TellX Software to Offer Interactive DVDs30 Jan, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey
You're watching a film at home and you want to buy the shoes one of the characters is wearing. A couple button clicks on the remote during the scene, and you're directed to the clothing company's Web site.
You're watching a big-budget action flick and you want to find out more information about the guns or war machines in the movie. Two clicks gets you automatic specs, graphics and related special features. You might even get information straight from the Air Force.
Love that theme music the lead character is strutting to? You can find out who's singing it and even see a music video clip, without losing your spot. Want to only view the portion of the making-of featurette for the scene you're watching? No problem.
This all sounds familiar, but it isn't another pitch about the potential interactive features on high-definition media.
This one's for DVD. And it's a reality.
Owen Carton, founder and president of San Carlos, Calif.-based TellX, said some DVDs that will be released by major studios later this year include his company's software, which offers on-demand information about nearly everything in every scene of the movie.
“This is our big coming out party,” he said. “It's not good enough to show you can interact [with viewers]; you need to provide a new level of entertainment.”
In a demonstration of several major films recently in theaters, Carton showed off everything TellX can do. Freezing a scene brings up an “x” over every item or person that has additional information available. Some scenes have just one or two items; others have half a dozen.
If it's a city scene in a movie, TellX allows you to zoom in on a map of the city. If it's a movie with a lot of fashion showcased, viewers have the option of watching scenes in order of the hats, shoes, dresses, jewelry and coats featured in the film. Viewers don't have to listen to the whole commentary if they just want the director's thoughts about one crucial scene.
One demonstration featured an option for a quiz. Another showed how hundreds of historical facts could be included for a European city.
Each TellX-enabled DVD will be different, depending on the film, Carton said.
“Whatever themes we have fed into the movie … you basically look at the themes of the movie, and look at what you can include to add to the movie,” Carton said. He added that specific titles and studios have not formally been announced.
Viewers also have the option to use the software backwards, by accessing everything additional TellX includes in the film, without watching the movie itself.
“We haven't really gone out and sold the interactivity [to studios],” Carton said. “The studios see the value of providing the incremental value of interactivity.”
The ex-marketing VP for Microsoft and his team have been feverishly working on the interactive software since 2003, he said, and didn't approach the studios until 2005. The company approached companies that already had agreements with studios for product placements in films to gauge their interest. For instance, if a soft drink company already has a product placement in the movie, the DVD can include a “provided by” advertisement before viewers are moved to information about certain scenes.
“The first thing we heard was that it had to be noninvasive,” Carton said. “If somebody doesn't want it, it can't be in front of their face.”
Viewers will be notified of the interactive options after the FBI warning on the DVD, and the features are accessible only if the viewer chooses them. One option allows for an icon during the movie that flashes whenever additional information is available. Another option allows viewers to bookmark scenes with items they were interested in for future reference, without stopping the movie.
The software is embedded into the DVD, and doesn't require any new hardware.
“What I think we've done is we've built a story within a story,” Carton said.