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“The Cloud” Is Actually A Tangible Thing—And This Is What It Looks Like

And one director made a film called "Internet Machine" that documents one of the world's biggest cloud data centers.

Still from Internet Machine (2014)

As cloud computing continues to expand with the memory demands of our tech-addled lives, it often feels like we’re starting to talk about “the cloud’s” potential capabilities like it exists in a supernatural realm, a totally ephemeral thing that just exists with its own agency. It's easy to forget that the cloud is a thing run by humans, and it (a machine) has to be stored someplace, somewhere.


Servers and routers. Still from Internet Machine (2014).

Sure, when your iTunes library syncs up with iCloud and appears simultaneously on your phone and your tablet, it feels like you’ve just witnessed a minor miracle. What we forget, though, is that there are major data centers throughout the world that incorporate state-of-the-art technologies and computers to facilitate these kinds of processes.

Servers and routers. Stills from Internet Machine (2014)

One such data center is the Alcalá Data Center, near Madrid, Spain. Run by global telecommunications company Telefónica, the Alcalá Data Center initiated its first phase of operations in April of last year, and acts as a keystone cloud service provider to Telefónica customers in Spain, the UK, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

It’s also the subject of filmmaker Timo Arnall’s newest project, titled Internet Machine. In order to contest our fantasy-like perceptions of how the internet works while showcasing the incredible architecture of big data facilities, Arnall’s film explores the many rooms and systems of one of the internet’s (and world’s) biggest “cloud” sanctuaries.

Diesel-powered generators, in case of a power emergency.

“In this film I wanted to look beyond the childish myth of ‘the cloud’, to investigate what the infrastructures of the internet actually look like,” says Arnall, over at his website’s blog. “It felt important to be able to see and hear the energy that goes into powering these machines, and the associated systems for securing, cooling and maintaining them.”


Water tanks, in case of fire.

Aluminum ‘chillers’ facilitate airflow into the buildings

In order to make sure you see and hear that energy properly, Internet Machine is shown on three different screens at the same time, which form a partial room around the viewer.

But that’s not the only characteristic of Internet Machine that keeps you immersed. While filming, Arnall employed a distinct blend of filming practices, mediums, and computer programs that he himself created more than 10 years prior.

“The film was shot using both video and stills, using a panoramic head and a Canon 5D mkIII,” he continues. “The video was shot using the Magic Lantern RAW moduleon the 5D, while the RAW stills were processed in Lightroom and stitched together using Photoshop and Hugin.”

Finally, in order to do proper justice to the monumentalism of these machines, Arnall converted the film’s videos and stills to 3D using “camera calibration techniques, so that entirely new camera movements could be created with a virtual three-camera rig.”

Watch the trailer below to see how this nuanced aesthetic shines through.

Different camera angles employed within each area.

If you happen to be in Spain, you can catch screenings of Internet Machine at the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona and the Fundacion Telefonica in Madrid, where it’s on display for the Big Bang Data exhibition until October 26th this year and May 24th next year, respectively.

Keep up to date with Timo Arnall over at his website.

All photos courtesy Timo Arnall


This Is What The Internet Sounds Like

Here's What The Internet Looks Like

h/t Creative Applications

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