While gaming remains the most popular category in Apple’s App Store for iOS devices the company’s recent moves to strengthen its academic content lines especially with regard to the iPad indicate the huge potential for education apps in the tablet market. And with a Hollywood level of CGI polish plus star appeal courtesy of ever-erudite narrator Stephen Fry the largely Australian-made Inside the World of Dinosaurs developed by Melbourne-based M5859 Studios is the glossy forefront of a new wave of interactive education software poised to make the most of the mobile platform.
“I decided to build an app on dinosaurs that would defy gravity and take education apps to a whole new level in terms of cinematic-quality 3D modelling and animations” says Matthew Snowden M5859’s founder. “So I contacted many close friends whom I worked with on previous programming animation film and design projects. I had good relations with The Black Press Group whom we partnered on the original text (and publishing rights) for the interactive book. From a small group of five digital artists working around the clock we grew up to a team of 30 people worldwide.”
The end result of a year’s work is a huge interactive dinosaur encyclopaedia featuring hundreds of 3D dinosaur models (60 expertly modelled to a photo-realistic extent) animated fight scenes 200 pages of original text accompanied by five hours of Stephen Fry narration a library of videos and historical pictures plus more. While M5859 Studios’ team of designers artists animators and programmers were mostly based in Melbourne the group ended up needing to recruit internationally for the project reaching out to prominent dinosaur experts and world-class digital art specialists designers and sound teams — and also to net their celebrity voice.
“Stephen Fry came onboard after many months of discussion about the app with his management team. The real influencers were the pre-visuals such as the 40 interactive Matrix-style dinosaur fight sequences. I think at that point they realised we were building an original content-rich app set in the world of dinosaurs. Working with Stephen was a joy… I remember the first voiceover session in London was a 3-hour marathon recording session. We didn’t expect it to take so long [but] the script was 200 pages after all! We had to record another 2 hours in New Zealand at Weta a month later.”
In terms of bringing Inside the World of Dinosaurs to platforms other than the iPad Snowden confirms an iPhone version is in the works in addition to localising the app for other languages. The team will also be “looking at” Android in the near future plus maybe other formats as well. Post-dinosaurs Snowden says the group won’t be straying from their area of speciality: “We intend to focus on science and history apps for the education and entertainment markets where we can hopefully develop apps that are engaging exciting and have jaw-dropping 3D animations and graphics. Apps that push the boundaries of mobile platforms.”