iPad App Review: The Art of The Adventures of Tintin
With Apple’s App Store and iBooks changing the way many of us process the world and entertainment, It should be noted that up until now, it hasn’t been used for a rather interesting purpose: to condense those large, making-of books into a more travel-friendly ‘companion.’ For those of you wondering what I’m talking about, I am referring to the hardcover books found in the Media/Entertainment section of your local book store (or that you used to be able to find), generally giving us a view into the artistic and creative process of making most films (preferably those that are animated).
In the last few weeks, an interesting breakthrough in apps has come by way of Peter Jackson’s company Weta, publisher HarperCollins, and Moulinsart. As of December 21, 2011 (at least in the North American iTunes and App Store), these three companies have combined forces and released the first-ever iPad app that takes an Art of book, and brings it into the interactive/digital realm.
Based on the hardcover book The Art of The Adventures of Tintin by Chris Guise, this app looks to enhance the experience that many cinephiles like myself often take when wanting to learn more about a certain film.
Priced at a very modest $5.99 (the hardcover book’s retail price is $39.99), I will admit that the categorizing of this item had me a bit perplexed. Logic dictates that since it’s based on an Art of book, it should belong as a publication in the iBooks store. However, upon further inspection, layout and navigation processes soon reveal why the publishers have chosen to list this as an app.
The layout of the app drops page-turning, in favor of interactive scrolling, and touch-sensitive features. Almost every image in the app can be expanded to view at a larger detail, with some of them providing additional information when expanded.
Along with this feature, are several notable ones that help push the app into new frontiers:
1) The ability to fade between images – The icon showing a finger swiping vertically over a rocketship, gives you the ability to fade in-and-out between original artwork by Tintin creator Herge, and the conceptual artwork inspired by the original piece.
2) 360-degree rotations – The icon showing a finger rotating a wire-frame globe gives us the ability to view 3-dimensional models all the way around. This feature showcases several of the film’s vehicular props, and facial close-ups of several of the cast.
3) Interview & Video Clips – This icon will allow clips from the final film to play, along with interviews from the effects crew and designers.
4) 360-degree Environmental Exploration– A couple of the film’s environments take advantage of the iPad’s gyroscope feature, and one can pan around the room in a 360-degree view as if you were actually there. Little stars in various areas will open up trivia and information boxes.
But remember, this app isn’t just about whizz-bang features. We get a little background into just who Tintin is, as well as plenty of excellent work done by the guys and gals down at Weta.
The main characters (as well as a smattering of the secondary characters) each get the chance to be talked about regarding character design, performance-capture, & much more.
Also of interest to me were the myriad environments that were created for the film. One of my favorite images is this final rendering of Omar Ben’s magnificent palace in Bagghar that Tintin, Snowy, & Captain Haddock pay a visit to. It’s (almost) hard to believe that this place only exists inside of a computer.
The iPad app for The Art of The Adventures of Tintin is a nice first-step into what the future of Art of materials can be, and it is a commendable effort. However, there are a few areas that could be improved upon:
– While the ability to zoom in and read various text portions is nice, the app tends to lag, and one might find themselves waiting 5-10 seconds for the text to become legible again.
– The interview clips interspersed throughout are nice, but they feel a little short. Some only last a minute and thirty seconds. Plus, it would have been nice to include footage of the various actors emoting or acting within the performance-capture space (aka The Volume).
– The constant rotation of various 360-degree items like vehicles and characters. It might be best to keep this feature static until the user touches/opens the feature.
– The app is set to only be displayed in landscape mode. While this is nice for some pieces of art, I found myself wishing I could view some of the more ‘vertical’ art pieces in portrait mode.
Please bear in mind that these are only minor nitpicks, and I highly recommend this app for those interested in behind-the-scenes material. One has to now wonder if Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks Animation will also join the digital revolution that Weta, Harpercollins, & Moulinsart have begun. Who knows? With the dearth of studios sidelining making-of material from DVD and Blu-Ray, Apple’s App Store may be the next place where most of this behind-the-scenes material will be found.