Experiments in Digital Video

Course Description
Experiments in Digital Video offers an introduction to core skills and concepts used in digital video production, from pre-production to presentation, with an emphasis on art-making, conceptual thinking, and experimentation. It includes exposure to industry standard equipment, terminology, and digital video production skills in an experimental arts context. Basic research areas include field production and electronic image gathering, documentary, experimental fiction, performance, datamoshing/databending, studio lighting, non-linear editing, 360 video, generative video and alternative video content delivery.
Students work individually and in small teams to explore a broad range of issues involved in the creation of their projects. Students are introduced to seminal artwork, technical processes, and supporting texts. Through each module/project, they respond to course material and in-class discussions with their own creative experiments. Assessment methods privilege critical analysis, conceptual thinking, and creative technical strategy. Towards the end of the semester we have a public screening of student work.
Course Goals
1. Develop critical thinking of historical artwork and theory related to film and video and to the intersections of film and video with different media. Study objects will encompass experimental and expanded film, video, performance and electronic practices. Bibliography will range through philosophy, film theory and art history, among other relevant sources, including themes such as materiality, phenomenology, critical theory and technology;
2. Introduce technical possibilities to experiment with digital video;
3. Produce artwork portfolio tackling experimental possibilities of digital video.


Compilation of student work, Spring 2019:
Compilation of student work, Fall 2018:


Each module/project includes screenings, readings, demos/workshop, proposal presentation, and project review.
1. Deconstruct Your TV
2. Meeting in the Middle
3. Performative Activity, Identity and Truth
4. Time Travel, Altered States and Materiality
5. Historical Reenactment
6. Video as Witness
Final Portfolio with reedits of all projects due on final’s week.
Evaluation and Grades
In order to receive a grade, students must turn work in by the due date outlined in the schedule. Work that is not turned in on time will result in a reduced grade.
Projects will be evaluated based on:
Technical and conceptual quality
Background research
Development throughout the course (Strive for excellence)
A willingness to act on criticism
Grades will be assessed according to the following:
In-class participation and attendance: 10%
Class Projects: 70%
Attendance to external/selected lectures: 5%
Final Portfolio and Public Screening: 15%

1. Deconstruct Your TV

Choose a 30-second clip of film or television for your analysis. The video clip must be available from Youtube, Vimeo or any other video sharing service. Be mindful of your choice. The analysis will consist of 4 steps.
1 – Write down its découpage. Découpage, translated from French, literally means “to cut up”. It is a process that, in the preparation for shooting, translates a narrative script or an idea into a detailed outline of visuals and sounds for a camera to capture. It includes separating the scenes into shots and describing each shot`s actions, camera movements, framing, lighting, editing/montage strategies, and any other technical choices that are relevant to the making of the work. The analysis requested here consists of making the inverse process, understanding and describing the choices that were made in the conception and making of your chosen clip. Understanding the editing/montage of the clip is crucial, since it refers to specific choices made in placing one shot directly next to another to create a desired effect. There is no required format for the découpage, but it should include an itemized shot list/table, with descriptions of each shot, and not exceed 2 pages. You should use the textbook and other course materials as reference for technical terms.
2 –  Create a reverse storyboard: based on your découpage, draw each singular shot of your fragment with attention to composition, camera angles, movements, lighting and any other thing you consider important to the interpretation of the piece. There is no specific format required, nor drawing technique, but you should mind visual solutions for temporal elements and changes within the shots.
3 – Digitize your storyboard (if you have not already made it digitally) and re-edit the video using only your own still images, keeping the same shot durations from your original fragment. Extract the audio track from the downloaded fragment and synchronize it with your edit. You can also find visual solutions in editing to animate your drawings in a simple way, indicating camera movements and other changes within the same shot. 
4 – Write a double-spaced page with your conclusion to the analysis. You must consider the following questions: Who has the power over the creation of these images and how was it used? What were the visual and sound strategies used in your fragment? What are these strategies trying to convey? Were they effective? How? How does the fragment represent its characters? How is gender and race represented, for example? Comparing the original fragment with your storyboard edit, what might have been left behind and what was spot on? Observations must be referenced and evidenced by the storyboard, decoupage and reedit process.
Upload steps 1, 2 and 4 in a single PDF to D2L. Export your video (.MP4 or .MOV, H264 codec recommended) and upload it as well. Bringing it to class in your hard drive is also recommended. Be prepared to present your reedit and conclusion to the class.


Works by Orson Welles, Leni Riefenstahl, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and video essays on film-making and the cinematic language of propaganda.
Grammar of the Edit and Grammar of the Shot, from Introduction to Video Production: Studio, Field, and Beyond, 2nd Edition by Ronald J. Compesi.
– Intro to Film Language (writing and directing)
– Intro to Video Editing I (Adobe Premiere and Final Cut)
Stills from student work.

2. Meeting in the Middle

Pick a classmate and calculate the exact geographic midpoint between where the two of you live. You can use http://www.geomidpoint.com/ to calculate your midpoint.
Document your paths towards the exact geographic midpoint, as well as your meeting at the site. You must meet at the exact midpoint. If it is private property, you should ask permission. If the midpoint is in the Red Cedar River then you may need to rent a boat. You must conceive a predetermined strategy for the documentation, but also be opened to incorporate chance intervention, exploring the reality of your paths and midpoint site.
Video and/or photographs may be used to document your travels. You may use your own cameras and sound recorders (possibly smartphones) or check-out cameras and sound recorders. Each student will edit a 1-3-minute video, using footage made by the pair. All projects must utilize sound.


Works by Jonas Mekas, Fluxfilm Anthology, Stan Brakhage, Bill Viola,Vito Acconci, Cyprien Clément-Delmas, Sondra Perry, Jeremy Bailey, and Guy Mandin.
– Situationism and the derive: The Society of the Spectacle and Report on the Construction of Situations, by Guy Debord.
– Vito Acconci’s interview and performance documentation of Following Piece.
– Intro to Digital Cinematography I (cameras, exposure, lenses, movement)
– Intro to Sound Recording for Video (recorders, microphones)
Stills from student work.

3. Performative Activity, Identity and Truth

Design an autobiographical video that revolves around a specific “performative” activity. The video may express how you see yourself, how others see you or how you would like to be perceived by others. Thus, the resulting video may be either truth, fiction or somewhere in-between. Be mindful of camera angles, lighting, and editing choices. Once again pay special attention to your concept. What is the motivational intention behind the work?
While the central focus of the performative activity must consist of recordings of you performing, you may choose to supplement the project with appropriated footage and sound.
Documentation may use video or photography, using checked-out DSLR’s cameras and/or sound recorders. Make a 1-3-minute video. All projects must utilize sound.


Works by Chris Burden, Martha Rosler, Andy Warhol, Julius Von Bismarck, Sadie Benning,  Fluxfilm Anthology, Peter Campus, Mayumi Suzuki, Gillian Wearing, and Hiro Murai.
Truth, Lies and Literature, by Salman Rushdie in The New Yorker.
– The Fluxus Performance Workbook, edited by Ken Friedman, Owen Smithand Lauren Sawchyn.
In groups of 3-5, record performative event score from Fluxux Workbook.
– Intro to Digital Cinematography II (Studio lighting)
– Intro to Video Editing II (Adobe After Effects, basic tools)
Stills from student work.

4. Time Travel, Altered States and Materiality

When film and video is edited together to create a temporal chain of events it is done so with the intention of creating an illusion of the natural progression of time (human time). Events, or scenes, are typically thought of as singular happenings among characters in a contiguous space across a segment of continuous time. Thus, the idea of a chain of events, one link connected only to the next, is an inexact metaphor. Causal links can be multiple from one scene to many that follow, and effects can link back to several earlier scenes. Such is the causal network found in many popular movie plots, tying together scenes and sequences that take place across space and time.
But film and video present many more possibilities for time manipulation. What happens when you change or reverse the speed of a clip when editing your video? Or if you play around with the frame rates or shutter speed in your camera when you are shooting? And how does sound impact the progression of “real time”? When someone is immersed in the experience of video how does this effect our perception of time? How is the perception of time altered when we are afraid, when we experience pleasure or boredom? Indeed, what happens to the perceived temporality of video if we abandon narrative structure all together and work with the “material” of video.
Make a 3-minute video that manipulates time, using a combination of camera and editing techniques. Sound is a critical element to be investigated as part of this project.


Works by Linda Montano, George Kuchar, Bill Viola, Stan Brakhage, Tony Conrad, Hiroya Sakurai, Jacques Perconte, Paul Pfeiffer, M-Well, and Chris Cunningham.
Metaphors on Vision, by Stan Brakhage.
– Altered States: Self-experiments in chemistry, by Oliver Sacks in The New Yorker.
The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain, by Burkhard Bilger
in The New Yorker.
In Defense of the Poor Image, by Hito Steyerl.
– Basics of datamoshing, and databending with Audacity
– Intro to generative video: AI, facial recognition and deepfakes
Stills from student work.

5. Historical Reenactment

We now live in a “culture of artistic pluralism and highly adept reenactments.” Ideas are interpreted, recycled and reinvented responding to new cultural concerns and modalities. Identify a significant recorded event in history. It could be a political coup, a scientific discovery, a famous artwork, or the #metoo movement. The event could have been recorded and broadcast in the news, photographed, or written about. It could be associated with a famous artwork or iconic photograph. Research it (location, context, actors).
Make a 2-5 minute video loop that reenacts your chosen event. Identify a component of the event and make a video that has no beginning, middle or end. All projects can use studio lighting and must utilize sound and make a repeatable loop.
Proposal Guidelines:
Title Page: Your Full Name, Date, and Project Title
Proposal should be formatted for a Power Point presentation
I. Concept/Description
Approximately 100 words – Briefly describe your project. 
II. Detailed Project Description
Describe your project and “historical event”: what you will do and how you will execute the project. (1 double spaced page)
III. Plan and Resources
A. Who will you need to speak with to gain access/permission to use a site or location, or for any other need for a source material?
B. List all tools, software, supplies and materials needed.
IV. Research
1. Original footage; news articles; artwork etc, whatever document you can find and decide to use.
2. Similar work or projects that inspired/influenced you to pursue this topic (include examples)
3. Historical and current trends and context pertaining to this project
4. Additional related articles, books, web sites that you have read that have led you to this project
VI. Photo sketch
Images – Take preliminary still photos of locations, relevant people and gather related imagery (such as metaphors or logical comparisons)


Works by Paul Pfeiffer, HeHe, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Pablo Garcia & Addie Wagenknecht, Brice Dellsperger, and Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble.
When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.), by Teju Cole in The New York Times.
– Approaching the archives
– Intro to Video Editing III (Color Correction and Sound Mixing)
Stills from student work.

6. Video as Witness

Generally, people’s responses to ethical (and other) issues are affected by the frame of reference through which they view the issues. This thought is reflected in film and video, since the camera has a limited view, which makes us frame the reality around us in a determined composition. 360˚ video deepened this problem, with the frame becoming capable of documenting a whole sphere of space. It’s important to notice that, besides the changes this technology brings to the making of a film, it also changes the way it is experienced. Now, within the artist`s choices during the making, the viewer must also choose where to look.
In groups of 3-5 students, make a 2-5-minute 360˚ video to be shown in full dome, 360 visualization room or VR set, documenting a specific action or reality.
All projects must play with the autonomy of the viewer. You can have simultaneous actions happening in different parts of the sphere, have an action that develops itself around the sphere’s diameter, anything that gets the viewer to turn the head around and redirect the sight.


AR/VR interactive documentaries by Michel Huneault and Stan Douglas.
Dismantling the Metrics of Empathy (in 360 video): Are makers flying too close to the sun in their claims of impact?, by Dan Archer in Immerse.
– Intro to AR, VR, Full Dome and 360 Visualization Room
– Insta 360 Pro
– Image processing for Full Dome and
360 Visualization Room
360 Visualization Room
Digital Scholarship Lab – MSU Libraries/College of Arts and Letters
Michigan State University
Full Dome
Abrams Planetarium
Michigan State University
STA 384 – Experiments in Digital Video
Electronic Arts and Intermedia
Department of Art, Art History and Design
Michigan State University
Instructor: Marcos Serafim
Spring 2020 (Instructor of Record)
Spring 2019 (Instructor of Record)
Fall 2018 (Teaching Assistant/Curriculum Developer, Professor Adam Brown)
Office: Studio in the annex to Kresge Art Center
Office Hours: Wednesday 2:30 to 4:00 PM or by appointment.
Email: serafimn@msu.edu
Phone: (929) 310 3341
URL: http://serafimn.msu.domains