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World's First International Real-time Streaming of 4K Digital Cinema over Gigabit IP Optical Fiber Networks


September 28, 2005

In a demonstration that could foretell the future of videoconferencing, scientific visualization and digital cinema deployment, scientists from around the world meeting at iGrid 2005 in San Diego were treated to the world's first real-time, international transmission of super high-definition (SHD) 4K digital video. 4K images have roughly 4,000 horizontal pixels - offering approximately four times the resolution of the most widely-used HD television format, and 24 times that of a standard broadcast TV signal.

The 4K transmission linked the University of California, San Diego and Keio University in Tokyo via 15,000 kilometers (roughly 9,000 miles) of gigabit Internet Protocol (IP) optical-fiber networks, and allowed organizers to show attendees the most varied 4K content ever presented at a single event anywhere in the world to date.

Using 4K technology, Keio president Yuichiro Anzai and UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox opened iGrid 2005, a workshop and symposium that brings together the world's leading experts in grid computing and high-bandwidth networking every two years. The week-long event runs Sept. 26-29 at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) on the UCSD campus in San Diego, CA.

In their remarks, the two leaders emphasized the benefits of networked collaboration between their respective institutions, and called for further cooperation between Calit2 and Keio's Research Institute for Digital Media and Content (DMC).

At 8 megapixels per frame, uncompressed streaming of 4K video requires a data rate greater than 6 Gigabits per second (Gbps). In many places though, the signal must be carried over 1 Gbps circuits. To do so efficiently, the iGrid demonstration utilized prototype JPEG 2000 codecs from NTT Network Innovation Labs, designed to compress and decompress 4K digital video in real time to 200-400 Mbps for direct connection to gigabit IP networks. NTT Labs also provided prototype Flexcast systems that enable multicast delivery of 4K video and audio over traditional unicast networks by just adding functions to existing networks.

4K is a particularly significant new image format because it will be widely used for future digital cinema theatrical distribution under new specifications proposed by Digital Cinema Initiatives, LLC, a consortium of the seven major Hollywood studios.

In addition to Keio's DMC, NTT Network Innovation Labs and Calit2 at UCSD, organizers of the ground-breaking 4K demonstration at iGrid 2005 are: the University of Illinois at Chicago's Electronic Visualization Lab (EVL), and Pacific Interface of Oakland, CA.

Nearly six hours of live and pre-recorded 4K content will be streamed in real time via 1 Gbps IP networks from Tokyo to San Diego, where the video will be displayed on one of Sony's Electronics' prototype SXRD 4K projectors installed in Calit2's new 200-seat auditorium. The content streamed from Keio/DMC to Calit2 includes pre-rendered computer animations, materials shot with 4K digital motion picture cameras and digital still cameras, real-time computer-generated visualizations, and digitally scanned 35mm and 65mm motion picture film.

One particularly challenging part of these demonstrations will be the Soundscape live audio mix in the Calit2 auditorium, using professional-quality, multi-channel digital music and sound effects originating from Skywalker Sound audio servers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The audio is synchronized over IP networks with the 4K motion pictures streaming from NTT servers located at Keio/DMC in Tokyo. This Soundscape demonstration was organized with additional collaboration from Skywalker Sound, UCSD's Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), Youth Radio, the Institute for Next Generation Internet at San Francisco State University, and the University of California Office of the President (UCOP).

The iGrid 2005 demonstration of international 4K