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HPA Walks on the Wild Side


RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF.
The Hollywood Post Alliance will launch its signature four-day Tech Retreat in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Tuesday, Feb. 16. As described by host Mark Schubin, “It’s the only event that covers the entire spectrum of television.”

This year’s agenda includes motion intelligence from the Department of Defense, academic research on viewer sensations as they watch 3DTV, and miscellaneous insights into hyper dynamic range, immersive media, audio control, and file-based workflows.

3D OK IF IT’S A GIMMICK THAT WORKS

“The whole business of movies and television has been based on illusion and gimmicks since Day One, so there’s nothing wrong with being a gimmick as long as it’s a gimmick that attracts people,” said Schubin. “There have been some technological advances [digital transmission systems, tiny cameras, LCD displays that support faster frame rates], but basically it’s a buzz and a push—not technologically based.”

Despite this assessment, the first day’s afternoon agenda (2-6 p.m.) will address 3D developments. Dolby Laboratories’ Walter Husak will discuss standards; ROAM Consulting president Pete Putnam will present the latest consumer electronics, and there will be a slew of demos. Schubin was particularly psyched about a demo room presentation by 3D pioneer Lenny Lipton, now president and chief science officer for Oculus 3D in Encino, Calif.

Tuesday’s agenda will also explore the dark side of 3D: viewer health concerns. David Wood, deputy director for the European Broadcasting Union’s Technical initiatives, was invited to air his views on eyestrain after he created a bit of a stink over the issue at IBC 2009. Paired with him will be UC Berkeley Professor of Optometry and Vision Science Martin Banks, who has been conducting research into user issues in presenting 3D cinema, TV, and cell phone media, as well as their possible cures.

Fraunhofer’s 180 degree Stereoscopic Panorama Camera Rig Banks traces the issues to four problems: viewing distance, vergence-accommodation conflict, artifacts and the disparity of serial information over time. He said he’d expound on the first two and their possible resolution during his time slot, and discuss the rest as audience interest dictates.

The 3D nod will spill over into Wednesday, when Ethan Schur, chief marketing officer at Irvine, Calif.-based TDVision Systems, hosts a morning roundtable on 3D over mobile devices (7:30-8:30) and participates in an 11 AM panel discussion on new technologies.

LOUDNESS & OTHER FEDERAL CASES

In 2009, European broadcasters and manufacturers began work on new audio loudness meters based on the ITU-R BS.1770 recommendation published by the International Telecommunication Union. The European Broadcasting Union’s P/Loud Group produced its first progress report regarding audio control—plus a “Bendy Meter”—at IBC 2009. In the United States, the Advanced Television Systems Committee approved “Techniques for Establishing and Maintaining Audio Loudness for Digital Television.”

As if that wasn’t enough to draw attention to the issue, last December the House of Representatives passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act barring TV ads from being louder than the programs in which they appear.

The Tech Retreat includes a half-day seminar on loudness by the ATSC (Tuesday, Feb. 16, 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.), and a session on the issue moderated by J. Patrick Waddell, technical marketing manager for Harmonic and SMPTE Fellow, Friday, Feb. 19, 9:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.).

If prodded enough, attorney Jim Burger said he’ll comment on the CALM Act during the morning roundtables, but at press time, he planned to focus his Washington Update (Thursday, Feb. 18, 9:00 – 9:30 a.m.) on content protection, due to audience demand.

“The way the [Digital Millenium Copyright] Act is structured, any copy is a violation of the copyright owner’s rights unless it’s Fair Use,” said Burger.

In June 2009, the Supreme Court declined to review an August 2008 federal appeals court ruling that lifted an injunction against Cablevision Systems over the use of its remote DVR service (the result of a lawsuit by CNN and some major studios). But last August, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that RealNetworks’ RealDVD software violated federal anti-piracy law as well as a contract it signed with the studios. RealDVD enabled consumers to copy DVDs to their computer hard drives.

According to Burger’s assessment of the rulings, it is “Fair Use” for a VCR owner to make a copy of an over-the-air TV show for time-shifting purposes, but not “Fair Use” for a consumer to make an entire copy of a DVD. Burger expects “Fair Use” challenges to pile on “as it becomes easier and easier to make copies.”

He also noted that he would happily discuss three other legislative issues during the morning round tables: spectrum reallocation, broadband and ’Net neutrality, as well as the Parental Control Technologies Notice of Inquiry Act.

THE NEXT NEW THINGS

“Usually when people talk about what comes next after HDTV, they’ll maybe say ‘3D’ or ‘ultra high-definition,’” said Schubin. He’s decidedly more excited about high dynamic range imaging: The ability to capture and display far more contrast ratio than ever before.

“Thomson has shown a camera that can capture more than 23 stops of dynamic range—a 10 million to one contrast ratio,” said Schubin. At the retreat, he said, “ARRI will demonstrate brand-new, high-dynamic-range cameras and Dolby will introduce its high-dynamic-range LCD reference monitor.” (ARRI will also demo its Relativity texture and time control software.)

Charles Poynton will give a seminar on High-Dynamic-Range Imaging, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.), Feb. 16 and moderate a panel on the topic, 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m., Feb. 18.

New trends will be showcased on Wednesday, Feb. 17. A “Future of Packaged Media” panel will discuss DVD options, which might include prospects for vending machines that make DVDs to order (12:15 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.). Wednesday’s keynote speech will be given by Ralph Brown, CableLabs’ new CTO (1:45 – 2:15).

“That segues nicely into the broadcasters’ panel [2:15 – 3:15], now that Comcast has bought NBC/Universal,” said Schubin.

A consumer video marketplace panel will follow at 3:30. Separately, Philips will demo a TV that boasts CinemaScope’s 21:9 aspect ratio.

NBC/Universal’s Consumer and Broadcast Technology Vice President Sheau Ng is slated to address broadcast’s sync up with DVD/Blu-ray and the Internet so that viewers can, for example, get timely information about a sports hero during the big game (4:15 – 4:45).

At 4:45 p.m., Heiko Sparenberg, Digital Cinema Project Manager for Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute will talk about “immersive media,” a panoramic application that records from multiple directions at the same time so that viewers control where they look. The publicly funded research project, called PRIME, enabled its creation of a multi-layered approach to the process.

Fraunhofer’s 180 degree Stereoscopic Panorama Camera Rig and MicroHDTV Ultracompact Multiformat CMOS HDTV camera can be used for cinema and broadcast applications (there are minor differences in the housing depending on the application). Its Digital Cinema Package (DCP) software, specifically the easyDCP Creator and easyDCP Player, create and play back stereoscopic signals on a standard PC.

“I will basically talk about the workflows and pick some applications like the stereoscopic panorama camera and DCP creations,” said Sparenberg. “We want to set up new workflows and show some demonstrations on how we think immersive media could look.”

MYSTERY CELEB

If the aforementioned doesn’t suffice to whet your appetite, there will also be an appearance by Mo Henry on Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. following a “Mo Henry roundtable discussion” that morning. Schubin claims that “Mo Henry’s name has been in more movies than any other, except maybe Dolby.”