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HPA Retreat Clarifies New Tech Trends: VR, the Cloud, A.I. and HDR Are Top Topics

1/17/2017 3:30 PM Eastern

The 2017 HPA Tech Retreat will take place Feb. 20– 24, at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells near Palm Springs, Calif. As in past years, a sold-out crowd of almost 700 high-level film and TV engineers and executives are expected to attend the multi-day conference that includes panels, breakfast roundtables, presentations and a product “Innovation Zone,” as well as plenty of time for networking.

“We are at work against a backdrop of constant change and challenges in our industry, and the HPA Tech Retreat is where we go for discussion, collaboration and clarity,” said HPA President Seth Hallen. “It’s important to note that the Tech Retreat itself continues to evolve to encompass a range of new attendees as we serve its long-time audience,” he added, crediting [program maestro] Mark Schubin, Leon Silverman, Jerry Pierce and the HPA Program Committee with keeping the event “flexible and incredibly relevant for a broad spectrum of participants.”

Focus on VR/AR and AI

This year’s Tech Retreat will feature two first-ever events, according to Schubin. The first pre-Tech Retreat event will focus on virtual reality, in a half-day session organized by SuperSphere founder/executive producer Lucas Wilson and Technicolor senior vice president, immersive media, Marcie Jastrow.

Jastrow and Wilson have brought together an impressive line-up of panels and presentations encompassing acquisitions technology, audio, deliverables with a number of case studies from RSA Films, Digital Domain, The Mill and others. Wilson reports that the VR “demo area” will feature VR pioneer Jaunt and other VR camera/rig companies. “AR and VR are moving to something that looks like they’ll become mainstream, so more facilities and post professionals have gotten involved,” Wilson said. “We’ve put together an end-to-end day that will give attendees a quick but deep dive into the VR landscape.”

Schubin points out another “first” for the HPA Tech Retreat, a panel (moderated by the author) on artificial intelligence, and including participation by industry manufacturers incorporating AI into products, SAP National Security Service, a private national company that protects government entities, and the IEEE Standards Association, which has introduced a Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.

Clyde Smith, senior vice president, advanced technology for Fox Network Engineering and Operations, will lead a panel on IMF and Automated Mastering, which will explore “current and emerging IMF-based workflows.” “Presentations from 20th Century Fox, Netflix and Avid will explore the benefits of IMF-based workflows, their existing workflows as well as the use of primitive constructs and reusing IMF constructs to create cloud scale collaboration workflows that also provide the opportunities to bridge IMF based production archive with distribution,” Smith said. Smith will also give a presentation on “Standards, Specifications and the NABA DPP Library Master Format.”

The Cloud & HDR

Wendy Aylsworth, former Warner Bros. executive and now CEO of entertainment technology consulting firm Walden Pond will moderate the panel “Production in the Cloud: Pitfalls and Epiphanies.” “The concept of the panel was to bring together reps from popular cloud production tools and production managers to discuss areas of successful cloud production growth,” she said. “It will have some concrete case studies to show how the cloud provides production improvements, and will also cover how cloud hinders production, thereby forecasting short-term and long-term features for future cloud tools.” Panelists include Pixvana’s Scot Squires, Avalanche’s Joshua Kolden, Sundog Media’ Richasrd Welsh, Avid’s Gurpy Saini, and SyncOnSet’s Alex LoVerde.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Science and Technology Council will also play a role at the Tech Retreat. Managing Director Andy Maltz reports that, in a Thursday afternoon presentation and in the Innovation Zone, AMPAS will bring “the latest information” on how ACES (Academy Color Encoding System) is addressing the developing needs for HDR and UHDTV production. Also to be discussed is the Spectral Similarity Index, a new stage lighting quality measurement index that helps cinematographers get predictable color reproduction with solid state (LED) lighting devices.

Other highlights include NEC’s Masayuki Sugawara’s presentation on “The World’s First 8K/4K Regular Broadcasting,” Barco’s Goran Stojmenovik talk on “HDR in a Cinema: Achievable Contrast,” Image Essence’s Gary Demos’ talk on “Single-Master HDR,” and isovideo’s Keith Slavin’s presentation on “Automatic SDR/ HDR Conversions.” With regard to Stojmenovik’s presentation, Schubin points out that it will address the practical issues behind our ability to view HDR as intended. “It’s a pet peeve of mine,” says Schubin. “With HDR, everyone talks about the camera and the display and no one talks about the environment the display is in. A light on in the living room or in the cinema— even light reflecting off the audience— wipes out HDR. Stojmenovik will address what HDR can actually achieve in a cinema.”

Every HPA Tech Retreat has a post-retreat “treat,” and this year is no exception. Schubin says this year he plans to examine the received history of Hollywood, proving many of our long-cherished stories about its founding are false. “If you delve into them, they are incredibly bogus,” he said. One hint: There’s an interesting connection to Pittsburgh, which was spelled without an “h” in 1911. We’ll leave it at that.

To dig deep into Hollywood’s most knotty technical challenges, and learn some history while you’re at it, the 2017 HPA Tech Retreat is again the premiere destination. To get the full experience, prepare to arrive at the beginning and stay until the very end.

To register for the event, visit www.hpaonline.com.

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