For as long as Star Wars has been around, fans have made their own fan movies with toys using stop motion or by dressing up as characters and adding cheesy homemade special effects.
But wouldn’t it be awesome if you could easily create a short movie with special effects without needing to learn how to render 3D graphics or use a green screen? Enter Hasbro’s new, free Star Wars Studio FX app for iOS and Android.
Star Wars Studio FX is essentially a kid-friendly version of Action Movie FX, the popular action movie effects app that lets you apply special effects (mostly explosions) on top of your footage. Oddly enough, Action Movie FX actually introduced Star Wars effects last year. Hasbro’s Studio FX, I’m told, has no relation to Action Movie FX.
The company let me check out a pre-release version of the app with its upcoming Star Wars action figures and vehicle toys. (I just wanted to see the Star Wars: Rogue One toys to be honest…but that’ll be our little secret.)
You don’t need to purchase the toys to use the free special effects app, but doing so does come with one advantage, which I’ll get to in a second.
The pre-release version of the app I tested was still rough around the edges (it crashed several times, especially when processing effects). But when it worked, it was pretty fun.
At launch, the app comes with five effects to start with and 30 effects in total to unlock. Hasbro’s planning to have 50 effects in total for fans to use. Effects are split into six different types of categories from off-screen effects that come in, guest star effects with familiar characters to first-person over-the-shoulder effects. It’s a good mix of effects and shots to keep things fresh.
The whole idea is to let fans re-enact or create new scenes using the toys and then overlay special effects such as X-wing laser fire strikes or ion cannon blasts or appearances by your favorite droids R2-D2 and BB-8 on top of their footage to bring them to life.
The app rewards you with credits for every short video you make with it, which you can then use to unlock the special effects. There are no in-app purchases. However, you can unlock effects in another way: Buy Hasbro’s Star Wars toys and scan the QR code that comes with them to unlock credits to get effects. The only downside, as I discovered after unboxing a dozen or so figures and toys, is that the QR codes are random and don’t correspond to, say, a specific action figure or vehicle. You will get duplicate codes that don’t unlock anything.
Adding effects is simple that even a child can figure it out. Once you’ve got your effect selected (it’ll show you a little preview before you make your own), it’s just a matter of framing your shot, lining up the target reticle where you want an effect to appear and then hitting the record button.
Videos have to be at least five seconds long and the app does let you adjust the timing of effects within a clip. This part is mostly intuitive, although you will have to do some trial and error before you get the effect timed just right; it always took me a couple of tries.
And while the effects are easy to apply, you really have to play with perspective in order to get them to look good.
And this is what it’ll look like afterwards:
Here’s a look at some of the uber cheesy mini movies we made: (the app doesn’t edit them together, you’ll need to do that yourself with a separate video editor like iMovie):
Would I buy the toys just to get the credits for the app? Probably not, but if you’re going to buy the the toys for your kids (or yourself) anyway because you know, Rogue One the QR code and the app are a nice bonuses.
The toys, available this fall, range from really affordable with 3.75-inch figures that cost $7.99 and two-packs of 3.75-inch figures for $14.99 to really expensive like the $299.99 Rogue One Rapid Fire Imperial AT-ACT playset. The latter justifies its price tag since it can be controlled and you can program it with very easy commands (i.e. move forward, turn left, shoot Nerf missile dart) with the Studio FX app to help stage your mini movies better.
The figures themselves are remarkably detailed for toys that aren’t super high-end collectibles. Each one has a few points of articulation in the arms and legs and a weapon, piece of armor or two. Way better than the Star Wars toys I had growing up.
But again, playing with the app and the new toys is just a huge tease in the lead up to Rogue One’s premiere. December 16, please come already!
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