BB-8 peeks in your direction, cautiously, then rolls further into the distance. Suddenly, the droid extends a mechanical arm, and zaps…your cat. Or your car. Or your 1977 Kenner Darth Vader action figure. Either way, it’s fun, looks real, and it’s totally up to you.
Bad Robot has released a Star Wars update for its critically-acclaimed iPhone and iPad Action Movie FX app, which brings movie-quality visual and sound effects to augmented reality, allowing users to create their own short films. Out of the gate, fans can shoot videos with the aforementioned BB-8 animation (called “BB-8 Spark”), and six more Star Wars-themed packages are available: “Vader’s Revenge,” “Lightsaber Fight,” and “AT-AT Smash,” based on the original trilogy, and “Falcon Battle,” BB-8 Escape,” and “BB-8 Surprise” based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. All of the effects and sounds were created by Lucasfilm’s own Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, ensuring a level authenticity that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. And it’s all for a good cause, with Bad Robot collaborating with Star Wars: Force for Change to donate 100% of sales to the US Fund for UNICEF to support UNICEF Kid Power.
“Lots of us grew up making Star Wars movies in our backyards,” says Bad Robot’s David Baronoff. “Back then, our visual effects were made using ridiculous combinations of whatever was around — action figures, construction paper, sisters, cats. When we first made Action Movie FX a few years ago, one of the hopes was that we could let everyone in on the fun of making movies with actual (and incredibly talented) VFX artists. So things have kind of come full circle from those backyard DIY movie days now that Action Movie FX has DIY Star Wars effects created by the teams who worked on the actual films.” For Baronoff and Bad Robot, choosing what effects to create was a good — and really exciting — challenge to have.
“It was a completely surreal moment when we sat down with our partners at Lucasfilm and Disney to figure out what effects to create,” he says. “Our collective inner 12-year-old’s mind was blown knowing we’d play some part in deciding what new Star Wars sequences would be made. And then to see these amazing artists bring those daydreams to life — it’s been total wish fulfillment.”
Indeed, the sequences look incredible. An AT-AT stomps, crushing the ground — maybe your living room? — sending dust and debris upward. First Order TIE fighters attack, only to be driven away by the Millennium Falcon (complete with a dramatic pan upwards). Who or what or where they attack, of course, is for you to decide. And there’s lots more where that came from. Best of all, your films don’t have to show to an audience of one: You can share them on social channels, over e-mail or messenger, and save them as GIFs.
So if you want to make your own Star Wars movie in your backyard, just like you used to, here’s your chance. Only this time, Darth Vader, AT-ATs, and BB-8 can actually be in it.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer, and spends his days writing stuff for and around StarWars.com. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.