The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

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Category: Art

Dust off your 3D glasses (or excavate them from the geological strata that they are buried beneath) for this new multi-versions-of-a-movie plan that is definitely here to stay and not a gimmick!


3D glasses  provide the ability to put two totally separate images on a screen at once. Normally, the technology this is used to provide a stereo-3D effect (Figure 1).

But we could use this same technology to show subtly (or entirely!) different films to different groups of people in an audience.


Fig. 1: Each lens lets through a specific type of light. Here, the colored lenses separate out red and green light.


Instead of everyone’s glasses having both a left and a right lens, we can instead supply a LEFT/LEFT set of glasses and a RIGHT/RIGHT set of glasses, as seen in Figure 2. (We could also apply this idea to three groups—imagine another audience member with a BLUE/BLUE set of glasses.)


Fig. 2: One person would get a pair of glasses that was only the “left” lens, and the other would get only the “right” lens. Now we can display a different image to moviegoers (or game players) #1 and #2.

Possible applications in film:

  • In horror movies, one group of people could get the “ultra gory and horrifying” version of a film, while the other group gets a tastefully understated version with minimal blood and guts.
  • Additional horror movie option: for people who hate jump scares, the video footage accompanying the traditional “jump scare loud violin noise” could just be video of an actual violin, rather than of a cat and/or hockey-masked killer jumping out of a closet.
  • Two version of a film could be shown at the same time in a theater (for example, a PG-13-rated film and an R-rated film).
    • For example, if a film is rated R for brief nudity, the PG-13 version of the film could be generated by adding a bunch of computer-generated tumbleweeds. Ratings problem solved!
  • In a Sherlock-Holmes-style mystery, some people are annoyed by the fact that it’s usually impossible to “play along” with the mystery solving—instead, you wait until the detective reveals the obscure clues at the very end. With this “two movie” approach, the crucial evidence could be pointed out (e.g. with a red circle / arrow), so that the viewers would know which evidence Sherlock Holmes thought was important. But if you didn’t care about that, you could still watch the original cut!

* For the benefit of people with face blindness (, a hovering name tag could be added above each actor’s head (like the floating name tag present in many multiplayer games). This would also help normal people in shows with a large cast of characters (like Game of Thrones or Arrested Development).

Possible applications in games:

  • You could have a game in which player #1 has the controller, but can only see a limited view of the world, while player #2 has no controller, but can view critical on-screen information that is not visible to player #1. For example, player #2 could have a map, or perhaps be able to see certain invisible walkways / invisible enemies / secret passages, etc.


Fig. 3a: In the haunted house movie above, we want to only show the full Grim Reaper to one portion of the audience members (the other viewers should see the glowing eyes but not the specter itself). See figure 3b for a description of how this is done with a traditional set of red/green glasses.


Fig. 3b: A colorized version of 3a, ready for 3D-glasses viewing. Yellow = shown to all viewers. Green = only shown to the “right lens glasses” viewers. In this case, the flying Grim Reaper thing will only be visible to a green lens-wearer. See figure 3c for specific images.



Fig. 3b: Top: “red lens” view where only the eyes of the haunting specter are visible. Bottom: “green lens” view where the entire Grim Reaper is visible.

PROS: Creates additional jobs in post-production. Allows multiple versions of a film to coexist without compromising a director’s original vision.

CONS: Prevents the use of 3D. May increase production costs.

Footnote: Existing applications for console games:

This “show two totally different images” technology has been commercially available for split-screen video games as a semi-standard feature of 2012-era 3D televisions.

The screen could be split (either vertically or horizontally), and one half of the screen would go to the “left” 3D channel while the other would go to the “right” 3D channel. In this fashion, players with left/left and right/right glasses (as seen in Figure 2) would get an entire full screen all to their own. (This also greatly reduced opportunities for screen-looking, although some light still leaks through.)

Unfortunately for this technology, both split-screen games and 3D televisions appear to be a thing of the past.

Become a sophisticated cinephile AND appreciate the finest movies that cinema has to offer in only ONE-NINTH the expected time, thanks to this bizarre invention! You will be the envy of your friends and countrymen.


There are hundreds of famous and excellent movies, but almost no one has seen them all!

It’s possible to laboriously go through the extensive backlog of classic movies, but with the current volume of media, this would be a major endeavor.


By splitting a screen into N segments (for this example, let’s say 9 segments), different sections of a single movie can be played simultaneously.

Audio would probably need to either be turned off or limited to a single screen at a time. Subtitles would be a requirement.


Fig 1: All nine sections of the movie will play at once, allowing the dedicated viewer to see every scene from a movie in a fraction of the expected time. Depicted: the 1977 Woody Allen movie “Annie Hall.”

So if a movie is 100 minutes long, the top-left screen (#1) would start at time 0:00, the next screen would start at 10:00, …, and the bottom-right screen (#9) would start at 80:00. Then the 90 minute movie could be viewed in its entirety in only 10 minutes!


Fig 2: Look how much time you’ll save! You’ll be able to watch the entire director’s cut of Das Boot (3 hours and 29 minutes) in just over 23 minutes! That frees up 3 hours and 6 minutes in your day, which you can use to post arguments about the film online.

VERTIGO 1_modified_2_small_numbered.jpeg

Fig 3: This proof of concept shows what the simultaneous-watching system would look like for the famous 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo.”

Additional option:

Since movies invariably have scenes of both high and low intensity, it might be possible to adaptively set the screen timing so that only one dialog-heavy section was on screen at once. For example, one screen would show a complicated and plot-crucial scene that required viewer attention, while another showed a long establishing shot that could be mostly ignored in comparison.

PROS: Cinephiles will love it. You will appreciate movies in RECORD time now.

CONS: Probably would not work for certain types of movies with intricate or non-straightforward plots; for example, The Departed (2006) or Memento (2000).

Never fall for a clickbait title again with this one INSANE museum tip! Your art appreciation teacher would hate it.


Museums are often large and weirdly laid out, and it’s frequently impossible to see the high points of culture without major hassle.

In contrast, amusement park rides are laid out with extreme care to provide an engaging experience the whole way through.

Specifically relevant to this proposal are “narrative” rides where a user gets into a vehicle and experiences a story of some kind. Examples:

  • “Haunted house” rides
  • Disney rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” or “It’s a Small World.”


We will combine the amusement park “narrative ride” with the contents of a museum (Fig. 1).

Advantages of experiencing the contents of a museum as a linear ride instead of an open “wander about freely” space:

  • Dawdlers are prevented from hogging the best Greek urn viewing locations.
  • The viewing experience is linear, and can thus be more easily crafted by the museum curator.
  • An audio guide can be synced up with the ride, so no separate “press this number” audio guide is required. Instead, the audio guide can come out of speakers in the vehicle or in the exhibition hall.


Fig 1: This “Pirates of the Caribbean”-style museum ride is both engaging and educational.


You must demand that any future museums that you attend be presented in the format of a theme park ride.

PROS: Greatly increases cultural and educational opportunities.

CONS: People may fall into the river if they become too enamored of a specific piece of work and try to remain near it while the ride moves on.

Nine (9) insane books that you read in high school with TWIST ENDINGS that leave you speechless! Or, a way of bringing excitement back to classic literature.


When reading any book, there’s an unavoidable spoiler: the number of pages left in the book!

Specifically, the number of remaining pages gives you a strong clue as to how the narrative is going to go. If you are only 25% of the way through a book, but the main character is dangling from a sheer cliff, odds are that the character is going to survive. This substantially reduces the tension. (Note: exceptions exist, such as Game of Thrones.)

This also applies to movies—if there’s still 90 minutes left in a film, you can be pretty sure that whatever plan the protagonists are up to is not going to resolve without any complications.


Here are two proposals to fix this “length spoiler” issue:

First Proposal: Add blank pages to a book to hide the location of the ending

Fortunately, we can easily maintain the narrative excitement and tension with just one weird trick! All that is necessary is:

1. For a book, pad out the book with a substantial number of blank or plot-irrelevant pages, so the reader won’t know where the plot ends. (This approach was inadvertently done in the third Lord of the Rings book (Return of the King) by J.R.R. Tolkien: the book’s plot ends at the 75% mark. It is then followed by an extensive set of appendices such as “Appendix D: Calendars: Shire Calendar for use in all years”).

2. For a movie, include many minutes (or hours!) of still frames at the end of the film, so that the the remaining length is not immediately obvious if you pause the video. (Or you could watch the movie on VHS.)

Second Proposal: Publish multiple variants of each book, with hasty resolutions

So the problem with the first proposal is that if a book is to follow certain narrative structures, we still know that certain things will happen—the hero won’t just stay home in the first act.

But with modern technology, we can now provide variants of books (and movies) where different events occur, prematurely ending the plot.

Then, the reader can’t use their meta-knowledge of how narratives are normally constructed—the book could end unpredictably at any time! (See the Conan-the-Barbarian-inspired example in Fig. 1).

failurebookFig. 1: The blank pages hide the fact that the narrative actually ends on page 206. The savvy reader, seeing hundreds of remaining pages, probably assumes that the story is going to continue, but it is not so!

Additional Examples of “early book endings”:

The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), alternative early ending:

There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber, until they roared up in an instant, incinerating the burgling hobbit before he could even recognize the danger.


(124 blank pages follow)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling), alternative early ending

They inched toward the message, eyes fixed on a dark shadow beneath it. All three of them realized what it was at once, and leapt backward with a splash. Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’s cat, was hanging by her tail from the torch bracket. She was stiff as a board, her eyes wide and staring. 

For a few seconds, they didn’t move. Then Ron said, “Let’s get out of here.”

Later, the trio transferred to a much less dangerous boarding school in New Hampshire.


(144 blank pages follow)

Solution to the main problem with this approach:

Since there will be dozens of variants of the book (with premature endings at different spots), different readers may actually get different versions of the book.

In order to prevent readers who got one of the “early ending” copies of the book from being unsatisfied with the book due to the poor conclusion, the publisher would make the second half of the book available online for free, so that even the unlucky readers can still experience the full narrative.

booktreeFig 2: An example of how the narrative could be constructed. Perhaps point “F” is the book’s original ending: now we just need to hire a few fan fiction authors to fill out endings A, B, C, D, E, J, G, H, and I, and we’ll have all the benefits of a Choose Your Own Adventure (™) book with the literary merits of the finest fiction.

Note that this specific example may be overly expensive due to the extremely early divergence in plot between the (A, B, C, D, E) branch and the (F, G, J, I, J) branch. For economic reasons, probably only one of those branches should be included—otherwise there are essentially two totally different books being written here.

Current state of the art:

The application of divergent and/or user-selected narratives has been long neglected, with the only recent noteworthy examples being the Shakespeare-inspired “Romeo And/Or Juliet” ( and “To Be or Not To Be” (Hamlet) (, both by Ryan North of “Dinosaur Comics” fame.

PROS: Adds much-needed dramatic tension to formulaic plots!

CONS: Does not work with non-fiction.

Watching TV instead of reading books is actually good for your brain! The one weird trick publishers love, and authors hate, for automatically inserting cliffhangers into books.


Some stories make amazing use of the end-of-chapter “cliffhanger” to keep readers turning pages.

Even a mediocre work can be made compelling if there is a pressing need to resolve each chapter’s mystery before the reader can put the book down.

The trick, of course, is to continually insert mysteries / dramatic cliffhangers throughout the narrative, ensuring that no chapter goes un-cliffhanger’d.


This is easier said than done—many stories do not naturally lend themselves to “dramatic cliffhanger” endings in each chapter.

Plus, some authors believe in artistic merit, and would be hesitant to “sell out” the writing process by adding transparent cliffhangers.

Luckily, the system proposed below can be applied by the publisher without any author involvement!

Here is the method to automatically insert cliffhangers without otherwise disturbing the narrative:

  • The book must be structured so that there are (at minimum) two character perspectives or characters / plots to follow.
  • For simplicity, we will refer to this structure as using the standard terminology of “A” plot and “B” plot.
  • Then:
  • Interleave “A” plot chapters and “B” plot chapters.
  • So the chapters appear as follows:     A, B, A, B, A, B …
  • Now, each “A” chapter has a randomly generated cliffhanger added to the end of it. That cliffhanger is resolved by a (matching) cliffhanger-resolution text in the beginning of the next “A” chapter.
  • The same cliffhanger-and-resolution process is applied to the “B” chapters.

So our final result looks like this, where all the “A” and “B” chapters are as the author intended, and the cliffhangers may be added by the publisher without disturbing the overall plot.

  • A
  • A_cliffhanger_A1
  • B
  • B_cliffhanger_B1
  • A_resolution_to_A1
  • A
  • A_cliffhanger_A2
  • B_resolution_to_B1
  • B
  • B_cliffhanger_B2


Examples of this method in action can be seen below.

Example Story #1

(Chapter 4 text goes here)

Florence entered the hallway and froze—from beneath the opposite door, a torrent of blood streamed forth!

End chapter 4: HALLWAY OF HORROR

(Intervening chapter 5 from another character’s point of view)


“Oh, hi you guys. I was just pouring myself some cranberry juice, when I accidentally knocked the jug off the table and spilled it everywhere. This is going to take FOREVER to clean up.”

(Story continues as before)


Fig 1: Just spilled some cranberry juice, nothing suspicious here.

Example Story #2

A moment after entering the dark alley, the detective heard a chilling voice: “Your money or your life!”

End of Chapter 15: DEPOSIT… OF DEATH

(Intervening chapters 16 and 17 from other characters’ points of view)


The voice continued: “…are often thought of as being in opposition. Perhaps we must prioritize one of them; is it best to toil away in pursuit of financial well-being, or relax and appreciate life, yet possibly live as a pauper?”

The detective turned around. “Oh, it’s just some crazy wandering philosopher who I will probably not encounter again.”

(Story continues as before)

Example Story #3

The shadow of an enormous man-wolf spread across the side of the barn as the creature stepped in front of the parked car’s headlights.


(Intervening chapters)


“Wow, that is really bright,” said the groundskeeper, as he stepped out from the headlights and tucked a small Pomeranian under his arm. “I was out walking Sir Barks-a-lot here, but the lazy mutt got tired, so I was holding him. In front of my head, you see. Funny how his snout just happened to make a nightmarish shadow as I stepped in front of the light!”

“That is indeed a reasonable explanation,” agreed the junior sleuth. “Although would a purebred dog really be a ‘mutt’?”

“The word can also be used generically to refer to any dog.”


(Story continues as before)


Fig 2: There is definitely a scientific explanation for this.


If you are a publisher, you should immediately employ this technique to your entire fiction section.

PROS: Adds new compelling aspects to any book to increase its commercial prospects. Does not require author involvement.

CONS: This system will unfortunately *not* work with a book that is only a single-threaded narrative (for example, an account of a single explorer climbing a mountain).

Cinephiles: You can now get the rich analog experience of VHS via streaming video! Liberate yourself from the harsh pixelation of compressed digital video.


In olden times, recordings could only be viewed at home by either personal movie projector (extremely rare) or VHS player.

Nowadays, digital video makes it possible for anyone to get on-demand video without the hassle of low-quality video and rewinding tapes.

But perhaps the “VHS experience” is integral to getting the full effect from certain films? Certainly no one would dispute VHS’s superiority in providing a “warmer” analog film experience without compression artifacts—not the harsh pixelated video of so-called “high definition” Blu-ray or streaming video.


An Internet streaming video site could easily emulate an old VHS tape by remembering the position where the viewer was in a video and forcing the user to use archaic VHS-style controls to move around in the video.

(This would also be possible with Blu-Ray discs, since they have the ability to connect to the Internet and could theoretically use this connection to save the user’s position in the video.)

Changes that could be implemented to give the full VHS experience are listed in the following figures below:


Fig 1: PAUSE no longer just freeze-frames a scene; instead, the frame becomes static-y and annoying lines appear on it.


Fig 2: FAST FORWARD and REWIND no longer allow jumps to arbitrary points in the video. Instead, a long rewind operation would require stopping the video and then clicking “rewind.” While rewinding at high speed, the video is not visible, so the user just has to guess as to their position in the film.


Fig 3: Starting a video: if the video has not been previously rewound, the viewer will only see the blank VHS screen. The user will have to spend a few minutes waiting for the “tape” to rewind.


Fig 4: The MENU is replaced with an image of the VHS videocassette, showing the current status of the tape through the transparent panels on the sides..


This is a great way to increase immersion and brings the 1980s-videocassette experience into the modern era.

PROS: Allows cinephiles to get that warmer, richer analogue video experience of VHS, not the cold and harshly-compressed “digital” video that we are subjected to today.

CONS: May require sitting at least 30 feet back from your 50+ inch television in order to properly approximate the size of a 1980s television.


Appreciate a movie as it was meant to be seen, or maybe you can just watch an amateurishly cut version tailored to your specific preferences!


With the introduction of DVDs, it first became possible for a movie to contain user-selectable arrangements of scenes. This was a rarely used feature, but it did have a few interesting applications, such as a feature on the Memento DVD that allowed the movie to be watched in reverse order from normal (i.e., in normal chronological order).

Although this feature has not been widely used, nor has it made it to any common streaming video service, it demonstrates that the functionality for swapping out sections of film while watching does exist.

It would be ideal to take advantage of this in a way that would enhance the viewer’s experience.


A video streaming site could provide an on-screen dial to allow the user to select a number of movie parameters.

Among the most basic are:

  • Cut (“Theatrical” vs “Director’s”)
  • Rating (“PG13” vs “R” vs “Unrated”)

But with the ability to arbitrarily swap out scenes, we have more elaborate options as well.

For example, the genre of a film could be changed by judiciously switching out crucial scenes. Although this may sound ridiculous, has happened at least once: the 1977 Woody Allen movie Annie Hall was changed from a murder mystery to a romantic comedy entirely in post-production (Wikipedia: : “It was originally a drama centered on a murder mystery with a comic and romantic subplot. […] Although they decided to drop the murder plot…”).

Fig 1: Two example genre dials: these labels might be common options. Annie Hall (1977) would perhaps have a dial labeled “Romantic Comedy / Murder Mystery.”

genre_dialFig 2: A more comprehensive genre dial that would handle the selection of various combinations of scenes / outtakes.


Fig 3: Movie length can also be controlled by a dial. We can choose a length ranging from an ultra-long 5 hour extended edition (like the uncut 293-minute version of “Das Boot”), to a theatrical edition, all the way to a trailer-length / recap version of the film in five minutes.


Fig 4: Movie ratings dial. A rudimentary version of this already exists—some movies are available in “unrated” form, which may be accessible from the same disc as the “rated” version. However, this dial would allow more granular control over rating, and would enable the movie to be stripped down all the way to a G rating (perhaps all that would be left would be the title card and a cut to the credits).

PROS: Allows movies to be tailored more specifically to the viewer’s preferences.

CONS: Would require substantial work to annotate and dice up scenes in a fashion suitable for swapping in and out at the viewer’s whims. Directors would probably be unhappy about the loss of creative control.