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Addressing the Continuum

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF.


(click thumbnail)Europe's FrameFree Technologies will be on hand to show its picture morphing technology.Host Mark Schubin plans to cover all bases at this year's HPA Technology Retreat, scheduled for Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 here at The Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa.

"There isn't one video anymore," Schubin said. "Video has become a huge continuum from things that appear on a cell phone, to things that appear on a movie screen. So, we're addressing that continuum this year."

Among the hot topics are extended color gamut (aka wide-gamut color), digital audio, MXF interoperability issues, and morphing software.

EXTENDED COLOR GAMUT

The old NTSC color phosphors restricted TV's onscreen colors to an RGB triangle, which excluded possibilities like the saturated turquoise of a packet of Salem cigarettes, Schubin said. But now, he noted, "There's a standard that's just come out for consumer gear."

This consumer electronics standard--HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) 1.3--adopts the International Electrotechnical Commission's 61966-2-4 standard for color, commonly called xvYCC, short for "Extended YCC Colorimetry for Video Applications;" YCC is a device-independent color range originally defined by Kodak. According to widely circulated reports, the new standard can support 1.8 times as many colors as existing HDTV signals.

In a press release from last June, manufacturers claimed that HDMI 1.3 "will enable the next generation of HDTVs, PCs and DVD players to transmit and display content in billions of colors with unprecedented vividness and accuracy."

Sony demonstrated the first xvYCC-compliant high-resolution signal processing system at CES2006 on an 82-inch Bravia LCD flat-panel TV.

Schubin plans to have Sony's Dr. Naoya Katoh, one of the people who worked directly on that standard, at the retreat, as well as Jeroen Stessen from Philips Laboratories. They will team up to present "Extended Color Gamut for Consumers" at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

The discrepancy between xvYCC and the standards available for production equipment might mean that people at home could see something quite different from what the creator intended, Schubin said.

Grass Valley's Dave Bancroft is slated to host a 7:30 a.m. breakfast roundable called "Will We Still Get WYSIWIG with New Display Technologies?" on Friday, Feb. 2.

And well-known technologist Charles Poynton will address the overall impact of xvYCC on broadcasters at a half-day seminar starting at 2 p.m. on Jan. 30 at the same venue, for an additional $225.

Described by Poynton as "the only current standard applicable to the video community," the seminar will show how the graphics arts and movie industries addressed a similar problem, using graphs, diagrams and equations. Then, after answering questions on how xvYCC works, he plans to open the floor to discuss business strategy and philosophical issues, including the likelihood of the studios signing off on xvYCC and, if they did, how the standard would be deployed.

DIGITAL AUDIO & MXF

"People have a hard enough time monitoring stereo," Schubin said. "How the heck are they going to deal with six channels in a live production?"

To discuss the trials, tribulations and (hopefully) solutions to creating 5.1 are two breakfast roundtables--one for multichannel audio on Thursday, the other for audio post on Friday--presented by Sensurround colleagues Richard Cabot and Tony Dal Molin.

On Friday, Feb. 2 at 11:35 a.m., Discovery Networks' Josh Derby will present his own take on digital sound: "Measuring & Standardizing Loudness."

On the MXF standard, Schubin said that when it was introduced several years ago, "manufacturers said 'all hail MXP, this takes care of everything.'"

Clyde Smith, head of engineering at Turner Broadcasting--described by Schubin as "a guy from the trenches"--doesn't quite see it that way. He will talk about his firsthand experience with "MXF Interoperability Issues," at 2 p.m., Friday.

MORPHING SOFTWARE

Schubin isn't easily impressed, but was completely wowed at IBC2006 by FrameFree Technologies pixel-matching software. The company is a joint venture between a U.K.-based IT holding and investment firm called FrameFree Holdings Ltd. and Japan's Monolith Co., a high-tech venture specializing in IP technology.

The company is taking its morphing software in three directions. For starters, Schubin said it's creating moving image sequences from a handful of still photographs--"an extraordinary tool for production."

FrameFree also retooled distribution by compressing the data needed to transmit. According to Schubin, "they only need to send key frames and instructions rather than video."

Lastly, the company has proposed a new compression standard to SMPTE.

"This is absolutely the first look that anyone's going to have of it in the United States," Schubin said. "They did discuss it very briefly at IBC--but I don't think anyone was listening."

FrameFree's chief scientist, Igor Borovikov, will introduce the company's technology at the Retreat on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 5:15 p.m.

He'll start with a description of the Critical Points Filter--the patented technique the company uses to match images. The CPF automatically calculates a morphing map between any two images by performing pixel-level matching between them.

"We believe that the natural and efficient image morphing offered by CPF can indeed 'liberate' video from frames and pixels, and thus revolutionize the way video is produced and distributed in a matter of just a few years," Borovikov said.

For more information on the event, visit www.hpaonline.com/mc/page.do.