There is scarcely time to draw breath after IBC and suddenly the SMPTE conference is upon us. But unlike Amsterdam, the sun nearly always shines in Hollywood! There are only two streams for the paper sessions at SMPTE, which is a good thing because it means that the papers committee can be REALLY focused on important topics that will change the way that we work. So what are the 5 reasons that you should have been there?
1. UHDTV – more than just a buzzword
You can tell when a technology is real because the presented papers use the present and past tense, rather than a hypothetical future tense. The opening keynote from Netflix, which was all about UHDTV and IMF delivery, really set the tone.
This year, I was fascinated by a paper from Dolby on the psychophysics of motion display, which explained why large LCD TVs can appear blurry when things move. Another expert explained the physics of UHDTV cameras, and how we’re right on the edge of physics to get high resolution and good motion and low noise all at the same time. Technicolor’s paper on motion blur and perception showed how UHDTV will always have motion blur – unless we can persuade sports teams to walk slowly instead of run. And many more.
All these papers were delivered in the past tense and reflected thousands of hours of experiments to deliver not just more, but better pixels.
2. Myself and Simon Adler… Just kidding – Frame Rates
Simon Adler and I were honored by being allowed to deliver a paper on the practical aspects of Frame Rate conversion and how the operational requirements of today are very different from those of 20 years ago, despite the fact that we’re still fundamentally converting 30fps to 25fps. The big news was that there were actually three papers on frame rate conversion and another three on sampling issues. Compared to zero papers in previous years, this begs the question: why?
The answer, again, is UHDTV. The business of media delivery is at a critical point where we have the ability to update the fundamental standards that we use to deliver media. A decade from now, I predict that it will seem horribly old fashioned that all cinema was 24fps, Europe was 25fps and USA was 30fps. To move to this new world, one of the fundamental technology requirements is to be able to convert between the various frame rates in a way that is invisible to the viewer. We live in interesting times, and I’m happy that Dalet’s AmberFin platform is generating some of that interest
3. The future is bright, the future is IP
There was universal agreement that IP transport will become the dominant way of moving media around the world. Papers discussing packing, switching, security and the general practical aspects of making IP work economically and reliably. Of particular interest was a paper on the performance of COTS network switches and their ability to handle media. The overwhelming result was NO PACKETS WERE LOST. When you combine that result with the PTP (Precision Time Protocol) paper that showed how to achieve timing accuracy over IP of better than 50ns, then you begin to realise that IP is just as good as SDI, but it has so many more advantages, such as bi-directionality and the ability for software-based routing, topology management and the ability to easily carry other data traffic.
4. George Lucas
The final event of the week was the awards ceremony, where notable SMPTE members are recognized. Clyde Smith of Fox received the David Sarnoff medal – and he’s a true champion of the industry. A well deserved honor, Clyde has achieved so much and enabled so many others to help change the world. I personally am very grateful to him for all the support that he has given me. Honorary Membership is conferred on those who have changed the media industry over the years. Two notable recipients were John Logie Baird and George Lucas. Obviously John Logie Baird, the Scottish TV Pioneer, was unable to attend due to his death in June 1946, but everyone in the room was in agreement that this honor was long overdue. The star of the evening was the speech from George Lucas – he pointed out that he’s lived with SMPTE since he started in the industry and that all his achievements have depended on SMPTE’s work.
5. The SMPTE Jam
The closing of SMPTE week featured the new tradition of the SMPTE Jam, where guitars, keyboards, drums and lyrics were dusted off and the daytime delegates turn into midnight musicians. From Sally-Anne’s golden vocal chords to the guitar riffs of the head of the US delegation, a great time was had by all.
If you didn’t attend the SMPTE show, then you missed a great event. There is a real buzz that the industry is about to undergo a massive change for the better. No one really knows where we’ll end up, but I, for one, feel confident that Dalet has a lot to contribute.