A Hundred Years of Tech Excellence

As an industry well known for emphasizing the importance of standards, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers has played an enormous role in the development of film, video and audio technology over the past century. In July, the association formally celebrated its 100th anniversary, but the celebrations will continue over the next year, with its Centennial Gala this fall and the release of a commemorative book in time for the 2017 NAB Show. I recently had a chance to talk with Barbara H. Lange, SMPTE’s current executive director about its plans for the fall conference as well as SMPTE’s importance in furthering the development of audio and video technology in today’s fast-paced media environment.

TV TECHNOLOGY:What are your plans for celebrating SMPTE’s 100th?
BARBARA H. LANGE: SMPTE has been celebrating its centennial all year, kicking off with the SMPTE Australia Section’s biennial conference and exhibition in July 2015. Other Sections also have been holding celebratory meetings as well. We are working on several special projects, including a commemorative book that is due to publish in April 2017 and oral history interviews. We’ve also reenergized our documentary project by partnering with 3Roads Communications to produce a project that appeals to both broadcast and cinema. All of this leads to a special evening, the Centennial Gala on Friday, Oct. 28, in Hollywood, where we will all celebrate the founding of this organization and its contribution to the industry as we look to the future.

In 2014, the SMPTE Board of Governors launched a major capital fundraising campaign to align with the Centennial. The goal was to reach $4 million in contributions, which will be used to invest in the Society’s three pillars, membership, education and standards. I am pleased that today, we have received $1.8 million in gifts, many of which are from individuals. We hope to make new donor announcements at the SMPTE 2016 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition in October.

SMPTE members and staff celebrated the organization’s 100th anniversary by ringing the nASdAQ closing bell on July 22.TVT:What are the main technologies that SMPTE is focusing on today?
BHL: Where do we begin? There are so many areas of focus. Some hot button areas include video over IP in the studio, and all aspects of UHD television, including high-dynamic-range, wider color gamut, and higher frame rates. Then there’s immersive audio in cinema. A lot of work is going into standardizing formats such as Interoperable Master Format and network media workflows. We recently published the Archive eXchange Format, which is gaining a lot of traction. SMPTE is hitting many areas in the media ecosystem.

TVT:How is recruiting new members coming along?
BHL: Our membership base is growing and thriving. From 2014 to 2015, we saw an 8 percent growth in individual memberships, which now number just under 7,000 in 60 countries around the world. In 2015 we also doubled our Diamond-level corporate members from 11 to 22.

TVT:How can SMPTE members celebrate in the Centennial events?
BHL: The best way for members to celebrate is with their local Sections, which are each planning events. Of course, we would love to see as many members as possible at the Centennial Gala in Hollywood, Oct. 28. An even better way of celebrating is to become involved with the organization, whether it be on a Standards committee, as a Section Manager or as a program committee participant—it’s all good!

TVT:What will be the big themes at SMPTE 2016 in October?
BHL: It’s difficult to outshine our 100-year anniversary! So that’s the main theme of all our events this year. The SMPTE 2016 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition will continue to cover the breadth and depth of the media landscape. The SMPTE 2016 Symposium will highlight preservation as a theme, and we hope our SMPTE 2016 opening keynote address will also serve to inspire.

TVT:How important is SMPTE’s relationships with other broadcast/media groups such as the NAB?
BHL: SMPTE is all about partnerships, and we enjoy our strong relationships with these organizations and others. For example, we provide special programming for the NAB Show by bringing the Future of Cinema Conference to the audience. This year, that event included a special presentation by Ang Lee, which was very exciting.

It is important that we work closely with these organizations since we all care about a particular bit of the ecosystem, and we need each other to gain more comprehensive oversight of the industry. Plus, as a standards development organization, it is critical that we get input from others to ensure the best quality outcomes.

Along with these groups, I am enthusiastic about the partnership that we have developed with the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA). It is exciting to see how they have progressed since we came together as one organization. The HPA just launched its first Tech Retreat outside Palm Springs with a successful event in the UK in July. Other HPA initiatives include a new youth program that encourages mentorship as well as recognition at its annual awards show in November. HPA is also launching its first “user group” that we hope will help feed the standards process with critical input.

TVT:During your time as executive director, what has impressed you the most about the organization?
BHL: It is absolutely the people, without a doubt! From our members to our dedicated volunteers and our incredible staff, this organization thrives on the important work of all our members. It may sound cliché, but it is so true. When I look back and see how our founders built this organization, the vision they had for bringing order to a new industry, I feel responsible for carrying that legacy into the next century. And I am grateful to have the generous support and spirit of so many others with me.

Tom Butts

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.