AKQA App Puts Music Video-Making On Your Phone for Kinect Game 'Dance Central 2'

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Whip out your iPhone and feel like a star, all with the aid of a nifty app from Harmonix and AKQA.

The app, Dance*Cam, which released today, is to promote the sequel to the immensely popular Kinect game, Dance Central 2.

The app lets you select a song, (previews of dance tracks like Far East Movement's "Like a G6" and Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning" are available) then record someone dancing -- or simply moving. There is an option to practice the dance steps as well. Then, the app works its magic, processing your uploaded video in about a minute and "dancifying" it, reversing moves, repeating certain steps, adding in some cool custom animation and so on, all in sync with the music. You can then upload the video to Facebook and challenge a friend to a battle, which joins two videos into one so other friends can vote on who can break it down the best.

Side-Dish Experience
The Kinect game's target is women aged 14 to 44, casual gamers who might be into this side-dish experience along with the actual game itself. The app fits in well with the sequel to the original Dance Central, adding in a social twist by letting you dance with other people side-by-side as well. "It's an artful way to promote the game," said Tom Zukoski, associate creative director at AKQA.

AKQA, which is known for its digital work, created a command-line version of Adobe's After Effects software, usually used for post-production work in filmmaking. "Command-line" meant that the team at the agency figured out a way to get the software to run automatically, following a set of commands robot-style to transform the user-shot videos. AKQA's creative model, which makes back-end technologists part of the concepting team from the get-go, served well for this sort of technically complex project.

The command-lines exist in the cloud, which makes it easier to do the kind of data- intensive work that is required to transform the video, because it doesn't chug space from your phone. "It makes it feel more like a video than a phone trick," said Zukoski.

Pierre Lipton, executive creative director, said that the lighting, color and overlay tricks all happen real time and in step with the music.

The agency worked with Fuzz Productions to develop the app for the Android and iOS platforms. Because AKQA is one of Microsoft's longstanding partners, it developed the app for the Windows 7 platform in-house. The experience on a Windows Mobile phone mirrors Xbox's new UI perfectly, said Lipton.

Design for all three platforms was done in house. "The experience is the same but we created a custom feel for each one," said Lipton. "It creates a lot of pressure for the designer but then it works perfectly for each platform."

One of the biggest challenges of the project was prioritizing features, which meant having to let certain things go. When you look at a project like this, everything depends on effort and memory, said Lipton. "You have to look at things like, how much will this type of lighting affect the memory," he said. "You have about a 100 points of awesomeness and you have to decide whether to spend it on one gigantic effect or five little ones."

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