HOLLYWOOD — Hooked Digital Media (www.hookeddigitalmedia.com) is a new production company that’s creating original content and delivering it through its own free custom iOS application.
The company was founded, in part, by producer Neal Edelstein, whose credits include The Ring, The Ring Two, Mulholland Drive and The Straight Story. Its goal, says Edelstein, is to deliver great stories to Apple’s mobile devices while employing quality filmmaking techniques.
Hooked officially launched in May with the release of Haunting Melissa, a horror-themed feature that mobile device users can begin watching after downloading the company’s free app (also called Haunting Melissa) from the iTunes store.
“We are storytellers — first and foremost — who leverage technology,” says Edelstein. “Delivery direct to tablet and mobile devices is going to be the most personal form of storytelling. The possibilities are endless for us to share new stories in an imaginative format directly to audiences. This new model is attracting interest among Hollywood’s power players who are shaping the industry.”
Hooked Digital Media’s content is more than just a compressed movie delivered via a mobile app. The story is presented linearly in chapters, but the viewer never knows when the next chapter will be delivered or how long the chapter will run.
The Haunting Melissa app tracks their viewing habits and will not notify them of new content until the earlier material has been viewed. Once content is downloaded to the user’s device, it’s theirs to own. In addition, if they re-watch their existing contents, they will notice slight changes that reveal more of the storyline.
Haunting Melissa centers around a young girl who believes she is being haunted by her recently-deceased mother. The project was shot in the Calgary area over a 14-day period, with a crew that scaled to as large as 65 at times. Director of photography Norm Li shot the project on a Red Epic. Almost 10 months were spent posting Haunting Melissa, with editor Natan Moss cutting the project in Final Cut Pro. Toluca Lake, CA’s CoSA VFX (www.cosavfx.com) handled the film’s few visual effects, and Edelstein notes that it’s not a special effects film.
Producer Neil Edelstein
FotoKem also played a large role in the film’s post production. The studio’s work began with transcoding, encoding and conforming the Red Raw files. It also managed the large amounts of data throughout the process. Color scientist Joseph Slomka helped establish the look of the teen horror tale. Slomka and the FotoKem team created a special LUT that was loaded into the Quantel Pablo in the studio’s DI suite. The LUT emulated the iPad Retina display. Slomka also factored in that the viewer might not be watching the film in perfect lighting conditions.
Final color was completed by Mark Griffith in the same color space that the majority of the film’s viewers will experience the story. The LUT was exported with the final deliverables, baking the image information into the files so the set look is maintained in the app download of the movie.
Edelstein is guarded when discussing the length of the final film, as well as future films, mainly because he feels “the unknown” enhances the anticipation and viewing experience. He does note that Haunting Melissa spans more than three hours of content.
After downloading the free app, users will have access to the first chapter for free. They will then be prompted to share their experience on social media and will be given access to Chapter 2 for free too.
Viewers have the option to receive the film as SD or HD content. A season pass for the SD version is $6.99, while the HD version is $14.99. While chapters vary in length, file sizes typically range from 700-800MBs.
Audio for Haunting Melissa was mixed in stereo at LA’s Wildfire Post. A 5.1 surround mix wasn’t necessary, since Edelstein envisions many viewers watching content on their mobile devices with stereo headphones to get the most immersive experience.
Hooked Digital Media is already planning a sequel to Haunting Melissa, as well as other original films that it will produce in-house. The company plans to work with outside storytellers too.