When many people think of film, they think of popcorn and cool, dark movie theaters showing the latest blockbuster or romantic comedy starring their favorite actors. While film is most often associated with this type of commercial entertainment, many forget that it’s also an art form more than a century old and one that the Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque seeks to preserve.
Located at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the Australian Cinémathèque presents retrospective and thematic film programs and exhibitions, which explore the influence between the moving image and other areas of visual culture. Its mission is to collect, conserve and interpret film and screen culture by showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and artists from different genres, geographies and time periods.
Popular Exhibits Demand Reliable Technology
The Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque houses two cinemas. In addition to a year round screening program, these cinemas also cater to corporate A/V and live streaming lectures and the ‘GOMA Talks’ panel discussions, which take place during select major exhibitions. GOMA Talks are lively evening discussions exploring contemporary ideas and issues from a range of perspectives with special guest panelists and ABC Radio National hosts.
The two cinemas have more than 300 seats combined. In addition to the regular screenings on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Australian Cinémathèque also handles public programs, as well as corporate and internal events.
“We screened 344 titles during ‘The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT7) from December 8, 2012 through April 14, 2013, which had an average of 4,450 visitors daily. Over the past 12 months, including the APT screenings and events, we’ve screened over 800 titles of short and feature films, which have been seen by over 15,000 visitors,” said Steve Gooding, cinema technical coordinator at the Australian Cinémathèque. “With that many visitors, we can’t have our equipment fail.”
For APT7, the 344 titles comprised a landmark retrospective of Chinese animation as well as a major thematic program exploring 20 years for filmmaking throughout the region, reaching from the Middle East across Asia to Australia and the Pacific. The films came in a number of different formats, such as archival 35mm, HDCAM, digital media files and image sequences, which were played back via Blackmagic Design’s HyperDeck Studio Pro SSD recorder and DeckLink capture and playback cards.
“The DeckLink cards were our first Blackmagic Design purchase four years ago. We use them in conjunction with Blackmagic Design’s Media Express software, which manages the video media as a playback solution,” explained Steve.
Expanding Its Technical Workflow
When the Australian Cinémathèque began planning for the initial GOMA Talks events in 2011, it was essential to expand the facility’s technical capabilities.
According to Steve, this required a switching solution that could not only take multiple SDI inputs for cameras and playback devices, but also had the capability to connect to an analog audio desk so as to imbed the audio into the SDI outputs for webcasting.
“We were using a composite workflow out of cameras that just weren’t sufficient for our expanding requirements, so we took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the system significantly,” he said. “We were already familiar with Blackmagic Design, and the feature set and affordability of the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher were excellent.”
Sharing Knowledge Through Live Streaming
The Australian Cinémathèque’s workflow now includes an ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher and Broadcast Panel, two Teranex 2D Processors, HyperDeck Studio and HyperDeck Studio Pro, two SmartView HD monitors and a SmartView Duo monitor, SmartScope Duo monitor, two Micro Videohub routers and a Compact Videohub router, three DeckLink cards, an H.264 Pro Recorder, two Mini Converters Analog to SDI, three Mini Converters HDMI to SDI and five DVI Extenders.
The ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher and Broadcast Panel are used for multi camera capture and live streaming of larger events, such as the GOMA Talks. The ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher switches between six HD cameras as well as media being played via the HyperDeck Studio Pro and Media Express software. The switcher’s two built in media players prove especially useful for incorporating animations and graphics. Because the Australian Cinémathèque is solely an HD-SDI space, Steve uses the DVI Extenders to convert the iMac DVI feeds to HD-SDI into the switcher.
Mini Converters HDMI to SDI convert HDMI out of Mac minis in the cinemas’ lecterns to SDI. When the Australian Cinémathèque hosts lectures from visiting artists or dignitaries, the presentations are fed into the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher and routed back to the cinemas, which provides Steve with the option of switching between the speaker’s PowerPoint presentation and an image from the camera to the screen.
“The ATEM gives us the option to send different content to multiple cinemas and spaces in the gallery, as well as do live webcasts, which means we can share content with a virtually limitless audience. We use the H.264 Pro Recorder to record on the fly, so we can upload the finished media to YouTube, for viewing via our online video channel QAGOMA TV, as quickly as possible. And this is all done live,” said Steve. “The studio cameramen use the SmartView monitors for a better idea of how to frame the image and what’s being sent to us at the switcher.
“When we initially purchased the ATEM, we were new to the concept of broadcasting and had to learn from scratch,” he continued. “However, we found it very straightforward and intuitive to learn the switcher’s capabilities. Now it’s such an integral part of our system, and we invent new uses for it often.”
The SmartView monitors are used to view the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher’s output. According to Steve, sometimes circumstances arise where they are feeding to one cinema and want to run a simulcast in the second cinema, and the SmartView monitors give the team the confidence of knowing exactly what’s going where. For fixed installations, the SmartView monitors are also used to monitor the HyperDeck Studio Pro’s playback.
“We are a DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) spec cinema, but we screen an enormous amount of alternate content,” said Steve. “Currently, we are looking at streams in which we can push 4K, and that’s why we chose the HyperDeck Studio Pro. We wanted to future proof our workflow.”
Steve also installed a HyperDeck Studio in cinema B in order to move away from tape based media and transition to SSDs. Additionally, two Teranex 2D Processors are being used for format conversion. Because the team has to work with interlaced or PSF material, they use Teranex to convert to a format they can then send native to the projectors.
“Our projectors prefer specific frame rates and formats, namely progressive formats between 23.98 and 30, so we have to work within those limitations,” said Steve. “Teranex has been a really nice fit for converting PSF or interlaced formats so the projectors accept them.”
Improving the Australian Cinémathèque’s workflow is very important to Steve, which is why he recently completed a significant troubleshooting upgrade. Steve evaluated the workflow to see how they could improve functionality and troubleshoot potential problems. If a piece of equipment went down in one cinema, Steve wanted to be able to route a backup feed from the other cinema.
“We vastly improved the ability to route all of our SDI signals throughout both cinemas thanks to our three Videohub routers, and now we have redundancy options if a piece of equipment goes down,” explained Steve. “Easier troubleshooting is also why we invested in a SmartScope Duo. Because of all the events we do, we need a good monitor to make sure we get the right feeds to the right destinations.”
About the Australian Cinémathèque
The Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque, at GOMA, presents retrospective and thematic film programs and exhibitions, exploring the important lines of influence between the moving image and other areas of visual culture, and showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and artists. Its mission is to collect, conserve, present and interpret film and screen culture.
Facilities include two cinemas, with more than 300 seats combined. The smaller cinema features retractable seating to allow for multimedia performances and events. There is also a dedicated media gallery for screen-related exhibitions, and facilities for video production.
Significant international, Asian, Pacific, Australian and Indigenous Australian artists are represented in the Gallery’s film and moving-image collection. Other collection development areas include video art that responds to the specific history and genres of cinema; animation, particularly from Asia; and conceptual art and its legacy through performance.
The Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque is an Associate Member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), an organization of the world’s leading film archives dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of film.