This project was a great example of the challenges of building apps for marketing purposes. Typically these projects have huge ambitions, limited budgets, and very tight timelines. Indeed, the release date of the app is entirely dependent on the release date of the film, which leaves very little room for error! Fortunately I have a good amount of experience with projects like this.
For the Dark Knight Rises, we set out to build something like Instagram but with stencils. Let that sink in a bit. We were planning to essentially reverse engineer the fastest growing photo sharing app on the market, and add a feature to it!
Instagram at that time was a much simpler app. We determined that a few things were happening with Instagram filters. They were a combination of stock photo manipulation settings and overlays, which were ultimately flattened to create the final, filtered image. Furthermore, the phones at the time were not exactly the powerhouses they are today — so this had to be done on the computational cheap, and without loading a bunch of high res images in the app.
The stencil feature was added because the overall purpose of the app was to allow users to simulate adding a chalk batman symbol to locations in their local area, and then share those images on social media — specifically, Facebook and Twitter, as well as over SMS and email.
We had around a month to build the Dark Knight app, which didn’t give us much time for research or experimentation, but luckily we hit on some good settings really quick which allowed us to generate some really striking photos.
Apple had released CoreImage with the newest version of the iOS SDK — the problem was, we couldn’t guarantee that all devices would support it. In fact, I was pretty convinced the number of devices that would support it at launch would be around 20%. So we essentially had to replicate a lot of what CoreImage gives us now from scratch!
We were also working with the relatively new camera functionality available in these devices — in the early days, working with cameras and image libraries was a lot more cumbersome than it is now.
Ultimately the app was one of my proudest accomplishments. We replicated (in simple form, of course) a very complex app in very short time, and built something entirely appropriate and relevant to the product it was promoting.
I would later be asked to build another app for Warner Bros soon after — another photo app, no less — this time for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.
Last modified: March 22, 2019