Just the name alone —The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences— reveals something about the people who make movies: these filmmakers consider themselves to be artists and scientists. Who are these people?  What do they do?  How do they use science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) in movie making?  This web page is designed to provide you, the teacher, with readings, ideas and other resources for incorporating STEAM and film into instruction.

This is also a perfect opportunity to introduce film careers which utilize STEAM. There are a number of excellent features on DVDs which not only introduce those careers, but also take students behind-the-scenes into the making of a specific film. I have created a lengthy list of those DVDs here which you might wish to consider acquiring in order to help your students better appreciate the craft of filmmaking.  (Many of these featurettes can also be found on YouTube.)

(NOTE: if you have a favorite resource or lesson plan that you would like to see added here, send it to me:

The Science Behind Pixar
(exhibit, lessons)
All Pixar films Many
Science of 3D Movies:
How do images on a flat screen pop out?
depth perception;
stereoscopic vision;
polarized light
Visible invisibility: the science of cinematography Saving Pvt Ryan
Citizen Kane
Pulp Fiction
Ben Hur
Lawrence of Arabia
A Space Odyssey
The Hateful Eight
exposure time
The Future Science of Star Wars Star Wars
The Science in “The Martian” The Martian ion engines,
orbital dynamics,
interplanetary travel,
solar energy
The Physics of  “Back To The Future” Back To The Future special relativity
general relativity
How Science Helps Create Realistic Explosions in Movies Avatar,
Iron Man 3,
Super 8,
Man of Steel
wavelet turbulence
Physics Journal Recommends Teachers Use Interstellar Interstellar;
Star Trek; Stargate
Wormholes; black holes
Stunts Makes A Believer of Physics Expert Fast & Furious 7 speed; terminal velocity;
Neuroscientist Takes A Scientific Look at Art of Filmmaking Airplane, Chicago, Moulin Rouge Brain Science
The Physics of Spiderman’s Webs Spiderman downward gravitational force;
upward force; momentum; tension;
velocity;  kinematic equations;
Science Goes To The Movies Various Varies
Great & Realistic Physics Movies
related: Good & Bad Examples from Movies
Gravity, Apollo 13,  October Sky,
The Abyss,  IQ, Infinity,
2001: A Space Odyssey
Science of Hollywood Stunts (video) The Firm;
A Time to Kill;
Mission Impossible;
solid, liquids, gas, steam, expansion,
chemical reactions, metal, hydrocarbon,
fluids, carbon, refraction,
atoms, gravity,
compression, pulleys, force, direction,
load, friction, vectors, pressure,
electrical circuits, magnet
Physics in Wall-E Wall E Applied Physics, Gravity
Interstellar Film Technology & Black Holes

The Surprising Science Behind Interstellar

Christopher Nolan/Kip Thorne Discuss
Physics of Interstellar

Interstellar Black Holes, Worm Holes, Caustics, Relativity
Movie Magic Conjured by Science Toy Story, Harry Potter,
Hellboy, Quantum of Solace,
Chronicles of Narnia, Tron
Fluid Dynamics
Science of the Movies in 3D (Video) Terminator 2; Metalstorm,
Journey to The Center of the Earth
Stereo, Depth, Polarization, Light Waves
How Movies Makers Use Science to
Make Magic
The Incredibles, Jurrasic Park,
Benjamin Button, Avengers,
Pirates of the Carrribean,
My Week With Marilyn,
The Ten Commandments,
Visual effects, CG, third-degree polynomials,
higher frame rates, 3D, linear perspective,
aerial perspective, composition,
X-Y graphing


Motion Capture Dawn of the Planet of the Apes MoCap; CG
Animal Kingdom Chronicles of Narnia
How Does Green Screen Work? Chromakey; luminance keying; compression
How Blue Screens Work ET, Star Wars, Return of the Jedi,
Back to The Future
Traveling matte; Blue screen,
CG; optical compositing, matte; diffusion
How do they create special effects The Matrix; Lost in Space rotation; slow motion


Lights, Camera, Engineers Avengers, Pearl Harbor hydraulics, CG
The Arrrt of Engineering Pirates of the Caribbean fluid animation
An Engineer’s Dream Comes True:
Working on Avatar (page 9)
 Avatar 3D
The Science & Engineering
of Sound
Vibration, compression, rarefaction,
amplitude, frequency, longitudinal wave,
harmonic content, logarithmic scale, decibel,
dynamics, microphones


The Art of Designing Digital Sets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
Catwoman, V for Vendetta,
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,
The Golden Compass, Gladiator,
Lord of the Rings, Avatar
How Film Composers Shape Our Feelings X-Men; Sunshine;  Hoffa;
Aliens;  12 Years A Slave;
The Tree of Live; Gravity;
Animation adds STEAM to STEM
Observations on Film Art Many Various
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography
The Art of Movie Storyboards (book) Many Various
Annual Art of Motion Picture
Costume Design
Various Various
The Art of Foley Looping
Film Art Director Various


What type of math is involved in Pixar animation? Inside/Out Many (see article)
Math in Special Effects Music video Algebra,  Distance, Light Intensity,
Exposure (photography)
Film Aspect Ratio   Related video Captain America:
Winter Solider;
Citizen Kane;
Ben Hur;
A Serious Man;
Oz: The Great And The Powerful;
The Grand Budapest Hotel;
The Dark Knight
Aspect ratio
Jumping Out of Windows (stunts) measuring, multiplication, division, and remainders
Math in the Film Industry trigonometry, algebra, integral calculus,
subdivision surfaces, division, geometry, and harmonic coordinates
How One Visual Effects Director Uses Math Harry Potter, Sweeny Todd,
Prince of Persia,
GI Joe
fluid modeling, gravity, viscosity, voxels, density,
3D geometry
A Math Breakdown of Cinematography
of “There Will Be Blood
“Related article
 There Will Be Blood Geometry
Math Goes Movies Jurrasic Park,
Lord of the Rings
polygons, triangles, ray tracing, vectors,
caustics, precomputed radiance transfer,
Film Lighting & Math multiplication, angles, measurements, division,
skip counting
Geometry of Lenses
(Lesson plan)
geometry, areas, ratios, and square roots
Math Algorithm Claims to
Predict Film’s Success
Pixar combines math to make its movies
related video
The Incredibles
Finding Nemo
algebra, geometry , calculus
Pixar Sr. Scientist Explains Math of Movies
related video
Cars 2, Brave,
Geri’s Game
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, polygons,
calculus, combinatronics, light, fluid, gases,
compression algorithm, parabolas
Ryan Kavanugh Uses Math To Make Movies Batman, Zombieland,
Charlie Wilson’s War,
Paul Blart: Mall Cop,
Season of the Witch,
The Perfect Getaway,
Matrix, Waterworld,
Jesse James,
The Fighter, Evan Almighty,
Bruce Almighty,
Land of the Lost,
Somewhere in Time, Titanic
Box Office Math (lesson plan)  Calculations, measures, box plots
(both modified and
non-modified), histograms, and
stem-and-leaf plots.
Independent Filmmakers Talk Math Calculations
The Croods & Math Coding, effects tools, process control,
fluid dynamics, Cloud computing
What is the average budget for a
Hollywood movie?
The Brothers McMullen,
Pirates of the Caribbean

Science Lesson Plans Using The Movies (Teach With Movies)


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