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ETC’s Adaptive Production Project Subcommittees

The Adaptive Production project directed by Seth Levenson at ETC formed subcommittee-style working groups for specialized focuses within the field of adaptive production. Testing implementation and feasibility of specialized projects, these groups, who meet regularly, are comprised of ETC’s current member companies and industry leaders.

The Blockchain working group, co-chaired by Randy Zhang, senior solutions architect at Cisco, investigates potential applications of blockchain in M&E. Specific deliverables include where blockchain is applicable, where blockchain may be applicable with new technology, and where it is not applicable at all. Upcoming projects include crew/contractor identity, “two-factor timecards” (using blockchain for on set/location crew), and supply chain auditing.

Co-chaired by SVP of Archiving at Paramount Pictures, Andrea Kalas, the Archiving working group researches new technologies in the realm of improving long-term storage of M&E assets. This working group will develop the best practices for cloud preservation through defining “fixity” in the cloud, studying self-healing (dealing with a failed health check), and providing transparency to users by requiring reporting from cloud providers. Future projects will look at  DNA/Glass storage as well as best practices for what should be archived.

The Cloud Platforms group has created the VFX Standards Subcommittee, which is chaired by Horst Sarubin, director of production technology at Universal Pictures.  This subcommittee is working on the best practices and delivery standards for VFX including: file naming conventions, asset interoperability, I/O standards, metadata fidelity, and verbal buy-in from the industry. The parent working group explores the next generation of cloud implementations for production and distribution. Future projects include metadata across the production workflow (AI for data normalization), cloud service abstraction (with a focus on storage and file management), and single-source file access (using URLs rather than files as part of the production workflow).

Studio Technology Leaders Dinner 2018

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC held it’s 7th annual Studio Technology Leaders Dinner at USC’s Town & Gown on June 26, 2018. Presented by Western Digital and co-sponsored by Equinix and Salesforce Analytics, this event celebrated the ETC’s 25th anniversary and honored Elizabeth M. Daley, Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts as this year’s Bob Lambert Award recipient.

ETC’s Executive Director and CEO Ken Williams kicked off the night by noting the role the ETC has played as neutral grounds to explore trends and venture into advanced technologies in the past quarter-century. Williams also acknowledged sponsors as a driving force in enabling the production of new industry solutions and technologies. After describing a few of the ETC’s current initiatives including immersive media and adaptive production, Williams also honored CAO Edie Meadows, who has been with ETC virtually since its establishment.

We also had a few words from our sponsors. Senior Director of Strategic Markets & Alliances at Western Digital Stefaan Vervaet reported development of industry workflows and growth in storage sales, then extended an invitation to collaborate with the company on machine learning and videography innovation. Representatives from supporting sponsors Equinix and Salesforce also spoke during the evening. Equinix senior director of sales Jeff Bender expressed his company’s pride in sponsoring the work being done at the ETC, and also noted the company’s 20th anniversary: “Today, we’re the global leader, operating over 200 sites around the world, with 90 percent of Internet traffic going through Equinix.” Salesforce’s Amruta Moktali reported the company’s role in increased employment opportunities as well as the deliverance of a more personalized customer experience.

This year’s Bob Lambert Technology Leadership Award recipient was Elizabeth M. Daley, Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. With a tenure of 27 years, Daley has been working at SCA since before ETC’s inception. Recognized for empowering new generations of filmmakers at the University, Daley pushed for the access to new technologies that brought SCA’s reputation to where it is today. In accepting the award, Daley firmly highlighted the importance of technologists and creators to come together. “It’s the most exciting time I can imagine in this industry,” she concluded.

We also welcomed a panel of professionals from various reaches of the industry including 20th Century Fox CTO Hanno Basse, Universal Pictures Creative Technologies VP Annie Chang, Marvel Studios Head of Technologies Eddie Drake, Sony Pictures Entertainment CTO Don Eklund, Paramount Pictures EVP Anthony Guarino, and Warner Bros. Technology EVP Justin Herz. The panel explored innovations surrounding modern technology, including the recycling of digital assets, the development of cloud workflows, the potential of big data, the future of artificial intelligence, and the disintermediation of distribution channels.

ETC’s next Studio Technology Leaders Dinner will be held on June 26, 2019 (Invitation only).

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Data & Analytics Project

The Storytelling Cipher: Mapping Precise Story and Character Mechanics to Box Office Returns

Our Data & Analytics Project held “The Storytelling Cipher: Mapping Stories & Characters to Box Office Revenue” Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

This study leverages the Dramatic taxonomy of film narrative to infer which scene-level character and story attributes generate more box office returns, by genre. We are extending this study to ads and movie trailers.

The project researchers used machine learning to map 70+ story attributes for 300 films to their box office returns to extract which story mechanics or character features in film generated the most revenue. This was the first time granular story and character mechanics have been used to predict box office returns, which opens up many avenues to make more data-driven creative and development decisions throughout the industry.

What’s a good story? The question has been hanging without a scientific answer since the dawn of man. It seems that a story’s lack of clear mathematical structure and universal taxonomy would relegate such classification of stories to the qualitative – and highly subjective- empire of critics and … people.

Until now.

The event presented results from the research, discussed applications for the development and creative process, and outlined next steps.

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