Todd Margolis


Role: Technical Director

In July 2009, I led a research team of artists, film-makers and computer scientists to produce two high profile and historic events at FILE (Electronic Language International Festival). We premiered a 4K feature film across three continents, streamed live from Brazil to the US and Japan. This was accompanied by an HD video teleconference (VTC) between the three sites. This was the first time a feature length 4K film was streamed across three continents and the first uncompressed HD VTC between the northern and southern hemispheres.

The 4K film Enquanto a Noite não Chega (While the Night Does Not Come), by Beto Souza and Renato Falcão, was shot on a RED camera, edited and color-corrected in São Paulo, Brazil. Its premiere took place simultaneously in São Paulo, San Diego and Yokohama via network streaming during FILE 2009. In order to discuss the importance of streaming 4K cinema over optical networks, a HD VTC was also organized to occur between the same 3 sites one day after the premiere. The 15 person VTC panel had as participants: the Brazilian Minister of Culture, the president of Mackenzie University, the coordinators of several Brazilian networking companies as well as remote participants in San Diego and Japan.

While the first wave of digital cinema has been installed at HD resolution, 4K cinema offers significant improvements in quality while demanding a more sophisticated means of processing and distribution. The resolution of each frame of 4K cinema is four times that of High Definition video, comprising 3840x2160 pixels per frame. The resulting image has tremendous clarity and can provide new aesthetic methods for film makers to pursue. Through this work, the new creative affordances of 4K cinema were highlighted, along with the new capabilities of cinematic distribution, production and experience.

In my capacity as Technical Director, I led the system design and equipment specification for a worldwide collaboration. Manually provisioning the necessary networks to transport the large amounts of data generated by 4K cinema and uncompressed HD video required the efforts of many groups responsible for each segment of the customized lightpath. Having to coordinate the project via emails across several time zones added to the logistical complexity. Extending the network over the proverbial ‘last mile‘ to the show venue, was a true test of the political will and the technical savvy of the local team. Given the emergent nature of the 4K medium, we devised new methods for rendering, previewing, encoding, transferring, synchronizing and streaming 4K media. My role as the local 4K/streaming HD expert included exchanging knowledge with the Brazilian research teams to ensure the event’s success and enable future collaborations.

Funding and support for this work was provided by: The Center for Research in Computing and the Arts at UCSD, Calit2 at UCSD, CineGrid, Intel Corp., IBM, Zaxel Inc., FILE, Sony Corp., Mackenzie University, University of São Paulo, RNP, FAPESP, ANSP, Telefonica, Foundry Networks, MackPesquisa, Padtec, O2. RNP is supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT) through a management contract.


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FILE 2009, FIESP: Sao Paulo, Brazil; UCSD: La Jolla, California; Keio: Yokohama, Japan