UK HPA Tech Retreat Report - Day 3

Tuesdays HPA Tech Retreat was all about 360 and VR, and Wednesday focused on the versioning explosion. On the final day, delegates were given a summary of the current state of the industry, and the influences of artificial intelligence on media and broadcasting.

An early start provided breakfast roundtable meetings with delegates entering debates from IMF to HDR and storage workflows and production.

DPP and SMPTE Announcement

The talks started with Mark Harrison, DPP, reporting on industry trends at this year’s Consumer Electronics Update with artificial intelligence, motor vehicles and voice activated control showing strong dominance.

Andy Wilson, DPP, followed with his announcements of their collaboration with SMPTE to fast track IMF for broadcast. This will be a specific version of IMF for OTT and online broadcast to help them maintain high quality files for multi-country versioning. The DPP has analysed the business requirements for a broadcasting international mastering format with the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Brexit Worries

An ardent review of the UK’s post production successes by Neil Hatton of the UK Screen Alliance delivered a mixed picture post Brexit. Although the tax credit system works well for the UK, and he welcomed the governments continued support of the UK’s film and television industries, Hatton was less bullish when considering the logistics of hiring creatives at short notice from across Europe, especially if a costly, time consuming visa system is introduced.

A remote collaboration panel discussion, chaired by Sohonets Chuck Parker, heard how industry professionals collaborate across borders using cloud technology. Wider talent is available between nations and a follow the sun policy maintains high productivity. Roy Trosh, The Mill, spoke of their secure system to facilitate localisation between their international offices. Designed in house, The Mill used their own software to track and provide version control, and log changes.

Ray Mia, Universal Music Group, spoke passionately about Sohonets Clearview Flex, a fast encrypted, collaboration and approvals tool that allows directors, producers and talent to review content from any device – mobile phone, notebook, laptop or even desktop, in a secure and easy to use environment.

Artificial Intelligence

The afternoon was dominated by machine learning and artificial intelligence from transcoding to data mining. Lydia Gregory, Jukedeck, demonstrated music composition using artificial intelligence. Tailored compositions could be provided by feeding the algorithm with specific requirements and genres. Unfortunately, copyrighted material had to be excluded from the algorithms learning process, questioning whether the resulting composition is artistically compromised.

Metadata is expanding exponentially as richer information is gathered for video and audio recordings. No longer are we restricted to a note in a tape box with timecode and version information, current trends record intricate information about each shot, such as the locations GPS, weather and type of terrain.

Aaron Edell, GrayMeta, introduced the new concept of dark data embedded in audio and video, that is the data we’re not actively recording, but can be provided by tagging systems. Not only do the volumes balloon, but our ability to search becomes increasingly difficult. New methods of search are being developed to facilitate this.

Adaptive Scaling

Even scaling video hasn’t escaped the AI spotlight. Jason Brahms, Video Gorillas, showed how his algorithm analysed video frames to build up knowledge of their content and process sections adaptively. Removing generic solutions gave better quality pictures and faster processing.

Bryce Button, AJA, looked at the HDR pipeline and listed all the combinations of conversion required in modern broadcast facilities looking to move to HDR, UHD and 4K. His impressive presentation demonstrated AJA’s approach to simplifying workflows for broadcasters moving to these formats.

Multiple Transcode Quality Issues

IMF finished the day with Steve Fish, VP Media and Technology Architecture, Turner International, establishing the problem to be solved with multi-country deliveries and versioning. Fish proved it’s not just about version tracking as he unravelled the number of video codecs and transcodes in a typical system. IMF reduces the number of transcodes needed as it focuses on inserting difference frames when versioning and then transcoding just once from the mezzanine format, delivering a much higher quality experience for both broadcasting and OTT.

Francois Abbe, Qvest Media, took the lid off IMF and got into the detail of the savings IMF can provide using the difference method of processing and storage. Abbe claimed 20% of savings could be made using IMF, but later some delegates though it might be more.

IMF Masterclass

Mr MXF and IMF guru Bruce Devlin gave a candid and honest review of the problems of integrating IMF into workflows. Giving a brief master class, Devlin started with small scale integrations and moved to enterprise and cloud. Human readable XML files allow users to find assets and locate them, but Devlin reiterated the importance of maintaining strict asset ID’s so we no longer rely on error prone folder-file hierarchy so often seen in broadcast facilities.

Throughout the whole of the event, the innovation zone provided excellent technology demonstrations, with both working products and those still in development. Dolby had comparison demonstrations of various PQ and HDR-10 systems, and a “with” and “without” metadata display from a BluRay DVD.

Returning Next Year

Experienced engineers and product specialists were on hand to answer very demanding questions from delegates.

In summary, the UK HPA Tech Retreat was an impressive display of broadcast and media technology for now and in the future. The organisers struck a good compromise between hard core engineering, business requirements, and real problems to be solved.

The experience and quality of the speakers was incredibly high and their honest and practical approach was a welcomed change to some of the “high fives” and “whoop whoops” you may see at tradeshows around the world.

I’m looking forward to next year’s UK HPA Tech Retreat, and I’ll certainly be there.

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