Red carpet; flashing lights; Hollywood greats accepting their Golden Honorary Bear Award…
Every year, the world’s largest public film festival, the Berlin International Film Festival (aka Berlinale), invites cinemagoers to marvel at the latest cinematic feats in a widescreen format from a glamorous setting in Germany’s capital city.
Cinematic and digital excellence
Many guests do not know that it is not only the protagonists on the screen who perform at their best. Behind the scenes, digital infrastructure is also running at full speed to make cultural enjoyment possible. Because ever since cinema entered the digital era, reliable network infrastructure has played a significant role in the delivery, distribution and screening of films in cinemas. Over the festival, some 2,200 screenings will transmit roughly one petabyte of film data to the 20 venues with around 47 screens.
The Berlinale’s technical team recognised the requirements of digital cinema early on. For 15 years, Colt has accompanied the festival as its digital cinema partner, providing state-of-the-art network technologies based on fibre optics. All main venues are connected to the company’s own Colt IQ Network in Berlin. As an early adopter in the festival landscape, the Berlinale has now digitised all central processes related to film screenings, thanks to the loyal support of its partners. One of the most important innovations is the Colt On Demand Service, allowing the technical team to scale the bandwidth of connections in real time. For the 73rd edition, it is also using the service in combination with the new Bandwidth Boost function to deliver film contributions from Asia via a hub in Singapore.
On Demand – Flexible and Scalable Bandwidths
On Demand is based on Software Defined Networking (SDN) and allows complete control over the network. The bandwidth of individual connections can be increased or decreased by users within minutes via a portal with a simple click of the mouse. The Berlinale’s technical team has continued to think about flexible control with Colt: it was already automated into their systems in 2018 via an interface (API). During the festival, the required bandwidths to the different cinemas can be adapted to the respective demand. Even over more extended periods, the bandwidth capacity can be efficiently regulated according to the phases of network use. For example, at times of film delivery, higher capacities are allocated to the connections, which are then brought down again – ready to be dialled back up the following year.
In addition to flexibility, on-demand connections on dedicated lines have the advantage that transmission quality and data throughput are predictable, in contrast to the public internet. Added to this is the high level of data security. This makes film delivery predictable and efficient for film producers, leaving more time for fine-tuning.
Gathering masterpieces from across the globe
Colt’s On Demand Service is available worldwide thanks to its global network presence. The Berlinale is taking advantage of this with the 73rd edition of the festival for the delivery of film contributions from Asia. Film producers from the APAC region can quickly and safely transfer their creations to Berlin via a Singapore server. This also supports the Berlinale’s strategy of making it as easy as possible to upload entries from all over the world – especially where stable bandwidth capacity is a challenge. The service extends Colt’s existing High Bandwidth Service: a direct 10-gigabit line between the Berlinale servers and the DE-CIX central internet hub in Frankfurt, used by studios from around the world for uploads.
“It is important to us to make delivery as easy as possible for film producers and to create a level playing field. The producers have more time for the film, and we have more flexibility to react to possible problems with the film data. As a global provider of digital infrastructure, Colt is the ideal partner because we want to make the service possible uniformly worldwide,” explains Ove Sander, Technical Director of Digital Cinema at the Berlinale.
Around the world with the Bandwidth Booster
Filmmakers from the APAC region upload their films via the internet to a Berlinale server in a data centre in Singapore. From there, Colt establishes an end-to-end on-demand connection via an ethernet connection between the data centre and the Colt node in Berlin, where the Berlinale film servers are located. For this purpose, the Berlinale technical team commissions a so-called DC Cross Connect in the data centre in Singapore via Colt’s on-demand portal, which connects the server with the Colt end device. The Berlinale uses the “Bandwidth Boost” function to transfer the data. This allows the bandwidth capacity to be scaled flexibly between 10 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s according to demand. In principle, data rates of up to 10 Gbit/s are possible with the “Boost” option. Companies that use the Booster, like Berlinale, can thus react even more flexibly to bandwidth requirements that exceed their contractually agreed capacity – and without permanently increasing the tariff. The boost can also be realised in real-time via the on-demand portal for as little as even one hour, if necessary.
Berlinale as innovation hub – (quantum) key to success
In addition to the technological advancement of digital cinema, Colt is also driving innovation in the company’s own fibre-optic network at the Berlinale.
In 2022, Colt joined forces with the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI and ADVA to test a quantum encrypted connection in the festival network for the first time, using a combination of two different encryption technologies – QKD with AES. Quantum computers cannot even crack the connections.
The use case involved a Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) based connection between the Colt network node and the Berlinale Palast. This encryption technology has been feasible only for short distances and fixed locations, but it currently offers the highest possible security standard. The QKD system generates a tap-proof key via a separate optical fibre, which is transferred to the DWDM system (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) via a standardised interface. The advantage is that established optical transmission systems with AES encryption (Advanced Encryption Standard) can be used.
The right digital infrastructure is needed for these cinematic masterpieces to be experienced in all their glory. This is the key for the film industry, where the cinematic possibilities with 3D and special effects are constantly developing, and digital handling is becoming more and more demanding.
Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin (aka Berlinale)
Culture & Entertainment
Secure and fast film delivery from Asia
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