It’s becoming the norm to use two devices at once while consuming entertainment. We watch TV with our phones in hand, ready to tweet our minute-to-minute reactions. Along with the newest Netflix delivery, we keep our laptop handy, set to check IMDb to instantly relieve any nagging feelings of “I know I’ve seen that actress in something before.”
The entertainment industry has taken note: The most buzz-worthy tech to come out of this year’s E3 convention was the Wii U, a videogame console that includes a touchscreen embedded on the controller. There’s even talk of allowing cell phone use in movie theaters. And now, Warner Bros. is inviting viewers at home to use their tablets while watching the DVD for the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.
WB’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadowsmovie app syncs with the Blu-ray disc for the film. The Blu-ray/DVD pack hits stores tomorrow, but if you’re eager to watch one of its features before then, you can check out this EW exclusive video, a featurette on Holmes-o-vision with interviews from producers Lionel Wigram and Susan Downey and director Guy Richie.
The Smurfs, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and WB’s own Happy Feet Two each have similar apps. The key difference with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is that the tablet — either an iPad or a Kindle Fire — is the primary screen, not the secondary screen.
Looking at other Blu-ray-synced apps, WB’s developers found that “the experience was not very pleasant because it was a conflicted experience. The movie and the iPad were always in conflict with each other. It was ‘up down up down up down. I don’t know where to look,’” said Jonathan Gaines, Warner Home Video’s executive director of DVD special features.
I honestly went into this demo skeptical that the two screens could work together without one distracting from the other, but making the tablet, not the TV, the primary screen really helped. The TV displays still images from the film and the text “waiting for instructions from app” until you cue a scene or video featurette, while the tablet features the majority of the content.
The app, which is downloadable for free on iTunes, is divided into five categories: Motive: Genesis of the Story, Events: Scene Breakdown & Script Exploration, Persons of Interest (with character and actor spotlights), Scene of the Crime (a history of 1890s Europe) and Surveillance Tracking.
That last one is fun for anyone wanting to know more about the places Holmes and Watson’s adventure took them to in the movie. On the tablet, you can check out a map that shows where the University of Paris is in relation to other locations in the story, read about the history of the school and cue up a scene with Professor Moriarty that takes place there on the DVD.
My favorite parts of the app were in the Events section. Select “Together Again” on the tablet, and it leads you to four banter-filled pages of the script for scene 12, when Watson visits Holmes in his flat. Click the “on 2nd screen” box, and the scene begins playing on the TV so you can follow along with the script.
Previous apps depended on the film playing on the TV from beginning to end while the app provided supplementary content during the course of the movie. With the Sherlock Holmes app, the experience is like visiting an art gallery with a headset provided by the museum. Just as you can walk through the gallery at your own pace, selecting the audio files that correspond to artwork when you want to, you can navigate through the app at your leisure.
A dense and detailed movie app like this is best suited for a film with many layers to explore — for Sherlock Holmes, you’ve got the books, the author, the history of the period and the making of a franchise.
As for whether WB would create a similar app for other upcoming releases, Gaines said, “There’s other films that are on our development slate right now… The big ones.” Perchance a Dark Knight Rises app is in the future for DC devotees?