Film & Campaign is folding – but not in the way you think. While we are looking at strategies for our business to survive the simultaneous collapse of the indie film industry, distribution as we know it, and all in-person events, we’ve also been wondering if there is anything we can do to support the fight against COVID-19, going beyond the hygiene and isolation measures we’ve all been taking.
That’s when we came across a project called Folding@Home. It’s a distributed computing system developed at Stanford University that allows for the use of everyone’s unused computing power to help fight COVID-19. Their aim is to have one million volunteer ‘citizen scientists’ running simulations of protein dynamics on their own computers:
“Viruses also have proteins that they use to suppress our immune systems and reproduce themselves. To help tackle coronavirus, we want to understand how these viral proteins work and how we can design therapeutics to stop them.”
The project has been around for a few years, working across cancer, infectious diseases, and neurological diseases. This now includes Covid-19.
From Impact Producing to Impact Computing
Now here’s the thing: While the developers of Folding@Home primarily targeted users of high-spec home PCs used for gaming, many of us (filmmakers, production companies, editors, post houses, graphic designers, etc) use high-spec workstations for editing that are equipped with lots of CPU and GPU power. And this fact puts our industry in a position to make a contribution: While all these machines may be sitting idle in the current circumstances, they could be put to very good use.
You simply download and install the Folding@Home app for Windows or Mac. It will then download tasks, so-called ‘work units’, for your computer to process, and upload the results. The downloads and uploads are not particularly heavy on the bandwidth – it’s the processing power that’s needed. The app runs in the background so you can still use the computer as normal if and when you need it. And if you’re actually editing these days, you could simply pause the app during the day and let it do the so-called ‘folding’ over night.
Here at Film & Campaign we’ve been trying this out over the last few days. Our editing system and another workstation – certainly not the latest models but still pretty powerful – have been ‘folding’ nonstop, and they’ll continue fighting the fight while we’re now busy taking care of our kids at home and figuring out how to re-focus the business. I’ll be writing more about the latter very soon.
Ready to join? Let’s build a team!
The app allows you to contribute your own score as a user to a team. So we’re inviting all fellow impact producers and the wider industry – basically anyone with a powerful computer sitting idle – to join a team called ‘Impact Computing’. Our own user account, ‘filmcampaign’, has contributed a humble 151,322 points to Impact Computing at the time of writing. This puts the team on rank 7,893 worldwide this month – that’s a start!
Let’s see how much we score collectively? You’ll just need to join team number 243777 in your app’s settings, and we’ll be Impact Computing together.
You may have heard that the world’s fastest supercomputer is now being used to fight COVID-19, and our team’s contribution looks tiny in the overall workload anyway, but the beauty of this crowd-based system is that – just as in the slogan of a British supermarket chain now left with empty shelves – “every little helps”.
If nothing else, it will make you feel a tiny bit better in this rather bleak situation.
Lots of love to everyone! And drop us a message if you're ‘folding’ with us.