Monday, December 11, 2006

More Behind the Scenes from the I2MM

Laurie Kirchmeier graciously put together some more "behind the scenes" notes on the I2MM demonstration last week. He was manning the iHDTV video encoders and decoders behind the big black curtain. He's also supplied some photos of the equipment setup behind the stage:

Getting the live uncompressed HD video from the test camera set up in the colo space the day before the plenary address was a spine-tingling moment. We had been fighting with flaky iperf measurement tests for a couple of hours and had gone to the length of deploying a cakebox measurement box on the Juniper router located in the main telephone closet in the bowels of the convention center. When we actually ran a live video test, it turned out to be flawless with no packet loss and a wonderful view of the moving second hand of an analog alarm clock and a small computer monitor.

The morning of the event meant an early start for those of us in Chicago because of the time difference. The NYC film crew started setting up at 7.30am EST and by 8am we had color bars being transmitted over the iHDTV connection and audio testing began.

The first live video from the SteadyCam was impressive and the rehearsals looked and sounded great.

With an hour to go, Mike La Haye and myself got set behind the stage and gave countdown times to the NYC side via IM. We were too pleased when the camera kept being switched off as the software needs to stabilize with a running video stream and after the 20mins to go message was sent out things got a little tense. whilst trying to reset one of the ethernet interfaces on the NYC side via Remote DeskTop, I managed to reset the wrong interface and promptly lost my Remote Desktop connection to the machine and had to request that the sender machine be rebooted. After reconnecting and re-establishing the live iHDTV stream we watched nervously as the camera crew and Tim performed another reheasal. As they were finishing the rehearsal, I realized that Doug was making his last point of his presentation and instead of 10 mins to go, we were down to 1 or 2 mins before he introduced Tim and we needed to go live. I furiously sent impassioned messages over IM to get them back to the sttartign position for the broadcast and tried to indicate the urgency and Mike was on his cell phone talking with Aliza who was relaying the latest information to the crew and to Tim.

To raise our blood pressure further, the cameraman disconnected the camera and then we listened as Doug started his introduction to the broadcast. Mike was now speaking very calmly and firmly into his cell phone telling them to get ready and get the camera rolling again - I was watching the receiver console and the video monitor and finally we got live video and audio. We both looked at each other and them realized that the HD projector needed to be flipped on to the screen. This required the projectionist to turn off the standard slides projector and flip up the lens cap (a piece of cardboard hung over the front of the lens) on the HD projector. As switch was made and the HD video appeared on screen to the audience, I realized that we were not getting full 1080i video and the sender and receiver nodes were not properly synched. This resulted in lines appearing across the screen and the audio was slightly garbled. The solution was to reset the receiver software by hitting and re-starting the app. I reset the software and the video and audio glitches remained. Help, the reset normally just works! I reset the software a second time and still the video and audio were not perfect. By now Tim was 30 secs into his presentation and he and Doug made some comments back and forth. During one of Doug's comments, I tried one more reset and magically the video and audio stream problems disappeared and the audience was treated to the remaining 9 mins of Tim's presentation shown in uncompressed 1080i video and 48KHz audio.
Mike and I were out of our chairs watching the projected video from th
e rear and I remember nervously counting down the minutes in my brain until the presentation was over.

it was a great sense of relief to have have the event over and a tremendous sense of accomplishment to have pulled off an awsome demonstration over the brand new New network.

Over the next couple of days I was happily surprised by the comments for the attendees and to realize how much of an impression the iHDTV presentation over the new Internet2 Network had made with everyone. It certainly was a great team effort.