With yesterday’s release of Kick-Ass on DVD and Blu-ray, we called on Chris Brown, president and CEO of customized digital media company Metabeam, to walk us through the Blu-ray disc dual-screen experience, Metamenu – controllable by your iPhone or Android-platform smartphone. Download the free Metamenu app and your phone will automatically syncs to your BD Live player, allowing you to control menus and special features. For example, if you’re watching a film with the Metamenu companion in room full of friends, you could be listening to subtitles in Spanish while the audio plays in English for the rest of the room. Pretty neat, right? It gets better.
(More on Techland: Kick-Ass Director Matthew Vaughn On Extended Scenes & The Greatness Of Hit Girl)
We’ve got a Blu-ray copy of Kick-Ass to give away. If you’re interested, comment below and tell us what you’d like to see available for home entertainment in the next ten years. (Me: Cloud-based music library, please!) We’ll pick a winner by the end of day tomorrow, but make sure you’ve got a way to play a Blu-ray disc at home.
Allie Townsend: Tell me a bit about the dual-screen capabilities for the Kick-Ass Blu-ray disc.
Chris Brown: What we’re doing is creating the next generation of interface. People who have an iPhone or an Android device and are using it as a control center for their media when they’re out and about, can now use that same device as a smart remote control for their Blu-ray experience. In the case of Kick-Ass, we worked directly with the producers to expand the canvas to look at the experience of the big screen, but also of the little screens. It’s possible for 5 or 6 people in the same room to all enjoy Kick-Ass in a different way. Maybe one of them is listening to subtitles in a different language audio track or the director’s commentary with headphones on. Maybe one is watching the subtitles on their screen or browsing for similar content or discography of the actors. There’s a lot you can do to expand the experience when you have a second screen and we’re helping everyone do that.
AT: Talk a little about how the synchronization works. You’ve got to download a specific app to your smartphone?
CB: Yeah. There’s a special download called Kick-Ass Metamenus: The Superhero Sidekick Edition. The idea is that we’re a “superhero sidekick.” If you have a BD Live player, the app finds your phone automatically. Though you do need to connect your device to your home network, the same network as the BD Live player.
AT: Is this available for iPhones, iPads and Androids now?
CB: We don’t have the iPad version ready for Kick-Ass release but it will be soon. The Android version won’t be ready for the release date, because it’s running on the Adobe Air platform and that’s not available for Android yet.
(More on Techland: Kick-Ass 2: Matthew Vaughn Talks Sequels)
AT: When you were working on the concept, how did you navigate what viewers would want out of the second screen experience?
CB: It’s been my career to answer that question. Even before Metamenu, we had invented all sorts of pop up menu for different mediums. We’ve been doing these things for computers and TV screens for years. Getting into second screens, it’s just been an outgrowth of graphics from the BD Live features, what I call the parallel features. It’s everything that goes on during the movie as compared to stuff that bubbles out, like The Making Of.
The first step is to give users the analog experience so you can control your screen. Then, once you get the control of your on-screen menus down, you don’t really need to access them on the screen. You can control them in your hand. You hit the “Playlist” button and it gives you access to every entry point on the disk, all the chapters and bonus materials. The third step is what people doing with the movie that they might want to do on an indiviual basis instead. For instant, listening to subtitles or commentary. You can actually search for a line of the movie you’d like to see and it takes you right there.
AT: What’s the advantage to users?
CB: To me, the content is all there, but it’s really about the access. The experience of struggling with media is universal. Everyone has a hard time finding the right part of a DVD they’d like to see. We’re trying to solve these problems by making it easy via the technology that’s available to us now. The fact that everyone is carrying around these really robust media devices means that they should be able to connect and communicate with any other device. The idea of doing it simultaneously where you have the connected canvas (all the devices are talking to gether in real time) is great, but what do you do with them? It’s exciting for us because it’s a new platform to create for.
AT: Will this become a regular feature for home entertainment?
CB: Yes, I think so. The industry is behind it, but it’s bigger than them. It’s a natural outgrowth of what we can already do. The writing’s on the wall because it’s the type of thing consumers expect now. “Where’s my flying car?” Well, we can deliver some of that kind of thing.
(More on Techland: The Five Best Moments Of Kick-Ass)
AT: How do you think our media experiences are going to change over the next five to ten years?
CB: Unquestionably, there’s a continued movement to increase user control. When I first bought my gaming systems, you know what I could do with them? Play games. You know what I can do with them now?
There’s more choice. Consumers will demand platforms that will differentiate in user experience. User experience will drive these formats. Blu-ray is a premiere product because it’s an authored format. I think you’ll see a lot of the leading edge experience applications come first on Blu-ray because of this and I think Metamenu is proof of that. We didn’t design Metamenu specifically for Blu-ray, but it’s such a perfect platform.
AT: You work in a collaborative environment with Blu-ray. What is collaboration doing for technology?
CB: It’s wonderful because when I started in this, I was going to producers and talking about interactivity. They would all say, “Get out of here. I make movies.” Now, people are realizeing there’s this whole new media experience out there. If you don’t make interactive connections along with your movie, people will create their own. Hello, IMDB. When people are watching their TV, alot of them are also browsing the web. What we’re doing with Metamenu will allow filmmakers to create their own information so users don’t have to go to another place to see a list of actors in the movie.
AT: What’s your take on 3D in home entertainment?
CB: Well, I’m not an expert, but I am the vice president of the Digital Media Alliance, so I do know a lot about it. It’s all about the content. You need to make content compelling enough so the users will come. That’s just conventional wisdom, but it’s worth repeating. The 3D can’t be the only primary feature. It can’t be gimmicky. It has to be something that becomes essential. If the trend continues and we see more content employed in 3D, I really think Blu-ray will be the way 3D makes it into the home.
(More on Techland: Kick-Ass Report Card: A+)
AT: Is 3D home entertainment dependent on 3D’s performance at the box office?
CB: Not necessarily. I have a lot of faith in the video game business. I think gaming would allow the type of innovation we need to see in order for 3D at home to really take off. We haven’t seen the “gotta have it!” for the home. With Avatar, we saw the “gotta have it!” in the theater, but we haven’t seen it for the home. It might be Avatar in 3D on Blu-ray.
AT: Will we see dual screen capabilities in theaters? I love the idea of turning on subtitles through your headphones.
CB: Yes absolutely, and we’ve already started to some extent. I’d love to take credit for it, but I’ll point you somewhere else. It’s called Movie Mode. It’s a Best Buy application and it was done with the Universal’s Despicable Me. It’ puts on a parallel show during the credits. When you go into the theater, the idea is that you put your mobile phone on “movie mode” and it puts a little bit of content on your screen. This is something we’re very interested in. The Metamenu vision is a huge one. It’s going to take a lot of people to get us there. I’d love to do more with cinemas. We’ve talking about doing a digital jukebox before the movie is playing, perhaps with tribute games. Yes, large group applications is really appealing to us.