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.
— Oliver Gettell