News Details | 04-Sep-2008

NTU premieres Singapore’s first GPS-enabled film and software

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) premieres Singapore’s first Global Positioning System (GPS) Film and Software. GPS Film is a new way of watching a movie that is based on the viewer’s location.

This novel and innovative way of watching a movie is conceptualised by NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media (ADM), Assistant Professor Scott Hessels, working with NTU students - Kenny Tan Seah Hiang from School of Art, Design and Media (ADM), Neha Chachra and Aswath Krishnan, both from the School of Computer Engineering. The GPS-enabled film and software is a project aligned to the aim of NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media, Singapore's first premier art, design and media school offering degree courses in art, design and interactive digital media.

The User Experience:  Watching the Movie
GPS Film is an open source application that runs on any GPS-enabled mobile phone or PDA and invents a new form of film-viewing experience by using the place and movement of the viewer to control the story. As the viewer travels by walking, bus, or taxi, the movie is assembled as he passes through different areas.  By exploring a park, a neighbourhood, or even a city or country, GPS Film continually ‘reads’ the location of the viewer and plays scenes that are tied to those places.  The more the viewer travels, the more of the film they see.

The Story Structure:  How the Story is Told
This first GPS-enabled film is written and directed by NTU’s ADM third-year film student and Singapore filmmaker, 26-year old Kenny Tan Seah Hiang.
Similar to a game, GPS Film tells stories by exploring an environment…but by taking it off the computer and back into the real world.  The system works with stories that unfold in more unusual ways, where any scene can be viewed before any other.   Kenny Tan’s “Nine Lives” begins with the film’s climactic scene followed by each of the nine neighbourhoods tied to a separate flashback.  As the viewer travels around downtown Singapore, they learn more about how the climax came to happen by seeing the crazy events that led up to it. 

About the software: GPS Film Software
Hessels worked with two students, Neha Chachra and Aswath Krishnan, who are currently fourth year students at NTU each interning at Google and Microsoft respectively.

Using a GPS-enabled PDA or mobile phone, the hard drive stores the film and the programming required to select clips based on location.   The device recognizes the location of the viewer by contacting GPS satellites and plays scenes tied to those coordinates.  As the viewer travels through pre-defined zones, the movie changes when one zone is entered and another is left.  The result is a new type of film experience that is tied to the movement of the viewer.

About the artist: Scott Hessels
Assistant Professor Scott Hessels is an internationally recognised media artist and filmmaker whose main focus delves into mixing cinema with new technologies to create new media experiences. GPS Film is one of his series of artworks that are ‘cinema generating systems’—experimental types of film players. His work has exhibited at some of the world’s top museums and his films have shown in the leading international film festivals. After coming to Singapore from UCLA in Los Angeles, he currently creates his research and teaches at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University.

Says Prof Scott Hessels: “By developing this new type of film viewing experience in an open, collaborative way, I hope that both programmers and filmmakers will begin to explore the idea even further, to continue to improve on it and even to redistribute it.”

About the film: "Nine Lives"
“Nine Lives” was written and directed by Kenny Tan Seah Hiang, 26, Singapore filmmaker and film student as NTU’s ADM. Each of the nine stories at nine different neighbourhoods in Singapore has been interwoven to create the entire film. Each neighbourhood centres on the telling of a different part of the story of how a confused exchange of 3 duffle bags at a public bus stop causes a hapless office worker to be running from both the Police and a dim-witted crime gang. “Nine Lives” was produced through funding from the MOE and the Digital Creativity Centre with several corporate sponsors assisting with production expenses and needs. For a free download of the GPS software or to preview the GPS film “Nine Lives”, please visit the following website:

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 About Nanyang Technological University

About School of ADM’s Digital Filmmaking Programme
The Digital Filmmaking Programme in the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) at Nanyang Technological University is one of the first six BFA professional degrees offered in Singapore's history. In two years, the School is on its way to becoming become one of the top film, art and design destinations for students Southeast Asia. The work of ADM digital filmmaking students is already showing at top international film festivals. The School has invested in the finest equipment and resources, top educators from around the world, and a unique creative vision that ties to the technical skills being taught. The Digital Creative Center complements the educational role of ADM by offering professionals, faculty members and students the opportunity to pursue funded creative research in the context of digital technology and the Asian multicultural identity.


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