Telling stories through data visualisation

Summary

  • Transformation of data usage
  • Highlighting prominent trends in the film industry
  • Transcribing data to suit a responsive digital format

Over 10,000 films’ worth of raw data

The BFI houses a collection of data on the British film industry that goes back over 100 years. Originally, the data was housed in many different places, making it hard to analyse and explore. In partnership with the BFI our task was to present this enlightening information in an accessible and compelling way to the general public.

Unlocking the subject

The interface allows us to visualise patterns and present the data in a format that’s easily digestible. The BFI Filmography was designed to allow everyone access to this important information and to quickly identify important focal trends. What stories were hidden in the depths of the raw data that could be brought to the surface? Transcribing figures into beautiful graphics allowed us to bring the subject matter to life.

We intended the BFI Filmography to offer an innovative tool to present our major data project and to let users – film industry professionals, academic researchers and film enthusiasts – ask questions about the dataset and get answers in a visually exciting form, which they could explore in an intuitive interface and share on social media. Our focus on gender balance in the industry over its first century, and the sheer scale of the underlying data, made this a challenging project, as we wanted to let the data tell some simple stories in spite of the scale and complexity. Making huge datasets with complex interactions digestible in a web interface is challenging, and we believe the BFI Filmography achieves this with style.

Stephen McConnachie, Head of Data at the BFI

Illustrating gender imbalance

The longstanding and significant gender imbalance in the film industry was a key discovery from the project. Films, people and roles are the motifs that allow us to characterise the inequality. The BFI Filmography accounts for all individuals involved in the filmmaking process, both in front of and behind the lens, which helped to shine a spotlight on the scale and breadth of the real imbalance issues. The interface allows users to explore prominent trends and then extract that information to raise awareness in many different contexts.

Relevance is paramount

Our database schema allowed the BFI to publish and connect all existing data, as well as to respond to new inputs as and when new films are released. It’s a responsive product that remains relevant and accessible, housing over 10,000 films and still evolving every day…

The BFI Filmography was one of those rare projects that sits perfectly between design and technology. Our rapid-prototyping approach, with designers and developers working together closely, allowed us to test ideas with real data and to quickly iterate on our designs. We are proud of the final product and the complex technical challenges we overcame during the delivery.

Paul MᶜManus, magneticNorth

Talk to us about the workings behind this project

Digital delivery, the details

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