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White Lightning

By Neil Matsumoto  of HD VIDEOPRO    Labels: Indie Film, Feature Film

Moonshine Kingdom is the first natively shot 4K movie to stream in 4K

Although 4K-shot productions are heating up, we’re still in purgatory in terms of 4K distribution into living rooms. As you probably know, movie and television studios move at a slower pace than camera manufacturers, and at the moment, typical delivery specifications for VFX and theatrical exhibition are currently at 2K while deliverables for television and the web are 1080 or 720. Luckily, we have the Internet, with online streaming taking the first 4K baby steps.

One feature that’s receiving a lot of attention in the independent film world is Moonshine Kingdom. Written and directed by Milton Horowitz and shot and edited by 21-year-old Ryan Forte, Moonshine Kingdom is the first natively shot 4K feature film available to stream in 4K on the Nuvola NP-1 media player platform.

After making a few commercials for the local Ohio market, Horowitz, along with Forte and business partner Aviv Avraham, was looking to do something bigger with a larger profit margin. Knowing that feature-length movies typically have great cinematography and well-known actors, Horowitz wanted to find an unusual, yet familiar topic and felt moonshine and the Amish lifestyle would be original subject matter. The story is based on the real-life events of an Amish man who leaves his community to serve his country as a medic in the Vietnam War. Upon returning, he’s rejected by his own community and is then introduced to the dangerous world of “shining” by an old friend.

Selecting one of the most uninhabited places in Huntsburg, Ohio, the production team found beautiful vistas near an Amish farm community. As for casting, Horowitz and team found talent using the local theater district in Cleveland. The production shot for 18 straight days in Huntsburg, with two alternate weekends in Cleveland and a handful of pickup days. Some scenes were shot in downtown Cleveland, and they were also able to capture great aerial footage with the help of Vector Aviation and Lost Nation Airport.

“Cleveland and Huntsburg were both great to work in, and we got a lot of help from both communities,” reveals Horowitz. “From airplane pilots to Amish people, everyone involved was dedicated to the project. Just from watching the film, you can see how much work and love went into the story and production.”

After deciding to shoot on digital, Horowitz and Forte wanted a camera with a “résumé” and felt the RED ONE had already captured a number of great features. Working with Fletcher Detroit, they assembled two full RED camera packages, capturing 4K REDCODE RAW files.

“When it comes to a RAW 4K workflow, Adobe’s Creative Cloud is going to be your best friend,” explains Forte. “Everything except audio was processed and handled in the CC Suite, including a 4K DI with SpeedGrade CC. Previous users of the system are very familiar with complex workflow involving multiple third-party programs, transcoding and XML files, but thanks to NVIDIA’s CUDA system, Seiki UHD displays and lots of RAM, we saw everything in real time, as we edited the film without a RED ROCKET.”

Forte was greatly impressed with the RED MX sensor, which at ASA 800 has great dynamic range, allowing him to capture highlight detail in sky shots, although the cinematographer did have some trouble shooting in the deep woods at sunset.

“As we were shooting the climax of the film, the sunlight was very different from what the sky looked like outside of the forest,” explains Forte. “When I read the meter, I was getting an ƒ/1.4 and our [Zeiss] CP.2s only opened to a T2.1. We also only had tungsten lights. Nonetheless, I pushed the exposure, and besides a little noise, we still resolved great detail and colors.”

In terms of lighting, the crew had access to a full lighting package, but according to Forte, what they didn’t have was a lot of power. Power is one aspect of production that Forte feels a lot of indie filmmakers overlook.

“We had two 3-light ARRI kits, a 1K Profoto Pro tungsten and a stand-alone 2K light for our night scenes that was probably older than my father,” says Forte. “I wish I could remember what brand it was, but the guy who let us have it told me if I turned the light to face the sky while on, it will explode.”

Forte was proud to say that no fluorescent or LED lighting was used in the film, except for a few practicals.
Written and directed by Milton Horowitz and shot and edited by 21-year-old Ryan Forte (pictured above), Moonshine Kingdom is the first natively shot 4K feature film available to stream in 4K. Forte shot the film with RED ONE cameras.

After a successful screening at the 2013 American Film Market, NanoTech Entertainment bought the rights to Moonshine Kingdom in order to distribute the movie through its UltraFlix UHD channel. Since 4K isn’t available to be seen on traditional TV broadcasts, a consumer would need a Nuvola NP-1 ($299 MSRP) and an Internet connection speed of about 6 Mb/s.

Delivering 4K UHD content has been an important part of NanoTech’s business plan for the past two years. Over the NP-1 (kind of like a Roku box or Apple TV), the company offers a number of entertainment options through their UltraFlix channel, as well as content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and other streaming services. Regarding content, the channel shows Hollywood movies, indie films, documentaries, concerts, and travel and special interest content—all in 4K.

Moonshine Kingdom is currently streaming on NanoTech Entertainment’s UltraFlix UHD channel using a Nuvola NP-1 media player.

“4K content production, delivery and enjoyment will increase more rapidly than many expect, not just because people will buy UHD TV sets more quickly than anticipated, but because 4K content production—new and old—is more economic than in the past,” says Andy Marken, a NanoTech spokesperson.

So, although 4K in the home is now accessible, there’s still an elephant in the room, which is the cable companies who claim they can’t support the huge 4K data streams through their fiber. Says Marken, “For cable and satellite to support 4K, they would need a major infrastructure overhaul, not to mention the tens of millions of HD set-top boxes, which will not support 4K.”

So how are we going to push all this data through the pipes with our current state of bandwidth? According to Marken, rather than packing more pixels of data on the screen, technology companies and organizations are developing new approaches that focus on higher frame rates, better bit rates and a broader color gamut when working with lower bandwidth.

“The bottom line is that for UHD-native content such as Moonshine Kingdom, with higher dynamic range, 10- to 12-bits of color sampling and the Rec. 2020 color gamut, this will require much higher data rates,” explains Marken. “Instead of focusing on delivering more pixels, or data rate, at the expense of bit depth, NanoTech and 4K Studios work closely with creative teams, as with Moonshine Kingdom, to help them deliver what the viewing public wants—cleaner, crisper, sharper and more enjoyable images.”

For viewing, the UltraFlix channel can stream a visually lossless 4K stream at an average of 6 Mb/s, which is now common for most broadband Internet subscribers. UltraFlix uses adaptive bit rates and won’t downscale to a lower resolution. If the network can’t deliver a true 4K image, buffer management will apply.

Although Moonshine Kingdom is currently streaming to audiences in their living rooms, the film is still being submitted to a number of film festivals. Because of their deal with NanoTech, Horowitz hopes it will generate enough buzz to get his movie into the top festivals.

“Being the first native 4K streaming film,” says Horowitz, “there’s no stipulation that will hurt our chances on getting accepted to any film festival with our distribution deal, so it helps our return on investment in a big way.”

For more information, visit the film’s official website at www.moonshinekingdom.com. Visit www.nanotechent.com for more information on the Nuvola NP-1 and UltraFlix UHD.
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