Driven by new technology, there are some big changes coming in entertainment, though by all accounts, the massive exhibition at this year’s NAB Show was nevertheless quieter in comparison with recent years.
One booth that attracted many from the Hollywood crowd was that of Sony, where delegates — whether that be tech leaders or cinematographers — took a keen interest in the images produced by Sony’s Crystal LED video wall, which was featured in the center of the booth in an 8K x 4K (and 32 ft. x 18 ft.) configuration.
Sony, as well as Samsung, have both proposed their LED panels, offering modular configurations, as a replacement to cinema projection. It’s a radical concept when one considers that cinema projection has been around since the birth of the art form. There are still plenty of issues to address, meanwhile, from how to handle sound to the cost.
Expect Sony and Samsung to make more noise about these displays in less than two weeks at the theater owners confab CinemaCon.
Many segments of Hollywood are also showing interest in artificial intelligence and the wider area of machine learning, across production and postproduction, from script analysis and budgets to versioning, and from editing to visual effects and animation. Filmmakers need to do their homework, though, as the term “AI” is being used in different ways and as such can be an ambiguous term.
Norman Hollyn, editor (Heathers) and professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, argued that AI and machine learning can be used to make editors more efficient by organizing their footage. “AI is already proving very good at image recognition,” he said, adding that includes the ability to identify sentiments and emotions in faces (i.e. a smile). “Now we are getting to something I care about [as an editor] — how the character feels.”
In line with Hollyn’s wish list, AWS Elemental chief marketing officer Keith Wymbs noted as an example that AWS now offers pay-as-you-go media services including voice and image recognition, and even language translation services, all using machine learning.
For cinematographers, a wider range of large-format digital cameras were on display this year, including Sony’s new top-of-the-line Venice; Red’s Weapon with its Monstro sensor; and Arri’s recently announced Alexa LF large-format system.
During the week, the broadcast industry touted the Next Gen TV standard (known as ATSC 3.0) that was recently approved by the FCC. This offers broadcasters options including 4K resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), mobility and new emergency services. Broadcasters are afforded these capabilities as voluntary options, and it remains to be seen which will be the most embraced. The first ATSC 3.0-capable TVs are not expected to launch in the U.S. until late 2019, according to the NAB.
Globally, the world’s broadcasters are going in various directions. For instance, Japan’s NHK plans to launch 8K broadcasting in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (and it was evident that there was an increased amount of 8K technology available at this year’s NAB Show).
Without a 4K HDR broadcast standard in the U.K., the BBC is looking to its iPlayer to offer new options. “We see iPlayer as our primary output for new technology,” said BBC tech leader Andy Quested, pointing out as an example that a 4K HDR version of BBC’s Blue Planet II was released on iPlayer.
Compared with moving to higher resolutions, there still seems to be much more interest in delivering HDR, which was also widely represented at the NAB exhibition. Streaming services such as Netflix already offer HDR, as well as 4K, as an option. On the cinema side of the equation, studios more frequently announce HDR versions of their films than they discuss 4K.
There are currently multiple HDR formats in the market, and to sidestep a potential format war, standardization efforts are underway. In fact, representatives of the International Telecommunication Union’s effort will meet in Geneva next week to continue its HDR work.
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