Skip to main content

UNDER TWO FEET OF SNOW, IS WHERE—Despite the wealth of options for furthering their knowledge these days, broadcast engineers— like so many us—still highly value the experience of sharing information and networking on a personal basis. Even after sitting through the umpteenth PowerPoint presentation, our community still prefers to obtain and share its expertise through personal contact. And there’s no shortage of events to share that knowledge. From the NAB Show to IBC to SMPTE (as well as many NewBay-sponsored summits, natch), our professional development is greatly enhanced when we can meet person to person and demonstrate new products and technologies. And despite the increased options in remote learning, industry conferences are growing in popularity.

Former SMPTE President Wendy Aylsworth and SMPTE Executive Director Barbara Lange prepare for a session at the annual HPA Tech Retreat, an event with a reputation for not taking itself too seriously. The two most recent examples were last fall’s IEEE-Broadcast Technology Society and SMPTE conferences, which saw increased interest and attendance. According to Roswell Clark, director of technical operations at Cox Media Group Tampa and IEEE BTS conference co-chair, the 2015 conference in Orlando was the group’s “most successful” gathering to date.

SMPTE, as well, saw record attendance at its Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition in Hollywood last year. “In so many ways, this was a banner year for the SMPTE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition,” said Paul Chapman, SMPTE Fellow and co-chair of the conference. “We had to add space to accommodate more than 90 exhibitors. That, coupled with the record number of attendees, indicates that the industry is on a real upswing.”

There’s one other conference that is a particular standout: the upcoming HPA Tech Retreat, scheduled for Feb. 15-19 in Indian Wells, Calif., a suburb of Palm Springs. The annual conference, which was first held in 1993, has grown in size and influence over the years and that’s perhaps why SMPTE took notice and initiated a partnership with the group last year.

The retreat, sponsored by the Hollywood Professional Association (a new name that was announced last fall) has gained a reputation for attracting some of the greatest minds in media production, hosting such notables over the years as the inventor of MP3, the head of Visual Space Perception Laboratory at the University of California- Berkeley, as well as experts in imaging from the federal government and the EBU. The networking and learning opportunities for attendees begin at sunrise and last well after sundown, with breakfast roundtables, Mark Schubin’s “Year in Review” and broadcasters panel particularly popular annual events. One might think of the event as an “intelligence boot camp” for media technology experts, but in a good way.

Schubin, who organizes the event, notes that the retreat has been the scene of numerous technology milestones over the years. Sony introduced its HDCAM SR, OLED monitors, and SR Memory at the retreat, while, Panasonic introduced its Varicam and the first 4K camera, a Lockheed Martin prototype, made its debut.

Since it’s held in February every year, the retreat, in some ways, serves as a “technology preview” of the spring NAB Show, but frankly, it doesn’t really matter when the event is held; its influence and impact on attracting the best minds and most advanced technologies are a testament to its longstanding commitment to excellence. It’s also known as the event that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with a reputation for being a bit more offbeat than similar gatherings.

This year’s event will focus on the growing importance of high dynamic range, VR, OLED and ATSC 3.0. And Schubin says he will talk about a new development with regard to frame rate. “High frame rate is an advanced TV feature,” he notes. “But people don’t see in frames. In increasing frame rate, we are trying to solve the problem of low frame rate. But what if we could produce imagery the way our eyes see it; sensitive to change? It turns out a lab in Germany has been working on a sensor that captures moving images the way our eyes work, and we’ll see images from that retinal sensor.”

The HPA Tech Retreat is a showcase of talent and technology. And who wouldn’t mind a week in the California desert in February?

For more information on the event, visit

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 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 (, 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.