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Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database

DVD-video with 40 page color booklet. Together with Andreas Kratky. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005.

Soft Cinema project mines the creative possibilities at the intersection of software culture, cinema, and architecture. Its manifestations include films, dynamic visualizations, computer-driven installations, architectural designs, print catalogs, and DVDs. In parallel, the project investigates how the new representational techniques of soft(ware) cinema can be deployed to address the new dimensions of our time, such as the rise of mega-cities, the "new" Europe, and the effects of information technologies on subjectivity.

At the heart of the project is custom software and media databases. The software edits movies in real time by choosing the elements from the database using the systems of rules defined by the authors.

From the publisher:

"What kind of cinema is appropriate for the age of Palm Pilot and Google? Automatic surveillance and self-guided missiles? Consumer profiling and CNN? To investigate this question, Lev Manovich, one of today's most influential thinkers in the fields of media arts and digital culture, paired with award-winning new media artist and designer Andreas Kratky. They have also invited contributions from leaders in other cultural fields: DJ Spooky, Scanner, George Lewis, and Johann Johannsson (music), servo (architecture), Schoenerwissen/OfCD (information visualization), and Ross Cooper Studios (media design).

The results of their three-year explorations are the three 'films' presented on this DVD. Although the films resemble the familiar genres of cinema, the process by which they were created demonstrates the possibilities of soft(ware) cinema. A 'cinema,' that is, in which human subjectivity and the variable choices made by custom software combine to create films that can run infinitely without ever exactly repeating the same image sequences, screen layouts and narratives.

'Mission to Earth', a science fiction allegory of the immigrant experience, adopts the variable choices and multi-frame layout of the Soft Cinema system to represent 'variable identity.' 'Absences' is a lyrical black and white narrative that relies on algorithms normally deployed in military and civilian surveillance applications to determine the editing of video and audio. 'Texas,' a 'database narrative,' assembles its visuals, sounds, narratives, and even the identities of its characters, from multiple databases. The DVD was designed so that every viewing of each film generates a different version."

Book  DVD  2005