At 100, SMPTE To Honor Past, Look To Future

As members of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers gather in Hollywood, Calif., for the 2016 Technical Conference & Exhibition Oct. 24-28, the organization’s history will be on the minds of many keynoters, presenters and attendees as SMPTE celebrates its centennial. However, while honoring its storied past will be an important part of this year’s event, SMPTE remains focused on providing the technical insight, presentations and discussions needed to positon the industry for the future.

The Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers will gather Oct. 24-28 in Hollywood, Calif., with one foot squarely planted in the past and the other embarking on a journey to a future where standards will continue to play a foundational role for motion media production.

This year, SMPTE celebrates its centennial as an organization (with its beginning in 1916 as the Society of Motion Picture Engineers), and during its 2016 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibit at Loews Hollywood Hotel the society will pay tribute to its storied history.

“It’s been a year in the making, and we have had a number of different activities all throughout the year at various events that culminate in this centennial celebration,” says Barbara Lange, SMPTE executive director.

Bob Seidel, CBS VP of engineering and advanced technology and outgoing SMPTE president, and Douglas Trumbell, a film director, special effects supervisor and inventor, will kick off the technical conference on Tuesday, Oct. 25, with a special retrospective keynote examining the impact of almost 100 years of technology in cinema and television.

For those wishing a get a little closer to the history of motion media technology, the gathering will host a small Centennial Museum dedicated to TV and film technology, which will include artifacts from society founder Charles Francis Jenkins. And the week will close with a black-tie Centennial Gala hosted by actor John O’Hurley (Mr. Peterman from Seinfeld).

However, while commemorating the society’s past will be an important part of the event, the conference won’t ignore the present or the future.


The conference aperitif — the pre-conference symposium Monday, Oct. 24 — will give a hat tip to the centennial with the theme of archiving and preservation, but its main focus is doing so for new digital content. The daylong symposium, “The Future of Storytelling and How to Save It,” will examine digital content preservation with presentations such as “Want to Know How to Preserve Digitally? Play a Game,” “Enhanced Formats Need Enhanced Archival Brains,” “How are Digital Archives Like Cell Biology?” and “Wrapper’s Delight.”

Daniel Teruggi, director of the research and experimentation department at the National Audiovisual Institute in Paris and this year’s SMPTE Archival Technology Medal Award recipient, will deliver the symposium keynote.

The technical conference program, which begins in earnest on Tuesday, Oct. 25, will offer nearly 100 papers and presentations in 16 technology areas, many of which speak directly to the issues affecting broadcasters.

Some, such as the broadcast infrastructure, file workflows and formats and networked media infrastructure program tracks, focus on issues of more immediate concern to broadcasters; others, including the UHDTV/HFR/HDR wide color gamut and new distribution modalities tracks, address technical issues that broadcasters will face in the future.

Still others, tackle the intervening period by examining ways to bridge the gap.

For instance, Keith Slavin, founder and CTO of Isovideo, will propose a method for automatic tone-mapping of unsaturated high dynamic range content to ITU-R Recommendation BT.709 color to future-proof what is shot today, during the “Distribution of HDR in an SDR World” presentation.

Bridging operations from today to tomorrow also will be the focus of “Practical Transition Strategies of SDI Facilities Utilizing Newer IP Baseband A/V Signals,” by Scott Barella, CTO of Utah Scientific, who will provide a practical guide for creating IP islands in an SDI infrastructure.

Addressing what appears to be a major trend in future broadcast operations, Eric Openshaw, software architect at Pebble Broadcast Systems, will examine how live broadcast playout can be virtualized in a datacenter based on IT hardware during his “Virtualization: Changing the Face and the Pace of Master Control Projects” paper presentation.

Another, “12G SDI Over RF Coaxial Structures,” by Owen Barthelmes, director of engineering at Amphenol RF, will examine the development of a 12G SDI system for transport of Ultra HD per SMPTE 2082 via coax.

From a more here-and-now perspective, the technical conference also offers a wealth of papers for broadcasters, including “Return Loss: What, Why, How and Where,” by Marc Walker of Marc Walker Consulting, and “File Workflows and Formats 1 & 2” by Sara Kudrle, project marketing manager, networking at Grass Valley, which will examine media infrastructure workflows and IMF, DPP and interoperability.

Outside the auditoriums where the technical papers are presented, an expanded exhibit area will greet attendees with more than 100 exhibitors — up from 82 in 2015, says Lange.

“It’s shaping up to be the biggest event in probably 15 years,” she says. “I am hopeful we will surpass last year’s attendance [2,200] and participation.”

The event also will feature a new area on the exhibit floor dedicated to demonstrating SMPTE 2059 interoperability. The standard addresses the use of IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol, a critical part to making IP-based media equipment interoperable with SDI gear, she says.

As it has done at recent annual technical conferences, SMPTE also is taking steps to nurture future film and television professionals. The Second Annual SMPTE-HPA Student Film Festival will take place Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. More than 250 student short films were submitted from 46 countries, and the best as selected by jurors will be presented.

The gathering also will see the launch of the HPA’s Young Entertainment Professionals mentoring program. About 20 upcoming professionals will attend the SMPTE conference Oct. 26 and with the tutelage of HPA members have the chance to meet people from the industry and expand their knowledge, says Lange.

There will even be a “speed dating” type of event hosted by RED Studios on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 27, where some 120 students will do meet-and-greets with industry professionals “at little round tables,” she says.

These sorts of activities are important to both the professional development of students who take part in them and to SMPTE as a whole as it positions itself for the next 100 years, says Lange.

For the organization, another major part of ensuring there will be a SMPTE bicentennial is remaining relevant, especially during “this time of chaos” stemming from the “bump up between IT and media,” she says.

“I think 100 years on, SMPTE is very well-respected as not only the convener of the technical experts to develop these industry standards, but also as the body that has taken on the huge responsibility of making sure those standards are available in the future and evolve for the future,” she says.

“The notion of being a well-respected and due-process group, I think, is more important than ever.”

To stay up to date on all things tech, follow Phil Kurz on TVNewsCheck’s Playout tech blog here. And follow him on Twitter: @TVplayout.

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