Lev Manovich on Database Driven Movies

Lev Manovich is the author of Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (2005), The Language of New Media (2001) and Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego.

For more information on Lev Manovich, please visit: www.manovich.net

Excerpt from: Outside the Box: New Cinematic Experiences (2005).



Lev Manovich, artist and author of The Language of New Media recently completed “Soft Cinema” a series of database driven films where the software creates movies by selecting and editing media form a database.


I decided to that to make a kind of real digital cinema would mean that, it is a kind cinema where all the constants of traditional film become variable, and the computer is a wonderful machine which allows us to do it.

To create a typical “Soft Cinema” film we start by assembling video audio text and maybe other media elements into the database. So this is the database of video clips used for Soft Cinema film called, “Texas.”



Essentially, it’s a film, which is being edited by our software in real time so a film can run infinitely without ever repeating the same edits and the same screen layouts.

I have lots of influences for soft cinema. They come from both popular culture and from film and from art. For example, the compositions, which we use for soft cinema layouts, make reference to abstract paintings from Mondrian, you know, an important painter working in the first part of the 20th century. But we also refer to the kind of layouts you see in financial TV shows, such as Bloomberg, as well as displays used by people in a variety of professions, you know, pilots, surgeons, brokers, and so on and so forth.



I think today most people think of computers in relation to cinema, you know, in terms of editing systems, compositing systems or using internet as way to promote films and I want to show that there are lots of other, perhaps more radical, more unusual, more poetic ways to combine film—cinematic tradition—the film language in digital computer.

I will never go to say that interactive cinema or database cinema or some other kind of computer enabled cinema should or will replace traditional cinema. So, I think that this other kinds of digital media as something which can comfortably coexist with film, opera and other more established cultural forms. So its really giving people more options as opposed to less.