As a movie buff and frequent traveler, I love the concept behind ScenePast. The new $1 iOS app shows you photos of a particular address as it looked in a popular movie or TV program alongside images of the same location today. The app can be mildly entertaining, but it’s not ready for prime time.
I live in San Francisco, one of the five cities with locations available in the app, so I attempted to uncover then-and-now glimpses of locations from films including Vertigo, Bullitt and Dirty Harry. All of these classics feature views of the city’s many beautiful vistas, landmarks and steep streets.
But ScenePast showed me no locations from any of those films. Instead, I discovered a few from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 classic The Conversation; a 1951 noir called The House on Telegraph Hill; episodes of Ironside and The Rockford Files; a long-forgotten Cary Grant comedy Kiss Them For Me; and a bunch of photos from a film I’d never heard of called Crackers.
Less-than-impressive title selection aside, the app’s interface is confusing. For example, I have no idea what the colored buttons next to the pull switch are supposed to do. An On/Off switch awkwardly brings up a variety of random options, including "Surprise," which shows you a random location; "Recent," for recently-added locations or images; "Help Us Solve," where you can help pinpoint locations; and an "About" button. Also, why can’t I do a keyword search on, say, a movie title and go right to its photos?
The app only has images for San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami. I can certainly understand the inclusion of the first four, but it seems like New Orleans, Boston or Washington, D.C., might have provided more interesting fodder than Miami.
As mentioned, I think the app’s concept is a cool one, and I see potential. A future version with links to YouTube videos of the specific locations' scenes would be awesome. Maybe over time, the app interface will be refined and the developers will add photos from more films, as well as more city locations.
In my opinion, though, any movie-location app that supposedly covers San Francisco but lacks a single location from Hitchcock’s Vertigo—arguably the greatest film ever shot in this city—isn’t worth $1.