Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ETIA: Creating quality content for the Internet, Pixar & nVidia

After a quick introduction from Barbara Lange who explained a bit about SMPTE for the benefit of the 50% of attendees who are not members, and Joyce Farrell who covered her excellent SCIEN industry outreach program at Stanford (and also our conference co-hosts), Pat Griffis kicked off a pair of panels focusing on delivering quality content over the Internet.

Quality content starts with a quality story, told with quality tools. Rod Bogart, color scientist at Pixar, is responsible for preserving and enhancing the original creative concepts behind Pixar's movies through the production pipeline and into the final product.
Rod Bogart of Pixar explains how shading works for animated features.
Photo by David Cardinal

Rod took us through the many steps involved in producing a quality animated feature, and stressed the high degree of quality control at Pixar that ensures that the final film, Digital Cinema, iTunes, and HD Blu-Ray products are as awesome as possible. Along the way there are plenty that can go awry, starting with mis-matched aspect ratios and playback frame rates -- as well as the obvious problem of low resolution devices and low-bitrate data links hurting image quality. Less obvious are issues with the setting -- viewing in bright or noisy rooms for example.

We all know that batteries are the bane of mobile electronics, but no one better than Ricardo Motta, CTO at nVidia. Ricardo's job is to do the best job he can of rendering content on our smartphones and tablets without draining our batteries any more quickly than necessary. Of course the first problem faced by mobile media renderers is the complete lack of knowledge of the viewing environment. Ricardo explained that all the knowns we rely on in the studio or the cinema become unknowns in the context of mobile.

To help address these shortcomings of mobile, the nVidia imaging pipeline actually uses adaptive processing to adjust the contrast, dynamic range and white balance of the image both to improve the likely viewing quality and battery life. For example, some newer mobile devices have color ambient light sensors that can be used to adjust the display white point in real time.

In response to Pat's questions, Ricardo and Rod agreed that better metadata about the artistic intent of each scene could improve both the quality of the viewing experience or extend battery life. Rod in particular felt that metadata was a much more practical solution than trying to create additional masters for different conditions. -- David Cardinal

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