BTS of the First Blockchain-Based Film Screening
Last month, Snark.art pulled off a bit of history — our screening of 89 seconds Atomized, at the NFT.nyc conference and on our website, was the first-ever decentralized screening of an artwork. That’s going to require a bit of explanation.
On the morning of February 20th, most owners of 89 seconds lent their atoms for a 24-hour period, i.e. the tokens were removed from their smart wallets and deposited in a wallet held by Snark.art. Those atoms were then re-assembled, each 20x20 pixel square placed in its corresponding space in the video’s grid. Those atoms were used to screen the full 10-minute video for a live audience in New York and on the web. After the screening, the atoms were returned to owners’ wallets, along with a small Ethereum stipend.
Snark.art CTO Misha Libman breaks down just how it all worked.
Can you just explain what exactly happened to make this screening possible?
The first thing we did was request the loan of atoms from collectors. We wanted to do that several days ahead of the loan — most owners have signed up to automatically lend out their atoms, but we wanted to give people the ability cancel the loan request.
On the night before the screening the atoms were physically transferred from the individual wallets of collectors into one Snark.art wallet. That should have been a very simple Metamask operation, using a function that we’ve written, but there were a few challenges that we didn’t anticipate.
We were trying to move between 900 and 1000 atoms, but there are limitations on how many transfers we could do at one time. There’s a limitation inside the Ethereum blockchain capping the units of gas for every operation so instead of moving the atoms in one transaction, we had to divide it up.
And then the price of gas [the payment required to transfer the atoms] suddenly became astronomical — somewhere around four or five times what we were expecting. So we were waiting for the prices to drop, and that also slowed things down for us.
So once the tokens are finally in the Snark.art wallet what happens?
Having the tokens gives us access to the actual video files, which live on IPFS. We developed a script last summer with some developers that then allows us to render all of the atoms in the wallet to create some visual fragment of the full ten-minute video. I think we ended up with about 980 atoms, which left 1,324 atoms missing.
How does that look? Do you have to sweeten the image?
We’ve worked a lot with Eve about how to visualize the missing pieces, and we ended up programming three different visualizations.
The first one we did was to place a greenish-black color in the place of the missing atoms. You get a really good sense of what’s happening on screen, but there’s something very voyeuristic about it, almost like you’re watching the scene play out through a screen.
Then we played with a more conceptual idea, where we doubled up any atom that was participating. We would use them to fill in one of the missing spots, randomly located. That is a very cool effect, almost kaleidoscopic. Because you see how certain actions repeat, or sync up, somewhere inside the frame. The overall effect is probably a little less clear, but it’s still quite interesting.
And for the third visualization, instead of putting full detail in the missing spots, we would calculate the average color of each missing atom, so hopefully it would be a less distracting hybrid of the two others. It was easier to concentrate on the action in the scene, but there was also this cool sparkle that you picked up from missing atoms.
Which one did you ultimately show at NFT.nyc?
We actually showed a few minutes of each for the event, though we went with blacking out the missing atoms for the streaming version on our website.
And no disasters, big or small, at the screening itself?
Thank god no. It was really well received.
You’ve screened 89 seconds Atomized… then what happens?
Then we started pushing the atoms back to owners, and the return process was surprisingly fast. We managed to finish it within a few hours.
So what do you want to improve on for the next screening?
We need to get better in optimizing the process and making it as self-serve as possible. We want to be able to let people organize these screenings anywhere in the world, so that means creating something that’s more user-friendly. Just because you’ve managed to pull 1,000 atoms into one wallet, you’re still a long way away from being able to put it all together, at least the way we’re doing it, so that’s a priority for us.
But if someone wants to give it a try, we’d love to have screenings organized by the community. They just have to get in touch.