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Tech Retreat 2006: Display's the Thing

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF: Content producers are reluctantly acknowledging that their output can now be seen on a wide array of displays. TV guru Mark Schubin easily names a half dozen: DLP-projected digital cinema, broadcasts on an LCD, plasma, or CRT screen--or programs delivered by a DLP projector or soon-to-be released SED (surface-conduction, electron-emitter display). And then there are the mini-screens.

The Hollywood Post Alliance plans to get attendees thinking about the implications of this trend from Day One of its 2006 Technology Retreat here in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Feb. 22-24.

"There are things that the display manufacturers do to accommodate the differences in their displays," Schubin said. "But there are also things that production and post production people need to be aware of."


Color is the most obvious consideration, specifically, how do to translate the intended colors to these various displays. Ron Williams, founder and CEO of The Landmark Group, which specializes in image quality control, will discuss "Color Translations" on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Also on Wednesday, Jed Deame, co-founder and GM of Teranex (a DTV specialty unit of Silicon Optix), will discuss non-color issues: namely, scaling, motion, and interlace characteristics that appear to be problematic.

Although Deame acknowledges that "great strides" have been made in brightness, convergence and uniformity, he concludes that signal processing in the current crop of digital TV displays' "leaves much to be desired."

"Fixed pixel displays are only capable of displaying progressive images that are sized to the native resolution of the display device," Deame said. "In the case of interlaced input, the signal must be de-interlaced prior to scaling," a process he concludes "is wholly inadequate in most modern fixed pixel displays."

Deame will demonstrate the Teranex Mini display processor, which addresses many of these issues, during an HPA Demo night.

Smaller screen displays will be discussed Wednesday afternoon. Brad Medford of SBC Labs will present "Telco TV," and Tom McDonough of Azcar Technologies will discuss "TV for Mobile Devices." Azcar is installing a mobile TV system for Crown Castle Mobile Media.


Sessions on Thursday will highlight cutting edge cameras and digital processing equipment here and abroad.

Stanford University visiting scholar Hiroshi Shimamoto will start the Thursday sessions with a recap of the latest camera research at NHK. He plans to focus on an 8k x 4k Ultra High Definition color video camera that uses 1.25-inch, 8M-pixel CMOS digital imagers and diagonal pixel shifting. It has a limiting resolution of more than 3,200 TV lines.

During Thursday's lunch, Schubin and Larry Thorpe, national marketing exec for Canon USA Broadcast and Communications division, will co-host a "Small Format HD Acquisition Seminar," discussing what the new 1/3-inch format cameras really can and cannot do.

Wrapping up Thursday, Tom DeFanti will present "International Developments in Digital Cinema." Dr. DeFanti splits his time directing the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Chicago and conducting research at the University of California's Calit2 institute.

"These people have come up with stuff that we've only been dreaming of," Schubin said.

DeFanti and his colleague, Laurin Herr of Pacific Interface Inc., have been working for more than a dozen years with NTT Labs, Tokyo University and Keio University to develop 4K digital network services and technologies. The 4K images have roughly 4,000 horizontal pixels, about four times the resolution of HDTV.

He has installed one of the first Sony SRX-R110 4K projectors at Calit2, and his colleagues at Keio are testing Olympus SH-880TM 4K prototype video cameras. The group's international network--CineGrid--successfully transmitted 4K digital video over Gigabit IP optical-fiber networks between San Diego and Tokyo last September.

"We have confidence and proof that [4K] works," DeFanti said. "You can--with a sufficient amount of money--buy it."

Of course, a 4K projector ballparks at about $150,000, including warranties and set up costs. But, he said, there could be offsets to the initial outlay.

"The biggest gamble for filmmaking is how many release prints to make," he said. "Once you get away from the physical and [replicate] electronically, it's easy."

Fully realizing that this ease may also strike fear of piracy in the heart Hollywood, Deane is quick to note that CineGrid is a proving ground for security solutions as well as high-end storage, networks, projector and camera technology.


The retreat agenda will also pay heed to ongoing issues, like lip sync, putting 4:3 formatted content onto a 16:9 screen (and vice versa), and compression standards.

Saving the best for last, Schubin says that on Friday, the last day of the retreat, there will be a "major revelation."

"Bill Miller is going to give a presentation called 'canceling the postage stamp--how to code stuff so that TV sets automatically [display content] at the appropriate aspect ratio," he said.

On Friday morning, Bill Hogan of Clarity Image, which makes a variable speed control for Panasonic's Varicam, will recap the latest developments regarding lip sync. Right after lunch, SMPTE Fellow Peter Symes will moderate a Compression Update panel, which will include a peek at the upcoming H.265 standard.