AMITIAE - Sunday 8 April 2012
Paris Cinema: Movie Locations in the City of Lights -- an app for the iPhone
By Graham K. Rogers
While scenes in the later (2004) Tomorrow Never Dies has locations I am more familiar with, I wanted to see what I could recognise: a fair bit actually. There is a long list of movies filmed in Bangkok and Thailand (including part of Star Wars III). As in other countries around the World, the city is sometimes a major supporting star.
A particular case of this is Paris. Even a minor TV series like Police Judiciaire generates a lot of its charm from "off the beaten track" locations within Paris. However, a new app, Paris Cinema >> by Walking Audio Tours (currently free - usually $2.99) is built around an 18Km walking tour taking in several sites that were used in some movies made in Paris. I examined this on the iPhone 4S. The app is not optimised for the iPad so displays in the x1 or x2 formats.
Paris CinemaWhen first opened, the user is asked for permission to use Location data. It is of course not much help for me right now, some 9500 Kms away, but is intended for GPS assistance when a user is taking part in the walk. As this walk has an estimated time of six and a half hours, it might be useful to split it into more manageable parts.
LocationsPressing any location in the list of sites, brings up a panel with the item centred on a map, a small thumbnail image that can be enlarged by a single tap and a fairly large green, speaker button. Tapping this begins the commentary that uses a reasonably clear British English voice. There is also unobtrusive background music. A small blue icon allows the user to go back 20 seconds in the commentary if anything needs repeating, while blue forward and back icons go to the next (or previous) location. While listening to the comments, the screen saver was still active so the screen went off while using the app.
MapAccessing the tour map allows a user to tap any of the 32 pins that mark locations: the same panel with map and commentary buttons appears as for the list. Google Maps are not used in the app, indicating a general shift to open source maps that are now being more widely used. However in this app, magnification was limited and there was no satellite view: easy of course to switch between this app and the Maps app.
The TourWhen the Start button is pressed, the map and comments panel for the first location on the tour (Australian Embassy) is opened and the user is able to use this in the same way as for the Location or Maps links (above). At the end of the commentary, there are no directions for reaching the next location.
What would also have helped, particularly if this were being used in the planning of a Paris vacation, was a text of the commentaries (and other information), despite it being billed as an Audio walking tour. A list of movies, cross-referenced with the locations would also have been useful.
CommentsWith only 32 locations listed, there were some major omissions. The Eiffel Tower, for example, was one that I thought should have been available. It has appeared in countless movies and in one Bond movie, Grace Jones para-glided from an upper level. As with location, so there is lack of a considerable number of movies made in the city, not the least by the French movie makers, like Jacques Tati, Francois Truffaut and Fernandel (among others).
The app could do with some expansion and development, especially the addition of more data. As it stands, it is an interesting way into looking at part of Paris: far better than trying to tour any city at random.
While Ulmon GmbH have a number of other more traditional tour guides for iOS (Venice, Rome, London), this is the only walking tour app and the only one that focuses on movies. There is however, an app ($2.99) that focuses on Bond Locations (James Bond and Friends) and on other such action movies.
There is considerable room for other apps that identify locations that have featured in movies.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.
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