Film and Theatre

Edinburgh Film Seminar: Miriam Ross

Virtual Reality’s current manifestation in advanced head-mounted-displays uses a two-screen system (one for each eye) to create an optical illusion of direct views onto 360-degree worlds. Coupled with haptic feedback and surround sound, it is the culmination of decades of technological developments that build on widescreen, 3D and 4D cinema in an attempt to produce Bazin’s Total Cinema (1944): a representational system where the apparatus disappears. Within industry discussions since the late 1980s the main concern has been to use the disappearing screen for the creation of presence, “the extent to which one feels present in the mediated environment, rather than in the immediate physical environment” (Steuer 1992, 76). Hardware and content creators aim to produce worlds that “look real, sound real, move and respond to interaction in real time, and even feel real” (Brooks 2006, 16). This paper takes a close look at a sample of currently available VR works to interrogate whether a state of total presence will ever occur and whether it is, indeed, desirable. Using a film phenomenology framework to consider the doubled embodiment that viewers experience as they are both in the virtual world and located in their own bodies, it is possible to examine some of the assumptions around presence. This paper also looks back at the history of ‘expanded screen’ cinemas to show the way VR maintains rather than overwrites connections with other screen media in its Total Cinema framework.


Dr Miriam Ross is Senior Lecturer in the Film Programme at Victoria University of Wellington. She works with new technologies to combine practice-based methods and traditional academic analysis. Her publications include South American Cinematic Culture: Policy, Production, Distribution and Exhibition (2010) and 3D Cinema: Optical Illusions and Tactile Experiences (2015) as well as journal articles on film industries, new cinema technologies, stereoscopic media and film festivals. Her short films have been screened internationally and her video essays have been published in online journals. She is also co-founder and administrator of

Film reel
Nov 13 2018 -

Edinburgh Film Seminar: Miriam Ross

'Virtual Reality’s Disappearing Screen: The Ultimate Total Cinema?'. A free seminar by guest speaker, Dr Miriam Ross (Victoria University of Wellington).

David Hume Tower
George Square