Uni teams up on cinema lighting project

amBX lighting, Melissa Lara & Professor Paul van Shaik
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amBX lighting, Melissa Lara & Professor Paul van Shaik
amBX lighting, Melissa Lara & Professor Paul van Shaik

Teesside University teams up with amBX on pioneering cinema lighting project

Innovative ambient lighting could be used to make watching films a more immersive experience following a research project at Teesside University.

Lighting technology company amBX chose Teesside University to research how different ambient colours influence moods and heighten a cinema audience’s film experience.

In the same way that a soundtrack or cinematic score can heighten tension or help create a particular mood during a film, the project has revealed that specific colours present in a room’s ambient lighting can impact upon how people react to certain scenes.

The project, part-financed by Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board), could have a major impact upon how commercial and home cinemas of the future are developed.

It paves the way for films to be distributed with a ‘light track’ to control the ambient illumination in a room or cinema.

There is also the potential for the research to be utilised in a variety of other applications such as lighting systems in hospitals, workplaces and schools.

Paul van Schaik, a Professor of Psychology in the University’s School of Social Sciences, Business & Law, devised a method of measuring people’s reactions to different colours.

Volunteers were shown sequences of media clips and excerpts from a film whilst amBX’s unique software created differing colours of ambient lighting in the room.

The volunteers were asked to rate how the colours impacted upon the experience of watching the film.

The preliminary research has already shown that yellow light enhances positive affect whilst negative moods were enhanced with the addition of a red light.

Professor Van Schaik said: “This is the first major piece of research into how to improve the user-experience of people watching films – it’s something that has been typically applied to interactive computer systems, such as computer games.

“We now know that lighting can enhance the experience and we have been able to determine this using psychological measures.

“We can now refine this to investigate the impact of other colours.”

amBX UK was formed in 2008 as a spinout from electronics firm Philips. Its technology creates custom, dynamic lighting environments. amBX has located an Innovation Studio at Teesside University in order to further develop and demonstrate their cutting-edge technology and interfaces.

David Eves, the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of amBX, said: “This research has shown, for the first time that coupling different types of light with media enhances the users’ experience of video content and there is a strong correlation between our mood and different types of colour lighting.

“Our collaboration with Teesside University has really helped push the boundaries in terms of measuring user-experience.

“In future we could see films being distributed with a ‘light track’ for a cinema’s ambient lighting.

“We could also see this technology being used in lots of different settings such as in a retail environment or in a hospital to improve patient care, where lighting can support a feeling of wellbeing and accelerate recovery.”


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