Cinema purists have never much liked the innovations Barry Sandrew has brought to the movies.\nBased on his work on scans of the human brain as a neuroscientist at Harvard Mass General Hospital in the \u201880s, Sandrew quit academia to invent a technique to digitally \u2018colourise\u2019 black and white films.\n \nThe breakthrough won the attention of investors (colourise a public domain film and you own the copyright on the colour version as a derivative work), and the ire of film buffs.\n \n\u201cIt created a great deal of controversy, but controversy was pretty much irrelevant. I mean the more people that complained, the more revenue went into the coffers of my investors to be frank,\u201d Sandrew says on a Skype call from his home in San Diego.\n \nAnd there were lots of complaints. Sandrew says some people \u201cfelt that the colour actually distracted them because all of a sudden they were seeing things and detail that they never saw before and it caught their attention and it took away from the story\u201d. Famed film criticsGene SiskelandRoger Ebertcalled colourisation \u2018Hollywood's New Vandalism\u2019. Protecting Citizen Kane from colourisation was reportedly one of director Orson Welles\u2019 dying wishes.\n \n\u201cFrankly, I felt who wouldn\u2019t want to watch a movie like It\u2019s a Wonderful Life in colour?\u201d Sandrew, who reinvented the colourisation technique by adding greater automation in 2000, says.\n \nBarry Sandrew\nPurists were equally as against Sandrew\u2019s next technical breakthrough for movies: 2D-to-3D conversion.\n \nSandrew \u2013 who is speaking this month at the Magnify World AR and VR summit in Melbourne \u2013 becomes increasingly animated as he describes the three dimensional effects the studio he founded in 2001, Legend3D, has brought to scores of films.\n \n\u201cWhen we did Poltergeist there are so many subliminal things in there to make it more exciting to actually recruit different parts of the brain. Because what you\u2019re doing in many cases is you\u2019re infringing on the personal space of the audience in a very real sense. You\u2019re not only opening up the whole screen and removing the fourth wall and making the screen as deep as infinity. But you\u2019re actually bringing all the action into the theatre,\u201d he explains.\n \nWhen describing some of the effects on The Final Destination 3D, Sandrew recounts a scene in which during a race track accident a girl gets decapitated by a loose wheel.\n \n\u201cAnd we place that girl in the row right in front of you. You can\u2019t get much more immersive than that,\u201d he says.\n \nAgain, 3D films received a mixed reaction. \u201cThere are people who were scared enough. They didn\u2019t want to become part of the movie,\u201d he recalls.\n \nOthers love them. When Sandrew left Legend3D in 2014, it was working on around 70 3D conversions. Avatar \u2013 widely released in 3D \u2013 was the first film to gross more than$2 billionworldwide.\n \n\u2018No mass market\u2019\n \nMany have tipped virtual reality to be cinema\u2019s next big disruptor. There are increasing numbers of headset options on the market \u2013 Samsung Gear VR, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for example \u2013 as well as movie-makers experimenting with both virtual reality and 360 degree video.\n \nThe Emmy awards are now recognising the category of content. Earlier this year a VR space documentary secured a seven-figure deal at Sundance. So will we all one day be watching movies at theatres like theVirtual Reality Cinemawhich opened in Collingwood last month?\n \nWell, no, says Sandrew: \u201cIt\u2019s not going to create a mass consumer market\u201d.\n \nThe main issue with VR in cinema is that going to the cinema is a \u201csocial activity\u201d Sandrew says. \n\u201cFrankly taking all the lessons I\u2019ve learned from colourisation and 3Dhellip;VR is great for gaming, it\u2019s great for eSports, location based VR is definitely going to do well. But in order to create a mass consumer market, it\u2019s going to get into entertainment and it\u2019s going to have to get into sports. And one of the things about entertainment and sports, especially movies, is that those are social activities,\u201d Sandrew explains.\n \n\u201cYou don\u2019t go to a movie alone; typically you go with other people. You go for the group dynamics. Once you put [the audience] into a VR headset, it changes virtually everything. It\u2019s totally immersive,\u201d he says.\n \nEven set-ups like 360 degree projection spaces like Igloo \u2013 within which groups can view video on all sides \u2013 have issues, Sandrew says. \n \n\u201cThey\u2019re creating all this extraneous stuff, 360 degrees and that\u2019s very expensive to do especially when none of that stuff matters. If you can\u2019t direct the audience attention, all the other stuff, it\u2019s extraneous,\u201d Sandrew says.\n \nHis comments are echoed by Life of Pi director Ang Lee who said: \u201cI'm a filmmaker, my virtual reality is better than real VR\u201d. Steven Spielberg agrees: \u201cThe only reason I say it is dangerous is because it gives the viewer a lot of latitude not to take direction from the storytellers but make their own choices of where to look,\u201d he said.\n \n\u201cReally I don\u2019t want to be burdened with creating that story. I want to be told the story,\u201d Sandrew says.\n \nAugmented and mixed reality, however, has more promise for movie-making, according to Sandrew. \nOur smartphones are \u201can extension of ourselves at this point\u201d and viewing scenes through them, embedded in reality, with other people is \u201cnot foreign and it\u2019s not awkward\u201d.\n \nPointing to examples like Enter the room, commissioned by the Red Cross, Sandrew said: \u201cThat\u2019s where the mass market is going to go\u201d.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s social, it\u2019s collaborative, it\u2019s real. It merges your reality with a virtual type of reality. I got a chill. It\u2019s very very powerful,\u201d he said.