24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: YouTube

PercyFX app: Add your own messages into movie clips [video]

April 7, 2012 |  8:00 am

Two mainstays of Web culture are sending short messages — via Twitter, instant messaging, texting, etc. — and re-appropriating pop-culture imagery, as the many mash-ups on YouTube or celebrity memes on Tumblr demonstrate. The smartphone app PercyFX does a little bit of both, allowing users to insert personalized written messages into clips from Hollywood movies.

Take for example the clip above from "The Big Lebowski," in which the slacker protagonist Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski uses an old detective's trick to reveal what the shady smut peddler Jackie Treehorn previously wrote on and ripped off a notepad. In the actual film, the Dude turns up a crude doodle, but users of PercyFX can change that to any message that fits into 54 characters.

Some of the app's suggested uses include sending birthday wishes or invitations, or even telling off your boss while quitting (don't expect a good reference), though users will doubtless come up with their own ideas.

The app, which launched a BlackBerry version in December and an iPhone and iPad version in January, currently includes a modest selection of recent and older films from Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, including "Bridesmaids," "Animal House," "Despicable Me," "Sixteen Candles," "Wayne's World" and "Rango." New films are being added to the library at a rate of about one per week. The app is free, but customizing videos requires buying credits, with individual videos ranging from 24 to 33 cents.

Once created, the videos can be shared via email, Facebook and, in the case of Universal films, YouTube. (Paramount's corporate parent, Viacom Inc., is currently engaged in a copyright infringement lawsuit with YouTube.)

Julie Steiner, president of Toronto-based Percy3D, sees the app as a fun way for users to interact with and share movies they enjoy and identify with. "It's kind of like in your high school yearbook, everybody chose a quote from a movie," she said. "This is sort of this generation's version of that."

Steiner said the app is designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of users. "Depending on what age you are, different things appeal to you, different clips," she said. "We're always looking for stuff that's going to appeal to different age groups."

That said, the company is aware that a smartphone app could be a good way to reach a coveted young demographic. "That's the way [young people] are communicating and finding things," said Steiner, who is also a mother of teenagers. "My kids don't watch TV," she added. "They watch the Internet, they watch the computer."

For studios like Paramount and Universal, apps like PercyFX allow them to monetize their back catalogs and hopefully introduce new generations to their existing properties. The app, for example, also provides links to purchase or rent the featured films via iTunes and Amazon's video-on-demand services.

Steiner also said the app's current text-based personalization features are just the beginning, and the technology powering the app can also handle user-generated multimedia content such as photos and video.

Check out two more tongue-in-cheek videos created by 24 Frames below.

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— Oliver Gettell


Sundance 2011: 'Life in a Day' -- a snapshot of humanity via YouTube

January 28, 2011 | 12:40 pm

Getprev We'll admit it: When we heard there was a movie screening at the Sundance Film Festival that was made up entirely of YouTube clips, we didn't exactly rush out to get a ticket.

Sure, YouTube is great for the occasional viral video, or late-night TV clip. But an entire movie filled with "David after dentist" or "Charlie bit my finger"? How would that work, exactly?

A crowd of curious filmgoers filled the Eccles Theater on Thursday night seeking the answer to that question, when "Life in a Day" premiered -- and was streamed live on the Internet. (No rebroadcasts of the film are available in the U.S. However, National Geographic will release the film in theaters this summer.)

On July 24, amateur filmmakers and social media fiends around the world were asked to record a day in their lives and upload the footage to YouTube. Director Kevin Macdonald, who won an Oscar for the 1999 documentary "One Day in September" and whose next project is the Roman drama "The Eagle" starring Channing Tatum, somehow put together a 90-minute film from 80,000 video submissions that totaled more than 5,000 hours of footage.

The result is much more than just socially awkward kids talking confessional-style to their webcams (though one of the filmmakers did admit after the screening that "teenagers whining in their bedrooms" made up the majority of the submissions). On the contrary, many of the subjects employed their friends or family members to tape them for a day instead of filming themselves. The movie begins at sunrise on July 24, and Macdonald uses the plethora of nature scenery that was sent in -- shots of the sun rising or a full moon -- to give the movie a time element. It's astounding how many of the same mundane acts people decided to share: waking up, brushing their teeth, making a pot of coffee, even sitting on the toliet. They talk about the same things, too: love, their fears, loneliness.

But the audience seemed to respond most to the movie when it broke out of the collage-like scenes and instead spent a few minutes focusing on individual stories. There was a young Peruvian boy who worked as a shoeshiner on the street; a man worrying about how to confess his feelings to his girlfriend; a married couple with a young boy trying to understand his mother's battle with cancer. These folks were just some of the two dozen participants who were flown out from locales as varied as Egypt, Indonesia and Dubai for the film's premiere --and they all took the stage afterward for the question-and-answer session, seeming to relish their momentary fame.

Bob Liginski Jr., who filmed the vignette about his wife's cancer, said at a Main Street party after the screening that the Park City experience had been such a thrill that he was dreading returning to his job in Chicago as a corporate videographer.

Liginski had been casually recording his family around the home when he heard about the "Life in a Day" project, and his wife agreed to be filmed for it -- even though only a day prior, she had returned home from the hospital after a double masectomy and reconstructive surgery.

"Everyone's been asking me, 'Aren't you freaking out? It's so personal,' " he said, referring to the graphic footage of his wife and her scars. "We just didn't want to sugarcoat anything."

Another raw moment in the movie occurs when 27-year-old David Jacqubs comes out to his 90-year-old grandmother, telling her he has a boyfriend. Jacqubs, who has a partnership with YouTube and goes by the alias 'Davey Wavey' online, said he hoped the honesty of the project would make viewers take the videos on the site more seriously.

"It's not just funny videos of cats getting stuck in fans," he laughed. "The value of this movie is that it's showing off the good stuff on YouTube, and showing that it can compete with 'real' movies."

--Amy Kaufman in Park City, Utah

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Cathy Liginski and Bob Linginski Jr. with son Bobby at the premiere of "Life in a Day." Credit: Danny Moloshok / Associated Press


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