Notable exceptions aside, it’s generally agreed upon that it’s improper to check one’s smartphone while watching a movie in a theater. The new Dutch thriller APP, however, encourages viewers to do so. The film’s soundtrack contains a digital audio “watermark” – inaudible to human hearing – that causes exclusive supplemental content to appear on smartphones running the APP app.
Directed by Bobby Boermans, the film centers around a young psychology student named Anna. The morning after a wild party, she awakens to find an app called IRIS (try spelling that backwards) installed on her phone. The all-knowing IRIS seems pretty helpful at first, but gradually turns nasty, sending compromising text messages, videos and photos to people on Anna’s contacts list. Mayhem ensues when she tries to rectify the situation.
The real-life APP app allows viewers to see the trouble-making messages, etc. on their own phones, as the characters receive them in the movie. It also provides access to additional scenes, and background information regarding what’s currently taking place on screen. The film reportedly still makes sense without that “second screen” content, however.
According to a report in Variety, the watermarking technology is modeled on Civolution’s SyncNow system, and utilizes the same Automatic Content Recognition technology used by the Soundhound and Shazam apps. It should also work with DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film, and will be unaffected by alternate-language soundtracks.
APP opens in The Netherlands on April 4th, and has been picked up by the UK’s High Point Media Group for wider distribution. The app is available for free in android and iOS versions, via the App Store and Google Play. The trailer for the film can be seen below.
Needless to say, this is far from the first interactive movie ever made. It’s actually a little reminiscent of the Odorama system used by director John Waters in a special version of his 1981 cult film Polyester – audience members were given scratch-and-sniff cards each containing ten numbered spots, and were then prompted to smell those spots when the corresponding numbers flashed on the screen.
More recently, Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Nitzan Ben Shaul created the made-for-tablets movie Turbulence, in which viewers decide the course of the storyline via touchscreen controls.