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  • 'Mapping the City in Film: 'Les Roberts, University of Liverpool


Brief overview of initial period of research:



City in Film project – theoretical aim to explore the relationship between film, architecture and urban space.

Theoretical project – online database; catalogue accessible via City in Film website.



Gathered archival material about Liverpool films (mainly non-fiction – e.g. documentaries, news reels, amateur films) - compiled a database of about 1700 films.

Compilation process involved gathering location data for Liverpool.

Can do a search of Lime St Station, for example, and are provided with a list of films that include Lime St as a location, with a brief synopsis, date etc for each. Also catalogues the spatial function of each location (commercial, industrial, education, leisure etc) and spatial usage (activities of people using space). List of all locations and building that appear in the film.



This was starting point of idea to work with GIS and geo-reference that information.

Urban and geographical context – Liverpool a changing city over time.

Starting point – how disappearing landscapes and architecture in the city can be accessed via film imagery.

Geo-referencing data – transferring the data into a format in which it can be put on a map – include point data (film location points geo-referenced), line data (tracing journeys made by filmmakers, transport links etc), polygon data (historic boundary data, filmic hotspots etc).



Conceptual model of the city – layered form, peeling back layers of time.

GIS enables a spatial historiography of the city to be created – an archaeology of the moving image. Enabling different spatial forms of the film to be brought together.



Developed and substantial qualitative basis to feed in to the GIS base (e.g. interviews with filmmakers).



Spatially embedded aspect of GIS – can embed sound clips, digital film footage to specific geo-referenced points.



Have also started mapping sights of cinemas – all geo-referenced, a historical catalogue – can click on each on the map and are provided with information about the cinema (dates, seating capacity etc).



What does this data enable us to do as a research tool?

- Set search parameters e.g. all locations just appearing in amateur films, then Liverpool-based cine-clubs etc.

- Transport links added into the map – historical again, from 1897. Can assess films in relation to both locations and transport links – geographical basis that might have filmed that film culture.

- Provides different dimensions to context underpinning film production, how these have framed the city in particular ways.

- Put together in file formats that should be easily transferable into Museum database.