Saturday, April 5, 2014

The 2014 NAB Show’s Technology Summit on Cinema, produced in partnership with SMPTE Opens with Standing Room Only

Setting the stage for lively discussions, music of The Beatles pumped through room S222. Then, SMPTE Education Vice President, Pat Griffis took the floor to welcome the crowd. Griffis was impressed with the full house, “for a Saturday morning in Vegas” and introduced SMPTE President Wendy Aylsworth.

Aylsworth’s first remark was, “I love the Beatles.” She then explained some background on SMPTE remarking on the Society’s Oscar and 6 Emmy awards. Aylsworth remarked that SMPTE has more than 6,000 individual members and 230 corporate sustaining members. She explained that SMPTE will be celebrating its Centennial in 2016 and the Society embarking on a fundraising effort to support its three pillars: Membership, Standards, and Education. A surprising announcement was that SMPTE and the Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) have established a closer relationship.

SMPTE Executive Director, Barbara Lange, said that SMPTE is a “vibrant organization,” with a growing membership base, particularly internationally. Lange discussed SMPTE’s expanded educational offerings, including new webcasts for SMPTE Executive Members and a series focused on Emerging Technologies. These are in addition to the Society’s firmly established series for Educational and Standards Update Webcasts. Lange announced that 3 SMPTE Technology Committee Study Groups just have released reports that are now available on the SMPTE website:

·       Report of the Study Group on Immersive Audio Systems: Cinema B-Chain and Distribution
·       Beyond the Digital Conversion: The Integration of Information Technology and Professional Media
·       Report of the UHDTV Ecosystem Study Group

All the reports are available for free on the SMPTE website:

In addition, Lange introduced the new SMPTE mobile app available for iOS, Android, and web based operating systems and invited all delegates to stop by the SMPTE Booth L30 in the South Hall.

Griffis once again took the stage with the Chinese proverb, “may you live in interesting times.” Remarking that these are interesting times indeed for the cinema industry referring to the convergence of media. He discussed the upcoming Entertainment Technology in the Internet Age Conference (ETIA 2014) at Stanford University in June and announced the the Early Bird Rate has been extended through the NAB Show: In addition, Griffis announced The SMPTE Forum 2015, in collaboration FKG, which will take place in Berlin, Germany 7-8 May 2015.

Technology Summit on Cinema Program Chair, Dave Schnuelle, was next up. He thanked the entire program committee, staff, as well as NAB. He highlighted the sessions for the weekend, noting, “We love all our sessions equally.”

- Aimée Ricca 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SMPTE 2013: Canon Previews Sophia Loren In 'The Human Voice'

During Thursday’s session on cinematography, Canon Senior Fellow Larry Thorpe previewed some clips from The Human Voice, a 30-minute short lensed with the Canon C500 in 2K 12-bit, using Cooke S4/i Primes and Canon Zooms.
Photographed by Oscar nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto ASC, AMC the film stars Sophia Loren and was directed by the actress’ son, Edoardo Ponti.
It was was filmed last summer in Rome and Naples.
The footage was screened during Thorpe's presentation on lens considerations for digital cinematography.

Also Thursday afternoon, NHK’s Hiroshi Shimamoto reported that the company had developed a 120 fps 8K 12-bit CMOS image sensor, and recent built an 8K compact camera that uses this sensor.

Tonight, the conference will wrap with the Honors and Awards ceremony, hosted by David Wood, followed by the second annual SMPTE Jam.

I've look at screens and clouds from both sides now....

The ‘Demo room’ was a great achievement for SMPTE 2013, and we may look back on it in twenty years’ time in the same way we now look back on the 1892 demos at the SMPTE conference of digital TV and analogue HDTV.   So, what was on show?

One thing was an appraisal of what you actually get for your money on a UHD-1 TV with native UHD-1 compared to the same content at 1080p up-scaled.   There was a difference, but it was not huge.  

Another thing was the impact of using HEVC compression on image quality.   Estimates of at least a two to one saving compared to AVC seem to be well founded. 

Images of UHD-1 images with frame rates of 50 and 60 Hz were on show, and delegates could see the kind of quality that the new HDMI 2.0 will ‘let through’ to the display. 

There were also demonstrations of live UHD-1 content.

For the morning of the last day of the Conference, I also attended the stream of session on ‘clouds’.    At previous SMPTE conferences there has been an air of reluctance by the studios to use ‘clouds’ to store their most precious content, because they do not want even the remotest risk of harming them.   This year, at least apparently, confidence in, and use of, clouds has grown.  The use of ‘hybrid systems’ where you use your own storage when you have some left, and turn to a cloud when you don’t, was a popular theme, and may represent the shape of things to come.   Such things can be done automatically.  Clouds may be a competitive market, so one of the skills broadcasters may need is to ‘shop around’ for the cloud space.    

Deploying Video Platforms in the Cloud

Thursday’s program began with a session on deploying video platforms in the cloud, with speakers sharing their experiences and insights.

The messages included:

--Bhavik Vyes of Amazon Web Services detailed ways to build flexible and scalable media workflows in the cloud, using Amazon Web Services as a platform.
This came with a reminder that the increasing size of date files will place stress on the workflow. “It’s getting harder,” he admitted, “especially with the arrival of 4K.”

--“Go cloud first; but not cloud everything,” urged Andrew Sinclair, New Corp. Sinclair Media Technology.
He related that News Corp. has a “cloud first” policy. “We are looking for a SaaS platform,” he said, noting that it gives them flexibility since they don’t have to completely commit to it. “Beyond that we look for PaaS (Platform as a Service), down to Iaas (Infrastrucuture as a Service),  and then physical infrastructure.”

--Robert Jenkins, CEO of Cloudsigma, discussed the notion of the “hybrid cloud," suggesting that companies would generally leverage their existing investment and combine it with a public cloud. “It's a project-based industry so pretty much every production tends to be unique,” he said. “We have to accept that this isn’t a cookie cutting approach.”
He warned: “a lot of public cloud pricing is broken. … If you buy it for too long it’s too expensive. With the right price, the public cloud can be competitive.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SMPTE Conference: Studying Acceptance of HFR 3D

Wolfgang Ruppel, professor at the Rheinmain University of Applied Sciences in Germany, presented the results of a study that the University conducted about the subjective acceptance of HFRs for stereoscopic 3D.
This was achieved using James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment’s “medieval feast” themed test footage comparing 24, 48 and 60 fps; and Circus, an animated short produced at RheinMain University, also rendered in 24, 48, and 60fps.
Ruppel reported that overall results found a preference for HFRs amongst the participants. More specifically, the findings suggest that the difference between 48 fps/eye and 60 fps/eye varied by the speed of motion. And 60fps/eye can make the most noticeable difference for mid to fast motion scenes.
A second test examined down-conversion from 48 fps/eye and 60 fps/eye to 24 fps/eye, compared with footage natively shot with 24 fps/eye.
The conclusion: downconversion appears to work well.
Have you seen these comparisons? What do you think?

SMPTE 2013 - A historic event for UHDTV

Such was the attraction of the special UHDTV exhibition, and the main exhibition area, that attendance in the main sessions today was more modest today than yesterday.   Though there was still interesting technology to hear about.  

They included the developments in the ATSC on a system for providing emergency warnings to users of the ATSC’s mobile system.  If there a hurricane coming, your mobile TV can switch itself on, and give you all the details.  It seems though that take up by the industry has so far been modest.   That’s the problem with things you only need very occasionally, but when you need them, you really need them.

There was also a presentation about technology to allow a broadcaster to increase the number of channels carried in a multiplex, which could silently and secretly be used for carrying content to a consumer or a daughter broadcaster.   The idea is that you discretely reduce the bit rate of the normal channels for a while,  and slip in the extra channel or content.  No new equipment is needed.  Could it be that the technical quality we broadcast could be raised or lowered depending on the audience size - like adaptive internet streaming in reverse?

For the UHDTV exhibition itself, there were many UHDTV monitors, comparisons of quality after compression, and more.  Maybe the SMPTE 2013 will go down in history as the day the story of UHDTV finally broke?    

SMPTE Exhibition Hall Is Now Open

The SMPTE conference's exhibition hall opened on Tuesday and was also the setting for the evening's opening reception.
Numerous stands have technology that underscores the themes of Monday’s symposium on next generation image formats.
Among them was a Cisco display presented during the reception, showing imagery using its 4K HEVC compression in 6 Mbps (1000:1 compression of the original file) in 4:2:0 color depth.
A sampling of the exhibitions:
At the Daystrom stand, Fusion-io is showing playback of 4K uncompressed imagery at 120fps on a Sony 84-inch 4K display, from an HP Z820 workstation equipped with four of its ioFX cards with 1.6 TB capacity.
Fusion-io’s director of visual computer Vincent Brisebois noted, “you can’t get that with SSD and RAID.”
The Fusion-io cards can be purchased standalone or bundled with certain models of HP’s workstations including the Z820.
NVIDIA is exhibiting a beta version of Red’s RedcineX Pro, which now has GPU acceleration from the Nvidia Quadro K6000. At the stand, it is being used for 5K playback in real time.
Also on the floor, Snell is showing its flagship broadcast automation system Morpheus and Momentum, a workflow-automated media asset management and resource-planning tool.
Dolby meanwhile is demonstrating the new model of its Professional Reference Monitor, the lighter and slimmer PRM-4220;  and its glasses-free Dolby 3D system.
The exhibition hall will be open through Thursday.