A Technology Pilgrimage in the Desert

The 21st annual HPA Tech Retreat in Palm Springs is expected to draw close to 600 digital media professionals.PALM SPRINGS, CALIF.—Known as the “Gathering in the Desert,” the Hollywood Post Alliance’s HPA Tech Retreat is a casual, interactive conference geared to knowledge sharing and fostering a better understanding of industry-shaping digital technologies—content creation, media management and delivery.

This year, the 21st annual HPA Tech Retreat—Feb. 9–13 at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells in Palm Springs, Calif.—is expected to draw close to 600 attendees— a veritable who’s who of the professional media and entertainment community, including engineers, CTOs, post professionals, network and studio execs.

“The Tech Retreat is not just a conference where the latest, greatest technology and topics are displayed, discussed, debated and sometimes refuted,” said Leon Silverman, president of the HPA. “It’s the closest thing to adult geek summer camp that one can imagine.”

This year’s meeting will feature just under 100 speakers in 45 sessions in just three and a half days; a day-long HPA Supersession called “Shift Happens: Not Your Father’s Post” and 80 breakfast roundtables led by experts who lead small group discussions.

The Demo Room will feature exhibits by 66 technology vendors, including Aveco, Canon, Grass Valley, Hitachi, JVC, Snell and Telestream. This year, 25 of the vendors are new to the retreat, and 31 new technologies are being unveiled. The retreat also feartures sponsors including Quantum, Sohonet, Spectra, Dolby and Avid.

“What makes the HPA Tech Retreat such a unique experience is that the panel discussions are largely derived from proposals submitted by the attendees, rather than a top-down approach,” said Seth Hallen, senior vice president, Creative Services, Sony DADC New Media Solutions and a Hollywood Post Alliance board member based in Culver City, Calif.

“Another key distinction is the way presentations are developed,” Hallen added. “They are driven by curiosity about the compelling issues facing attendees and their need to know about many relevant topics. They are not marketing-driven, but are designed to take attendees from presentation to thoughtful conversation and understanding. That curated approach is a key difference in the Tech Retreat.”

Many of the event’s organizers use the phrase “curated” to point out that any topic or technology they feature at the HPA Tech Retreat is carefully vetted. Demo Room exhibiters agree to only feature technology that’s innovative and focused on media acquisition, production and delivery.

HPA Vice President Jerry Pierce (L) and HPA “maestro of programming” Mark Schubin Mornings begin at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast roundtables where attendees sit at tables of 10 and have breakfast together. Participants choose from approximately 30 roundtables every day, each of which features a moderator leading a small group discussion about a particular trend, technology or challenge.

Roundtable rules are relaxed and moderators can highlight products while still focusing on expert-driven information. Breakfasters decide which table they want to join and take part in that particular discussion. Among this year’s breakfast topics are: “4K: What to Know and Measure” (Lynn Yeazel/Tektronix); “Live HD/UHD Delivery via the Cloud” (Vincent Maza/Aspera); “The Software Defined Media Infrastructure” (Al Kovalick/Media Systems Consulting); and “Should All Content Be Shot in 4K/120?” (Lance Maurier/Cinnafilm).

Jerry Pierce, vice president of the Hollywood Post Alliance and a digital cinema professional in Redwood City, Calif., likes the informal setting of the retreat and the ability to meet with industry peers over meals, cocktails, etc. “What happens outside the meeting rooms is as important as what happens in them,” he said.

The retreat received a record number of proposals for panels and presentations this year, according to Mark Schubin, a New York-based freelance broadcast engineer and the long-time “maestro of programming” for the HPA Tech Retreat. “The breadth and scope of the topics we received was truly impressive,” he said. Schubin will give three presentations during the retreat, including the ever-popular “Technology Year in Review” on Wednesday, Feb. 11.

On Monday afternoon, Feb. 9th, Color Guru Charles Poynton will deliver a preretreat session on “Physics, Optics and Electronics of Image Sensors.” The day-long “Shift Happens” HPA Supersession will be kicked off by Leon Silverman and Michael Cioni on Tuesday, Feb. 10, and will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The session will focus on fundamental changes impacting the creation, finishing and distribution of content.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday— which are considered the actual retreat days—are filled with presentations and panel sessions, with the “Broadcasters Panel” on Wednesday a show highlight.

“With its free format, the Broadcasters Panel is among the most popular panels every year because people like the energy of this fast-paced session,” said Matthew Goldman, senior vice president of technology, TV compression for Ericsson, who has moderated the panel for more than five years.

“There are no formal presentations,” Goldman added. “It’s an hour of interactive exchange where the audience and I ask our distinguished panel of senior-level broadcast executives about the hottest topics of the day. I encourage panelists and audience members to react and respond.”

Wednesday also features “UHD Content Protection: A View from All Sides of the Ecosystem,” a 10:00 a.m. panel moderated by Rusti Baker, director of new business planning for ARM. “My panel features top female executives who represent major studios, chip makers and security technology firms. We’ll discuss the challenges of protecting UHD/4K content, especially on connected mobile devices, in a way that doesn’t adversely impact the user experience.”

Other Wednesday presentations will include a review of CES, color gamuts, the future of cinema, the cloud and drones.

On Thursday at 2:45 p.m., Debra Kaufman, media industry analyst and TV Technology correspondent will moderate a panel on DPP and IMPF which was inspired by an article she wrote for TV Technology. “My panel focuses on the new DPP format and the emerging IMF standard,” Kaufman said. “Before CES manufacturers begin making gear and people start producing programs, there have to be industry standards in place or there’ll be chaos. DPP and IMF are two new standards broadcasters and post house engineers need to know about.”

Digital Production Partnership is a new British industry standard that dictates a common file format, structure and wrapper for file-based programming. “British broadcasters are rejecting any acquired content that doesn’t come into them in this format,” Kaufman said. “And IMF, or Interoperable Master Format, is a new SMPTE standard that’s in development.”

Friday’s program features “Lightfield Capture and Post Update” by Siegfried Foessel (Fraunhofer IIS); and “Enhancing the Creative Palette while Preserving Intent from Camera to Consumer” by Robin Atkins, Dolby Laboratories, as well as a SMPTE update from Executive Director Barbara Lange and Leon Silverman, while Merrill Weiss of the Merrill Weiss Group will present “AXF: Now a Standard.”

The retreat closes with a post-HPA Tech Retreat session, where Rich Welsh of Sundog Tools will present: “How the Great Depression Led to Cloud Computing.”

For more information, visit www.hollywoodpostalliance.org.

Claudia Kienzle