UltraGrid - A High Definition Collaboratory

5 September 2002 / ultragrid

The goals of the NSF-funded UltraGrid project were to enhance the state of the art in high quality, large scale, telepresence systems and to enable flexible and ad-hoc remote collaboration.

The UltraGrid video conferencing system was the first to support high definition interactive video conferencing with low latency. Using its highest quality mode, UltraGrid supports uncompressed high definition video (720p/60) at approximately 1.2 Gbps; it also supports standard definition video formats and a range of compression algorithms. When used with the AccessGrid venue server infrastructure and audio service, UltraGrid forms a complete high definition video conferencing system.

UltraGrid is primarily intended as a platform for research into real-time network transport protocols and novel video coding algorithms. Key innovations include integration with custom IPsec acceleration hardware to provide secure interactive conferencing at gigabit rates, and the incorporation of TCP-Friendly Rate Control to adapt the video quality to variations in network capacity.

Publications and Standards Contributions

Related Publications

Talks and Demonstrations

Technology Transfer

UltraGrid's technology had been adopted by other HDTV enthusiasts. This includes the CESNET group at the Masaryk University in Brno and the HDTV group at KAIST.

The CESNET group demonstrated HD Multipoint Conferencing with UltraGrid at iGrid 2005. In this demonstration, low latency high-definition video and audio were used to create a "near to immersive" environment across continents over optical networks.

Software Download

Source code for the UltraGrid system is available for download under a BSD-style license, and should run on recent Linux, FreeBSD and MacOS X systems with supported video capture and display hardware, and appropriate network connection.

Description Release Date Source Code
UltraGrid v0.1.1 (SC2002 demonstration) 28-Nov-2002 uv-0.1.1.tar.gz
UltraGrid v0.2.1 10-May-2004 uv-0.2.1.tar.gz
UltraGrid v0.3.1 26-Oct-2004 uv-0.3.1.tar.gz
UltraGrid v0.4.3 23-Aug-2005 uv-0.4.3.tar.gz
UltraGrid v0.5.1 16-Feb-2007 uv-0.5.1.tar.gz

UltraGrid is primarily an HDTV video conferencing system, although starting with v0.4 we also support DV video. To use the HDTV conferencing features of UltraGrid, you need an HDTV camera with SMPTE-292M output (we use a Philips LDK-6000), an HDTV video capture card (DVS HDstationOEM or Centaurus), an HDTV capable display, and high performance hosts to act as sender and receiver connected by a network supporting at least one gigabit per second sustained transfer rates (1.5Gbps preferred). To sustain video capture and network transmission at HDTV rates sender and receiver hosts should have a dual 64 bit/66 MHz PCI bus architecture (or better) with gigabit or ten gigabit Ethernet. Performance is very sensitive to details of the motherboard and PCI configuration; please ask on our mailing list for advice.

Starting with version v0.4, UltraGrid also supports DV cameras attached via FireWire connections, as a lower quality alternative. There are no special system requirements for DV conferencing, other than a consumer DV camcorder connected by FireWire.

Contacts and Mailing List

The UltraGrid project is a collaboration between the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California (Dr Ladan Gharai) and the Department of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow (Dr Colin Perkins and Alvaro Saurin).

The UltraGrid users mailing list exists as a forum for discussion of the UltraGrid system. This is a public mailing list, and anyone with an interest is encouraged to subscribe.


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. 0230738. The UltraGrid software is based on earlier work funded by DARPA IPTO under contract #MDA972-99-C-0022. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or the United States Government.

This product includes software developed by the Computer Science Department at University College London, by the Computer Systems Engineering Group at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and by Akimichi Ogawa. This product uses the RSA Data Security, Inc. MD5 Message Digest Algorithm.