P2P company, ‘Swarmcast’ has received $5 million in funding to develop a secure and fast system to distribute very high definition (upto 250GB) Hollywood movies to digital cinemas. With all the uproar about BitTorrent Inc lately, the deal that Swarmcast made has remained relatively unnoticed.
Swarmcast actually invented the concept of ‘swarming downloads’, which is also used by BitTorrent and other P2P services. Swarmcast and BitTorrent both chop up files into little pieces before distributing them. This speeds up the sharing of files, because people who don’t have a complete copy of the file yet are able to share right away.
The company recently started working on a safe and fast way to distribute digital movies to cinemas. Swarmcast currently licenses their technology for the distribution of large, cinema quality movies to North America’s largest network of digital cinemas. A very promising project.
“We are pleased to have completed this venture financing round with these highly regarded Japanese venture capital firms,” said Justin Chapweske, president and CEO of Swarmcast in a response. “We are now extremely well-positioned to capitalize on our mature products as demand for HD over broadband becomes ubiquitous.”
At the moment most digital movies are distributed “over land” on hard disks. This old fashioned transportation costs around $2000 for each copy of a digital movie. This means that sending out 500 digital copies of a movie costs $100,0000. By using peer-to-peer technology (like BitTorrent) to distribute these movies the movie industry will save millions of dollars.
And it is not only cheaper, but also a lot faster. The average size of a one hour digital movie is somewhere around 200GB. If movie theaters are equipped with 100Mbps connections, a 250GB movie would take less than 10 hours to distribute. Without P2P technology online distribution would be nearly impossible, imagine 1000 theaters downloading a 250GB movie from 1 host.
This cost saving can be essential, especially for low-budget movies. Take a movie with a 2 million dollar budget for example. Distributing the actual prints for wide release will be 100% (or more) of the total budget. This will never happen; the movie will go straight to TV or DVD instead. But by distributing the film though P2P services, the distribution costs decrease dramatically. This will make it easier to release lower budget movies in more theaters.
For those who are unfamiliar with Swarmcast, here’s a brief history. Swarmcast was developed by Justin Chapweske in the late nineties. It was later sold to OpenCola, a company founded by Boing Boing‘s Cory Doctorow. OpenCola did not survive, and the company was sold to Open Text Corporation in 2003. Justin Chapweske, the inventor of the Swarmcast technology managed to get the rights to it back, and started the company Onion Networks with which he trademarked the term ‘swarmstreaming’.