Todd Margolis

Distributed Cinema

"Stories unfold over time and through space in layers of media forms."
Adriene Jenik

Distributed Cinema


Role: Transmedia Producer

CineGrid@AES was the first ever presentation of 2K and 4K resolution digital motion pictures and 24-channel digital audio to be streamed from three different locations in real time. Using CineGrid™ networks, the high resolution streams were mixed live for a local audience at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco in October 2006.

CineGrid is a virtual network for extreme media collaboration running on advanced research IP networks. CineGrid was one of the first major research projects at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Overseen by Pacific Interface, joint CineGrid research between Calit2 and CRCA at UCSD, the Research Institute for Digital Media and Content, Keio University and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts laid the groundwork for the CineGrid@AES demonstrations.

2K images have roughly 2,000 horizontal pixels and 4K images have roughly 4,000. 4K offers approximately four times the resolution of the most widely used HD television format, and 24 times that of a standard broadcast TV signal. 2K and 4K are particularly significant new image formats because they will be widely used for future digital cinema theatrical distribution under new specifications proposed by Digital Cinema Initiatives, LLC, a consortium of the major Hollywood studios.

"The CineGrid@AES event showed that high-quality, real-time remote collaboration is possible with current equipment and technology. It is our hope that all of us working together in the industry will adopt systems like this, which will eventually decrease costs while increasing efficiency and creativity for everyone" said Craig Mirkin, manager for Media Systems Engineering at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a Lucasfilm Ltd. Company and housed at LDAC.

At this AES event, the picture and sound streams originated in real time from CineGrid server nodes in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tokyo, carried at the speed of light over more than 10,000 miles of CineGrid virtual local area networks (VLAN). The streams were synchronized and then mixed 'live' in full fidelity for an audience of 250 audio experts, cinema professionals and international technology leaders gathered in the Premier Theater at LDAC.

The program for the CineGrid@AES special event was structured in four acts, each demonstrating a different facet of the CineGrid philosophy of networked extreme media. In Act 1, a sequence of 4K "digital shorts" at 24 frames per second (fps), together with fully mixed synchronized audio, were pulled in real time from network-connected servers in Los Angeles and San Diego. In Act 2, 4K telepresence was used for interactive video-conferencing and ultra-realistic reproduction of a classical music performance from Tokyo. Acts 3 and 4 were designed to prove the concept of networked, remote audio post-production for digital cinema by creative teams spread around the world, who demand the highest-quality production values. In Act 3, 4K motion pictures were sent compressed from Tokyo, and 24-channel non-compressed digital audio was streamed from San Diego. In Act 4, the performance system was re-configured to use uncompressed 2K motion pictures coming from ILM servers in the LDAC facility, synchronized to 24-channel, non-compressed digital audio streaming from San Diego.

For this event, I was part of the planning and design team for the audio and video technical infrastructure. Working with engineers from ILM and Skywalker Sound, I assisted with configuring the remote streaming audio server, local network configuration and 4K playback. As a part of the on-site production crew, I was responsible for queuing the multi-channel, uncompressed spatialized audio streaming over IP throughout the performance.

Event Organizers
Industrial Light & Magic, a Lucasfilm Ltd. Company
NTT Network Innovation Laboratories
Pacific Interface, Inc.
Research Institute for Digital Media and Content, Keio University
San Francisco State University, Institute for Next Generation Internet
Skywalker Sound, a Lucasfilm Ltd. Company
Tokyo University of Technology Creative Lab
UC San Diego Division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2)
UCSD Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA)
University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts

Digital Cinema Consortium of Japan
Immersive Media Research
Keio Wagner Society String Ensemble
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (Japan)
Meyer Sound Laboratories
Olympus Corporation
Recombinant Media Lab
San Francisco State University, Cinema Department
Sony Electronics, Inc
Tatsunoko Production Co., Ltd.
University of Illinois at Chicago Electronic Visualization Laboratory
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's National Center for Supercomputing Applications
Yamaha Corporation of America

Cyberinfrastructure Providers
National LambdaRail (NLR)
Pacific Northwest GigaPOP


Linked Media


121st Audio Engineering Society Convention, LucasFilm's Letterman Digital Arts Center - San Francisco, CA