Samui Wining & Dining

Plug yourself into Samui’s stunning new XD Theater!


How many of you can remember when pubs first started showing sport on big screens? It wasn’t really all that long ago. And the quality was dreadful! Well, compared to what we’re used to today, anyway. It was basically a projector screen and you really needed to be in darkness to see it. Mind you, ten years ago every computer had a square-tube monitor that weighed a ton, but nothing like as much as the low-resolution monsters we had in our living rooms. How times have changed – today we’re all accustomed to pin sharp pictures on 50- inch flat-screens you can pick up with one hand.

        And then there’s 3D. It was a long time coming, it stuttered and stumbled for a while like one of those man-powered flying machines, bounced a bit, got off the ground, staggered, and then crashed. Major TV companies like ESPN gave it a spin then dropped it due to “limited viewer adoption of 3D services to the home”. The problem was a result of several things. Different sorts of systems – active or passive – with different sorts of viewing glasses to go with them. I could go on . . . about matching the equipment with the material, the content (live broadcasts on TV, movies or games) or about TV sets that tried to jump on the bandwagon with marketing promises that were neither one thing or the other.

        Putting all these tangles and loops to one side, the bottom line was this. The easiest sort of 3D to create and sell to the public is the sort that ‘goes backwards’. Meaning that the front of the screen is the stop point and, a bit like peering into a box, things are in 3D going back away from this. The public was not impressed and TV sets were sold with this 3D option, but it was never used. The thing that made everyone sit up and take notice was the type of 3D where an arm reached out from in front of the screen to try to grab your throat.

         And then we’re back to content again. Very few movies were made on Bluray or DVD in 3D to begin with. (These are the ones that jump out in front to grab you.) Most were re-hashed and converted from existing box office hits – and this resulted in 3D that went back away from you. But quite a few computer video games were made with the full-frontal-in-your-face technology. These were designed to be played on mega-gaming systems and proved to be winners; mind blowing! The downside was that you needed to spend $3,000 on equipment to enjoy the thrill of it all. And then . . . some perceptive entrepreneur got smart and put together a funhouse system you could erect in 70 square metres of shopping mall rental space.

          This is what you’ll find in Samui’s Central Festival mall. It’s called ‘XD Theater’. It’s a big dark box with six strap-in contoured seats that sit on reactive-movement bases. There’s a sound system that makes your teeth ring with the crashes and clangs, and the rumbles and thumps move your intestines around. The content is, in essence, roller-coaster video-game fantasy, with ups and downs and wild leaps into space. You even get to go lurching backwards. Every 3D twist and turn on the screen leaps out at you, rocks and debris fly right in your face, sudden downhill plunges push your stomach (and its contents) upwards, and more than once you just have to close your eyes and hang on.

          A couple of years ago this kind of thing was interesting – a bit like the whole 3D muddle. But whereas the mainstream TV/broadcasts/movies have faded away, this genre found a niche in the sheer adrenaline junkie rush of it all. The technology has improved, too. Now the seats really do throw you around in time with the action – there’s an equivalent of 2Gs on the drops and 400 seat movements every second, and the wind is hammering into your face. OK – so the picture is actually not at a very high resolution – you won’t get a pin sharp image. But when you’re plunging vertically downwards into a canyon with your stomach in your throat, and the edge-of-vision background blurring past you while you’re being thrown from side to side and hoping you aren’t going to upchuck – you’re just not aware of this! You will be advised at the start to hold onto the handles at the side of your seat. This is very good advice.

          The man (and woman) behind the venture on Samui are Lithuanian Robertas Rilis and his wife and business partner, Renata. And it’s not just a one-off, either. “We started this as just an idea, a long time back, at home,” Robertas told me. “It was a bit of a hobby, really. But it was a smash success. Over the next few years, we expanded into Russia and Bulgaria. Our project was pitched at kids and modern playgrounds. We had inflatable castles and fairground rides. But the best things of all were the computer simulations and the rides; the theater and the 3D environment. Then in 2009, the economic climate shifted and we sold everything and came to Thailand. Our first venture was a 3D 8-seater XD Theater in Pattaya. Then we made another in Phuket. Then Jomtien, Chiang Mai, and now here on Samui.”

          But the low-down is that this is just Robertas and Renata dipping their toes into the Samui market. They have a whole lot going on very successfully in Phuket and Pattaya. And so, in the near future, you will see more of their expertise appearing in Central Festival Mall. There’s going to be a holographic 3D walkthrough haunted house. But what will not be for the kids is the very-soonto- be appearance of a real Formula F1 racing car, right next to their XD Theater. It’ll be rigged to a race simulator and full 3D surroundscape. I’m really hoping I get lots of free tickets for this – I have to write a review, after all! (I’ll even actually pay for it.) Because if you keep watching the space next to the XD Theater; it’s going to be appearing there any day now!

          The XD Theater is up above the side stair to the right of parking area 2, lakeside, next to the ‘Pirates of Marioland’, above and to the right of Top’s and the food court. Just park-up and follow the thumping bass sounds!


 Rob De Wet


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