Sports fans make high art of the multiscreen experience, with TV broadcasts, laptop news feeds and a wide range of mobile apps for trivia, fantasy contests and kitchen runs.
For others, though, the biggest spectator sport comes with the Academy Awards. For them, this Sunday’s Oscar ceremony could be the first where mobile devices truly change the experience, thanks to apps like Oscar Backstage Pass ($1 on iPhones and iPads), Live from the Red Carpet (free on Android and Apple devices) and Obsessed with Hollywood ($2 for iPhones and iPads).
The most promising, and interesting, of the list is Oscar Backstage Pass. The app will work on iPhones and iPodTouches (as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection), but those with iPads will have a much better time with it.
Backstage Pass, unlike most other apps, will change significantly as Sunday’s festivities move along. Before the awards ceremony, it provides video segments about various Oscar elements, along with a countdown to the event.
Once ABC’s televised coverage begins (at 7 p.m. Eastern time), the app’s screen will reset for the 90-minute red carpet coverage. ABC plans to provide users with options for eight camera angles not shown to network viewers. So if ABC’s on-air commentators are interviewing someone you care little for, you can watch elsewhere.
The app’s live video feed continues during commercials.
When the ceremony starts 90 minutes later, the app will change modes again. Plans call for users to have nine options for camera views, including backstage coverage and a view of the makeup chair, where the next Oscar presenters will be getting ready.
After the show ends, the app will show live video of the Governor’s Ball, the official Oscar party. This time, plans call for a choice of five camera angles.
For all three portions of the event coverage, one of the alternate camera views will include narration. Otherwise, viewers will hear ambient sound.
Those who download the app should approach the experience with measured expectations, since there is no way to predict how well it will perform when many thousands of users seek the same live camera feeds on Sunday evening.
In the past, mobile video apps tied to live events suffered greatly, with frozen screens, fragmented video and audio static. (Mobile viewers of the World Cup, the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament and the National Football League’s opening games will remember this well.)
But Albert Cheng, the executive vice president of digital media for the Disney/ABC Television Group, said his company would be prepared to serve even a large mobile audience. If a user’s video quality suffers, he said, it more likely would be the result of a slow cellular network connection.
After the show is complete, Backstage Pass will present a list of video highlights of the day. The app will also be free to download at that point.
Those who do not want to spend a dollar on ABC’s app, or who own Android devices, should consider Live from the Red Carpet, from the E! Network.
The app provides one additional camera view from the red carpet proceedings, from the E! Network’s broadcast team, as well as a “Glam Cam” showing 360-degree views of stars’ outfits.
Live from the Red Carpet also covered the Grammy Awards, the Golden Globes and other star-filled affairs. After each event, E! offers video highlights and written stories.
As entertaining as video can be, though, it fails to fully satisfy one of the more pressing needs of the Oscar viewer — information about nominees and movies. For this, the Vanity Fair Hollywood: Oscars Edition is a good pick.
Vanity Fair provides basic information about the nominees in each major category, along with relevant clips from the nominated work.
The app also offers some good conversation fodder with its Oscar polls. You can vote for Oscar winners and see how your picks compare to those of others who use the app. Slide shows and videos are also available.
The app is as slick as the magazine’s printed content, which is a nice switch from many other free celebrity-oriented apps. But that quality comes at a price: different sections of the app took minutes to load for the first time, even on a high-speed Wi-Fi connection.
A much less polished but much faster route to Oscar information is Awards Guide: The Oscars, which is free. It offers quick lookups for this year’s nominees, as well as information on past awards, nominees, venues and hosts.
At least as of early this week, Android users had no option that could fully compete with the Vanity Fair or Awards Guide apps. A better bet would be to open a mobile browser and log into Oscar.go.com, the official Oscar Web site. (Bring your patience. The site is harder to navigate on a cellphone.)
If you are a Hollywood trivia nut, or you would like to inject some friendly competition into your Oscar party, the Obsessed With Hollywood iPhone app is a solid bet. The app is featured in Apple’s Game Center, and it includes 2,500 questions and 200 hours of game play.
Probably just enough time, in other words, to get you to next year’s Oscar festivities and, presumably, many more apps.
ProCamera ($3 on iPhone), a highly rated photo app, recently updated its features to include deeper zoom, more photo effects and improved exposure controls. Crowdbeacon, a new (free) iPhone app, broadcasts your queries to local users who can recommend answers on a wide range of questions. Android users who were inspired by this week’s holiday should consider the U.S. Presidents app, which is free. The app includes trivia, quizzes and a presidential parade.