Manovich and Kratky Produce DVD Envisioning Cinema of the Future

6.12.2005 -- How might cinema evolve in the era of next-generation networks, very-high-resolution displays, and unlimited computer storage?

To investigate an answer to this question, Lev Manovich, one of today’s most influential thinkers in the fields of media arts/digital culture and a Calit2 participant, teamed with award-winning new media artist and designer Andreas Kratky. The result is SOFT CINEMA: Navigating the Database, a DVD published and distributed worldwide by MIT Press (2005). 

Lev Manovich
Lev Manovich

The DVD includes invited contributions from the leading figures in a number of fields: DJ Spooky, Scanner, George Lewis and Jóhann Jóhannsson (music); servo (architecture); Schoenerwissen/Office for Computational Design (data visualization); and Ross Cooper Studios (media design).

The films demonstrate the possibilities of soft(ware) cinema -- a “cinema” in which human subjectivity and the choices made by custom software combine to create films that can run an infinite number of times without repeating the same image sequences, screen layouts, and narratives. They envision a new media art form in which multi-frame, database-driven films can be assembled automatically by software in real time. The multi-frame layouts used were influenced by research at Calit2 in next-generation computer and network infrastructure.

This project started in 1997 when Manovich begin to think systematically about what cinema would be like with practically unlimited computer processing, bandwidth, and data storage, and  extremely high-resolution displays that may cover whole apartment walls and buildings.

Cover of Manovich DVD

Cover image of Manovich and
Kratky's DVD: Soft Cinema

“Imagine my excitement,” said Manovich, “when a few years after this point I learned about the OptIPuter project at Calit2, which, according to its leader and Calit2 director Larry Smarr, was set up to figure out how to scale up all elements of today’s IT infrastructure, including computation, networking, and displays. I find it very exciting to be working on cinema aesthetics of the future next to computer researchers who are designing the technology that will make this possible.”

Lev Manovich, leader of the Soft Cinema project, is an associate professor of Digital Art at UCSD and author of The Language of New Media (MIT Press, 2001), which has been hailed by Telepolis as “the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan.” In 1994, Manovich created Little Movies , the first film project created specifically for the World Wide Web. His computer-driven installations and films have been exhibited in numerous museums, galleries, media, and film festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, including ZKM, Karlsruhe; the ICA, London; SENEF, Seoul; and the ICC, Tokyo.

Andreas Kratky, author of the Soft Cinema software, has been responsible for media design and co-direction of a number of groundbreaking new media projects, including the award-winning DVDs That’s Kyogen and Bleeding Through Layers of Los Angeles 1920-1986 (both published by ZKM).

This DVD was produced with support from

  • Calit2
  • Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), UCSD
  • ZKM (Centre for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • BALTIC (Centre for Contemporary Art), Gateshead, UK
  • RIXC (Centre for New Media Culture), Riga, Latvia

Related Links
Soft Cinema

Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA)