Alpha is the first in a series of three films on mathematics conceived and produced by Raymond Redheffer, who was a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a mathematics consultant for Charles and Ray’s 1961 exhibition, Mathematica . . . A World of Numbers and Beyond.
Charles advised Redheffer to search out the aesthetic character of his discipline. The Eameses invited him to use their equipment and explore his ideas through film. Taking their advice seriously, Redheffer created Alpha with the design and technical assistance of Eames Office staff members.
The stop-motion, animated sequence begins with an algebraic expression, elaborates on it until the screen is filled with symbols and numbers, and then reduces it back to its original form. Alpha has no narration and was designed to run as a continuous loop that could be augmented with the explanation of a classroom teacher. They produced the sequence by photographing cut-out characters and symbols against a glass plane; the symbols were moved step-by-step through the action.
IBM Corporation Film Library included Alpha in its collection to be made available to schools and interested institutions.