Chinese cinema experiments with online commenting

AFP Relax News
Video screenshot: AcFun viewers comment on "The Legend of Qin" trailer

Trends in online video consumption are influencing cinematic presentation as some Chinese filmhouses experiment with live commenting technology during feature film screenings.

At select cinemas, audience members are able to share their comments with their fellow cinemagoers by sending texts to a designated number, reports The Nangfang Insider (sourcing

Those messages are displayed either next to or on top of the feature film projection, just as users of several Chinese and Japanese online video services can have their comments overlaid on top of a clip.

Building on the success of Japanese video sharing site Niconico, prominent Chinese varients like Bilibili and AcFun allow viewers to comment not merely underneath the video (as with YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo or Facebook), but by laying their timestamped comments directly on top of the content, often obscuring the material itself.

Chaotic and confusing though it may seem at first, the practice can be traced back to broadcast TV shows packaged with plentiful captions and subtitles, often rendered in a variety of colors and fonts; its online equivalent places heavy emphasis on the social experience of watching a clip, show or film as part of a distributed online community.

So releasing a feature film supported by live commenting provision -- especially when that film's origins lie in an online series -- isn't such a gigantic leap, though the novelty remains.

That's what happened with animated August 8 debut "The Legend of Qin," for which over 50 screenings in Beijing and Shanghai had a live commenting system enabled.

"We are exploring how the response from the audience can affect the movie itself," director Shen Leping told CCTV's English language outlet.

"For example, we can conduct live polls and even alter the development of the plot based on responses we receive from audiences."

"We are, in fact, putting the director and viewer on equal terms and I think many of the opinions of the viewers are very helpful for film makers."