CineGrid Hosts Third Annual International Workshop at Calit2
San Diego, CA, Dec. 23, 2008 — The latest in high-tech digital media distribution, sound and viewing came to the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at the University of California, San Diego, last week when the members of CineGrid™ converged for their third annual workshop.
CineGrid™ is a non-profit international membership organization focused on connecting people around the world who are experimenting with "extreme" digital media. Headquartered in California, CineGrid™ is leveraging next-generation cyberinfrastructure to promote higher-resolution imagery, better sound and more secure and efficient distribution of digital media over photonic networks. The organization is overseen by a privately held consulting company called Pacific Interface, Inc., and was one of the first major research collaboratives at Calit2.
Laurin Herr, president of Pacific Interface, says this year's workshop was notable for its series of demonstrations showcasing advances in super high-resolution 4K digital cinema, 4K stereo animation and interactive computer graphics, as well as distributed audio, including the world's first 4K telepresence progressively streaming at 60 frames per second from Tokyo to San Diego. During the latter demonstration, members of CineGrid™ at Calit2's Atkinson Hall Auditorium demonstrated the power of 4K when they held up a page of text in front of the camera. At roughly 4,000 horizontal pixels and approximately four times the resolution of the most widely-used HD television format, the 4K image was so clear that their CineGrid™ counterparts in Tokyo could read the words directly from the paper.
"To me these were certainly highlights of the workshop," Herr said, "but the thing I'm always most proud of is the quality of the presentations at the workshop and the quality of the attendees themselves."
Noting that "building the CineGrid™ community" is one of the primary goals of the workshop, Herr said he was pleased to see that attendance at this year's workshop was up by about 25 percent — from 120 people in 2007 to 150 this time around, with approximately one-third coming from outside the U.S.
"Since the first workshop, we certainly have gone from a core community to a much larger organization, and we're drawing attendees from around the world," he continued. "We have nearly 60 members now, with lots of industry representation: Networking from Cisco Systems and Nortel; displays from Sony, JVC and Sharp; audio from Meyers Sound Laboratories and Skywalker Sound. We also had some good representation at this year's workshop from companies developing accelerated file transfer technologies."
Such cross-industry, cross-national collaboration poses a number of challenges for CineGrid™, especially in terms of communication. To foster understanding and standardization among the members of the organization, the workshop included a number of tutorials designed to introduce concepts and industry jargon to those who are new to the collaborative.
"We're talking about people who work in computing, networking, audio and digital cinema production, all coming together for a common goal," said Calit2 research scientist Tom Defanti, a founding member of CineGrid™. "The whole idea behind CineGrid™ is to get people to stay where they are and collaborate remotely. But we also need to have these tutorials so everyone is buzzword compliant and understands the basic concepts involved. The CineGrid™ workshop is the only place in the world where these groups of people actually get together all at once."
One participant who said he appreciates the opportunity to network with colleagues at the CineGrid™ workshop is Rod Sterling, chief engineer for the JVC North America Research & Development Center in Cypress, Calif. Sterling, who presented a lecture on the latest in 4K display technology, expressed his admiration for Calit2's array of cutting-edge displays.
"Because really, what's visualization without displays?" he asked. "Calit2 is on the leading edge of 4K displays, and now stereo (3-D) 4K is the latest big thing. High-end consumers are already starting to buy 4K displays for the home, and within the next three years, stereo 4K will become a reality. Dreamworks and Disney have already committed to making their next movies in stereo, so stereo 4K is real and here to stay, and it's only going to get better. It will take a group like this to make that happen."
Staying abreast of the latest stereo and 4K technologies was one of the goals of the workshop, noted Herr, but "the other big goal was to look at collaboration from a variety of viewpoints." Although past workshops have placed more emphasis on the storage and archiving of digital media data, Herr said this year's event focused on remote collaboration and featured two lengthy sessions on the challenges of remote technologies, as well as an opening address by Calit2 Director Larry Smarr on the OptiPlanet Collaboratory, a global testbed for enabling innovators around the world to work together on major data-intensive challenges.
"We also had a really great panel this year on file-based workflows for digital motion picture production by the Hollywood chapters of the American Society for Cinematographers and the Society of Motion Picture Television Engineers, who pointed out several useful places where high-speed networks would aid their current workflows. We all envision day were networks can be used for collaboration in the post-production of movies, and in terms of distribution of media, CineGrid™ wants to work with people to do file transfer and streaming of cinema, opera or even sporting events."
Although the members of CineGrid™ have made numerous advances both technologically and administratively since its inception in 2005, Herr says there is still work to be done in terms of building a consistent, standardized means of collaboration.
"What we face is building persistent infrastructure that can be used day in and day out, and not just for heroic demonstrations," he explained. "One of the big things we talked about this year is the progress we've made on building a CineGrid™ Web site. The next challenge is to get people to put content into our Wiki. We're also building up the CineGrid™ exchange as repository for digital media, and some members are offering to add more storage capacity. CESNET (the Czech National Research & Education Network), for example, is installing an additional 40 terabytes in Prague, and the University of Illinois at Chicago is putting up another 10 terabytes."
Herr says CineGrid™ is also transitioning from an ad hoc, manual administration to a more policy-driven implementation, using middleware for managing distributed data repositories known as iRODS, which were developed at UCSD's San Diego SuperComputer Center (at UCSD) and the University of North Carolina. He mentioned that drafts of CineGrid's new administrative policies and metadata were also presented at this year's workshop, and "the challenge in the coming year will be to implement them."
Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, email@example.com