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SMPTE 2012 Annual Technical Conference To Showcase Foundational Scientific, Technology, Standards Advances For Digital Media Ecosystem

Calling it one of the strongest class of submissions in recent history, the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE), the worldwide leader in motion-imaging standards and education for the media, entertainment, communications, and technology industries, today previewed the presentation lineup for the SMPTE 2012 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition. From A/V-specific improvements in IP-based workflows and smart cloud migration strategies to critical advances in digital cinema, post production, online captioning, and surround-sound audio, they underscore the key scientific, technology, and standards efforts poised to fundamentally advance the state of today’s digital media ecosystem.

See more information, plus the link to register for the conference, here: www.smpte2012.org

Crisis slams Hollywood in Southern Europe: 3D fires up Germany; local fare boosts France, U.K.

[Chicago Tribune / Variety]

Hollywood may be buoyant in Germany and solid in France — but it’s hurting in southern Europe.

Drawing a distinct north-south divide, full year 2011 figures for most of Europe’s Big Five countries raise a clear question: Are U.S. 3D films, whose premium ticket prices are driving box office hikes in the north of the continent, too costly for cash-cautious families in the south?

German B.O. grew 3.8% in 2011 to $1.17 billion, thanks largely to 3D perfs of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ ($74.1 million) and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”($57 million), plus German comedy hit “Kokowaah” ($39.3 million). Eight out of Germany’s top 10 films were Hollywood fare.

France smashed all-time records in 2011. Tix sales rose 4.2% to 216 million, repping around $1.9 billion.

Goosed by a 2.5% rise in value added tax, 2011 UK BO is nearly 4% up on 2010 at around £1.1 billion ($1.7 billion).

In France and U.K., local fare — French comedies “Intouchables” ($138.7 million) and “Nothing to Declare” ($67 million); in Blighty “The Inbetweeners” ($73.4 million), “The King’s Speech” ($71.7 million) and U.K.-U.S. hybrid “Hallows, Part 2″ ($118.6 million) — largely explain B.O. spikes.

“U.K. cinema has had a really buoyant year,” said Film Distributors’ Assn. CEO Mark Batey. “Local product last year has just performed out of its skin. U.K. cinemagoing has proved to be resistant to the recession.”

Italy and Spain hardly invite such optimism, with Hollywood losing significant traction.

Italy is tracking for a 10% drop on 2010’s $947 million B.O. — U.S. movie market share has plummeted from 60% to 48% while local pics reached a whopping 40%.

Clunkers in Italy in 2011 included 3D movies “Tintin” ($4.7 million) and “The Lion King” release ($5.1 million).

Total Spanish B.O. fell 2.7% last year as Hollywood perf plunged. Three U.S. blockbusters grossed north of $26 million in 2010, none in 2011.

Driven by 3D pricing, average Spanish tix prices have risen 35% since 2004 to $8.70. This discourages family film attendance, said a source at Spain’s Acec cinema circuit.

Even in Germany, Cinemaxx’s Arne Schmidt said, “The market is already partly flooded with 3D. We had ‘The Smurfs,’ ‘Kung Fu Panda 2,’ ‘Cars 2′ and ‘Rio’ very close together. It was just too much.”

The lesson for 2012? 3D hasn’t morphed from B.O. panacea to poison but it may be proving too pricey for many cash-strapped Europeans.

Read the full story here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/sns-201201051659reedbusivarietynvr1118048144jan05,0,1654298.story

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Studio Technology Leaders Dinner 2017

The Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California held its 2017 Studio Technology Leaders Dinner at NeueHouse in Hollywood. Sponsored by Western Digital, HGST and Equinix, the event honored former Sony Pictures CTO Spencer Stephens with the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership Award. The evening featured a panel of studio execs discussing new directions in film production, and a screening of “Wonder Buffalo,” the third R&D short produced under the auspices of ETC@USC’s Project Cloud to explore and test next-generation production processes. 

“Wonder Buffalo,” a coming-of-age story, was made possible through ETC’s 2016 Technology Award to filmmaker Christine Berg, who wrote the script with Simon Shterenberg.

The duo developed the project at the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project, with the support of Disney/ABC Television Group, Warner Bros., NAGRA Kudelski Group, Technicolor, 8i, Realtra, Equinix, Sony Electronics, Amazon Web Services, the Creative Visions Foundation, The World Building Institute and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. It was also executive produced by Erik Weaver, HGST global director of M&E strategy and market development and former head of ETC’s Project Cloud.

ETC executive director Ken Williams noted that the short tested not only cloud production and post production technologies, but was also processed entirely in HDR, and tested volumetric capture, photogrammetry, ambianic sound and interactivity, via a room-scale virtual reality component. “Wonder Buffalo” was shown at Sundance and invited to SXSW.

Williams (below left) presented the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership award to Spencer Stephens (below right), whose early career involved data communications and photography.
ETC_Williams_Stephens_AwardStephens joined Disney TV Animation in 1997, as the company transitioned from traditional to digital production. He later joined Chris Cookson’s Technology Operations at Warner Bros., ultimately building the 4K production capability for Warner’s Motion Picture Imaging post house, which he then ran. He followed Cookson to Sony Pictures where he became CTO. He’s left Sony, but is not retired.

Walden Pond chief executive Wendy Aylsworth, a previous Bob Lambert Technology Leadership awardee; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment senior vice president Richard Berger; and former Sony Pictures Technology president Chris Cookson all spoke about Stephens’ achievements.

“If I’m in a crisis, I want Spencer by my side,” said Berger. “The scope of his knowledge knows no bounds.”

Stephens thanked Williams, the ETC board and Dean Elizabeth Daley of the USC School of Cinematic Arts for the award, and Cookson for hiring him twice. He also recalled his close connection with Lambert, who recommended him for the Disney job and then introduced him to Cookson.

Last, ETC hosted a panel of studio executives, including 20th Century Fox CTO Hanno Basse, Sony Pictures Entertainment CTO Don Eklund, Paramount Pictures EVP Anthony Guarino, Warner Bros. Technology EVP Justin Herz, Walt Disney Studios CTO Jamie Voris and Universal Pictures CTO Michael Wise. Moderated by Williams, the panel addressed pain points in the production process, significant opportunities opened up by technology, and how studios are handling change.

Panelists described the challenges of handling thousands of VFX shots from multiple cameras with differing resolutions, color spaces and formats, and putting it all together under increasingly tight deadlines. They noted that “Wonder Buffalo” has helped to shine a light on the issues, which also include the sheer size of files and massive number of deliverables. They also identified security as a “huge issue.”

New technologies have produced automated workflows and enhanced global creative collaboration, as well as significantly accelerated real-time rendering. Panelists noted that physical media isn’t going away any time soon, and that consumers are the big winners in an era in which there are so many platforms and distribution is not getting in the way of finding and enjoying content.

They also underlined that the studios have gone through many technology changes over the decades and that their resilience in managing change bodes well for the future, even as viewers redefine entertainment.

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