The SMPTE 2018 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition provides an opportunity to take a deep dive into the latest techniques and technologies shaping the media and entertainment industry, writes Aimée Ricca

This year’s event will focus on topics ranging from enhanced images, improved sound, and immersive storytelling to artificial intelligence and machine learning, to name just a few, and provides attendees with unique insights into what the future might hold.

Aimée Ricca

Aimée Ricca

A record number of conference sessions on the SMPTE 2018 programme will cover a myriad of topics, plus additional unique events promise to make this year’s conference even more engaging.

Thanks to the dynamic nature of the industry and growing interest in the conference, SMPTE 2018 will be held at a new and more expansive location, The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles.

From start to finish, day and night, the conference will feature more sessions and more opportunities for attendees to explore technology exhibits, network with other industry professionals, and to sit down with colleagues for food, drink, enlightenment, and entertainment.

Even before SMPTE 2018 gets rolling, the daylong SMPTE 2018 Symposium will shift into gear the day proceeding the start of the technical conference. This year’s Symposium is titled Driving the Entertainment Revolution: Autonomous Cars, Machine Intelligence, and Mixed Reality.

Chaired by Michael Zink, Vice President of Technology at Warner Bros., the Symposium will provide attendees with a fresh perspective on the future of entertainment experiences. Sessions will explore the creation of the ultimate immersive experience, trends within the marketplace, and the latest advances in in-car technology and entertainment, including new developments in autonomous driving, glass and display technologies, and connectivity.

Intel Corporation Automated Driving Group Senior Vice President Douglas Davis will present the Symposium keynote, “Safety Today for the Autonomous Tomorrow,” during which he will discuss the potential of autonomous vehicles in saving lives by reducing or eliminating human error on the roads. He will also consider how consumers’ embrace of autonomous vehicles may potentially provide a massive new passenger economy and, in turn, make an impact on a variety of industries. The day’s events will conclude with the first ever Luau Reception.

The next day, SMPTE 2018 will begin with a keynote presentation by Julina Tatlock, an Emmy Award-nominated writer-producer, VR director, and social TV specialist whose work in transmedia and multiplatform content creation is transforming movies and broadcast. Tatlock specialises in producing and directing VR, creating social media and web-based narrative-games for films and television properties, and collaborating with developers on integrating new tech IP into popular interactive stories. She will speak about creating and producing entertainment capable of leveraging future technologies, addressing questions such as how best to evaluate what might be the next popular entertainment technology and platform and how to write, direct, and build for technology and platforms that don’t yet exist.

The SMPTE 2018 technical conference program committee reviewed a record number of paper proposals and put together a program that includes 78 paper presentations. In a first for the SMPTE technical conference, papers will be presented in up to three concurrent sessions, rather than just two, spread over three days.

Presentations will address topics including professional media networking over internet protocol (IP); Better Pixels Projects; managing complex, seemingly unmanageable workflows; evaluating image quality for brighter displays, immersive visual experiences and high-dynamic-range (HDR); artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms; the evolution of streaming services; the cloud; the metamorphosis of today’s encoding technologies; advances in display technologies; and taming metadata by harnessing the power of media asset management (MAM).

Special attention will be given this year to the role of AI in the media and entertainment industry. The three-part session titled Artificial Intelligence will examine whether AI applies to more than automation in the industry. Chaired by Yvonne Thomas of Arvato Systems, the session will explain why AI algorithms will become a must for any content producer and provider and an integrated component in system landscapes. Presentations will offer practical examples of AI’s use in the media industry and will show how to create and develop machine-learning practices to ensure the highest-quality metadata. Presenters will include Ray Thompson of Avid, Thomas Gunkel of Skyline Communications, and Christopher Witmayer of NASCAR.

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Blockchain has become a buzzword across many industries, and experts at SMPTE 2018 will discuss it in the context of the media and entertainment industry. Chaired by Mark Zorn of HBO USA, two companion sessions — Will Blockchain Solve All Our Problems in M&E? and Exploring Security and Blockchain in New Media Space — will provide use cases exploring whether there is a practical use for blockchain in media and entertainment and if operators can embed security technologies that will protect against new threats. Presenters will include Leigh Whitcomb of Imagine Communications, Shruti Tripathi of Techtel, and Eric Diehl of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The impact of HDR, Ultra HDTV, and 360-degree video formats on storage, production, and displays will be another key theme during the conference. The session Living in a Virtual World, chaired by Siegfried Foessel of Fraunhofer IIS, will highlight observed user behavior in omnidirectional videos and offer guidance for immersive virtual-world experiences.

Storage: From Production to Archiving, chaired by Massimiliano Gasparri of elev8+ Inc. (formerly eCare Manage), will present case studies, survey results, trends, and insights on the future of digital storage for the entertainment industry. Presenters will include Thomas Coughlin of Coughlin Associates and Brian Campanotti of

Advances in Display Technology, a session chaired by Peter H. Putnam of ROAM Consulting LLC, will explore new ways to format and show electronic images in the home and at the cinema, and perhaps even in viewers’ heads. Presenters will include Trevor Canham of RIT and Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Scott Daly of Dolby Laboratories, and SMPTE Past President Peter Ludé of Mission Rock Digital.

Of course, the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards for professional media over managed IP networks will be a focus of discussion at SMPTE 2018. Thomas Edwards of Fox Networks Engineering and Operations and SMPTE Finance Vice President Hans Hoffmann, who is also of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), will chair a four-part session on IP.

We are really looking forward to seeing everyone at SMPTE 2018. The focus on today’s leading-edge M&E technologies may well make it SMPTE’s best conference yet.

-Aimée Ricca is Marketing and Communications Lead at the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers