Diversity to Take Many Forms At SMPTE 2017

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF.—If the central theme of last year’s SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition was about celebrating the centennial of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, this year’s has to be about positioning the society—in terms of its technical focus and the people it seeks to attract—for a future of rapid and constant change in media technology.

Organizers of the SMPTE 2017 Annual and Exhibition, Oct. 23-26 in Hollywood, Calif., have made a concerted effort to create an event that offers a new level of diversity, not simply in the age, race and gender of its presenters, conference chairs and attendees, but also in the exhibitors its attracting and the subjects it will tackle, according to SMPTE Fellow Michelle Munson, who along with Yvonne Thomas of Arvato Systems, is co-chairing the SMPTE 2017 Symposium, which kicks off Oct. 23.

Matthew Goldman, senior vice president of technology at Ericsson and SMPTE president, echoes Munson’s observation.

“This is our pre-eminent conference for imparting knowledge,” he says. “One of the things we have tried to do—especially with the symposium—is to make it a much more open topic area, the hot topic of the day.”


Michelle Munson

At this year’s symposium that hot topic will be artificial and machine learning in media. “If you’ve been wondering about the technical underpinnings and the state of the art in machine learning and AI, the symposium represents the capstone of some of the best work in terms of what services you can exploit,” says Munson.

The day will begin with a keynote from Jeffrey Kember, technical director of media in the Office of the CTO at Google, and will be followed by papers exploring AI and machine learning applications for media workflows. The afternoon will examine what machine learning is, characteristics of ML algorithms and applications in media, she says.

Munson herself will present on work she has been doing in ML aimed at creating new optimized algorithms for resource location in media storage and location distribution.

Martin Wahl, principal program manager for Microsoft’s Azure Media Services, will examine a new video indexing service from Azure, and Konstantin Wilms, principal solutions architect at Amazon Web Services will discuss content intelligence on AWS.

Yvonne Thomas

The day will wrap up with a panel on the ethics of and policy issues involved with the rapid advances taking place in AI and ML, says Munson.


The SMPTE Technical Conference, which kicks off Oct. 24, also will address emerging technical issues, but ones that are a little closer to present day concerns, such as the newly approved SMPTE ST 2110-10, -20 and -30 standard for professional media.

“There will be some great papers about 2110 and IP in media,” said Thomas Edwards, vice president of engineering and development at Fox, and one of three conference co-chairs.

Those include a report from the North American Broadcaster Association on media over IP; a look at the “superpower” of the new SMPTE ST 2110 standard by Leigh Whitcomb, principal engineer at Imagine Communications; a paper on synchronization and timing issues related to the new standard by Evertz solutions architect Paul Briscoe; and an examination of control, throughput and latency in multicast-based IP routing system by John Mailhot, Imagine Communications system architect for IP convergence, according to Edwards.

There will be much more to the conference than IP, however, says Sara Kudrle, product marketing manager for playout at Imagine Communications and conference co-chair.

“We are covering topics from mentoring and change management [to] AI, cinema, VR, AR, UHD, IP, 8K, ATSC 3.0, cloud, content management [and] quality monitoring,” she said.

Pete Putman, president of ROAM Consulting, will discuss what he calls the UHD “speed bump,” which describes the challenge of interfacing higher and higher data rates with consumer displays.

Rodney Grubbs of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Sandy George of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) will discuss the challenges and solutions to broadcasting live UHD content from the International Space Station.

Next-gen TV will come under the tech conference microscope with papers on acquisition and processing, HDR production using Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), HDR encoding parameters for streaming, 8K camera systems, and captioning and subtitling for social media.

However, there will be more to the conference this year than technology, according to Kudrle.

“There is a whole section dedicated to people, managing people, transition and change and managing diversity in the industry,” she said.

The focus on diversity is “really important,” especially because in broadcast engineering and digital cinema it’s “often been a challenge,” said Edwards.

A paper to be presented by Kylee Pena, workflow supervisor at Bling Digital and president of Blue Collar Post Collective in Los Angeles, will examine why diversity programs often fail and how to fix them.


There’s more to the SMPTE event than technical papers, however. “This is not just a papers’ conference,” says Goldman. “It’s also about the exhibitors.” As of Sept. 25, 100 companies have agreed to exhibit at the event, a high for the past decade, he adds. “We are at maximum capacity,” Goldman said.

Beyond the technical presentations and exhibition, this year’s conference will offer multiple opportunities to socialize and network.

HPA Women in Post and SMPTE will present the Women in Technology Luncheon, Oct. 23. The theme will be changing the status qu gender bias in media and entertainment. The luncheon will feature a speech by Madeline Di Nonno, executive director of the Geena Davis Institute.

That night, budding student filmmakers will present their work at the SMPTE-HPA Student Film Festival. The screening will take place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.

The SMPTE 2017 Fellows Luncheon is scheduled for Oct. 24 and the SMPTE Annual Membership Meeting will also take place Oct. 24 at 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. in the Ray Dolby Exhibit Hall. The Oktoberfest Reception will be in the Centennial Exhibit Hall upstairs from the from 6 to 8 p.m.

The following evening SMPTE will hold its Trick-or-Treat Spooktacular Cocktail Reception from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ray Dolby Exhibit Hall.

The conference social calendar will wrap up Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. with the SMPTE Annual Awards Gala followed by an after party.

As the evening celebration begins to fade away, SMPTE will say goodbye to the Loews Hollywood Hotel as the venue for its annual event. The 2018 SMPTE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition will be held at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles.

“We are busting at the seams, growing and growing,” Goldman said. “As much as we like this venue, we are turning away too many people who would like to exhibit. That’s why we will be moving.”

For more information, visit smpte.org.

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.