There are dozens of movies released every year – far more than any single person (or even a group of people) can expect to keep up with. While there are websites such as IMDB that allow users to search for facts and information about movies, these sites do not also look for relationships between movies. Having access to such a database would provide both academics and film enthusiasts with a new resource for examining connections between movies – from the words in similar scenes to the colors that were used across a movie.
In such a system, a key feature is the ability to search and navigate easily. By including as many relations as possible for users to search on, we can guarantee that there will be a wealth of information that becomes available to them for analysis. Similarly, making it easy for users to navigate through the database (and even upload films that they wish to be able to analyze) will make the database more accessible and applicable to everyone. Both of these features will make the online database invaluable to anyone who has the desire to examine connections and parallels between different films.
This project has already been started as a web application and that is certainly the best medium for it, due to the fact that it will provide the most people access on the most devices. At the moment, the data and search functionality are displayed through simple web pages, which could be brought more to life with a reactive interface that would better present the information pertinent to a user’s search, while still allowing them to view more information if desired. By removing visual pains of searching through the data, there is an increased chance of the tool being useful as desired.
There should also be a feature for uploading new movies, which would allow the server to automatically pull data from movie files (screenshots, subtitles, etc) and could even have the images taken analyzed by a computer-vision program to retrieve information such as objects in the image from them, allowing for more meaningful searches and relational matches. By automating the submission process, we would lower the work required to submit films to the system, making users more likely to submit films (thereby expanding the breadth of the database).
As with any cloud-hosted database, the cost of hosting will increase with the number of movies that are held in it. The images themselves would be the largest files, ranging from 2KB to 10KB after compression. Even with such compression, however, there will be cost constraints associated with the number of movies that can be held in the database while operating within a reasonable budget. Another constraint will come from the use of any sort of remote library for image analysis. The majority of libraries that will be able to successfully analyze the images for metadata in the database will have some cost associated with them (see the Google Vision API as an example). Finally, we may also wish to consider creating a local application that users could download for parsing movies so the size of files that have to be uploaded are drastically reduced in size.
Risks and Rewards
This project has one primary issue that comes with it, which is the legality of the use of movies. The movie industry is known for aggressively defending its copyrights and going after people for violating them. Because the database uses only screenshots, however, this hopefully should not be an issue with fair use laws. Having users upload movies themselves might be another grey area legally, due to the sharing of content that (in most cases) was purchased for personal use. There is a good chance it would be safe under fair use, but it is certainly a grey area that must be examined and addressed if necessary. This would certainly need to be looked into.
The benefits of the project, on the other hand, are significant. Having access to a massive relational database of movies with extra metadata associated with them will allow film buffs and scholars to make connections between plots and scenes where they might have not been able to before. This could be a massive boon to the film studies field as it could provide insights that were never before considered.
The film database that is being created will certainly be a revolutionary tool for scholars and film buffs everywhere. To make it truly useful, however, it needs to have comprehensive search and uploading features that are accessible through a friendly and reactive interface, all of which this project will add to the database. All of our team members are very interested in furthering such a database’s accessibility, because there is such a wealth of information that such a project will add to the field of film studies, and we are excited by the possibilities that it could unleash.