HPA Tech Retreat: Getting It Right

For Mark Schubin, this year’s Technology Retreat theme “seems to be the business of getting it right.

“Now that we’re HD, DTV and digital cinema, how do we make this stuff work so that we don’t have viewers complaining?” said Schubin, when asked to explain the agenda for the Hollywood Post Alliance Tech Retreat, Feb. 19-22 at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif. This year’s highest priorities will be given to tackling two of “the three burning questions:” lip sync and loudness. “The only one we’re not tackling is aspect ratio,” he said. “Everybody knows what has to be done about that.”

On Feb. 20, Schubin, who organizes the annual event, will introduce a “miracle” audio product from Norway’s SquareHead Technology. Consisting of one or more microphone arrays, a signal distribution unit, a signal processing unit and a storage system, the AudioScope enables a producer to do spatial filtering and extract audio from any desired location. Schubin described the model demonstrated at IBC 2008 as a disc “about six feet in diameter” that had a tiny camera with a wide angle lens at its center and 300 microphones.

According to Morgan Kjølerbakken, founder and chief technology officer for SquareHead Technology, the company has tested the AudioScope at ice hockey, football and car-racing events internally (not for broadcast), and planned further testing in the United States early this year.


In addition to the three-day retreat, four other seminars prior to the event will be held at the host hotel.

A four-hour, hands-on workshop, “Understanding Liquid Crystal Displays” will kick off the proceedings at 8 a.m. on Feb. 19. The event is sponsored by eCinema Systems of Valencia, Calif., which has spent the past seven years developing a high-performance LCD monitor for the industry to replace CRTs. Participation costs $75; proceeds go to HPA.

(click thumbnail)The Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif., will host the annual HPA Tech Retreat, “We’re basically destroying $50,000 worth of LCD panels to educate people [about] the inner workings of LCD technology and what the important parameters are,” said eCinema Systems Founder and Chief Executive Officer Martin Euredjian.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee’s Audio Summit will be held 1 to 6 p.m. For a $225 fee, registrants will get an overview of ATSC projects and papers regarding AC-3 audio issues from presentations and panel discussions, plus a report on Dolby’s off-air measurement results, and established guidelines for mixing room monitors. There will also be demonstrations of “three unique choices for managing digital TV loudness,” according to Jim Starzynski, principal audio ar-chitect for NBC Universal Ad-vanced En-gineering, and chair of the ATSC’s S/6-3 working group for loudness is-sues, (see “ATSC Update,” in the Jan. 9 issue of TV Technology for more details).

“An expert from the manufacturing sector representing each technology will explain their process and go over the equipment and specifics necessary for their unique method,” said Starzynski. “The audience will have an opportunity to understand choices that are available for their operation, what’s required for implementation, and how each technique sounds when managing exactly the same content.”

From 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., Charles Poynton will discuss “Radiometry, Photometry and Scene-Linear Image Acquisition.” He plans to explore the consequences presented by new digital cameras, and how encoding systems like OpenEXR can facilitate handling data and performing color transforms. The session fee is $175.

“Scene-linear image acquisition refers to a method of capturing image data that makes it easier to do computer-generated imagery and visual effects, particularly for movies,” Poynton said. “New tools that are available for doing video production have got provisions to do operations like compositing using linear light space, but there’s not a wide understanding of that yet. Television people would certainly take away from my seminar a better understanding.”

Dovetailing the Poynton presentation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will host a seminar examining “Image Interchange Framework for Digital Motion Picture Mastering,” 4 to 7 p.m. The featured architecture is a set of encoding specifications, file formats and transforms that “takes the unknowns out of image interchange,” said Andy Maltz, director of AMPAS’ Science and Technology Council. There is no extra charge for Retreat registrants.

“We’re presenting the results of about three years of work by about 50 leading color scientists [who] represent the individual effects facilities, studios, mastering facilities [and] film manufacturers,” said Maltz, who wants added participation in the next stage of evolution. “The long-term goal is to bring this to a standards body, such as SMPTE.”

A 3D “Supersession” from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 carries a $225 fee for those not attending the rest of the retreat. According to Jerry Pierce, former head of Universal’s digital cinema initiative, the session will include an overview, business model discussion, session on capture and creation, another session on post-production, and a “visionary panel” to discuss 3D’s five year outlook. Among the presenters are Vince Pace, chief executive officer for Pace, a Burbank Calif.-based developer of 3D camera technology, as well as luminaries from DreamWorks and Warner Bros.


The official HPA Tech Retreat gets underway with Wednesday’s post-lunch introduction by Leon Silverman, president of HPA and LaserPacific Media Corp., followed by recaps from Piper Jaffray’s Mike Olson (finance), Mark Schubin (technology, including SquareHead’s AudioScope), ROAM Consulting’s Peter Putman (Consumer Electronics Show) and CEA economist Shawn DuBravac (who’s buying what). The afternoon also features a panel of experts speculating on what will happen after the analog cutoff.

The lineup for Thursday, Feb. 21 includes an hour-long tutorial on “a rational metric for digital camera resolution” by Larry Thorpe, national marketing executive for Canon Broadcast USA and Panavision’s John Galt at 8:45 a.m. Equipment testing guru Bruce Jacobs of Twin-Cities Public Television will follow with a 9:45 presentation on upconversion.

At 10:15, Digital Cinema Society President Jim Mathers will report on the RED camera. Demo-ed at NAB2007, Mathers received his “$17,500 camera with a 4K Super 35 image sensor, 60P variable frame rate at 4:4:4 [and] new compression scheme that could somehow make all that data manageable” last September.

Presentations on motion, a tapeless workflow panel, and reports on solid state recording, compression, workflows, synchronization and timing are slated to follow.

The agenda on Feb. 22 will feature Beltway attorney Jim Burger’s “Washington Update” and perspectives on digital cinema, HD displays, HDMI cabling, Internet distribution, the Archive eXchange Format (AXF), and audio delivery specs. For more information, visit www.hpaonline.com.

Editor’s Note: The HPA Tech Retreat is sold out. To be put on a waiting list, please contact Eileen Kramer Executive Director, Hollywood Post Alliance atekramer@hpaonline.com.