So you think you can dance? Your Facebook friends will be the judges of that thanks to the Dance*Cam app, and here’s hoping you’ve chosen your friends wisely.
Created by digital agency AKQA to promote Harmonix’s Dance Central 2 for the Xbox 360, the Dance*Cam app is like a mini version of the game with a social media twist. Users can choose from seven songs featured on Dance Central 2’s soundtrack, record themselves busting a groove and then share their video on Facebook or challenge a friend to step up. If your friend chooses to accept, your two videos will merge side by side in a virtual dance off to be judged by your peers. But what really makes Dance*Cam unique is the “dancify” feature that turns what was probably just awkward shuffling and a sad excuse for the running man into a club banging music video that makes you look like the love child of Beyoncé and Usher.
“Initially our task was finding a way to add effects to a video, but it was a concern that we wouldn’t be able to make this possible and to make something significant,” says Kenji Ogi, senior software engineer at AKQA. “But after all our research, we finally found [Adobe] After Effects.” The visual effects software became an integral addition to the app’s functionality–splicing footage from Dance Central 2 and remixing your moves in rhythm to a song’s particular beat.
In order to expedite the rendering process without sacrificing video quality, AKQA built a server-side version of After Effects using the Windows Azure Platform–an unprecedented move in the app industry, according to AKQA’s associate director of creative development, Justin Petersen. “As far as we know this is the first application that runs Adobe After Effects on the Windows Azure cloud platform in this way.”
Running the Dance*Cam app through Azure wasn’t only key in terms of video quality, but also for handling high-volume traffic and optimizing cloud services. “The beautiful thing about Azure in this case is that we can scale instances of After Effects so that we can handle more and more traffic,” says Jeff Titus, associate director of technology at AKQA. “That’s one of the great things [about this app]: We’re not just putting After Effects up there–we’re actually utilizing the scalability of the cloud.”
With the app running on Windows Phone 7, Android and Apple iOS devices, AKQA seems to have hit a veritable marketing gold mine by targeting consumers through a seamless integration of mobile and social media. “One of the biggest trends in mobile in general is the preponderance of gaming apps,” says Pierre Lipton, executive creative director at AKQA. “And so when people are in that gaming mindset already, it seems like a natural fit that you would try to promote a video game to them through that behavior.”