Meet David Grindle, SMPTE’s New Executive Director

SMPTe
(Image credit: SMPTE)

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.—David Grindle has only been on the job as the new executive director of SMPTE for several months now but he’s eager to connect with his colleagues at the association’s Media Technology Summit later this month. One of his first public duties, though, was attending the IBC Show, an event of which SMPTE has been a long time sponsor. 

“It was fabulous,” he said. “There was so much pent up energy of not being able to see each other after three years—I think we’re all really tired of the whole ‘Brady Bunch’ way of doing business, we want to be working face to face. But what was also really cool about IBC is you saw three years of innovation and incubation that people were bringing out and it was really exciting.”

Grindle, who succeeds Barbara Lange as executive director, comes to SMPTE with a rich background in the performing arts, having led the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology for more than a decade. With both organizations consisting mostly of technicians involved in the visual arts, he knows how important SMPTE is to the media and entertainment technology community.

“It’s refreshing to see the passion of the staff for the work that our people do,” he said. “We’ve got our hardcore standards people, hardcore student chapter people, and people who are ready to see where SMPTE’s going next. And all of them have this fabulous passion. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s really nice because it’s an energy to ride on. You know you don’t have to come in and be the cheerleader; you get to be the person who can help harness an energy rather than create it.”

A Standard Approach
As executive director of the main standards organization for film and TV technology, Grindle is well aware of the importance of standards in an industry with an international focus. “Less than a year after SMPTE was founded, the first standards were produced,” he said. “And those are becoming more important in a world that’s becoming more software based, because as we’ve seen with digital cinema, the industry transcends borders. 

“So how do we support the work that’s going on in SMPTE and partner with so many other organizations in the media space, to really keep things moving forward? Ultimately, what has made the explosion happen in our industries is the interoperability and that comes from people trusting SMPTE.”

In an environment where tech conglomerates can deploy a protocol that can become standardized in a short period of time simply because they can, Grindle says that—although SMPTE standards process is slower in comparison—that doesn’t make it any less vital. 

“We need to better educate people on what the standards process is—it’s governed by the ISO and by ANSI—because we want them to be standards that are accepted worldwide,” he said. “And those take a little more time. But part of taking time means being open about the process and letting people know what’s going on.”

Recruiting a young(er) and more diverse workforce in the M&E tech industry is also top of mind for Grindle. “We have work to do as a society and as an industry—there are perceptions that need to be changed, but there are also overtures that need to be made. We need to do our part to be a more welcoming space. And it’s not necessarily about diversity, it’s about inclusion. Inclusion means that your ideas are actually listened to. And your point of view matters.”

SMPTE

Charles Jablonski (Image credit: SMPTE)

Getting Back Together in 2022
SMPTE’s Annual Technical Conference is now the SMPTE Media Technology Summit and will be the society’s first in-person annual meeting in three years. With about 50 exhibitors and an education agenda focused on virtual production, 5G and IP and the opportunity to honor industry luminaries including Director Ang Lee and TV engineering pioneer Charles Jablonski, among others, Grindle’s excited about meeting his new colleagues, updating them on SMPTE’s On-Set Virtual Production Initiative (RIS-OSVP), and joining them on a field trip to several Hollywood studios.

SMPTE

Ang Lee (Image credit: SMPTE)

“What’s better than a field trip?” he asked. “One of the really exciting things at this year’s Media Technology Summit is that you can expand your knowledge with a full-day Virtual Production educational track. It gives our members a more immediate and meaningful way to engage with the technology they learn about during the event.”

Putting the theory presented in educational session into practices, the educational track will feature three focus areas: “The Virtual Art Department in Action,” “Volume Control Tools on the LED Stage,” and “Cinematography and new Creative Capture Workflows.” 

SMPTE

This year’s SMPTE Media Technology Summit, held at Loews Hollywood Hotel, will mark the first time the organization has held its annual conference in person since 2019. (Image credit: Loewes)

Attendees will get the unusual opportunity to see virtual production technology come alive as they shadow production designers, virtual production technicians, and DPs. Working with real content and tools of the trade, these professionals will show how to perform critical tasks such as melding virtual and practical art elements, calibrating an LED wall, testing lenses and cameras, managing the volume renders, and exploring effective camera blocking.

Keynoting the Summit is Ana Herruzo, an architect, interactive designer, and educator working at the leading edge of emerging and computational media. Herruzo’s presentation, “Enhancing Creative Disciplines Through Emerging Computational Media Tools,” will focus on multiple immersive experiences and interactive environments and their ideation and production pipelines, which rely on emerging computational media tools including real-time graphics, computer vision, machine learning algorithms, and new XR tools.

“The timing, format and content of the Summit will give creatives and technologists a fantastic opportunity to dig into the many amazing advances the industry has made over the past several years and to engage with the technologies transforming the way we tell stories today,” concluded Grindle. “I can’t wait!” l

The SMPTE Media Technology Summit takes place Oct. 24-27 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. To register, visit smpte.org/summit2022.

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.