John Cleese never disappoints. The towering silly walker supreme of the Monty Python troupe greets us at the opening of the iPad Monty Python: The Holy Book of Days app by sarcastically congratulating us for wasting $5 in order to relive in excruciating detail the misery he experienced filming "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in 1974. By digging into the vaults and retrieving outtakes, shooting scripts, Michael Palin’s diary, stills, and other previously unseen material from the notoriously troubled shoot, we now have the digital equivalent of airing one’s “dirty laundry” in public, says Cleese. Well, now at least he gets to share his pain.
The app is as advertised in the title a day-by-day account of the filming of the cult classic and the way much of America was introduced to the British comedy team. It is a fan boy’s wet dream in terms of content. It was developed by book and app packaging company Melcher Media using a platform from ScrollMotion.
According to ScrollMotion founder Josh Koppel, this kind of app is repackaging in a smarter way the DVD extras that once intruded on the viewing of the DVD or had to be viewed separately. “For $4.95 it feels like the box set edition of Monty Python.” As film distribution moves ever more to digital platforms where physical packaging is no longer available, some of that material and experience should move to apps,” says Koppel. “Everything you might have gotten in a physical package you will no longer get there.”
Like some recent Disney apps for Bambi and Lion King re-releases, the Python app can be viewed in sync with the Blu-ray that also came to market this week. Using BD-Live technology and connectivity of both the connected BD player and your iPad, the tablet app actually can control the disc as it plays on the TV.
Apps like these give us an important glimpse into the future of two-screen syncopation in the living room. Connecting the device to the actual viewing experience allows for entirely new vistas in content creativity. The potential for social TV in the time-shift era is enormous. My daughter and her friends are already using Netflix on their Xboxes to organize group viewings of old shows and movies. “When I don’t feel like going over to so-and-so’s house to watch something we just do it over the Xbox,” she tells me. It is reflex for them already. Imagine when programmers actually catch up to this behavior and start enhancing the experience.
Koppel says that like classic DVDs, these high-profile brands have a long shelf life among the back catalogs. Every time someone searches for Monty Python material in iTunes, this app will come up. “There is always an audience for this,” says Koppel. “In a digital world where retail space is no longer constrained by physical space, the only difficulty becomes discovery. The opportunity here is to create perennial products.” He cites a Dinopedia iPad app created on the platform from National Geographic over a year ago. It remains among the top-100-grossing apps in the book apps section of the Store. “You are giving people another reason to remember to buy a piece of content,” he says.
Ultimately he sees apps tied to other media as a predictable piece of a media marketing cycle. This becomes more viable as the tools evolve. He says that one person at Melcher was able to build this in three weeks. The art was created in InDesign and put into a workflow to the ScrollMotion platform. “This was done by a designer, not a technologist,” he says.
In the end, we might buy our Blu-ray discs with the expectation that an app is bundled with the purchase, or as a premium in the “Collector’s Edition” of a package -- or even as a premium upsell once the movie lover buys the basic disc. There are multiple ways of using apps to upsell, cross-sell and find more revenue from the enthusiast consumer.
And as we see the device-to-TV connection deepen even further with AirPlay, we get another layer of possibility here. Rather than being bound to the app device, all of these disc extras in an app can be thrown onto the big screen, as if they were in the disc bundle after all. Go further. Why not have the ability to enhance social TV with overlays synchronized across your friends’ screens so that viewers in different places could stop and start the viewing, share specific scenes and overlay commentary.
Imagine the haggling over the remote control when you have three, five or ten people connected virtually from remote locations -- all with their finger on the pause button. Now that is where mobility gives “living room wars” a new global definition.