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I went to an IMAX spin class and it was insane(ly underwhelming)

I went to an IMAX spin class and it was insane(ly underwhelming)


If I can't sweat to Oscar Isaac in Star Wars, then what is the point?

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When I first heard about IMAXShift, the IMAX spin class that promises to "transport your mind and transform your body," my immediate emotional / physical responses were fear and nausea. So, of course, I had to try it.

As the world's most unathletic human who gets motion sickness in regular movie theaters, I couldn't imagine a scenario in which this class wouldn't end in me vomiting. I walked out of Cloverfield to escape the excessive amounts of camera shakiness. I left my friends in the front row during The Hunger Games to sit by myself at the very back of the theater. I won't dare try watching a movie in IMAX or 3D, because I know that as soon as the previews end I'll be hurling my Red Vines and cherry-cola ICEE.

Waiting for my demise

Still, I'm game for trying out any form of exercise that'll distract me from the fact that I'm sweaty and miserable. I once took a boxing class for the sole purpose of sending out a perfect Snap captioned '*Watches Creed once*.' (Though, in my giddy excitement, I forgot to add it to my Story so none of my friends knew how funny and clever I was.) If you exercise and don't post a selfie as proof anywhere, did it even really happen?

We at The Verge mused about what movies IMAXShift might play while an instructor screamed at me. My editor Chris Plante imagined footage of beaches, intercut with the film Beaches, while my colleague Sean O'Kane imagined a three-hour class set to Batman growling in The Dark Knight Rises.

It was not nearly as entertaining as any of our guesses. In fact, it was kind of... boring.

"But Dami, how can a spin class led by this man be boring?" I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm here to tell you that it can be, and it was.

This was through no fault of our instructor Jesse (about whom Chris Plante wrote an entire reality show, based on two very good photos of him on the IMAXShift website).

Here are a few examples of what actually played at IMAXShift:

  • A dubstep remix of Radiohead's "Creep," set to footage of a camera panning over the Grand Canyon
  • Prince's "When Doves Cry," set to a backdrop of some random forest. (I looked around the screen and hoped for Prince's impeccably groomed face to pop out from behind a tree and wink at me, but there was nothing — only foliage.)
  • This Trap remix of an RL Grime track, which is already Trap, yet unfortunately doesn't cancel out the Trap, set to a Winamp Equalizer

Sure, there was a complete disconnect between what was being shown on the screen and what was going on IRL, but Jesse did his best to pump up the class by shaming us whenever we tried to reach for our towels. "You don't need those right now!!" he would yell at us. "Wooo!!!" screamed another instructor who was planted among the cyclers, presumably to hype up the crowd that was growing tired and disappointed as it dawned on us that this was all it was going to be. I felt my youth passing me by, like I was aging considerably faster than the pace at which I was previously aging before I had entered the IMAX Chamber of Boredom.

Pedaling straight into the sun

What's the point of an IMAX spin class if it doesn't make me forget that I'm in a spin class? Taking a 25 x 40-foot screen and playing some default screen savers felt like a massive underutilization of the technology. Yes, the screen was large for a spin class, but small for a normal theater, let alone an IMAX theater. There were so many possibilities here and they squandered it. We could have cycled to Star Wars: The Force Awakens — or if that's too long, then only the scenes with Finn and Poe. Whatever. I'm just thinking out loud here.

What's the point of an IMAX spin class if it doesn't make me forget that I'm in a spin class?

And the sound! The average New York City apartment has a more immersive soundtrack than what IMAXShift was trying to achieve there. I know this because my downstairs neighbor is a music producer and my upstairs neighbor insists on playing terrible techno music whilst dropping god knows what every 20 minutes, so I am constantly sandwiched by sound. For all the hype they were putting out about "cutting-edge digital sound" and a "custom IMAX sound system to provide crystal clear, heart-pounding audio throughout the studio," I was thoroughly underwhelmed.

The space feels more 'empty' than 'immersive'.

I'm not an expert on fun, by any means. My idea of a good time is scrolling through three pages of luxury visors on Pinterest and then passing out from all the excitement. But even I know that screening student-made AfterEffects demo videos isn't the way to go.

Here are some examples of what they actually should have played:

  • Concert footage of Five's "Slam Dunk (Da Funk)," as depicted in this classic scene from the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House, (dir. LeVar Burton) where a group of teen boys hype themselves up for their rager by performing a choreographed dance

  • This iconic Windows 95 Maze screen saver. (If you're going to play screen savers, then at least make it this one, IMAXShift!)
  • Whatever this is, on loop for the entirety of the 45-minute ride

The whole time, I was painfully aware of the fact that I was in a dark room, pedaling toward nothingness, while outside life was happening. IMAXShift is located in gorgeous Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is prime real estate. On my walk back to the subway, I passed by a wedding shoot in which a couple was adorably stopping traffic to get a shot with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.

The greatest IMAX content is life itself

I saw a group of tiny children in matching outfits all walking hand-in-hand as to not be separated and left behind for the rats that live under the Brooklyn Bridge. I accidentally walked through a film set craft services table. I'm not trying to be all, "The greatest IMAX content is life itself!!" here, but I really did walk out feeling more appreciative of my actual surroundings, grateful that I wasn't forced to watch stock footage while trapped inside of a box anymore. All I'm saying is, you can choose to pay $34 for an IMAXShift class, or you can ride a bike through your neighborhood — and it'll probably be more interesting.

The aftermath

Photography by Amelia Krales, who made this whole experience look way more epic than it actually was.