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Sublime Pixels: Exploring the Audience Experience in Digital Special Effects Cinema

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posted on 09.11.2021, 20:24 by Antonsen, Torben

When exploring the audience perception of digital special effects cinema and the staggering success it has enjoyed, the explorer will often be left with a sense of confusion. They may ask: What is it that the audience is looking for or at when confronted with these pixilated illusions? This thesis attempts to answer that question. It starts with the basic assumption that what the audience is hoping to achieve when 'touched' by the phenomenal spectacle of the digital image is the very best feeling achievable, or the truly sublime. To do this, the thesis unravels the philosophical and theoretical quandaries that surround audience perception theory. It then examines digital special effects and digital cinema to understand, not only its attraction, but also its power over the viewer lost in its awesome potential. By exploring the governing theories behind the sublime and audience perception, the thesis is able to contend that the digital special effects image becomes carnally real or 'alive'. Through the examination of a number of seminal digital special effects movies the thesis tries not only to de-mystify the digital image, but to also create an aesthetic, situational 'map' to the feeling of the sublime.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Redmond, Sean