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Piloting Film Festivals with AJA Ki Pro

As an independent filmmaker, I understand the blood, sweat and tears that go into launching a film on the festival circuit, which is why I formed Cinematiq in 2013 to help emerging indie talent. We manage content for film festivals across America, and also provide transcoding, conversion, standardization and disc-based authoring services to filmmakers.

In the last few years, we’ve come up with a new file-based workflow using AJA Ki Pros to play back exhibition screenings at film festival venues. On average, we use the workflow once a month, whether for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Napa Valley Film Festival, San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, Other Worlds Austin or other festivals.

To prepare for each event, we gather master QuickTime files from the filmmakers and transcode them using off-the-shelf tools including Adobe’s Media Encoder, FFmpeg and Apple’s Compressor to prevent playback disruptions during the festival. Once ready for primetime, we load the films to AJA KiStor drives and create playlists in the desired order for HD playback. We then QC (quality control) them on the Ki Pros to ensure the files are free from corrupt frames and unwanted artifacts.

We’ve found several advantages to this workflow. When we walk on site with our Ki Pros, we’re ready to project the films in 10-bit ProRes. We are confident that audiences will have a high quality viewing experience, and we can make any changes to the lineup on the fly; we just log into the Ki Pro interface via web browser and reorder the playlist. As each festival requires different connection types, Ki Pro has also helped us adapt to a variety of venue environments with its extensive range of connections.

While on-site, we usually set up two identical KiStor drives per venue and a backup Ki Pro chassis for the whole festival to prevent downtime in a worst-case scenario. We do this because things only go wrong when everyone is watching, at the worst possible moment. We’ve never had any issues thus far, which speaks to the quality of the gear, which is awesome. Ki Pro is well engineered and its physical construction is rock solid. It’s really the only box in the industry that’s overbuilt to handle everything you need, and it’s bulletproof in the field.

Time and time again, our Ki Pros have proven a worthwhile investment, not only for our clients, but also our company as a whole.   

Aaron Owen is founder and chief engineer of Cinematiq.