Carnegie Mellon University
March 14, 2011

Press Release: Ring, Click, Buzz! CMU’s Doug Cooper Animates His Pittsburgh Mural To Be Backdrop of Large Pinball Game


Contact:  Eric Sloss / 412-268-5765 /

Pinburgh from Douglas Cooper on Vimeo.

PITTSBURGH—Pittsburgh is home to some of the world’s best pinball players and hundreds of them will descend on 100 Keystone Drive in nearby Scott Township, March 18-22, for the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association's biggest pinball tournament.

With pinball’s bouncing in their heads many of them may have wondered what it would be like to play pinball around Pittsburgh’s narrow and winding streets.  Now they know.

Famous for his large illustrative panoramas of Pittsburgh, muralist Doug Cooper, the Andrew Mellon Professor of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, animated his local landscapes as a big pinball machine in his first short film.  The film, called “Pinburgh,” can be viewed at

In the film, a guy on a streetcar sees a dancer on city steps who enters a bar where someone is playing pinball, eventually activating a citywide pinball game. Most scenes use static hand-drawn backgrounds into which green-screened action shots have been layered. The green-screen filming of live actors required the construction of a suite of street furniture, including a stair, a ramp and a bench.

This collaborative project features Ryan Melia, Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson and Dan Weschler, seniors from CMU’s School of Drama who formed the theater group “PigPen.” The group acts in the animation and created the musical score. Ryan Woodring (MFA ’10) edited the green screen sequences and was the film’s compositer. School of Architecture students Shawn Cencer and Greg Tanski created the 3D modeling for the film. Live action green-screen filming took place at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, under the direction of Gretchen Neidert and Matthew Day.

Cars, trucks and streetcars move through the backgrounds. They were modeled, hand drawn and then stitched together around the 3D model. The vehicles move through space like real ones, but they appear to have been drawn in charcoal by Cooper.

The film has received early critical acclaim winning prizes at several film festivals and was featured in the Black Maria Festival, a prestigious traveling film festival. The film also is currently on display at Concept Art Gallery in Regent Square in the exhibit “Movie Sets: Experiments in Layered Space.” The exhibit includes all of the drawings used in the film, plus several working sketches for a newly planned film. The exhibit has been extended through March 18.

Cooper’s work combines story, history and memory into panoramic murals. He typically works with local residents, incorporating their lives into the works. Cooper has authored two books on drawing: “Steel Shadows” (University of Pittsburgh) and “Drawing and Perceiving” (Wiley).

Cooper has a 200-foot long mural of Pittsburgh in Carnegie Mellon’s University Center, murals at Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center, the Philadelphia Courthouse, Seattle's King County Courthouse, the University of Rome and in Education City in Doha, Qatar.