If you can remember back this far, movies weren’t always available to download over the Internet. Even before DVDs, you got movies on what’s called a ‘VHS’ (Video Home System). These large cassettes were quite simple, but used a magnetic tape coiled inside to show video content in sequential format. Unlike DVDs, if you wanted to only watch the second half of a movie on VHS, you had to fast forward, which forced the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder (and player)) to scroll the tape quickly without rendering the image. Since this was strictly sequential, there was no real option for movie studios to add extra content. Of course, they could put the content there, but it was only accessible at the very end, after the credits, so most consumers never bothered to watch it.
With the advent of the DVD-RAM, consumers were introduced to random-access memory, which used software on the DVD player to skip around to various virtual bookmarks on the disc, such as the ‘Special Features’ or alternative versions of films. This was huge to movie studios, as they could now charge extra for ‘Special Edition’ versions of their movies, and include B-roll footage and outtakes as a value-add that consumers would pay extra for. They’ve done the same with Blu-ray discs, only moreso, given the extra amounts of storage available on the higher density Blu-ray discs.
Unfortunately, with the move to streaming media, movie studios are again limited to a sequential-presentation format. Of course they can include a few trailers and ads and such, but nothing like the extra features available on a physical disc. This is the same on mobile devices, where consumers either stream movies, or have them locally stored as a video file, much like the videos they are able to record with the device. Again, stuck with sequential presentation.
Fortunately for both consumers and the studios, Warner Brothers has found a way to innovate (somewhat) to both present consumers with extra bonus features and extract extra money. The new App Edition format, recently launched for The Dark Knight and Inception on iOS devices, offers a DVD-esque experience for moviewatchers using an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Really, it’s quite brilliant. The movie is available through the App Store as an app. When the consumer ‘launches’ the app, they have the option to watch the full-length movie or explore various extras. These extras might include deleted scenes, photos, trivia, and that sort of thing.
Of course, pricing isn’t all that great, with The Dark Knight ringing up for $9.99 and Inception priced at $11.99, but it’s a start. Also, unfortunately, these App Edition movies are only viewable on the device – there’s no digital copy included to watch on your laptop or TV, which is a shame. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing these bundled with the Blu-ray disc as a ‘Digital Edition’ in the future. It should be noted that Paramount is also planning this for Windows Phone 7 devices.
I personally think this is a rather cool idea. With tablets invading our homes this holiday season, I can definitely see these types of apps really taking off, once the studios get the pricing worked out. Would you buy an ‘App Edition’ movie?