SMPTE and EBU preview Forum on Emerging Media Technologies
COW Library : IBC Expo : Debra Kaufman : SMPTE and EBU preview Forum on Emerging Media Technologies
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."
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.
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."
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.