Small File Media Festival report!

The Small File Media Festival was a roaring success! We screened over 100 works by artists in 16 countries, in beautifully curated programs, to 165 attendees. For safety during the pandemic, we held the festival online with minimal environmental impact, as each movie was 5 MB or less!
We had fantastic panel discussions: makers' forums one and two; a small-file aesthetics panel moderated by Clint Enns (lo-fi media maker and theorist, Montréal), with Mena El Shazly (Medrar for Contemporary Art, Cairo), Azadeh Emadi (Glasgow U), Radek Przedpełski, and me; and a youth panel moderated by Sanjana Karthik. Festive opening and awards ceremonies! (all documentation squashed to small files before sharing on Vimeo.)

Audience choice  
First Place: Hân Phạm, Once Upon a Time Second Place tie Trevor Byrne, Sticky Note Studies #1 & #2 (Orange and Pink)  François Quevillon, Exhaust
Youth choice – Phoebe Todd-Parrish, Searching: 
Smallest file – Daniel Carter, Star Trek: Voyager Intro in 283kb Aesthetic invention tie  Azadeh Emadi, Entangled Orb Andy Catsirelis, Noise of the Stream
Best Cat Video – Pierre Leicher, Catfessions #1
Best Narrative – Colin Williscroft, O’Hara Lane
Best Documentary – Mike Hazard, Something from nothing (Dr. Evermor)
Best Porn – Dooley Murphy, Shameless Plug
Best Animation – Ben Mosher, Cloud Loaves
Best Obsolete Technology – Ashley Blewer, Throttled
Best Post-Apocalyptic – John Tinneny, The End
Best Cross-Platform Work—Nathan Wyatt Kiesman,  New Beginnings
Curators’ Choice – Leanne Dunic, Melt
Best Actor – Weihan Zhou, Moththth
Most Sensuous – Paul Clay & Sarah Kantrowitz, I Missed You
Best New Media Idiocy (shout out to Olga Goriunova)– Hany Rashed, My Instagram
Best Underdog – Daupo, And Success Will Be Your Name

Most of the artists gave us permission to link to their works after the festival: coming soon. We’ll announce the call for work for the Second Annual Small File Media Festival in spring 2021. Meanwhile, check out the aesthetic and technical tips on the festival site!

Carbon footprint calculators

IT engineering colleagues Stephen Makonin and Alejandro Rodriguez-Silva and I are working on a good streaming carbon footprint calculator. Here's what we have so far.

Marks, Makonin, and Rodriguez-Silva, Calculating the carbon footprint of a streaming program
(in Marks, Clark, Lucas Hilderbrand, Jason Livingston, and Denise Oleksiczjuk, forthcoming, Media+Environment):
Length of the streaming video in hours
x gigabytes per hour for a given resolution (Summerson 2018):
480 pixels: ~792 MB/hour
720p: ~1.3 GB/hour
1080p: ~1.9-2.55 GB/hour
1440p: ~2.8 GB/hour
4K: ~3.5-7 GB/hour
x energy intensity: 4.91 kWh/GB
x number of unique viewers
x 0.007 metric tons of CO2 (Environmental Protection Agency 2020)
= carbon footprint.

Joseph Clark’s energy intensity calculator, also in our article in Media+Environment:
Multiply file size in gigabytes by 5 kWh/GB to get energy in kilowatts.
Example: Streaming a high resolution copy of a 10 minute newsreel (500MB) is about 2.5 kWh. That, according to the owner’s manual for Joe’s clothes dryer, is about the equivalent of drying one load of laundry.

Teaching online with a small carbon footprint

Streaming video’s electricity consumption responsible for 1% of global warming! (The Shift Project ; see other posts on this page)
Health effects of high electromagnetic frequencies (Denise Oleksiczjuk, in article by Marks, Joe Clark, Lucas Hilderbrand, Livingston, and Oleksiczjuk, forthcoming, Media+Environment)
Corporate-driven streaming dependency

General pedagogy
Help students become mindful of carbon footprint of streaming media and devise alternatives.
Teach the environmental impact of the media—production, distribution, and consumption—into our curriculum
The Shift Project ’s surprising charts (in Executive Summary)
Show Jason Livingston’s funny video (note footprint is likely 1%, not 3%). At 6 minutes he talks about Zoom
Streaming audit: Ask students to note how many hours they stream a day, week (Joe Clark)
Use a carbon footprint calculator: examples in next post

All online teaching
Keep in mind that all online teaching happens on small screens, so high resolution is never necessary

Asynchronous online teaching
Recorded lecture
audio-only sections: lecture, dialogue, interview. Students can listen away from the desk.
Consider stills rather than video
Video: Short clips. Consider resolution needs. 240 or 340 p is adequate for informational purposes.

Students watching media independently:
View in groups if possible—always better, and smaller footprint
For multiple viewings: Best to download, but copyright issues arise (requested opinion from Don Taylor in library). Suggest that if SFU Library has purchased the movie, we are within our rights to let students to download for study purposes.
Turn off HD, and use the lowest resolution necessary.

Synchronous online teaching
Short clips, resolution as necessary. Consider stills rather than video.
It’s more energy efficient to share video on video conferencing platform (e.g. Zoom) than for each student to view separately (Stefan’s tip).
Share video, audio from original source (e.g. YouTube, Criterion Collection through library).
*Make sure to click “Share computer sound” and “Optimize screenshare for audio” every time!
If possible, choose media already available online, rather than uploading—Youtube’s local data centers make this more efficient for international viewers (Simone’s tip)
Invite students to sign in with video, then switch to portrait with name.
Suggest they experiment with minimizing the frame in speaker view, gallery view

Teaching media makers
Consider making versions for different platforms: high resolution for theaters, lower for online
Teach small-file video making—Stills and sound, low frame rate, compression, animation; splurge on sound. Compressed movies look best with:
-slow or still camera movement
-shallow focus
Tips on
Small File Media Festival site.

Lucas Hilderbrand’s streaming acknowledgment (edit as you wish):
“Streaming media has a significant carbon footprint due to the high energy usage necessary for data storage on servers, for transmission, and for playback. The scale of emissions depends on both the energy sources (fossil fuels create more impact than renewable ones) and the amount of data streamed (higher definition streams use more energy than standard definition ones, and video requires more energy than audio). Although migration to renewable energy sources has improved, demand for streaming content and bandwidth has accelerated even more. You can reduce your carbon footprint by reducing how much you stream, by reducing the resolution of your playback, by dimming your device, and by lobbying your energy provider and government regulators to switch to renewable energy sources. Broadcast sources (such as using the radio), tangible media (such as vinyl records and DVDs), and collective viewing (such as in a movie theater) have a lower carbon footprint than everyone individually streaming music and audiovisual media.” (In Marks, Clark, Hilderbrand, Livingston, and Oleksiczjuk, forthcoming, Media+Environment)

Longer article: Laura U. Marks,
Let's Deal with the Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media, Afterimage,