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SMPTE and EBU preview Forum on Emerging Media Technologies

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CreativeCOW presents SMPTE and EBU preview Forum on Emerging Media Technologies -- IBC Expo Feature


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At IBC 2011, leading members of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) met to discuss what's in store at the upcoming Forum on Emerging Media Technologies. The unprecedented joint symposium will take place May 14 and 15, 2012 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland. "Understanding and predicting the future of media technology will be the key to successful decision-making in the years ahead," said SMPTE President Pete Ludé. "This can impact where R&D budgets go." He also pointed out that "standards are the basis of interoperability, which is why SMPTE is working with the EBU."

SMPTE President Pete Ludé
SMPTE President Pete Ludé
David Wood, Deputy Director, EBU Technical European Broadcasting Union, described how committed his organization is to the Forum. "We'll be looking at where technology and business will be in five and ten years," he said. "That helps us understand what path to take now to be ahead of the game, and which technologies will bring real change to our industry."

One of the goals of the Forum, said Ludé is to "bridge the gaps between AV and IT professionals, at a time of monumental shifts across the digital media ecosystem." "This will help motion-imaging scientists, researchers, engineers, and business decision-makers understand where they need to focus their energies and investments," he added.

David Wood Deputy Director, EBU Technical European Broadcasting Union
David Wood, Deputy Director, EBU Technical European Broadcasting Union
At IBC, SMPTE and the EBU also announced a program advisory committee that will hammer out topics and specific programs for the Forum, including UHDTV, 3DTV, hybrid systems, optical systems, personalization, and versioning, among others. The members of the committee, who represent some of the world's leading broadcasters, IT companies, standards bodies, and media and entertainment organizations, include MPEG Founder/President Dr. Leonardo Chiariglione; Bernard Caron, Vice President, Broadcast Technologies Research, Communications Research Centre in Canada; Chris Johns, Chief Engineer, Broadcast Strategy, BSkyB; Keiichi Kubota, Director-General of the Science & Technical Research Laboratories at the Japan Broadcasting Corporation; Howard Lukk, Vice President Digital Production Technology, Walt Disney Studios; Dr. Alberto Morello, Director of Research, RAI in Italy; Mark Richer, President of the ATSC; Craig Todd, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Dolby Laboratories; and Curtis Wong, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research.

At an IBC 2011 press conference, SMPTE Executive Director Barbara Lange announced that Dr. Chiariglione will be a speaker at the Forum. "Leonardo Chiariglione stands out for his ability to see far into the future and understand what needs to be done," said Ludé. "His foundational work on the global MPEG standard is emblematic of the critical, enabling role that standards play in accelerating industry growth and facilitating expanded revenue opportunities from motion-imaging technologies."

SMPTE Executive Director Barbara Lange
SMPTE Executive Director Barbara Lange
Lange also announced that SMPTE and the Video Services Forum (VSF), an international association dedicated to interoperability, quality metrics, and education for video networking technologies announced the latest standard in a series to create a standardized framework for the transport video over IP networks. The latest addition, known as SMPTE ST 2022-4:2011, and documents, are available via the SMPTE store and as part of the SMPTE standards subscription service. The work was conducted under the VSF 32NF Video over IP Ad-hoc Group, chaired by Brad Gilmer, Executive Director of the VSF.

At that same press conference, SMPTE and the EBU also held a panel discussion to give attendees a taste of the upcoming symposium's noncommercial, science-driven approach to focus on technologies likely to come onto the market in the next few years and those whose commercialization is a decade away. The panel discussion featured Forum committee members Craig Todd, Howard Lukk, Chris Jones and Peter Ludé, and was moderated by Dr. Hans Hoffmann, EBU head of media fundamentals & production technology and also the SMPTE vice president of engineering.

Hoffman opened the panel by asking what will be important in consumer technology in the future and what the biggest technology highlights will be in five and ten years. Disney's Lukk noted that the difficulty in predicting, given that technology is now evolving so quickly. "We're currently heavily involved in S3D, new frame rates, and we're moving to a completely file-based workflow," he said.

BSkyB's Johns also stressed common standards and file-based workflows. "Viewers want choices," he added. "We need quality broadband so we can deliver quality programming. Ultra HD will get better. More pixels? More frames per second? More vivid colors? The viewer will want all that. As broadcasters, we need to prepare for that."

Dolby's Todd pointed out that the HD standard was set 20 years ago. "What's beyond that?" he asked. "Is there a reason to go further? More details in the blacks, for example? We don't know what magic combination of things will move consumers towards the future. To quote Sony, what's good enough now is not good enough soon. We're discuss this at the Forum."

Ludé agreed with his fellow panelists. "How soon is soon?" he asked. "Almost 10,000 movie theatres are now showing 4K content and some are introducing 8K projectors. High frame rates, bit depth plus mobile, interactive media will all be big. It's all about choice." He had a question of his own: "In 10 years, will there even be linear broadcasting?"

Johns believed that "broadcasting will still be here...but supplemented by iPads and other devices." "People tweet while they watch programs," he explained. "What young people do will lead us in the evolution. User-generated content will come up more and more, and will need control." Todd noted that 4K with stereo and higher frame rates and bit depths equals a 50x increase in storage requirements. "Technologies and standards will be needed to handle that," he said.

Ludé revealed that research labs developing next generation storage and networking will play an active part of the Forum in May. "More tools built for telecommunications will become available for our industry," he said.

Will technology as it goes forward, be driven by consumer desires and devices? "There will be more convergence of HTML content for web and people creating linear programming," Ludé said. "But there will be many more devices, and we in the content industry will need to find ways to derive multi-versioning without driving ourselves crazy."

What will studios look like in five to ten years? "We've exceeded pedabytes in terms of media," said Lukk. "Our storage needs have gotten tremendous. The workforce is not all ready to be conversant with IT and media. The two trains have collided and we're picking up the pieces." Audiences are also increasingly sophisticated about good-looking images, he added. "We're heading towards Cinema 2.0," said Lukk. "From a business point of view, we're facing how to keep up with our creative workforce. What happens with definitions at the Guilds? The cost of cameras have come down considerably, so do we continue to rent them? How do we store and archive the material? What does this mean in terms of costs and jobs?"

Jones added his own question with regard to the convergence between consumer and professional media. "Should the consumer industry guide us or we guide them?" he asked. "We're riding the wave, and we need forward-thinkers to see what's coming. We need a very pro-active approach. From a supplier's point of view, making the wrong decision is a disaster."

Todd noted the pitfalls in moving forward with new technologies. "You can invest in frame rate and then find that color is the big thing," he said. "We make money by pushing the art but how much value will be there in pushing it...we'd really like to know."

This is what keeps everyone in the industry up at night, said Ludé. "Ten years ago, broadcast cameras were a specific market," he said. "Ten years from now, they'll be made from commoditized components. Where can we take advantage of IT and where do we need to develop new tools? DCP processing chips and GPUs will get us 90 percent of the way there. But not all the way there."

EBU's Wood pointed out the "silent hand of the market economy. "Globalization and consolidation will play a role," he predicted. "It isn't just technology that's driving thing. This is another part of the puzzle."

The Forum promises to be a great venue for raising all these, and many more, questions. And that's the most important first step in coming up with answers that will help guide the industry going forward.







Comments

Re: SMPTE and EBU preview Forum on Emerging Media Technologies
by Debra Kaufman
Thanks, Ronald - I enjoyed writing it! This conversation (as found in this article) is being repeated all over Hollywood and everywhere else in the creative content world. I have two upcoming articles that detail some of the same debates with reference monitors and the relationship between production studio and post house. Stay tuned! Best, Debra
Re: SMPTE and EBU preview Forum on Emerging Media Technologies
by Ronald Lindeboom
I really enjoyed this quote, Debra: "Hoffman opened the panel by asking what will be important in consumer technology in the future and what the biggest technology highlights will be in five and ten years. Disney's Lukk noted that the difficulty in predicting, given that technology is now evolving so quickly..."

One of the sure things in all this, Debra, is that the users will drive this revolution. As is mentioned elsewhere in your article...

Sky's Chris Johns believed that "broadcasting will still be here...but supplemented by iPads and other devices. People tweet while they watch programs," he explained. "What young people do will lead us in the evolution."

I think Chris Johns is right on the money here. The move to facilitate what the market wants is not going to be driven by a standards committee anymore. They can assist the evolution and help make sense of it all -- much like a mid-wife can assist the successful birth of a child -- but it is going to accelerate so much that companies like "wild card" traditionally non-broadcast companies such as Apple and Google will have an active place in how this all shakes out.

Tim Wilson and I have expressed over the years how that IT is the new "course major" for people who want to be a broadcast engineer. We get many broadcast engineers coming to the COW to learn file-based workflows and IT networking, etc. Just as content creators faced a digital remaking of onetime analog processes, engineers today are having to rethink and remake their infrastructures based on market forces that are reshuffling the cards that engineers once used in playing their hands.

Looking out 10 years, I see a time when all I do will be pay-per-view and I'll be glad to pay it. I'll get what I want, when I want it and I won't have to subsidize a bunch of porn and sports channels that I will never watch. Give me my science and nature, documentary and history programs. I will pay you for every one of them, served when and where I want them. I will gladly pay you for that.

But dictating how this will all play out is going to be rough because this evolution (as noted by some of this august panel) will be market-driven to a degree and force and scope heretofore unimagined.

There was and is a continued democratization of content production in this industry and now that democratization will be moving into content distribution itself.

Gone eventually will be the crazy nationalism of broadcast standards that end up in a dizzying array of framerates and formats that content creators must know in order to prepare and submit NTSC, PAL and SECAM permutations of their work.

It may take a while but it will end up being driven more by what viewers expect -- and are willing to vote for with their wallets -- than it will be by even as venerated and respected a body as are organizations such as SMPTE and EBU.

Dolby's Todd pointed out that the HD standard was set 20 years ago...We don't know what magic combination of things will move consumers towards the future. To quote Sony, what's good enough now is not good enough soon. We're going to discuss this at the Forum."

Ludé ... had a question of his own: "In 10 years, will there even be linear broadcasting?"


I worked in TVRO distribution back when the current USA HD standards were adopted. I remember the political compromises that were met in order to get the spec signed off on. But those kinds of "back room machinations" are going to be tough to manage and promulgate in the face of a consumer-driven market that wants what it wants and is willing to shell out the money to the companies that will bring it to them on their terms.

Good article, Debra.

I really enjoyed reading it.

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC
Publisher, Creative COW Magazine
A 2011 FOLIO: 40 honoree as one of the 40 most influential publishers in America
http://www.creativecow.net


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