Next: Interactive Images? Participative “CtrlMovie” Format Puts the Audience in Control

This is a bit futuristic, yet the technology already exists and over time it will become more mainstream, if not a new standard: CtrlMovie, a novel interactive movie format that gives filmmakers the tools to tell seamless multi-optional stories. Right, a bit like a combination of film and game. The audience gets to make decisions on behalf of the main character and sees the consequences of their choices unfold on screen. Meaning: a movie can have different plots and endings.

Participative CtrlMovie format -- a next movie standard?
Participative CtrlMovie format — a next movie standard?
That’s something I wished for many times when watching a good movie. Just imagine, same movie, but different turns and angles. You could watch it again and again. Now let’s spin this thought a bit further: what this could mean for photography.

It’s in a way something first camera makers already apply since some time — they add another dimension to a still photograph. Nokia/Lumia-offspring Microsoft calls it Living Images: integrating movement into every picture to make the captured moment seem “alive.” Nikon calls its “living mode” Motion Snapshots.

Or Flixel for that, “living photos made easy” by evolving stills to cinemagraphs, that’s the art of photography and video by adding a seamless element of motion. Some even say Flixel is ushering in a new era for photography.

This is where CtrlMovie comes in, a Swiss start-up that’s developing an interactive movie format that could well usher in a new era for cinematography. They’re in preparation of their first feature length production Late Shift, tells me the company’s chief technological and creative officer, Tobias Weber.

Shooting will take place this spring and they’re hoping to launch the film in autumn 2014. “If it’ll be as successful as we hope it to be,” says Weber, “I’ll revolutionize the space between film and games.”

Here’s the teaser clip — the full simulation demo can be viewed on

Now what could this new technology mean for photography?

Features -- what CtrlMovie allows you to do. | CtrlMovie
Features — what CtrlMovie allows you to do (click to enlarge) | CtrlMovie
“We think that’s very exciting already,” CtrlMovie’s Weber says. “We’re not hoping to disrupt any further markets (like photography) with the same piece of technology. It’s true, CtrlMovie is a tool for storytellers. But doesn’t the beauty of photography lie in its power to tell a story with one single image? In my opinion it does not need any fancy tech at all.”

Fair enough. Still, I like the thought of adding another dimension to still photography by thereby expanding a “flat” image’s depth and perspective. In a way, this is what Lytro is about.

The good old photo printed on photographic paper is long gone for most of us, an evolution that won’t stop at newspapers and magazines.

The carrier material of the future is certainly not paper. It’s something organic-electronic, the next step of what our portable screens already are. Now just make them thin as paper and bendable, technology that already exists.

CtrlMovie opens up a can of worms in regard to traditional visual media. If this isn’t just a beginning.

  • Another Thought

    I don’t think it will replace still images or movies, but rather stand alongside them. This seems to be kind of a videogame mixed with a movie. So this may play to the videogame crowd. That’s why it seems it’s being marketed as an app, like any video game.

    Personally, when I watch a movie, I don’t want to interact with it, or have the progress halted while I decide the next move. I like the idea of passive entertainment in this context, and I want the writer/producer to tell their story.

    With the kind of “living images” trick…aka the Harry Potter image’s kind of cool but to me it’s just that…a parlor trick; interesting for a moment, but not something I want in most of my still images. Again, I prefer the still image and my imagination to do all of the work.

    So interesting stuff…but I don’t know that it will take over.