The International Research Partnership on Cinema Technology, TECHNÈS, aims to rethink film history and its methods by examining the techniques and technologies that have accompanied the medium’s mutations since the nineteenth century. TECHNÈS intends to carry out this ambitious project by creating an unprecedented space for dialogue between universities, archives, cinematheques, and film schools, as well as between scholars and industry technicians.

The project originated from the widely shared observation that the contemporary media ecology is in upheaval. Indeed, over the last few decades, the film industry has undergone a series of transformations that has shaken its identity to its very core. While since the 1890s film productions were almost entirely made using a thin, transparent pellicle coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, it only took a few years for films to be projected as digital media files following a production process that, very often, contained no phase that included actual film. This change in the way moving images are produced has had serious repercussions on the film industry socially, economically, and aesthetically.

These mutations have also had a serious effect on film studies. To address this observation, we need to fully integrate the technical dimension into scientific discourse, which covers both the history and aesthetics of cinema. If, on the one hand, cinema was, at the onset, described as a “technical medium,” on the other, its historiography and theory quickly undervalued this aspect. The inevitable result is a lack of knowledge regarding the complex links between machines, economic structures, uses, forms, creations, and cultural practices.


The advent of the digital era also brought about a significant renewal for the ways in which knowledge is mediated in the social sciences, an upheaval that was popularized by the expression “digital humanities.” Therefore, one of the driving ideas behind the TECHNÈS partnership is also a form of synchrony between the digital evolution of cinema and the way in which scholars in the humanities envisage sharing their research findings in the public space.

Thus, the work undertaken through this partnership will lead to the creation of a rational, bilingual (French and English) Encyclopaedia of film techniques. Unique in its form, this Encyclopaedia will offer thematic pathways comprising film equipment, professions, devices, and discourses on technique, consequently mobilizing a wide variety of media (journal articles, technical drawings and documentation, reproduction of artefacts).

TECHNÈS intends to build its Encyclopaedia on a documentary foundation composed of a collaborative bibliography and a database that is primarily geared towards indexing digital heritage artefacts and video interviews. The collaborative bibliography will help pool together an ever-evolving scholarship on the technical history of cinema. As for the database, it will make available a wide variety of often-rare documents that will be indexed using norms shared by archives, cinematheques, and scholars.

It is an entirely unique range of media transformations and disciplinary developments that has made it imperative to consider the impact that techniques have had on how cinema is defined; an imperative that only an international partnership is able to take on. TECHNÈS is laying the groundwork for a new way to conceive cinema and renew the research and mediation methods that define that field of film studies.

Discover the team that allows us to accomplish this project