Saturday, April 14, 2012

TSC: AMPAS SciTech Council Talks LED, ACES, Preservation

During the first day of the NAB Show's Technology Summit on Cinema, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Science and Technology Council gave a comprehensive report on key aspects of its current work.

George Joblove, Co-Chairman, Science and Technology Council, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences explained that the overall aim of the Council was to ensure that the digital imaging evolution expands, rather than limits, the filmmaking art.  

He focussed on three of its activities: Solid-state lighting; the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES); and digital preservation.

Joblove agreed with ARRI's Ryan Fletcher (who spoke earlier in the day) that the spectral difference in LED lights can present unpredictable and undesirable rendition of skin tone, fabrics and props.

“It’s an issue that the Academy takes seriously since it presents issues with the integration of LED with existing sources such as HMI, tungsten and fluorescent, the results of which are often not amenable to color correction in post production,” he said.

The AMPAS SSL project aims to provide data to evaluate the impact of LED lighting, devise a framework for evaluating  future technologies and to find a more accurate measure of comparing and contrasting light sources than CRI.

Joblove next guided delegates through ACES, a work in progress that has achieved wide cross-industry support, to underpin the management of digital and film imaging from on-set into DI, VFX and preservation. 

 “Since a next generation imaging architecture won’t happen by itself and since we believe that for the future relevance of cinema the technology platform has to evolve – the Academy decided [in 2004] to begin work on ACES. The aim is to preserve all the quality of the captured image through a variety of workflows in production, postproduction, and restoration.”

Eight years on and the ink dry on the first three ACES standards and elevated to draft publication level at SMPTE, a further two standards are in the pipeline. These address an amendment to the use of the DPX format and a constrained version of OpenEXR.

In addition, the next round of industry trials are being prepared and a collaborative software site has been set up using open source software development GitHub.

The acronym ACES, which originally defined the color encoding portion of the background Image Interchange Format, has now been adopted in favor of IIF as the name for the entire system.

The Academy is concerned about the implications of the digital revolution in filmmaking for the preservation of motion pictures and the elements of their creation. 

“Film is a 100 years old and we are watching its end as a capture and distribution medium, yet we are still largely using film-based preservation practices incorporating more and more digital assets,” he said. “You can put film in a cool dark place and as long as temperature and humidity is controlled you can leave it for a century or more and find it in excellent shape.”

Following two "Digital Dilemma" research reports it commissioned, the Council has developed the Academy Case Study System (ACeSS) as a case-study project to investigate the operational realities of various digital archiving strategies and technologies as applied to motion picture materials.

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