Getting It There
Largest Content Provider in Dubai Closes the Gap Between 4K Content Generation and Distribution
By Miles Weston
Global New Age Media (GNAM(r)), the largest content provider in Dubai, recently entered into an agreement with 4K Studios(tm), a subsidiary of NanoTech Entertainment with facilities in San Francisco and Hollywood, California, for the conversion of its sci-fi thriller, "Mantera," to 4K Ultra HD. NanoTech will also be distributing the film with UltraFlix(tm), its streaming 4K Ultra HD service.
NanoTech Senior Vice President of Product Development, Alex "LX" Rudis emphasized that the growing demand for 4K content will not be met if we rely solely on the development of new ultra HD entertainment.
Fortunately, with recent technology advancements, we are no longer limited to just creating new 4K content to meet this growing demand. Content owners such as broadcasters and movie studios have vast libraries of content that can be economically converted to pristine 4K and offered to consumers while providing added ROI on their investments. The freemium versions (with embedded ads) can also be quickly turned into very high-quality 4K VOD content that can be used to generate incremental income.
Alex "Lx" Rudis - Senior Vice President, Product Development, NanoTech Entertainment, 4K Studios Director
Lx has more than 25 years of industry experience and has worked with gaming and entertainment giants such as Atari, Komani, Sega and Sony on wide range of leading video products. His strong understanding of start-up relationships with large multi-national corporations enables Lx to oversee development for internal and external teams. Among his other responsibilities at NanoTech Entertainment, Lx is also responsible for the rapidly growing 4K Studios located in San Francisco and Hollywood. 4K Studios is a major player in converting films, television shows and other content into 4K-ready content to be viewed in the homes. Lx is a regular speaker on the technology behind 4K, computer gaming software and hardware, IPTV and the future of the content industry.
Tell us a bit about Global New Age Media and some of the films it has produced in the past.
Headquartered in Dubai, Global New Age Media (GNAM) is the largest independent, non government affiliated, youth broadcaster, with three channels in MENA (Middle East/North Africa) and additional channels in India, Korea, Indonesia and Russia. GNAM's channel brand is known throughout Europe and Asia as Spacetoon Channels. The company has a large production facility in Kuala Lumpur where its animated series is produced for worldwide distribution. GNAM has represented the merchandising and licensing rights of major studios and prominent independent companies for the MENA region and has its own retail outlet. GNAM is the holding company and investment group for a large, diverse group of media companies now expanding into North America. (see www.gna-media.com)
What is significant about the film "Mantera?"
"Mantera" is the first major motion picture financed through Global New Age Media. Produced with a $9 million USD budget, the sci-fi thriller tells the story of a brave young man who saves Mantera (Man Transformable Exo-Robotic Armour) from falling into the wrong hands. The film was released theatrically in Asia and sold throughout the world. The film will be on Netflix this year (2014). (Check imdb.com for further info.)
What is the connection of the film with Dubai? Was Dubai one of the locations?
"Mantera" is an Arabic, Russian and Malaysian co-production that was shot in Dubai, Moscow and Kuala Lumpur.
Why have they now decided to convert the film to 4K?
In announcing the agreement with NanoTech, Mr. Fayez Sabbagh, Chairman of GNAM, said, "It is important for all of our content to be converted to 4K because we want to provide a new, more exciting entertainment experience. When we saw a preview of the film that was converted to 4K, the results were amazing. There's just no comparison between CGI HD and CGI Ultra HD. We would have shot the film in 4K if there was a 4K camera available at that time. Yes, 4K conversion is the key for all of our HD content at this point in time. In the future, all GNAM productions will be produced in 4K."
Image Source - 4K Studios
High-Quality, Low Cost - Independent studios and videographers have found they can still have optimum creative control without going deeply in debt. Economic 4K cameras, minimalistic sets and PC-based post-production software can enable people to deliver outstanding theater quality.
What was the film originally produced with? What cameras and what format?
Originally shot in HD, the film combined CGI (computer-generated imagery) HD and live action.
What is NanoTech's streaming 4K Ultra HD service?
UltraFlix, NanoTech's all 4K Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming service will deliver 4K ultra HD content on a variety of TVs and devices, including NanoTech's Nuvola NP-1 consumer 4K streaming media players which comes pre-installed with UltraFlix.
The Nuvola's 4K streaming capabilities provide distinct advantages over players that only download content. With streaming, there is no loss in quality and users don't have to wait for downloads or use up their drive's capacity storing large files. Using advanced video compression techniques, UltraFlix can easily stream a visually lossless 4k video stream at an average of 10Mbs, which is now commom amoung NA and EU internet subscribers.
Image Source - NanoTech
Don't Force It - A one-hour compressed 4K film is about 160GB and would take 7-1/2 hours to download on a 50 mbit/s connection. However, by processing using multiple codecs and advanced post methods, videos can be flawlessly streamed--even over 6 mbit/s pipes.
How will it be available? On VOD? On what platform and for whom to view?
UltraFlix will initially only be available on NanoTech Nuvola 4K streaming media players. Additional 4k TV and STB platform integration will follow later this year. UltraFlix will offer a variety of titles ranging from Hollywood movies to Indie films, documentaries, concerts, travel and special interest entertainment-all as 4K content.
Please discuss the technicalities of how footage can be changed to 4K, how some of the challenges of noise and grain can be addressed and why perhaps, this is a unique area.
4K Studios has invested over $750k in 4K film scanning and post processing equipment. The equipment enables us to efficiently and effectively scan 16mm and 35mm film using proprietary multi-scans per frame at a variety of Color and Light-Levels to capture a highly optimized Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) 4K digital scan of each frame. We also apply a dynamic and optimized de-noise filter and color correction process to efficiently produce a pristine 4K raw master file. As a final step, we scan through each frame of the film and manually remove scratches and any remaining artifacts. . The end result is a near-perfect 4K scan which is a raw mezzanine master file awaiting final encoding for streaming OTT delivery.
Color Correction - 4K's Christoper Davis, senior colorist, works with the company's indy directors in the creation of high-quality 4K digital masters for their films. He also deals with the majority of the issues related to which codecs are used for the projects to determine what happens over a range of compression levels to ensure viewers get the highest-quality content possible.
What are some of the trends around 4K, some of the challenges in this area and why NanoTech's technologies are perhaps different.
The 4K trends we're seeing are a clear significant push for 4K from the TV manufacturers; we need content for them and everyone else involved in the 4K industry. Natively shot 4K movies and videos will find their way onto these 4K sets first, soon to be followed by the scanned and re-mastered videos from 4K Studios and other similar service providers. Also, more and more consumers will be producing their own 4K content with the advent of low-cost 4K cameras like Blackmagic, Sony and JVC; and then there will be the massively adopted 4K cameras from GoPro and forthcoming SmartPhones from Sony, HTC, LG and Samsung with their embedded 4K cameras.
The challenges will include robust and efficient 4K editing, sharing and distribution. More powerful PCs and GPUs along with enhanced encoding processes and "show me the beef" bandwidth increases will help alleviate these challenges. NanoTech has an experienced media staff that understands this and will help lead the path to 4K adoption success.
What's the difference between the upscaled content and what NanoTech is providing?
At 4K Studios, the conversion process doesn't just involve up-scaling. Upscaled content is muddy and full of artifacts. It's just not acceptable for consumers who pay for--and expect--the true 4K resolution experience.
Upscaled is just that ... stretching pixels. This process has gotten smarter with advanced interpolation algorithms which we are successfully implementing. Optimized scaling will have a home in the 4K ecosystem as 99+% of all digital content today is >4K and presenting that content in its best light on 4K TVs is important. NanoTech understands and appreciates this. This is one of the reasons we chose the NVidia Tegra-4 for our Android-powered OTT set-top box. The Tegra-4 has an amazing built-in scaler--one of the best we've ever seen. The 2K (1080p) content being delivered from Amazon, M-GO, Vudu, Netflix and YouTube will absolutely look better on a 4K TV when decoded, scaled and output to a 4K TV rather than allowing the TV to do the up-scaling.
Detailed Cleaning - Owen Morris is one of 4K Studio's senior producers who is responsible more much of the firm's extensive and detailed software-based film cleaning and denoising. Using advanced techniques and the firm's proprietary developments, the company can enhance unprezzed content and resolve issues related to pixel and frame doubling which can occur during the repurposing of content.
With that said, NanoTech is a major proponent of true / native 4K. In addition to more native pixels, we also have the inherent benefit of 10-bit color vs. 8-bit, which is used in HD. 8-bit means that for red(R), green(G), and blue(B), the values 0 to 255 can be represented. For 10-bit, the RGB values can be from 0 to 1023. This means that per component, 10-bit is 4 times as detailed as 8-bit. And, if you had a raw image with 10-bit depth, it would have a color palette 64 times as large (4x4x4=64) to represent the image on your screen. In addition to a more accurate representation of color, it also means that deep colors and blacks are presented in much more detail, lending drama and sometimes a 'nearly 3D' depth to the imagery.
NanoTech will be providing both an optimized HD to 4K scaling solution as well as all the benefits native 4K has to offer.
How long does it take to convert a film to 4K?
A 2-hour film cleaning, scanning, optimizing, encoding process takes 3 to 4 days on average. A damaged print with many defects could take many more man hours.
Has Nanotech done this for other films as well?
Yes, our machines are running 24/7.
At the 2013 American Film Market (AFM) and the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 4K Studios, successfully demonstrated a turnkey solution that provides everything content owners need to cost-effectively convert their existing media to world-class 4K digital content and stream it through NanoTech Entertainment's Nuvola 4K UltraHD media streaming players.
Industry professionals who viewed the converted films were not only amazed at the incredible detail and sense of depth they were experiencing, they were surprised that the NanoTech technologies are available now.
Beyond Post Production - The image above shows how 4K Studios is able to take even earlier film and production work and repurpose, manipulate and enhance the content to make even older video to look almost as though it was produced in native 4K.
When will the 4K film be released and where?
UltraFlix will be released on Nuvola this Spring. Amazon, Netflix, M-Go and YouTube will offer 4K on our platform later this year.