The Dark Knight Returns and the recent Star Wars Blu-ray release, for instance, both used that approach, introducing apps that acted as an advertisement for the films’ release, giving a preview of the extras, with more to be unlocked once you buy the product.
But now there’s a more creative model of movie app that allows the user to manipulate scenes or special effects or characters from a specific film. This gives fans of the films some fun content to play with beyond the extras on a Blu-ray disc. Here are three:
Action Movie FX
Action Movie FX appeared in the iTunes app store just before Christmas. It’s an augmented reality app created by Bad Robot Interactive, an offshoot of J.J. Abrams’ production company, that allows users to take short videos and then superimpose special effects from films.
One of the first available scenes in the free app was a missile attack sponsored by Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Users shoot a video and then a missile, superimposed over the scene, is directed at the “target.” The company has been adding updates, including a shootout, with a two-pack of “scenes” costing 99 cents each. The app potentially allows a secondary revenue stream to offset the expensive computer-generated effects created for films.
Toronto-based Percy3dD takes scenes from older films, allowing them to be personalized with the PercyFX app (on iTunes and the BlackBerry store). An example is a scene from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where after viewing a roundhouse kick from the main character, you can add a two-line personal message and share this with friends on Facebook or via email. Universal and Paramount studios have signed on to allow films from their libraries to be used.
“With PercyFX, we’re targeting their classic content. This is kind of a new way to introduce these films to a newer audience — read: younger audiences. Classic titles like The Big Lebowski, which is not that old, but it’s a way of introducing these classic titles in a way that younger audiences appreciate,” says Julie Steiner, president of Percy3D.
Steiner says the company is combing the catalogue of both studios’ films, for specific types of scenes: only films they can secure the worldwide rights for, featuring classic moments that are only 10-12 seconds long, and that contain something that can be personalized, like a piece of writing, where the message can be integrated right into the action. The app is free, but to manipulate a scene, it costs a credit. It is .99 cents for three credits.
Because of the temptation by users — and fear from the studios — to add profanity to film clips, Steiner says the company uses the strongest profanity filters available.
“What we’re doing here is new. The studios have never embraced this kind of use of their material, so to be perfectly honest, you can’t die on every hill. . . . They were very concerned about their material having objectionable content.”
The app is a showpiece for Percy3D’s video personalization technology, and PercyFX is the first application of it. But for the studios, it also serves as an advertisement as the clips all have a link to digital stores to buy or rent the original films.
One app that melds old-school film merchandising with new-school tablet tech is Disney’s Cars 2 Appmates, a toy-app hybrid manufactured by Toronto-based Spin Master. These are branded plastic cars based on the film’s characters (Tow Mater, Finn McMissile, etc.) that can be “raced” on an accompanying free app on the iPad. Aimed at children, the toys are sensed by the touchscreen device and the app has many activities including exploring and racing on the virtual track. The characters also speak, through the device, some well-known catchphrases from Disney’s Cars 2. The app is free, but the cars come in packs of two that cost approximately $25.