By Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, firstname.lastname@example.org
San Diego, Calif., Dec. 18, 2013 — If you think digital media is all about entertainment, you haven’t seen a live 4K video feed of a dental extraction.
The extraction and three other medical procedures — streamed live to the big screen at the University of California, San Diego’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium — had everyone talking (if not cringing) at the eighth annual CineGrid™ International Workshop, which is held each year at UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute (QI). The demonstration was a proof-of-concept for 4-way streaming of 4K video (four times the resolution of HD) from surgical operating rooms for medical education, professional training and second-opinions-at-a-distance. These dramatic demonstrations utilized the FOGO software player, developed by Prof. Guido de Lemos and his team at the Digital Video Applications Lab (LAVid) in Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte.
Besides demonstrating the value of extremely high-resolution telemedicine for educational and training purposes, the demo was also symbolic of one of CineGrid’s great strengths: Its reputation for bringing new digital media technologies out of the confines of the lab and encouraging experts from diverse disciplines — entertainment, networking, computing and medicine — to work together to show how they can be put to new uses.
“CineGrid teaches us scalability; it teaches us how to take these things that are very esoteric and make the most of them in a variety of fields,” said Jeff Weekley, a longtime CineGrid affiliate and a member of the research faculty at the MOVES (Modeling Virtual Environments and Simulation) Laboratory at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, Calif. “CineGrid has a reputation for publicly putting its stick in the ground and saying, ‘We will demonstrate this,’ and then collectively figuring out how to actually do it.”
CineGrid is a non-profit international membership organization focused on connecting people around the world who are experimenting with "extreme" digital media. Its 2013 workshop took place at QI Dec. 9-11 and featured demos and presentations on digital workflows, next-generation display technology, real-time collaboration, image compression, media transport, networking, storage, camera arrays and using digital media to enhance art, culture and education.
The CineGrid workshop was organized and operated, as it is every year, by Laurin Herr and Natalie Van Osdol of Pacific Interface. Keynote speakers this year included Alex McDowell, founding director of the 5D|Global Studio at the University of Southern California’s Cinematic Arts program, who spoke about collaboration and prototyping for “a new narrative”; and Bill Feightner, CTO of Colorfront, a software development company for the motion picture industry, who addressed current opportunities and challenges of networked digital motion picture production and post-production.
Although CineGrid has always placed an emphasis on working with the media and entertainment industry, its membership also includes a large number of university researchers who have benefited from their collaboration with CineGrid by leveraging higher-resolution imagery, better sound and more secure and efficient distribution of digital media for data visualization, simulations and other research-driven endeavors.
Weekley’s students, for example, often go on to pursue work in modeling and simulation technologies for military training centers, but he also sees potential for future collaborations that can be both educational and inspiring. He said, for example, that he was so inspired by the Brazilian telemedicine demos that he sat down with Prof. Lemos at a dinner following the workshop to talk about the possibility of collaborating on a new project that would take the cameras into the Brazilian jungle.
“We talked with great enthusiasm with the entire Brazilian delegation about how we might use multiple cameras while navigating up river where Teddy Roosevelt once traveled (and hunted) to capture the biodiversity, the atmosphere there.” Weekley said he envisions the project to be something akin to what QI-affiliated Professor of Anthropology Thomas Levy does to capture digital point clouds of archaeological sites, only cinematically. "This would likely push the development of camera systems and display technologies even beyond the cutting edge we see today at QI."
Once Weekley and de Lemos have captured their data, they might consider displaying it on the QI WAVE. QI Director of Visualization Tom DeFanti is a founding member of CineGrid and demonstrated his WAVE display technology at the event (he co-created the WAVE with Calit2 Professor of Visualization and Virtual Reality Falko Kuester). DeFanti said the WAVE — a curved wall array of 35 stereoscopic 55” LG commercial LCD monitors — is a prime example of the ways that the networking, cinema and academic research communities can collaborate. The WAVE is a big data visualization environment that can serve as either a microscope or a telescope and enables users to explore data from the nano to micro to macro to mega scale, but it could also be used by film studios for remote collaboration in pre-production and post-production.
“CineGrid brings people together from around the world who may have different areas of expertise but share an interest in exploring the limits of high quality media applications using high speed networks," noted DeFanti. "There’s no place else that they would all meet, let alone collaborate. From a technical point of view, the ultra high-definition video and audio quality we’ve been working with are very good, even by Hollywood standards, and I think it’s fair to say that both folks from Hollywood and the academic researchers are always mutually blown away by all the new things they see at the workshop. That’s what keeps them coming back and what makes CineGrid very special.”
What also keeps people coming back to CineGrid are the grand challenges specific to CineGrid’s mission of working with high quality media and high speed networks.
“Although they’ve improved over time, the issues we deal with haven’t really ever gone away,” added Weekley. “The pictures are getting bigger, frame rates are getting faster, meaning the data rates are getting higher while the complexity of the network is increasing. When CineGrid started, we didn’t have cloud computing, or distributed processing, or next generation software defined virtualized network topologies, so, going forward, we have to figure out how to apply those emerging technologies to the problem space.”
At the CineGrid workshop, Bradley Hankinson of Streamonix addressed some of those same challenges in his talk on IP streaming 4K and 8K. Although cloud computing has led to advances in networking that weren’t previously possible, Hankinson predicted there will be “a coming cloud computing efficiency crisis,” that he argued “will only partially be an energy efficiency crisis.It’s fundamentally a crisis of computing efficiency.” Added Hankinson,. “We’re using highly inefficient, bloated software that was not designed for the scaling we now require. What the hardware engineers giveth, the software engineers taketh away.”
Weekley acknowledged there are still many hurdles to overcome. “We’re at a spot where the current technologies can finally just about support what we’ve being trying to accomplish for the past few years,” he said. “But we’re right on the cusp of new demand, and as we continue to push on those technologies we’ll have to innovate. Take 8K UHDTV for example (16 times the resolution of HD): how do we transmit it over the network, how do we record it, play it, display it?
DeFanti added, “CineGrid has always focused on showing people what is desirable, and what is possible at any given moment in time using the best available technology. Over successive CineGrid events, we’ve seen spirals of development, where things keep getting better and better, and easier and easier to implement. There is still much to do within CineGrid, and much to learn about integrating systems, networks and people to build media-centric collaboratoriums among the CineGrid community of networked members around the world interested in experimenting at the cutting edge."
Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, email@example.com