Hack24 – Cinema Time Machine

Over the past weekend Helen, Greg and I attended Hack24 in Nottingham, our first 24 hour hackathon event. The concept is that a bunch of developers (and the odd designer) get together in a room and create something from start to finish in just a single day. I was really interested to see what was possible as projects can so often end up taking weeks or months to go from idea to launch. There were six challenges set by the event sponsors covering areas as diverse as calendar management, HR, finance, music, cinema and text messaging. We decided to have a crack at the challenge set by the Broadway Cinema, which was also the host of the event.

Our project

The brief was to celebrate Broadway’s 25 years of cinema, and produce something sharable. We decided to approach this project by developing a visual installation, intended to be displayed in public areas within the cinema, while adding SMS interactivity via Esendex APIs for that extra bit of texty goodness.

In its default state the installation displays images from the last quarter century of cinema mixed in with scanned covers from Broadway programmes published since 1990. The images are shown in a lovely grid. Every 30 seconds a film fact is displayed as a prompt to encourage viewers to text the name of their favourite film along with a short message. The submitted message and films titles are shown full screen along with the film’s poster which is pulled from the Open Movie Database using their API.

One of our goals was to provide an interesting visual backdrop even at times that no one was interacting with the piece. When combined with the facility for people to share their favourite films with the room, well… then you have something truly magical.

Here’s a short video we made to explain the concept. We were tired.

[vimeo id=”126722502″]

And… We won! Which was a very lovely surprise.

This is pretty good, but what else would we do in t’future?

For version 2 we’d like to add interesting facts about the films people share such as revenue generated, critics ratings and so on. Perhaps allow people to submit names of film stars too because, why not eh?

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from a 24 Hack event so I tried to go into it with an open mind. We intentionally kept our project as simple as we could and that seems to have been the right thing to do. Our only real goal for the weekend was to get ‘something’ finished. We did that, and the fact that we won a prize just made it all the more special. I truly hope that Hack24 will be back next year as it was a fantastically organised and well run event. Many people were involved in that but credit must undoubtably go to Emma and Andrew who were the main driving force. Good work chaps, good work!

In case you’re really interested I kept an hour by hour record of what happened at the event. Read it, feel like you were there.