Disney announced Tuesday that a feature-length documentary called Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey will premiere March 14 at SXSW, revealing behind-the-scenes footage featuring some of the technology used to produce the film. One of the innovative startups that was integral to the production of the latest Star Wars movie is Zurich-based Faceshift, an animation company that uses motion capture software to create avatars that mimic human expression in real time. Apple acquired the startup for an undisclosed amount in November.
The main reason Abrams is coming to SXSW, however, is to discuss some of the cutting edge digital storytelling tools being used by filmmakers today on a March 14 panel called "The Eyes of Robots and Murderers." While CGI played a big part in creating The Force Awakens, the film also went against the grain of contemporary sci-fi movies by using live actors and "practical effects" wherever possible. (The Force Awakens earned a nomination at this year's Oscars for best visual effects, but lost to artificial intelligence thriller Ex Machina.)
Abrams, the founder of film production company Bad Robot, is also introducing the app KnowMe during the SXSW panel. Launched in January by Andrew Jarecki, the director of the hit HBO Series The Jinx and co-founder of movie information service Moviefone, KnowMe is designed to simplify the process of shooting iPhone videos. The app allows users to seamlessly edit in photos and other videos from their iPhone's camera roll, and mix in music from their MP3 collection or KnowMe's music library as well as voice-overs. Jarecki will also be speaking on the SXSW panel with Abrams, who is an investor in KnowMe.
While so far all of Abrams's film work on outer space has focused only on the make-believe realm, the director also is working on a web documentary series about Google's real-life plans to go to the moon. Entitled Moon Shot, the series looks at the XPRIZE Foundation's competition that will award $30 million to the entrepreneur who can come up with an affordable way to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon by the end of 2017.
To see a trailer for the series, which debuts online on March 15, check out the video below.