Computational Cinemas: two tentative paradigms and some incidents

18 January 2024 · Christoph Purschke · 2 minute read · #conversations

CuCo Lab conversations | Gabriel Menotti (Queen’s University, Ontario)


In this session, Prof. Gabriel Menotti from Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada will delve into the topic of computational cinemas. Today, all cinema is computational to some extent. Computer systems have been integrated into media apparatus from cameras to screens, subjecting the circulation of images to continuous algorithmic management. The software processes that underlie everyday media operations not only inform how movies are made, but also condition their distribution and even prescribe how they should behave on our devices. Pervasive and hyperactive, these technologies expand on the possibilities of cinematographic work and deeply reconfigure what this work entails. In doing so, they urge us to question what kinds of cinema are being done, how, and by whom – or what.

This talk delves into this subject by exploring two emerging paradigms of computation-based moviemaking: one rooted in 3D simulation and the physics of optical media, another reliant on the direct synthesis of sound and image by neural networks. We’ll see how each of these approaches – let’s call them “virtual production” and “generative AI” – roughly correspond to opposing traditions of technical imaging, respectively hegemonic and avant-garde. Each in their own ways, both 3D simulation and neural networks enable moviemakers to more fully incorporate strategies particular to software development into their pipelines, automate workflows and, overall, expand the cinematographic craft in an unprecedented fashion. But these technologies are not without their controversies. While empowering indie producers and major studios alike, they have been implicated in the growing precarization of labor, the expropriation of personal data, and the homogenization of cultural expressions. How can we address these ethical issues while embracing the transformative potential of new technologies to cinema? Is it even possible?

In search of answers, we’ll attempt to reach beyond the conventions of modern media and consider forms of audiovisual expression incidental to the circumstances of networked computation, such as screensavers, videogame cutscenes, and streaming performances.


  • Dr. Gabriel Menotti, Associate Professor at Queen’s University, Ontario