Marvel Adds Soundtracks to Digital Comics
Adaptive audio, which was initially announced at SxSW last year under the codename Project Gamma, adds an audio element to Marvel’s digital comics. Described last year as a way to add an "adaptive, non-repetitive score" to digital comics, Project Gamma was intended to a background soundtrack which changed as a reader read the comic. The sound track was keyed to certain panels, and it was also supposed to respond to the speed at which the reader turned the page.
Or at least that’s what Project Gamma was supposed to do when it was announced last year; how well does it perform now?
If you like, you can find out for yourself. The new feature is available in the Marvel Unlimited app. This is a free download, and all of the titles that have the new audio are available as free samples. You’ll only get a part of each volume, but it’s enough to at least give you an idea of how the soundtrack adds to the reading experience.
I tried the new feature on my iPad, and I think the soundtrack improves upon the original comic. The sounds ranged from music clips that set the mood to sounds that were tied to specific events in the story, and in general they improved upon the story.
Should I encounter new titles from Marvel that include audio I might buy them. But I won’t be buying any of the several titles released so far.
Marvel debuted the adaptive audio by adding it to comics originally published 10 years ago. Captain America: Winter Soldier is the inspiration for the movie that is coming out in April, so this move makes sense, but unfortunately the original comics are so old that they do not translate well to Marvel’s digital format.
The latest trick in comics is to avoid showing an entire page at once, and instead show each panel in sequence. This introduces time as a story telling element, which can add a lot to the reading experience.
The CA:WS comics I read are so old that they were not created as high definition digital files, and that is blindingly obvious when I tried to read them. Have you ever zoomed in on an image to the point that it was started getting fuzzy? That is what I frequently saw with the CA:WS comics.
This is regrettable because it detracts from the new audio feature. It also tells us that Marvel is only making a half-hearted effort to convert and sell their backlist, but that’s a tale for another post.
But in spite of Marvel’s early stumbles, they could have a real winner here – if it is used correctly. But if Marvel treats it like another gimmick and adds it to old titles simply to try to get you to buy them again, then they’ll ruin it. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.