This January, NanoTech Entertainment announced its NP-1 4K Streaming Media Player ($299) and UltraFlix streaming service. The device and service made waves as one of the first 4K Ultra HD streaming players, and is poised to be the Apple TV for 4K media. Now, UltraFlix is boasting 150 hours of 4K Ultra HD Entertainment. And when we say boasting, we mean just that. 150 hours is a lot to brag about, considering the dearth of 4K Ultra HD content currently available.
So how did the independent film Moonshine Kingdom–not to be confused with Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom–become the very first streaming 4K film and the first on the Nuvola NP-1 device? A little ingenuity, some ground tactics, a lot of luck, and maybe a few shots of moonshine on the part of the filmmakers– writer/director Milton Horowitz (32) and Ryan Forte, editor/producer (21; shown above with the Red 4K camera).
Based on true events, Moonshine Kingdom tells the story of an Amish man who willingly leaves the Amish community. Struggling to survive, he enlists in the armed services as a war medic. The film begins upon his arrival back home after serving his country, only to find he is rejected by the Amish community. The story quickly unravels when he is introduced by an old friend to the underground world of “shining” and the violent, racially charged feuds it engenders in the Amish foothills.
“Ryan and I are very guerilla-like when we want something to work. We didn’t have a lot of money to throw at this film, so in the spirit of that, we went to AFM [American Film Market] as an exhibitor,” says Milton. “We knew that if we went as an exhibitor, we’d get a list of all the film distributors.”
As soon as the conference was over, Ryan and Milton began pounding the pavement, emailing all the distributors, knocking on office doors, handing out screeners, and getting rejected. When Ryan ran into the Nuvola folks, it was serendipitous, considering he and Milton had shot Moonshine Kingdom entirely in 4K, a feat which, in itself, was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
For one, Ryan works in a camera rental place where he had access to Red One and Scarlet 4K video cameras. At the time, even though he and Milton didn’t know if they would ever get to see the film in 4K, they still “thought it would be cool” to shoot it that way. “When we started reading more about all the developments in the 4K Ultra HD space, we knew that we would never down-rez the footage,” says Milton.
That summer in Cleveland where the team shot Moonshine Kingdom, it rained almost every day. Ryan, Milton, and the crew had to put their expensive, heavy equipment–including the state-of-the-art Red One and Scarlet 4K video cameras on a trailer and hike nearly five miles through the mud into the woods where there was no electricity. Ryan and Milton set up generators to power equipment, using really long extension cables so that generator noise wouldn’t show up in the film.
“Gorgeous scenery was important. We wanted to be out there in the woods where the average person would not normally go or get to see,” says Milton. “Part of the film-watching experience is voyeurism, and we wanted to capture that.” It wasn’t lost on the filmmakers either that with such a realistic onscreen image, any flaws in set design would be readily apparent to viewers watching in Ultra HD.
But the editing process is where these filmmakers got really tricky. “Most movie producers finish a film and have a professional handle the post production aspects, like color graders and editors. But these guys bill you not only by the time, but also by the resolution. While 2K films are feasible to do this way, 4K can get outrageously expensive,” says Ryan. With limited computing power, electricity, and time, he didn’t have the luxury of converting the footage to a manageable editing size (2K or 1080), which would not only waste valuable production time, but risk blowing the circuits. Ryan decided to adapt creative means to edit the footage himself.
After setting up in the attic of a farmhouse, he used Adobe Creative Cloud apps and the NVDIA CUDA platform, which allowed him to circumvent his computer’s RAM (which 4K bogs down); and instead edited the footage in real-time using his graphics processing unit (GPU) – saving money, bandwidth, and successfully completing production on time. “We cut it down from about 52 hours of rendering the footage to only 16 hours,” say Ryan.
When it comes down to it, these guys Milton and Ryan seized an opportunity unrestrained by the normal bureaucracy of a larger movie studio or motion picture. If you are planning on getting a Nuvola NP-1 4K streaming media player, you have to check out Moonshine Kingdom. This won’t be the last we see from these clever young filmmakers, either. The duo is working on a new film where the viewer controls the storyline. Who knows . . . maybe they’ll shoot it and edit it in 6K. They certainly have the moxie to pull it off.