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HPA Tech Retreat Readies for Brave New World

Every year, the HPA Tech Retreat attracts some of the top minds in film and television worldwide.

Every year, the HPA Tech Retreat attracts some of the top minds in film and television worldwide.

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF.—The HPA Tech Retreat turns 25 this year, though there is an asterisk or two when it comes to nailing down its age. The industry-gathering event started in 1995 with the International Teleproduction Society serving as the headlining sponsor until 2001, when the Hollywood Professional Association took up the mantle. There was also a missed year following a schedule change.

However it arrived, the 2020 HPA Tech Retreat rolls along once again in the Palm Springs desert, Feb. 17–20, and there appears to be no quarter-life crisis, even as the broadcast industry heads into a new decade and is on the edge of revolutionary changes.

AN ACCELERATING WORLD

It’s not just one thing about the industry that is currently evolving; all of the new technology designed to move broadcasting forward is on its way or already here and the Tech Retreat will try to address the challenges of technology adoption in its kick-off session, TR-X.

Titled “Stop the Technology World, I Want to Get Off!,” produced by Mark Chiolis, director of business development, Mobile TV Group, and Craig German, head of post management of series at Amazon Studios, the half-day session taking place on Monday, Feb. 17, takes a close examination at some of the most disruptive changes and how it will directly impact industry practices.

The session will be bookended with what Chiolis describes as “two different viewpoints” on just where the future is going from Mark Turner of MovieLabs and Josh Stinehour of Devoncroft. In between, it will offer specific looks at topics such as video over IP, the introduction of betting (and how it could gamify entertainment), artificial intelligence, augmented reality and a session from NASA’s Rodney Grubbs, who will explain how the agency plans to have UHD imaging live from the Moon by 2024.

With things changing so fast, Chiolis and German said they took a personal approach to planning this TR-X program, the third one they’ve organized.

“We build it for us and then we share it with the rest of the audience,” Chiolis said. “Because it’s really of interest to us, and we’re part of the larger media and entertainment industry over multiple aspects of it, we believe that by doing that it’s going to be of interest to everybody and everybody is going to benefit; everybody is going to participate.”

THE NEXTGEN ASPECT

While there are many elements pushing broadcast forward, likely nothing is as important in 2020 than the planned launch of NextGen TV, which will be a huge point of focus during the Broadcasters Panel on Wednesday.

“We’ve been talking about the coming of ATSC 3.0 on the panel over the last decade,” said Matthew Goldman, senior vice president of technology at MediaKind and the producer of the Broadcasters Panel. “And this year, wham, we’re going to air. This is the big, big launch this year.”

Despite the initial plans regarding NextGen TV from those in the industry—ATSC has said it intends to rollout to at least 40 markets by the end of the year, and TV manufacturers have announced that they are developing up to 20 TV models that will be able to receive NextGen TV (see cover story)—one of the most interesting aspects Goldman intends to dive into is the fact that, unlike the switch from analog to digital, transitioning to ATSC 3.0 will be voluntary. “How successful is it going to be given that it’s all voluntary?” he mused.

Other broadcast issues will also be on the table, including the rise of OTT, bandwidth, next-generation audio and 8K, with a number of industry experts participating as panelists, including Del Parks, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s senior vice president and CTO, Richard Friedel, executive vice president of engineering, operations and technology at Fox Television Stations Group and NAB’s Skip Pizzi.

MAKING MOVIES

HPA program maestro Mark Schubin

HPA program maestro Mark Schubin

Those are just a taste of what the 2020 HPA Tech Retreat has planned for its attendees from the schedule organized by HPA “program maestro” Mark Schubin.

Some of the other highlights include the full-day Supersession on Tuesday, “HPA Makes a Movie.” In a single day, HPA will shoot, edit and show a short-film with the help of HPA Engineering Award winners and a number of Hollywood professionals to highlight new techniques and technology.

There will also be a heavy focus on cloud technology at this year’s show, which Schubin said was the most submitted topic with HPA’s open call for presentations. As a result, most of the sessions on Thursday morning will explain how the cloud impacts things like production, security and distribution.

The jam-packed four-day slate is a testament of how the HPA Tech Retreat has grown over the years.

“The first one that I attended, which I was not in charge of but I did some presentations at, we had about 60 people and it was maybe 30% tech stuff and 60% what was considered important at the time, like team-building exercises,” said Schubin. It has since turned into a massive gathering featuring the latest technology, he said.

But even after all these years, Schubin believes it has stayed true to what has been its biggest success. “The one thing that we’ve always had since the very beginning is what I say is the unofficial motto of the Tech Retreat: Someone will be there who knows the answer, no matter what your question is.”

The 2020 HPA Tech Retreat takes place from Feb. 17–20 at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif. For more information, visit hpaonline.com.