Satellite or FTP? What It Takes to Move a Really Large Photo

Maybe it’s just my Facebook news feed, but it seems like the latest trend in photography is to either go big or go home. And when we say big, we mean really, really big. Try 20+ gigapixels big.

The latest advances with digital photography makes it so a photographer can take a 360-degree panoramic at major events (often it’s a mosaic of pictures tied together), then coordinate with Facebook to allow people to tag themselves. So you take a giant picture and keep zooming in until you find yourself and document to the world that you were indeed there.

Currently, the largest digital photograph in existence was taken in 2010 in Shanghai, China, of the Shanghai skyline. This one was 272 gigapixels! I got lost for a few minutes zooming in and out of windows in the business buildings … then I started to feel creepy so I got back to writing this post.

Getty Images was planning to take one of these pictures for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, but ran into technical difficulties and were unable to deliver. But there are plenty more of these types of photos hanging out on the interwebz, here is a cool one from a Cricket game in Australia. This comes from True Value Solar and allows fans at the game to zoom in and tag themselves and friends, then share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email. They even placed someone in the crowd that fans can find and tag, and then be entered into a drawing. Now there’s a way to connect to your target audience if I’ve ever seen one.

Have you been to the Daytona lately? Or maybe you’re more of a college basketball fan and were lucky enough to make it to the 2011 Final Four, UConn vs Butler.

You can get lost people-watching through these pictures, and there are many more to be found online. After hearing about technical difficulties that arise with uploading files like this to a website, we started to think about how photos this large would affect one aspect of our business: moving media.

So we began wondering just how long that would take to transfer a picture that large. To use the internet would be difficult, even if you were Mainstream Antenna Farmusing an FTP service such as MediasFTP. Here’s some fun math that we figured out: A 20 gigapixel picture would roughly translate to 60 gigabytes in size (there are so many variables that would affect the size of the file, but for our math’s sake we’re going to say it’s an uncompressed 20 gigapixel digital image). Using Mainstream Data’s VSAT program, that would take 3 hours and 3 minutes (give or take a couple seconds) to transfer to one or multiple receivers.

Using an FTP system also has a lot of variables you could play with when you try to estimate how long it would take to transfer a large file. But for our calculations we’re just going to say you’re using a fairly standard FTP system over a regular internet connections (about 1.5mbps). Assuming no one else was trying to use Reddit or Hulu on the network, it would take about 90 hours to send a 20 gigapixel image, or just under four days.

Just for fun, we looked at how long it would take to transfer the largest digital photo (remember the 272 gigapixel whopper we mentioned above?). The results were mind-boggling (at least for those of us who care about moving media – we realize we’re in a small group): it would take at least 45 hours to transfer a file that big via satellite.

Three hours or four days? Chances are you won’t be transferring a 360-degree panoramic picture of the Super Bowl, but this little exercise helped us understand what it takes to move large media.

We use our satellite system to send out movies every week to thousands of movie theaters across the continent. These movie files are large, and they need to go to lots of locations. So sending them via satellite is smart. It can move data much faster and has a really low-cost maintenance fee.

Since most of us are going to be sending files that large, we recommend using the internet. Though it’s a lot slower for a file that large, at Mainstream with our MediasFTP system, we move thousands of regular-sized digital files (think somewhere along the lines of a 10 megapixel image) every second. Sending content via FTP is good if you produce a whole lot of regular-sized media and need to get it to one person or multiple people as painlessly as possible.

Mainstream Data has the solution for your large or small media transfer needs. Contact us to find out how we can help you move your media.