Small File Media Festival 2021 – COMING SOON!


still from Entangled Orb, Azadeh Emadi (2021)


Mini-course: Five Megs of Fun! Experiments in Small File Media Aesthetics and Politics
WIth Laura Marks and Radek Przedpełski
Six Fridays: 7 May – 11 June, 2021 | 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Taught remotely | Free, no credit | Limited to 16 participants
First come, first served! Contact to reserve your spot.

This fun and accessible course in sustainable small-file media production of explores technical and aesthetic solutions designed to activate imagination and raise awareness about the environmental impact of digital media.

Amidst the pandemic confinement and the feelings of depression and anxiety it provoked, people all around the world turned to streaming online video. But did we stop to think about the environmental cost of all this binge-watching, whose data stream uses energy of data centres, networks and user devices? Streaming media is calculated to account for over 1% of global greenhouse gases emissions, and this figure is rising exponentially. Digital media can no longer be perceived as virtual—it has a real, material impact on the Earth. 

So what can we do to replace the streaming media that is overheating the planet? Laura has proposed one solution: to forgo the desire for high-definition video and embrace the small- file format as an experimental and joyous medium. The First Small File Media Festival founded by Laura and held at SFU in August 2020 and online worldwide, featured seriously small files—no more than 5 megabytes in size and 5 minutes in duration—that can be streamed at little cost to the environment. (More info, and the call for work for this year’s festival, at

Our course facilitates the creation of seriously small and seriously fun small files, and a critical reflection on the carbon footprint of streaming media. We will start with an overview of the environmental problem, sharing insights from ICT engineering research in a accessible way. We will also talk about the Small File Media Festival as an enjoyable solution to the problem, showing a selection of artworks from last year’s fest as inspiring examples of sustainable experimentation and creativity. Across the subsequent weeks, the course will guide the participants in their own creative process. 

The first part of these classes will consist of practical tutorials on transcoding applications and image manipulation techniques, including HandBrake, FFworks, Avidemux and Processing; compression aesthetics, retaining image quality, datamoshing, pixel-sorting, and frame rate manipulation. We will also share compression-independent tips for making small-file media, including animation and sound-driven works. The second part will be devoted to feedback on students’ projects and discussing the practice of small-file media production, in a collaborative forum for sharing insights, tips and friendly peer review. We will conclude by jointly curating the created small-media artworks into a festival program.

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