Cinema and Machine Vision

Artificial Intelligence, Aesthetics and Spectatorship

Daniel Chávez Heras

Brings together Film Studies and Artificial Intelligence by exploring their mutual interest in the automation of vision through technology

  • Theorises and critiques computational methods in the analysis of film and television
  • Revisits key theories of the moving image and photography in the light of contemporary developments in AI and computer vision technologies
  • Contributes to debates concerning early cinema, experimental cinema, and use of moving image archives, through critical-technical practices
  • Theorises the emergence of synthetic media and generative approaches in computational humanities

Cinema and Machine Vision unfolds the aesthetic, epistemic, and ideological dimensions of machine-seeing films and television using computers. With its critical-technical approach, this book presents to the reader key new problems that arise as AI becomes integral to visual culture. It theorises machine through a selection of aesthetics, film theory, and applied machine learning research, dispelling widely held assumptions about computer systems designed to watch and make images on our behalf.

Cinema and Machine Vision collects years of my research about the technologies, practices, and consequences of learning to see through machines. At its heart, the book is an invitation for film and media scholars to critically engage with AI at a technical level, a prompt for computer scientists and machine learning engineers working with images to critically reflect on where their assumptions about vision come from, and a call to both to recognise the fruitful problems of working together towards a joint understanding of the algorithmic governance of the visual.

– Daniel Chávez Heras

About the author

Daniel Chávez Heras is a Lecturer in Digital Culture and Creative Computing at King’s College London. He specialises on the computational production and analysis of visual culture combining critical frameworks in the history and theories of cinema, television, and photography, with advanced technical practice in creative and scientific computing, including applied machine learning technologies.

Daniel has worked extensively in interdisciplinary design and creative industries, in Mexico and in the UK, with cultural institutions such as the British Council, and the BBC. At King’s, he is part of the Computational Humanities Group, the Creative AI Lab (in partnership with the Serpentine Galleries)and an affiliate of the college’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence.


Cinema and machine vision rescaled the world, from cell to pixel, detail to data. Daniel Chavez Heras shows us the parallel and diverging ways they have become worldmaking. A wonderful and necessary book that starts the story of AI where it should be started: in much earlier technical imaging practices of cinema.

– Professor Jussi Parikka, Aarhus University, author of Operational Images

This ambitious and imaginative book explores how we can teach machines to watch films without taking away from our human pleasure of doing so. Equally well versed in the technical discourse of computer vision and the cultural theory of visuality, Daniel Chávez Heras issues an invitation to us all to envisage new ways of seeing and making with AI.

– Professor Joanna Zylinska, King’s College London, author of The Perception Machine