Anthony R. Gargano /
04.01.2009 12:00 PM
Broadcasters in postland
The 2009 HPA Technology Retreat gave industry leaders an open forum for sharing new technologies.

A trip out of the cold and snow of the Northeast to the palm trees and warmth of sunny Rancho Mirage, CA — must be a boondoggle. Actually, it really wasn't. The Westin Mission Hills at Rancho Mirage was the host venue for the recent Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) Technology Retreat. This event is noteworthy for the quality of its presentations and the high-level discussions of the latest in technologies impacting our industry today and influencing its direction for the future.

The birth of HPA

The annual event was the ninth under the auspices of the HPA and the fifteenth since the Technology Retreat's inception from its roots in the now defunct International Tele-production Society (ITS). But, don't let the name mislead you. The 400 attendees represented a significant cross section of our industry. Numbered among them were not only representatives from the Hollywood post and production community but also technology executives from the CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS broadcast networks. In addition, attendees from cable networks ESPN, HBO and TBS were there along with representatives from the ATSC, the EBU, the NAB and SMPTE.

By way of background, the ITS was founded in 1986 with roots in Hollywood as a trade association to support and advance the common agendas of the production and post-production community. It grew quickly and soon had local chapters in the content creation hotbeds of Chicago, Hollywood, London, Miami and New York among others. Last known as the Association of Imaging Technology and Sound, a combination of factors caused it to seemingly lose its way, and the trade group folded in 2001. Notwithstanding the ITS' demise, the Hollywood community still found a continuing need for a common forum to share ideas and to serve as an advocate for the content community. Thus, out of the ashes of the local Hollywood ITS chapter was born the Hollywood Post Alliance.

Technology retreat

One of the more popular undertakings initiated by the ITS was the establishment of an annual technology sharing event, and to its credit, the HPA has carried on this activity. The annual retreat is organized by HPA executive director Eileen Kramer.

The quality of the presentations and discussions at the event are at a level that not only draws attendance from the United States but also now attracts a growing international participation, with attendees this year traveling from Canada, Europe, Japan and the UK. Presentations were quite varied and covered everything from digital age TV test patterns to high frame rate television, from 4K imaging techniques to 3-D, including 3-D acquisition, 3-D compatibility and 3-D display. If attendees weren't overloaded with technology by the end of the day, in the evenings they could attend technology demonstrations by some 60 companies in a separate ballroom. But don't get the wrong idea; this is not a trade show, and you won't find supplier booths. Manufacturers were confined to simple 10ft tables with actual demonstrations of technology — not just selling products. This is in keeping with the high standards that the HPA maintains to keep the event first and foremost as a technology symposium.

Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in early morning breakfast roundtables that took place before the day's formal sessions. There were about 30 tables, each with a different technology topic and hosted by a discussion leader. In a uniquely informal environment, after picking up bacon and eggs from the breakfast buffet, attendees could select a table to join and either participate in or just listen to the topic of their choice being discussed by a cross section of retreat attendees.

If you are interested in a truly learning, sharing experience, this is the event to attend. The HPA limits attendance to the Technology Retreat, so book early. Next year's event is scheduled for Feb. 17-19 at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage. Pencil it in on your calendar. It should be well worth the trip.

Anthony R. Gargano is a consultant and former industry executive.

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