Venice in movies

Motivation

The canals, the waterways,  and the extraordinary architecture of Venice make it an ideal location for movies. Venice is known as the world’s most romantic city, which explains why it has been the setting for several movies of this genre. The lives of famous Venetians such as Giacomo Casanova and the Shakespearean play The Merchant of Venice have also been the subject matter of many films.  In total, the number of movies set in Venice comes up to nearly a hundred.

Casinoroyale
Scene from Casino Royale, 2006
TheTourist
Scene from The Tourist, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Given the industry’s love affair with Venice, it is no wonder that people visiting Venice for the first time already feel familiar with different locations in the city. We would like to offer them a tool to re-imagine these locations as seen in movies.

Such an experience can be truly amazing as the following video shows for London

Considering the limited time available, we initially plan to design a much simpler tool that can provide a similar experience for Venice.

Objectives and Deliverable

The objectives of our project are

  1. Research and organize information about movies that are set in Venice
  2. Design a tool that allows users to experience Venice as portrayed in movies.

The final deliverable of our project would be an Android app with the following main features

  1.  Based on current user location in Venice
    •  Gives the list of movies and relevant scenes which are set at or near that location, with  a web link to the video clip or screen shot if available.
    •  Points user to the nearest movie ‘hot spot’ (location for multiple movies)
  2. Database of movie locations in Venice searchable via movie, actor, director and genre.
  3.  Map of Venice with links to georeferenced movie scenes.

Project methodology

Several websites and books give detailed information about movies and the locations they are set in, and some have dedicated information about movies set in Venice. A few websites give information under the Creative Commons License.

Some of these sources are:

 

We would initially collect this information that is commonly in the form of verbal descriptions.  For example. a statement may read “The boat chase scene in the film X is set in the Grand Canal in Venice”. The next step would be to get information about the coordinates of the relevant location in Venice, here the Grand Canal. This could be found from Google Maps and other similar sources. Then we would need to extract the scene, here the boat chase scene in film X. This could be either in the form of a link to the video clip, if available in YouTube or other websites, screenshots or a description of the scene itself. Some websites that host or license film clips are

Additional information about the scene, such as the name of the movie, time (from the beginning of the movie), actor, director and genre would also be included. Then we would link these two classes of information related to the location and the scene. Additionally, outside of the identified web sources, we would also explore the possibility of using crowd sourcing to obtain and maintain information about the movie locations and scenes.

We have planned to complete this project in three phases

1. Data collection

 

Drawing1
Data Collection Plan

We have classified the above sources into three categories – books, webpages, and other databases, and propose different methods for each.  There are several books written on movies shot in Venice and  “Venezia, si gira”  is one of them. We plan to use crowd-sourcing for extracting such information from books. Parsing web pages for scene locations can help us extract relevant information. If we build a dictionary of places in Venice which can be obtained from OpenStreetMap database, we can simply do a regular expression or other text matching methods. We plan to write scripts in python or perl to crawl these pages as well as  use their text matching features to extract data. Apart from these webpages, the same method can also be applied to movie subtitles. Finally, we also have some websites maintaining  databases regarding movie scenes. We will explore the possibility of getting this database and them importing it into our database.

2. Data organization and database building

Once we collect all the required data, we will have to merge and organize them in database so that they can be queried.  Some of the attributes that we plan to store in the database are:

  • Movie or scene unique identifier
  • Start and end times of a particular scene
  • Geo-location
  • Links to video clips or pictures of the scene, if available
  • Year the movie was shot
  • Genre
  • Famous actors
  • Director
  • Buildings/Streets/Waterways shown in the scene

We can store these in a conventional relational database. However,  to allow more semantic queries, we are also considering other forms of databases such as RDF triple stores.

3.  App development

Once we have the database built, we will build an Android app that enables users to visualize the data we collected and experience Venice as portrayed in movies.  The programming will be done in Java with Android Software Development Kit. . We can obtain the user’s location from the location services provided by the Android device. Once we have the user’s location, the app can query the database for relevant information about the scenes set at nearby locations. We plan to present such information on a map using Google Maps Android Application Programming Interface. The app will also have interface to allow users to search for movies based on actors, directors, genre etc. We will test the app thoroughly and gather feedback for improvement from users during beta-testing.

Project Schedule

The following Gantt chart shows our project schedule

gantt