App's strength proved to be in its variety

The first push by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to offer a multi-screen viewing experience may not have been perfect, but it proved to be a very solid first effort.

Oscar Backstage Pass offered a strong second screen experience for users that wanted a behind the scenes look at the Academy Awards, taking them into previously roped-off areas like the press room and giving them looks at the backstage happenings of the film industry’s biggest night.

The app’s strength proved to be in its variety. Cameras were broadcasting from nine different areas during the show, giving fans plenty of ways to see more of their favorite Hollywood insider, often in a more relaxed atmosphere – though not every star seemed fully aware of why they were being put in front of various cameras. (Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo, for instance, was just as adorably befuddled backstage on the “Thank You Cam” as she was when accidentally dropping the F-bomb on stage, noting that she felt like she was talking to herself).

Tracking winners as they got offstage was a fairly easy process – as the app offered a map view of camera locations, allowing users to follow from one to the next. And there’s something that’s fun about seeing the human side of actors in triumphant moments (rather than tabloid-esque scandals). Colin Firth having someone backstage take his picture with castmates, for example, was charming.

Unfortunately, audio was a hit or miss affair for the app, with some rooms not offering any sound other than a generic music track. The Academy also seemingly took pains to avoid controversy as well. When a question was put to Leo about her self-promotion campaign for the OScar, the video locked up quickly, only returning when the question had finished.

It’s perhaps not surprising, but the move was a big hit to the authenticity of the backstage experience.

Video quality throughout the broadcast was superb, though (at least for anyone using a decent WiFi connection – God help those who opted to rely on 3G).

While several of the cams were interesting, the app’s hosted elements were largely useless – akin to a network anchor’s chatter in the midst of a breaking news event, when there’s no new information, but they have to keep talking.

Red carpet coverage was equally well done, offering fans plenty of chances to see the fashion dos and don’ts. And the walk-up to the awards themselves were handled adroitly, with a look back at famous moments in Oscar history as well as the events that lead up to the show.

Overall, you’re not likely to find anyone complaining about the app – especially since it had a mere 99-cent price tag (versus $4.99 for a similar service on their computers). It was a good step forward into the modern technological age for the Academy, which has historically clung so tightly to the past.

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