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by Michael Betancourt

This site presents extracts from Michael Betancourt's current research and writing projects, with news about current developments. A portfolio of finished, published writing is available here.

His book, Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing, or, the Cinematic Displacement of Time, Motion and Space, concerned with the results of a 25-year long studio-based research project was published by Focal Press.

If you are looking for more on agnotology, digital capitalism or automated/immaterial labor, look at The Digital, which presents links to his most recent published articles and other research on the political economy of digital capitalism contained in his book:

The Critique of Digital Capitalism identifies how digital technology has captured contemporary society in a reification of capitalist priorities. The theory proposed in this book is the description of how digital capitalism as an ideologically “invisible” framework is realized in technology.

More articles and translations into Spanish, Portuguese and Greek are posted on


Synchronization and Title Sequences - Now Available!

story ©  | published May 17, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

Motion Graphics

You can now order my new book Synchronization and Title Sequences: Audio-Visual Semiosis in Motion Graphics!

It's part of the Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice series, and proposes a semiotic analysis of the synchronization of image and sound in motion pictures using title sequences as its focus. It is the second volume in Michael Betancourt's study of semiotics and cinema using the title sequence as a critical focus, allowing for a consideration of fundamental theoretical issues apart from both the issues of narrative and realism common to commercial media. Through detailed historical close readings of title designs that use either voice-over, an instrumental opening, or title song to organize their visuals--from Vertigo (1958) to The Player (1990) and X-Men: First Class (2011)--author Michael Betancourt develops a foundational framework for the critique and discussion of motion graphics' use of synchronization and sound, as well as a theoretical description of how sound-image relationships develop on-screen. The resulting study of synchronization is both a critical analysis and a theory of visual music in cinema.


Glitched Video and/as Found Footage

story ©  | published March 2, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


My article "Glitched Media as Found/Transformed Footage: Post-Digitality in Takeshi Murata’s Monster Movie" on the relationship between glitched videos and found footage is now available in Found Footage Magazine #3.

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New Book: Semiotics and Title Sequences

story ©  | published January 25, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

Motion Graphics

My new book, Semiotics and Title Sequences: Text-Image Composites in Motion Graphics is now in print! You can order a copy from the publisher's website today!

Title sequences are the most obvious place where photography and typography combine on-screen, yet they are also a commonly neglected part of film studies. Semiotics and Title Sequences presents the first theoretical model and historical consideration of how text and image combine to create meaning in title sequences for film and television, before extending its analysis to include subtitles, intertitles, and the narrative role for typography. Detailed close readings of classic films starting with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and including To Kill A Mockingbird, Dr. Strangelove, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, along with designs from television programs such as Magnum P.I., Castle, and Vikings present a critical assessment of title sequences as both an independent art form and an introduction to the film that follows.


Blacklie II includes my abstract photograpy

story ©  | published January 17, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

My Movies

I have some abstract photographs in Blacklie II. Now available here


The Statement of Synchronization

story ©  | published January 1, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

Visual Music

The designation “synchronized” identifies a particular relationship between the soundtrack and the imagetrack that is apparent to the audience as more than simply the coincidence of simultaneous presentation. The audience makes higher-level interpretations of structure and organization emerging over time from convergent events between sound and image. The identification of direct synchronization originates with its resemblance to phenomenal encounters in our everyday experience: when someone speaks, we see their lips move and we hear their voice as a conjoined encounter; the recreation of these types of synchronized relationship in motion pictures (unlike lived experience) is an artificial construction. In resembling our everyday experiences, the direct synchronization of sound and visual appears as an autonomous conclusion, its immediacy masking its underlying construction and artifice. Which sounds are combined with which elements in the image determines the character and nature of synchronization.

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Ideology and Synchronization

story ©  | published December 27, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

Visual Music

Synchronization implicitly expresses an ideological conception of reality through its apparent resemblance to our everyday experiences: it renders whatever appears on-screen as a ‘neutral’ fact. The apparently autonomous connection of sound::image::text in both varieties of direct synchronization, naturalistic and illustrative, acts as a demonstration that transfigures underlying ideo-cultural belief into immanence. Realist construction descends from naturalistic synchronization. This recreation of the appearance of everyday life (re)produces the phenomenal world as it appears to our senses; the realism created seems to lack articulation and construction, instead offering itself as an artifact, similar to the idea of the “trace” or “footprint” that define the photographic image for film theorists such as André Bazin or Stanley Cavell. The experiences of everyday life are the foundational reference point for all varieties of synchronization, but the two direct varieties explicitly create claims about the “true” nature of the world—whatever that might mean—at it most basic the immediate construction of “reality” through formal statements of audio-visual linkage, of voice to an image of someone speaking, creates the statement that the voice heard belongs to the person speaking; lip-sync is the underlying formal relationship for all statements emergent in synchronization and their superficially autonomous realism.

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On Synchronization in Movies

story ©  | published December 27, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

Visual Music

Interpreting motion pictures depends on the syntactic organization that synchronization provides via audio-visual statements that allow the parsing of a movie into distinct sections governed by past experience. All the various methodologies and aesthetic approaches of visual music fit within a spectrum where the link of sound::image increases in complexity as it moves away from direct synchronization. The two variables that define this audio-visual syntax are what provides the sync-point, and when that sync-point occurs in relation to earlier/later sync-points in both sound and image tracks. Direct and counterpoint synchronization are distinguished by the proximity and distance between audible sync-points. The visual sync-points of motion on-screen, duration of the shot/music, chiaroscuro dynamics within the frame, (or a combination of all three), complemented by a second set of audible sync-points, the most basic being the appearance of a sound (as in the ‘lip-sync’ of direct synchronization). The others, used in counterpoint synchronization all emerge over time, rather than being an immediately apparent connection: the beat, musical phrasing, or instrumental performance. These audible sync-points connect with the same set of visual sync-points, enabling the audience to identify the emergent statement of counterpoint as part of a continuum of synchronized links of sound::image that orients the soundtrack and the visuals:

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The Paradox of Agency - New Article!

story ©  | published December 5, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

The Digital

CTheory has posted my new article, "The Paradox of Agency," that describes the new alienation we all live within: created by automation, this alienation masquerades as a liberating force enabling fluid forms of identity/action/being in the digital society, but if and only if we accept the limited range of constraints generated by the digital system’s builders. A new, contemporary alienation originates from within this affective surplus of agency created by digital systems. Any action or behavior not contained by this structural preconception is designated as “invalid”—rendered impossible through a technology that transforms the social restrictions into instrumentalities that cannot be questioned. The limits of this “freedom” are immediately apparent in the situation of “gig” workers (such as on-demand labor) whose work is managed by autonomous systems. The separation of action from result by the aura of the digital reveals this alienation in the paradoxical dispersal of efficacy and immediacy of control.


Agnotology wins (as always)

story ©  | published November 9, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

The Digital

The problem posed by a dominant regime of agnotology is that it makes challenges to established patterns of thought difficult if not impossible: the affect of agnotology, perversely, is a reinforcement of certainty since it undermines alternatives that could challenge those ideas; thus, it leads to an unwillingness to compromise, and an inflexibility of thought—both essential features of how digital capitalism is an ideological construction capable of governing what would otherwise appear as incompatible, mutually exclusive groups.


Generative Color and Time Displacement

story ©  | published September 7, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

Avant-Garde Film

OtherZine 31 is running my discussion of using digital tools to create a movie with the same kind of RGB-based generative color used by Len Lye in Rainbow Dance .