SMPTE Tech Conference Expands To Bigger Venue

LOS ANGELES—The 2018 edition of the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers technical conference and symposium this year moves to a new venue, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles, which brings with it an important change from previous years–the addition of another full conference track.

“Where before it was two tracks and a few in the Chinese Theater, this year’s event will have three conference tracks over three days,” says Sara Kudrle, product marketing manager at Imagine Communications, who is serving as co-chair of the technical conference program along with Thomas Edwards, vice president of engineering and development at Fox.


The change means that for the SMPTE 2018 Technical Conference & Exhibition, Oct. 23-25, there will be three concurrent conference tracks, during which a total of 78 technical papers will be presented, she said.

The overarching topics to be covered in each of the tracks will change as the conference progresses; however, there are large blocks of time each day devoted to multiple papers on each theme.

For instance, as the first day of the conference begins Track 1 is devoted to the theme of Better Pixels; Track 2 tackles Artificial Intelligence; and Track 3 examines Blockchain in media applications. However, as the day progresses these topics give way to file workflows and displays.

Over the three days of the technical conference this progression of themes will continue with a variety of topics, including: IP, cloud, encoding, image quality, OTT, storage, innovating people, virtual reality, “The Future of Time,” image acquisition and “The Future of Light.”

“We’ve tried to block them out [the conference tracks] so that everyone hopefully can see what they want without too much overlap of topics,” says Kudrle.

Some of the papers include “What are the ‘killer apps’ for HDR? Analysis of SDR assets to predict the potential of HDR;” “The Automated AI Workflow is here…if you know where to look;” “Robust, Repeatable and Interoperable Workflows through IMF Output Profile List;” and “New Standards for Immersive Storytelling through Light Field displays.”

The SMPTE technical conference often provides a forum where emerging technologies can be examined and discussed. At this year’s event, one such topic is blockchain in media applications. Mark Zorn, senior manager of production and content security at HBO USA, who chairs the security track, says the conference will offer papers about blockchain use cases “rather than a nebulous explanation of what it can do.”


As in years past, the SMPTE annual gathering kicks off the day before the technical conference, on Oct. 22, with the SMPTE 2018 Symposium.

Chaired by Michael Zink, vice president of technology at Warner Bros., this year’s symposium is devoted to the immersive entertainment experience that can be created for vehicles. “There is a great opportunity to create compelling immersive experiences and entertainment opportunities in vehicles,” he says.

While autonomous cars are still several years away, Zink is intrigued by the possibilities for entertainment in vehicles. “If you think about it from the autonomous driving perspective, for the first time ever you have people who are a captive audience—people who used to be occupied with driving and they no longer are,” he says.

The symposium, “Driving the Entertainment Revolution: Autonomous Cars, Machine Intelligence and Mixed Reality,” will kick off with a keynote from Douglas Davis, senior vice president at Intel’s Automated Driving Group. During his “Safety Today for the Autonomous Tomorrow,” keynote, Davis is expected to talk about the potential for autonomous vehicles to save lives by reducing or eliminating human error on the road as well as the new passenger economy autonomous vehicles will make possible.

Following the keynote, there will be several presentations focusing on content applications. A representative from FrameStore VR Studio will discuss the studio’s “Field Trip To Mars” group VR experience, according to Zink. DMW Design and Warner Bros. will also present.

The rest of the day will explore the various technologies needed to enable entertainment experiences for autonomous vehicles. Presentations will include talks by LG Electronics, glass manufacturer Corning, Sony and Panasonic. There will also be presentations on 5G as a delivery medium for entertainment to vehicles and biometric sensors to determine the emotional state of people in cars, says Zink.


On the exhibition side of the ledger, SMPTE is anticipating the number of exhibitors to exceed the 2017 total, according to SMPTE spokesperson Aimee Ricca. At press time, organizations are exhibiting across 92 booth spaces, as some exhibitors have reserved more than one defined space to form a larger footprint.

Special events also play an important role at the gathering. SMPTE and the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) will present the Women in Technology Luncheon Oct. 22.

The next day will see three special events, including the SMPTE Fellows Luncheon, the annual general membership meeting and the Oktoberfest reception. Following the program day on Oct. 24, SMPTE will offer a bit of “tech-or-treat” fun with its Spooktacular reception, and on Oct. 25 it will hold its annual awards gala.

This year, Charles Steinberg, who led both Ampex and Sony, will be recognized with Honorary Membership, the society’s highest accolade. Many others will be recognized with various honors, including Craig Todd with the Progress Medal and Robert Neuhauser with the Camera Origination and Imaging Medal.

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A continuing priority of the SMPTE gathering is renewal and replenishment with a special focus on attracting younger professionals to the industry. Once again, SMPTE will work with HPA on its Young Entertainment Professionals mentorship program.

The conference also will offer sessions aimed at helping seasoned members identify steps they can take in their organizations to make their workplaces more inclusive and welcoming. “Innovating People: Management, Culture and Inclusion,” chaired by John McCoskey of Eagle Hill Consulting and Kylee Peña of Netflix and Blue Collar Post Collective, will examine how to address the needs of today’s workforce by better understanding the roles culture, core values and inclusivity play in a modern work environment.

“We want to talk to our membership as it is right now about what they can do to change culture and management style to encourage inclusion” says Ricca, adding that doing so will help to attract younger technology professionals to the industry.

To register for the event, visit

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.