exciting new world of cinema. Filmmakers and theatre owners will be able to provide customers with a range of exciting new experiences that stimulate interest in going to the cinema by making it a novelty once again.

It’s difficult to say when some of these innovative 5G movie experiences will roll out on a commercial scale. However, we can tell you that some of the technological advances mentioned above have already been used by filmmakers and production companies.

Have 5G movie effects been tested yet?

Though a great deal of the development around these projects is taking place in secret, we do know of two specific tests that have taken place so far. One of these tests used VR with existing network technology and another used 3D volumetric capture with 5G.

In 2019, Sony Pictures experimented with VR when they released Spider-Man: Far From Home, which was designed to be a 3D multiplayer, VR experience. People could actually feel like Spider-Man as they swung from skyscrapers and battled with other players. Unfortunately, the image quality was not as good as they’d hoped due to network connection issues, with some stuttering occurring during playback.

Vodafone 5G is now rolling out in selected areas of major Australian cities. For more information about 5G, head to our support page.

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