Compressed Cinema

Topics in Interactivity and Games


Fall 2019

Professor Casey REAS

Teaching Assistant Dalena Tran


Class Sessions

Tuesdays & Thursdays 2PM-4:50PM
Broad Art Center 4220


Compressed Cinema is a studio that explores time-based media as new forms that synthesize histories of creative coding, gaming, cinema, avant-garde film, and experimental video. In this class we will watch, read, create, and discuss. We will screen cinematic works from the last century and discuss them as a group. We will study and discuss a collection of texts. After completing a series of short projects, each participant will create a work self-defined as Compressed Cinema. This work will be screened at the end of the quarter.

Through the last half of the 20th Century, cinema moved from single-screen presentations to multiple screen installations through a shift in architecture and technologies that moved from film to video to digital media. Compressed cinema is a return to the apparatus of the theater. It is also a post-analog approach to time-based images where animation, video, code, and photography are integrated, rather than separated media.

For everyone in the class, there are four primary assignments. There are three projects, followed by the majority of the quarter producing a larger, self-defined work. The final class session will be a screening of the work followed by a discussion. Our class screening and review will be followed by a public presentation of the work.


You must attend each class, participate in discussions, and complete all assignments. Grading is based on the initial exercises, the final project, and active participation during class meetings. Punctuality, focus, articulation of concepts, and contribution to class discussions are all part of class participation. The numeric breakdown for all assignments follow:

  • 5% — Participation
  • 5% — Cinema Image
  • 20% — Scanner Cinema
  • 20% — Rotoshop
  • 50% — Final project

Late assignments may be accepted, but points will be deducted from the score.

More than two unexcused absences will lower your final grade by one unit (i.e. an A will become an B). With each additional unexcused absence, the grade will drop an additional unit.

Class starts at 2pm. If you are over 10 minutes late, you will receive a tardy. Three tardies are equivalent to one absence.

If there is an emergency and you will be late or absent from the class, please email me.

If you feel frustrated or you come across other problems, please communicate with me directly and quickly.

Commitment to Equity & Diversity

We understand the classroom as a space for practicing freedom; where one may challenge psychic, social, and cultural borders and create meaningful artistic expressions. To do so we must acknowledge and embrace the different identities and backgrounds we inhabit. A collaborative effort between the students and the teacher is needed for creating a supportive learning environment. While everyone should feel free to experiment creatively and conceptually, if a class member points out that something you have said or shared with the group is offensive, avoid being defensive; instead approach the discussion as an opportunity for everyone to grow and learn from one another. All class members are encouraged to discuss such instances with me so they can be addressed with greater care in the future.

Students with Different Needs

Students with a disability or health-related issue who need a class accommodation should make an appointment to speak with me as soon as possible. It is University policy that students with documented disabilities receive reasonable accommodations through access to classroom information. If you have a physical, psychological/psychiatric or medical condition, or a learning disability that will make it difficult for you to carry out the work outlined in the syllabus, or that will require additional time for taking exams and completing assignments, please notify me and visit the UCLA Center for Accessible Education in the first two weeks of the quarter so that we may make appropriate arrangements. All information and documentation is confidential.

Media Resources

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) — Video, New York
Video Data Bank (VDB) — Video, Chicago
Anthology Film Archives — Film, New York
American Cinematheque — Film, Los Angeles
UCLA Film & Television Archive — Film, Los Angeles


Week 0

Thur - September 6

Screening A

Screening B

  • Considerations:
    • Visual representation
    • Editing techniques and effects
    • Audio


  • Project 1: Cinema Image, Due on Tuesday, October 1

Tues - October 1
Film as Image ↔ Image as Film

Project 1: Cinema Image due, Discussion

Screening C


  • Watch Free Radicals: A History Of Experimental Film, d. Pip Chodorov
    • Online @ Kanopy, free with UCLA:
    • If you’re off campus, use a VPN to gain access
    • Be ready to discuss on Tuesday, bring your notes
  • Scanner Cinema, Part 1 due Thursday

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Final Screening


Cinema Image — Due October 1 🧠

Create a looping, time-based visual experience under one minute long that is created entirely from a single image. Produce the video at 1920 × 1080 pixels and export in MP4 format. Use any software you choose or write your own code to transform the single, static image into a series of video frames. Upload your video to the class server before 2pm on October 1st. Name the file "P1_YourName.mp4"

Scanner Cinema — Due October 15 📽

The Scanner Cinema project builds on ideas explored in Cinema Image. A single image (or set of images) will provide the frames for your video. Use as many images at any size you need to get the frames required to realize your idea. As discussed in class, these images are a map of the video’s structure in time.

There are three primary ways to approach the sources images you create: drawing/painting (Lye, Brakhage), geometry (Sharits,Vasulka), and material collage (Brakhage). I’m open to discussing other ideas.

For Scanner Cinema, the process of creating the frames from the image(s) will be automated with code. This project combines creating the source images and making modifications to a provided code template. The code changes can be minimal, or they can be more involved depending on your ideas and your interests.

The final video must be 1920 × 1080 pixels and in MP4 format. Name the file "P2_YourName.mp4"

Part 1 — Due October 3

Develop a plan for your video that can be clearly communicated to others. Prepare a set of diagrams, drawings, and/or text. We’ll discuss your plan in class.

Part 2 — Due October 8

Create a few tests for your video idea. Through this step, you’ll figure out your video grid in relationship to your selected scanner resolution. This is straightforward, but it can be tricky at first. Your video grid, as shown in class, will determine how many large images you’ll need to create and scan to produce the desired number of frames. For example, if you scan and crop to 7,680 × 6,480 pixels, you can get 24 frames at 1920 × 1080 pixels (1920 × 4 = 7680 and 1080 × 6 = 6480.) You’ll also need to figure out the frames per second (fps) for the video to know how many frames you’ll need. Will the fps be 12, 24, 30, 60, or something else? For example, 240 frames at 12 fps is 20 seconds of video. Try a range of different frames per second to see what works well for your idea. Technical Note: If your scans are larger in size than Processing can load into memory, you can increase the memory available for Processing in the Preferences (Increase maximum available memory to: []), but you may also need to cut your image image into smaller pieces than can be loaded.

Part 3 — Due October 10

Create a first draft of your video from what you learned from Part 2. This should be near the final form for the video, but somewhere between 20% and 50% of the duration. You’ll have five days from Thursday to Tuesday to refine and complete the video from Part 3 to 4..

Part 4 — Due October 15

Upload your final video to the class server before 2pm on October 15th.

Rotoshop — Due October 29 🎨

Working in small teams of two to four, you will draw frames and write custom code to create a short animation. The Rotoshop project will be created through rotoscoping, an early animation technique where artists trace sequences of photographic images. This technique was essential to cinematic works such as:

  • Out of the Inkwell (1915)
  • Gulliver’s Travels (1939)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978)
  • Commuter (1981)
  • Waking Life (2001)

In collaboration, each team will develop an idea for their animation that will include creating a custom drawing tool to render the animation. Go back and forth between coding and drawing and drawing and coding to develop the software and the rendering style in tandem.

This is a short, two-week project with many elements that include writing custom code, drawing frames, and coordinating with others. You may shoot your own video to rotoscope or you may modify/transform existing “footage.” Keep the scope simple and spend time on the details of the craft. Your animation can be as short as ten seconds at 12fps to encourage quality over quantity. Audio is optional.

Processing will be the default software environment for creating your custom software drawing tools, but if another platform is better for your project, let’s discuss it. It’s important that each project idea includes some custom software development. We’ll review the basics of working with Processing in class on Thursday, 17 October.

Part 1 — Due October 22

Create a series of strategic, short rotoscoping tests for your animation idea and complete the video frames you will rotoscope. We’ll review the tests 1:1 in class.

Part 2 — Due October 24

Continue to create short tests. From these explorations, determine the final software features and rendering technique. We’ll review these new tests 1:1 in class.

Part 3 — Due October 29

Upload your final video to the class server before 2pm on October 29th.

CMPRSSD Cinema — Due December 5 🦠

As a final project, create a work of “compressed cinema,” as you define it. This work will be screened during the last class session and will be discussed. We will have a public screening at 6pm on December 10th. The work can be of any duration, but we can only screen each work for a maximum of five minutes during the final screenings. You may work individually or in small groups. You are encouraged to utilize code to create/manipulate video and/or the final project might be cinematic, nonlinear software. Your work for the final screening can be video or live software, either autonomous or performed. The only restriction is that your work must be one image channel and up to two audio channels.

The final project is broken down into three parts, each with separate evaluations:

  • 20% — Part 1, Idea development and communication
  • 30% — Part 2, Process media and creating tests
  • 50% — Part 3, Final work as screened on 5 and 10 December
Part 1 — Due November 5

Prepare three different ideas for the final project and create a presentation to clearly present these ideas to the class. We’ll discuss the ideas and share our thoughts as a full group. This is an important presentation and we have high expectations for it. Have your media on the class server or online for quick transitions from one person to the next.

Part 2A — Due November 12

Complete a first series of experiments to work your way toward making decisions about what to create. We’ll review this work in small groups.

Part 2B — Due November 19

Complete a second, refined set of tests to further explore your final project idea. Final production should begin after this review. We’ll review this work in small groups.

Part 2C — Due November 26

Test screening. Present your final project in a rough state. We’ll review this work in small groups.

Part 3A — Due December 5

Final in-class screening; we’ll watch and discuss all final projects. Test your work on the classroom hardware during the week before the final review to make sure your work appears and sounds as you want it to.

Part 3B — Due December 10

Public screening in the EDA. The EDA is open that day for testing from noon – 1pm and 5 – 6pm. Test, test, and test your work again to make sure everything is working well with the EDA setup. The final files for the project are due on the class server

Nidhi Bhanu
Jade Box
Ivana Dama
Jamie Gonzalez
Stephen Heo
Lily Kim & CJ Zepeda
Adam Knauer
Celeste Koch
Danny Lee
Hirad Sab
Seenahm Suriyasat
Natalie Tsang
Kai Watanabe
Tina Wen
Nancy Wu
Dilara Yuksel
CJ Zepeda
Jimmy Zhi