Disney’s Second Screen Technology Takes Special Features off the Blu-ray

     October 23, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean Second Screen slice

When DVD first hit the scene it was, to steal a phrase from Disney’s Aladdin, “A whole new world.” The bonus features let cinephiles behind the scenes for the first time and laid bare the often-arduous mechanics behind crafting a feature film. But, as the medium matured, many of these features became stagnant. Now, with the advent of Blu-ray and the connectivity opportunities offered by iPads, film studios are once again finding new ways to expand upon the medium of bonus features.

Disney is out ahead of the pack, using big-ticket releases like Bambi and now Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to introduce new ways to interact with the film and encourage consumers to buy, rather than rent. Read on to hear about the new, “Second Screen” technology.

Pirates of the Caribbean Second ScreenDisney’s Second Screen feature is kind of like an update of New Line’s, “Infinifilm” series mixed with the typical dvd photo gallery. Instead of interrupting the movie with an on-screen button that can take the viewer into a special feature on a particular scene, the Second Screen technology links your iPad to your Blu-ray player and allows you to look at concept art, time-lapse photography, makeup tests and the like on your tablet.

It may seem small, but it’s pretty nifty. In the past, many DVDs featured large collections of extra material that were all but useless. For example, the DVD of SLC! Punk included a copy of the comic book that inspired the film, which was a nice touch since that limited run one-off was long out of print. However, because of technological limitations, the strip was impossible to read. Second Screen fixes this by using the iPad’s touch screen so that you can zoom in and explore the artwork on display.

Also, the interconnectivity element lets you watch the movie while perusing the pre-vis elements at your leisure, comparing them in real time to the finished product without interrupting the story. Of course, all the special features are still housed on the disc in the tradition menu and submenu format for piecemeal viewing.

Pirates of the Caribbean Second ScreenHow it works is this: you download a free iPad app, sync the devices and watch the movie. They set it up and had the movie playing in about three minutes during our visit and it seemed pretty simple.

Another nice feature is that you can take the special features with you on the go. While the app is designed to function en tandem with the movie, you can still access the entire database of pictures and video independently. Hypothetically, you could even download the app, look through the materials and then decide if you want to pay for the interactive portion, (i.e. the disc itself). This is key for me because it is a return to the user-friendly nature of Shareware and a sign of corporate media making inroads into the new norm of the Web 2.0 world.

This type of feature isn’t yet available with every Disney Blu-ray release, but it seems like the logical next step, allowing buyers to interact with their media, learn about the filmmaking process and sample bonus features as a way of making purchasing decisions.

Here is a video from Disney of the Second Screen in action. It’s also got cool Daft Punk music.  Check back tomorrow for a full interview with Visual Effects Art Director Aaron McBride and Visual Effects Supervisor Ben Snow.

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