Will we see a day when the cinema audience is asked to turn their phones on rather than off? That was the controversial blue sky topic at a session devoted to enhancing cinema with second screen applications.
With cinemas already being kitted out with extensive IT systems and the ability for consumers to connect with the web via personal devices, the prospects for revenue on second screens in and around cinemas are being explored.
“The ability to buy products that you have seen on screen directly from your smartphone is a logical extension of product placement,” said Peter Wilson, director, High Definition and Digital Cinema Ltd.
“If studios and advertisers could run a database which is timecode-linked to the movie, then consumer iPhones could be their shopping phone.”
Similarly, users in the vicinity of a cinema could download trailers to preview before a film before going to buy a ticket. There are, said Wilson, a myriad of ways in which studios, exhibitors, advertisers or vendors local to the cinema could connect with audiences.
“E-commerce is an opportunity for studios and exhibitors but it does mean an IT headache to devise a system that can handle the transactions and data securely,” said Wilson.
Though in-cinema apps could be made to mute the personal device, inhibit internal cameras and mics or dim backlights on phones, the fear is that all of this activity will detract from the content itself.
“I don’t want cinema to be destroyed by people using second screens because having one point of interest in a darkened room is why people go to the cinema today,” said Mark Schubin, technology consultant, SchubinCafe.com.
Nonetheless in a poll of the delegates attending the session the majority believed that not only would second screen activity be introduced before and after cinema screenings, but that apps for movie goers who are actually watching a film would also debut within a decade.
Outside of the cinema, second screen apps are already being used to enrich the consumer experience or drive revenue.
Location based cinema, which uses GPS coordinates of film scenes for consumers to replay on their devices when at the location, is already possible.
Future second screen apps being developed by Deluxe includes the delivery of audio streams (commentary track or different languages) in sync with content to second devices so that individuals with different preferences could watch the same film.
“We are also investigating voice activated menus, augmented reality, pre-release alerts to additional content and in-feature commerce where props or clothes can be pre-encoded for purchase via second devices,” said Sapth Sholingapuram, VP at Deluxe. “User generated commentaries or text could also be uploaded to Facebook for others to stream when they watch the same content back.”
The key to second screen apps is knowing what piece of content is being displayed at any point in time. There are various technologies to achieve this but the most robust is audio synchronization by way of watermarking or fingerprinting.
Watermarking utilizes hidden information embedded in the audio file that is not audible to the listener and does not effect the quality of the original track. Fingerprinting is a means of tagging segments of audio content. Both techniques enable a second screen app to detect or record a piece of audio within seconds of it being played and identify the content and timecode.
In the cinema second screen sync is easier. The content can’t be DVR’ed, there is only one timecode to manage and everyone remains in their own seat.