The iPhone's vintage camera app recreates the 8mm film effect. It was used for filming the award-winning documentary, Searching for Sugarman. Kuang Linhua / China Daily
Chi Hongyu always had a fascination with film, so much so that when he finished his studies he created a technology company that made film applications for the iPhone. Little did Chi know that his app would help a filmmaker reach gold - Oscar gold.
Chi, 41, the CEO of Nexvio Inc, specializes in making video and photography applications for the iPhone and iPad. Based in Seattle, Nexvio's 8mm Vintage Camera was released on the iOS app store in 2011. Back then, Chi was confident the app would be a success.
"We were always confident in that our app was made with quality and the user experience in mind," says Chi, who is from Changchun, Jilin province. "Our app was used by many filmmakers making music videos and shorts."
Yet, while confident in his app, Chi was completely unaware the program was used during the filming of the Academy Award-winning documentary, Searching for Sugarman.
According to an interview with CNN, the Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul was filming his documentary about the story of Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez. Partway through filming, Bendjelloul ran out of funding and 8 mm film. Not willing to let his work go to waste, Bendjelloul said he found Chi's $1.99 app on Appstore and proceed to shoot the rest of his movie with his iPhone.
Chi said he wasn't aware that any of this was going on until he was asked to comment on the Oscar award.
"I didn't hear anything about this until I was contacted by CNN about an interview about the app," Chi says.
Despite his unfamiliarity with Bendjelloul's movie, Chi was surprised and happy that Searching for Sugarman won the Oscar for best documentary. Chi is now receiving loads of interview requests from media companies within and outside of China.
After studying in the United States, Chi, ended up staying because of work. In 2009, he started with Nexvio in Seattle. Because of his background in IT and his own interests in photography and videography, Chi started making video editing apps. Nexvio's first application was a full-featured video-editing tool for mobile devices.
"I've always had this interest in photography and videography," Chi says. "So I took my experience working in IT and put it toward making photography and video capture apps."
According to Chi, due to the Oscar frenzy, the 8mm app has seen an uptick in downloads - between five to six times the usual download volumes. Overall, Chi says 8mm has garnered more than 1 million downloads.
"Obviously, having our name tied to an Oscar-winning film is great for us," Chi says.
"But we'll definitely continue to work on new video applications to help filmmakers recognize their visions."