Session Explores How NASA Enhances Hollywood’s Filmmaking

International Space Station

As the 20th century roared into its final decades, human endeavors that had always been science fiction were suddenly becoming science reality. Not only have humans walked on the moon, they have continuously inhabited a space station and have sent probes throughout our solar system — including at least one that has actually left our solar system.

That sort of drama becomes big box office when turned into quality theatrical productions in the 21st century.

The technology of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and how it works with the Hollywood community will be the subject of today’s Super Session “Reaching for the Stars: Connecting to the Future With NASA and Hollywood.ˮ

The panel is co-produced by NAB Show, NASA and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The presentation will include a live 4K link with the International Space Station — the first 4K link from space. The live feed will be encoded using AWS Elemental encoding software on board the ISS and on the ground at the Johnson Space Center.

The panel will explore how advanced imaging and cloud technologies are taking scientific research and filmmaking to the next level.

There are a number of challenges associated with delivering video — let alone live 4K video — from space. Khawaja Shams, vice president of engineering for AWS Elemental, said software-defined video and cloud help overcome these hurdles.

“The ISS orbits about 250 miles above the Earth and travels at a speed of 17,200 miles per hour (27,600 km per hour). The encoder onboard the nation’s microgravity, orbiting laboratory must be stable and reliable; failure is not an option,” said Shams. “Size is key. Every ounce of weight and inch of space is precious, so the encoder needs to be as small as possible. It must also be easy on power consumption, and satisfy NASA specifications for loudness, fan speed and chemical composition of every component comprising a given product. “NASA conducts ̔human factors̕ engineering testing to make sure it meets the crew’s needs from an interface standpoint, so the user interface has to be simple, yet robust.”

Last but certainly not least, according to Shams, is security. “The ISS runs on software. There are about 2.3 million lines of code aboard, most of them flight software. The encoder must be fully fortified; a builtin firewall, virus scanning and complete access control and port management are a must.

“The flexibility of our software- defined video processing approach enabled Elemental Live to address all of these issues and will help deliver the first live 4K video from space for NASA and deliver it to viewers via Amazon CloudFront,” said Shams.

The U.S. space agency is a pioneer in the application of advanced media, including 4K. By streaming real-time video that captures images four times the resolution of current HD technology, NASA is enhancing its ability to observe, uncover and adapt new knowledge of orbital and deep space.

During the Super Session, a live 4K stream will enable NASA astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson on the ISS to converse with AWS Elemental CEO and Co-founder Sam Blackman, who will be at the convention center.

In conjunction with the live 4K streaming event, Khawaja Shams will be joined by NASA astronaut Dr. Tracy Caldwell Dyson and NASA Imagery Experts Program Manager Rodney Grubbs to take part in a panel discussion featuring Hollywood and technology leaders Bernadette McDaid, head of development, VR & AR, Bua Entertainment; and Dr. Dave McQueeney, senior vice president, Corporate Technology, IBM Watson Group. The panel will be moderated by Carolyn Giardina, technology editor for The Hollywood Reporter.

The entire event will be available to the public for multiscreen viewing in live 4K and down-converted high-definition video at