In his 1983 essay film Sans Soleil, Chris Marker treated film in a revolutionary way, capturing images from an array of locations around the globe, and editing them together to give new meaning to the pairing of image and sound. I think this film represents a kind of knowledge only now being explored in technology—the data that can be utilized when superimposing multiple layers of metadata into new creations. as such, I wanted to make a search tool that could search through a film and give you results as film clips—a shot in Africa, a theme of urbanism, a certain line spoken in the narration—which you could then remix as you wish.

In 2013, while completing my doctoral dissertation, I chose Sans Soleil to build a prototype of this search tool, which I hoped could be applied to all film someday. The remixer is still functional here, but the film on YouTube we originally linked to for searching was denied permissions, so you can no longer see film clips as results. You can however see how the player arranges the missing data. Check out the screenshots below for a better idea of how this worked, or watch a demo video at the bottom.

Making the Database

I began by dissecting the 100 min film into sequences, with each sequence determined by a change in geographic location (however small). This resulted in 203 sequences, which I annotated with timecodes and various tags including location and theme gathered from the text and imagery.

The Search Tool

On the search page—which has auto-looping gifs from Sans Soleil as the background—you could search for any term, such as "Africa" or "animals" or "trains," and the results would return film clips that match the search term either in location shot, theme portrayed, or narrated text.


The database then populates the remixer where the search results are shown. The remixer is a web player interface built by Joseph Bergen, whose mad dev skills and design sensitivities made this project possible. 

The clips are remixed and played as a new compilation, with a legend across the bottom that references where in the original film it was extracted from as the remixed compilation plays. You can skip around by clicking on the clip sections at the bottom. As they play, geo-data & narration text from these scenes overlay the player, to view all the metadata simultaneously.