Annual tech conference and exhibition to emphasize networking, quality over quantity.

LOS ANGELES—Some rather significant changes are planned for this year’s edition of the SMPTE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Oct. 21-24.

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Returning to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles, the event has been “re-imagined,” in the words of the society, promising several shakeups that will be noticeable to anyone who has recently attended the gathering.

For example, the conference will see the presentation of far fewer technical papers –40 vs. more than 70 last year—chosen via a new vetting process set up to emphasize quality over quantity. There also will be tighter integration between the conference venue and the exhibit area; daily primers on technical topics to help early career professionals or those looking to tackle new subject matter; more networking opportunities; and extended lunch breaks with “TED”-like talks to enrich attendees’ experiences.

SMPTE has made these and other tweaks to ensure that this year’s event is “more exciting than in the past” and one that “attendees will remember,” says Sara Kudrle, SMPTE vice president of education and newly named director of marketing at PESA, who along with Thomas Edwards, vice president of engineering & development at Walt Disney Television, is co-chairing this year’s conference.

SAYONARA SMPTE SYMPOSIUM

Gone is the SMPTE Symposium, a one-day event preceding the official conference opening devoted to technologies on the not-too-distant horizon that promise to have a major impact on the M&E industry.

Sara Kudrle, SMPTE vice president of education

Sara Kudrle, SMPTE vice president of education

In its place, SMPTE will open the conference on Monday, Oct. 21, with sessions on machine learning and AI in content creation and advancements in compression techniques as well as two special new features: hands-on training using AWS cloud services and applications put on by Amazon and an AES-organized workshop with two 90-minute sessions.

“The Nuts and Bolts of Designing Today’s Movie Soundtracks” and “The Nuts and Bolts of Designing the Cinema/Dubbing Stage Sound System For Today’s Soundtracks” are being organized by Brian Vessa, executive director of audio mastering, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and founding chair of TC-25CSS (cinema sound systems).

The former session will explore the ways sound designers deliver the audio that helps to make real a director’s vision for a movie, while the latter will examine the design parameters theater and sound stage audio systems must meet so that their sound production is true to modern, digital soundtracks.

Monday will also see the first of three daily sessions as part of the new “Early Career Track.” “The first day [of the Early Career Track] will offer information on maximizing your career opportunities through networking and building relationships,” says Joel Welch, SMPTE director of education.

One panel presentation put on by professionals in early and mid-career positions will look at what they did to advance their careers, he adds.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Early Career Track will present tutorial sessions offering a primer on technical topics to be covered in papers presented later in the day. The goal is to offer industry newcomers and established professionals wanting to learn about something outside their normal sphere a fundamental understanding of a topic before taking the deep dive during the papers presentation.

“These sessions will kind of ‘level the playing field,’ and help people who are new to a topic to feel more comfortable,” says Kudrle.

TECHNICAL PAPERS AND EXHIBITS

Over the first three days of the events, 40 technical papers will be presented on topics including:

• Putting SMPTE ST 2110 into practice
• Using the new IP standard in live productions
• Security strategies for PTP networks
• Security for discovery and connection management of ST 2110 media devices
• Securing distributed content creation
• Cinema processing and projection spaces
• 8K, 4K, UHD, HDR and high frame rates
• Perceptual color quality metrics
• New production workflows, and
• Access and the global community of technology

Unlike last year, there will only be two concurrent conference tracks, not three. “With the three tracks running simultaneously, it was too hard to decide which to attend at times,” says Kudrle. “That was too much, and we believe it is just better to focus on two tracks.”

While limiting the number of conference tracks to two leaves fewer time slots for papers, it also is affecting the exhibition portion of the gathering. Space at the Westin Bonaventure devoted last year to a conference track is this year being allocated to exhibits, thus more tightly integrating the exhibition into the overall event.

The event’s 85 exhibitors (as of this writing) will be moved from the lowest level of the hotel (where they were last year) to immediately adjacent to where papers will be presented. Some will even be in the lobby outside the conference rooms.

NETWORKING AND SOCIALIZING

The SMPTE conference has always offered a great opportunity for attendees to socialize and advance personal and professional relationships. This year, SMPTE is taking networking opportunities to a new level with a variety of special events, such as the “Opening Night BBQ and SMPTE Jam,” pop-up happy hours, and extended two-hour rooftop buffet lunches.

The event’s 85 exhibitors (as of this writing) will be immediately adjacent to where papers will be presented. Some exhibits will also be in the lobby outside the conference rooms.

The event’s 85 exhibitors (as of this writing) will be immediately adjacent to where papers will be presented. Some exhibits will also be in the lobby outside the conference rooms.

Besides opportunities to network during those lunches, SMPTE is also offering a new track that Welch likens to “TED Talks.” Dubbed “SMPTE Storytellers,” two speakers will each take about 10 to 15 minutes to relay a story, personal or technical, that Welch hopes will prove to be “engaging, motivating and inspiring.”

As in years past, the conference also will host the HPA & SMPTE Women in Technology Luncheon and the annual Awards Gala, which will see a record number of women receiving awards from the society, as well as the rooftop after party.

THE NEXT FRONTIER

Thursday is “Space Day” at the SMPTE gathering, and in honor of the 50th anniversary of man setting foot on the moon, SMPTE will host Todd Douglas Miller, producer and director of “Apollo 11,” according to Kudrle.

While the anniversary planted the seed for Space Day, says Welch, it was the response Miller received to his keynote during the Future Cinema Conference at the 2019 NAB Show that cemented the decision to devote a day to space.

Beyond Miller’s discussion of the documentary, the day will offer attendees a diverse set of sessions devoted to space and media.

“It’s all about imaging from space,” says Welch. One session will examine restoring historical space mission film. Another will explore what is required to capture images from the moon, Mars and even deep space missions.

“Then we are going to bring it back home to Earth,” he says. “We’ve invited some folks to tell us what it takes to create believable sights and sounds for space travel right here on earth, but in a simulated environment.”

While the re-imagining of SMPTE’s marquee event reflects the desire of those in leadership positons to make the gathering exciting and memorable, it also demonstrates a growing familiarity with the Westin Bonaventure as a venue.

“I think this year, we are coming at it [the event] with a lot more knowledge and experience of how to work within this space and how to make it as interesting, entertaining and compelling as possible in the space we have,” says Kudrle.

To register for the event, visit www.smpte.org.