The week before Christmas was a big one for J.J. Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, with the wide release of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” which quickly gave Bad Robot the bragging rights to the biggest hit of the holiday season. But the week was also notable for another landmark: Bad Robot is now in the iPhone app business.
The app is called Action Movie FX and it gives users the ability to insert special effects into any video they take with Apple’s smartphone. The two effects included with the app are a missile attack and car smash, allowing anyone to get all Michael Bay on unsuspecting family members, sleeping pets or the guy who cut them off on the 405 Freeway.
In an e-mail interview, Abrams called Action Movie FX the first of a “slew” of “cool projects” that his Bad Robot is working on in the interactive space.
“I think it should be noted that this is the first time I have used the word slew,’” the filmmaker noted, adding that the endeavors include “movies, some TV shows or books, some short-form filmed and animated projects, some music and some apps.”
The app was financed by Bad Robot and overseen by Andrew Kramer, the visual effects wizard whom Abrams plucked from his website, Video Copilot, to work on the opening credit sequences of the Fox series “Fringe” and the 2009 feature film “Star Trek.” He and Bad Robot executive David Baronoff worked on the app with a small team of outside programmers for about two months.
“I just loved the idea that people could add high-quality visual effects to their footage, all with a phone they already carry with them,” Abrams said of the app.
Kramer said the biggest challenge was getting the app to track moving images while also making the interface as foolproof as possible. “We went through so many different versions while wondering, ‘How are people going to use this app? Should we have director’s notes? What about on-screen tips?’”
“Action Movie FX” debuted Dec. 22, and surged to No. 1 on the list of most downloaded free entertainment apps and since then it ranked consistently among the top 25 free apps of all kinds.
There are four additional effects — a helicopter, a tornado, an aerial bombing and a machine-gun attack — that can be bought for 99 cents a pair. And Bad Robot is working on more options for your inner commando, so the mayhem is just beginning.
Baronoff sent links to some YouTube videos featuring clips people have made of the app. He added that people may not have to search the video site to find such clips in the future, though. “A destination website could be in the works,” he stated.
He also gave Hero Complex readers a cryptic hint about where to find a special Easter egg hidden in the Action Movie FX app. “It’s one of J.J.’s favorite things,” he said.
— Ben Fritz
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