The HyperCinema Manifesto: A new entertainment format
This week, we launched the first HyperCinema in Auckland, New Zealand, at 131 Queen Street, in a beautiful old 1920s Department Store.
It’s a big moment, and as co-founder and co-creative director with Tarver, I want to set down some thoughts about this new venue — and new genre.
In the summer of 2022, we all became aware of a revolution in the power of Artificial Intelligence, large language models, text to speech technology, and generative art.
I’ve always loved bringing people together to hear stories collectively. So to me, these AI developments immediately suggested new ways of in-person storytelling, bringing humans together to share a physical experience, but one powered by new digital technologies.
After a year of work, these conversations have now resulted in a new live entertainment format and creative product that we think is the first of its kind in history.
We’re going to call this new genre, and the venue in which it is experienced, HyperCinema.
HyperCinema isn’t cinema, and it’s not designed to replace or even compete with the majesty of film. But then HyperCinema isn’t theatre either — it’s a moving image experience. This is a new live / digital artform — hyper-personalised, autonomously generated while you wait, offering unique and unrepeatable narratives that are as intimate as your voiced thoughts and as unexpected as your dreams.
HyperCinema: The Dawn of a New Artform
HyperCinema is the world’s first live AI experience. It offers a unique, immersive experience that is both vast in scope and intimately tailored to each participant.
Utilising AI technology, each audience member is cast in the role of a protagonist in a unique set of narratives featuring characters with their name and likeness, and delivered to them in person after a short processing window.
Although HyperCinema incorporates elements of theatre, film and digital technology, we see it as a distinct and novel art form. HyperCinema extends the boundaries of what storytelling can be.
Hyper-personalised live entertainment
Upon arrival, each visitor — known as a “Hero” — is scanned in order to create their digital “twin”. Then, with up to two accompanying “Companions”, they engage in a quick, playful interactive survey — the “Game” — that captures the Hero’s responses to a series of questions. Companions are also asked questions about their knowledge of the Hero.
This data, treated with the utmost security and respect, and deleted after each experience, inspires and influences the AI-driven narratives — the “hyperfilm” — that unfold as the Hero navigates HyperCinema’s auditoria.
The first hyperfilm — ‘Enter The Multiverse’
A HyperCinema requires an artistic offering — a “hyperfilm”. The first hyperfilm, created by Gladeye, is called ‘Enter The Multiverse’. It offers a 45-minute odyssey through an ever-changing landscape of narratives set in alternate realities. These are presented in three auditoria, each with a different mode of delivery, ranging from large scale projection to 75 inch digital screens.
The travellers are shown multiple versions of themselves in narratives — via cinematic films, digital portraits, projections — set in parallel worlds to our own, in the past, future, and present, as film stars or vagrants, as Shakespeare’s greatest rival or as a hero of the French resistance, as a cyborg in a ravaged future earth or an anime superhero. There appears to be no theoretical limit to the diversity of the digital content that can be created in a hyperfilm.
Since each output is created in collaboration with a Hero, no two pieces of content are ever identical. There is infinite variety. Even if a Hero returns on a second visit and gives identical responses in the Game, the outputs are still novel and unique due to the unpredictable creative influence of the Artificial Intelligence used in their construction.
‘Enter The Multiverse’ is not a script. There is no single stable or definitive output. It exists only as a set of “Spells” that await a Hero to be activated. In this sense a hyperfilm is closer to structured improvisation than a traditional film; it is effectively a set of rules for a game that cannot be observed unless it is played; it can’t be experienced second hand, or even more than once.
Furthermore, the narrative outputs generally have the deepest meaning only to the Hero and Companions who inspired them via the responses in the Game — and they alone know the significance of the narrative they experience.
The Scale of Creativity: A Quantum Leap
The scale of storytelling possibilities within HyperCinema surpasses anything attainable through traditional means. Artificial intelligence not only assists in narrative construction but also introduces a level of variety and scope hitherto unimagined. It presents an expansion of storytelling capabilities that even the prolific works of Shakespeare, while monumental, cannot match in terms of sheer diversity and adaptability.
For the first time in human history, storytelling can be hyper-personalised on a vast yet entirely intimate scale. We can tell endlessly varied and deeply engaging stories that are unique to every participant. We’ve seen nothing like it before, because it has only been made possible by the recent AI revolution.
The so-called AI “hallucinations” that make AI potentially unreliable in other contexts become the creative genius that powers the remarkable outputs — always unpredictable, emotionally engaging and at times both hilarious and moving; it turns out that AI is naturally suited to creating endlessly fascinating entertainment.
Onward to Unknown Adventures
AI will change many industries. I believe HyperCinema can use these new tools to create joy for audiences and new creative horizons for everyone who encounters it.
My personal aspiration is that HyperCinema becomes a platform for more artists and audiences to engage with this new genre, expanding the artistic process and opening doors to a realm of storytelling previously deemed impossible.
I view HyperCinema as the starting point of an extraordinary journey. It is a new genre that will continue to evolve, shaping and reshaping the landscape of live and digital entertainment. Who knows what the future holds?
HyperCinema Queen Street opens for previews on 19 September 2023. You can buy tickets for the season here.