100 Years Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
The now 100-year-old Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, or SMPTE (pronounced “simp-tee”), is the consortium that has made possible all the behind-the-scenes advances in television and movie technology we have taken for granted over the past century. It’s not the glamorous side of Hollywood to be sure, but SMPTE engineers are the unsung heroes who made it possible for an entire industry to produce talkies, broadcast television, standardized color and widescreen formats and HD. Throughout film history, SMPTE made Brando moodier, Lugosi scarier and Monroe sexier, and it made Julie Andrews sing.
A lot has changed in the years since SMPTE formed in 1916, and today the engineering organization is busier than ever. There’s a lot to cover at SMPTE 2016 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, which runs October 25 to 27 in Hollywood, California. Packed into just three days are planned sessions featuring industry experts from around the world presenting no less than 73 technical papers intended to illuminate the topics shaping the present and future of movies, TV and motion imaging.
Technology on-tap for discussion at this year’s event includes ultra-high definition (UHD) at both 4K and 8K resolution, higher frame rates (HFR), high dynamic range (HDR) and wider color gamut (WCG). As the world of cinema continues to evolve, these technologies will need to be harnessed in the most potent ways possible, to serve both the artistic visions of directors and cinematographers and reduce the technological and cost barriers that may prevent them from creating the best art possible.
But, the audio-visual industry isn’t just about the technology behind moving pictures and sound anymore. There are many fascinating new paradigms brought about by the digital age that will be discussed at the SMPTE 2016 Conference. There will be sessions on broadcast signals distributed over coax and the evolution of series digital interface (SDI) that could provide homes with 100 GB data services with seamless transition to the Internet. Today’s virtual reality isn’t just for games anymore. VR is growing and becoming more immersive as it stands on the threshold of revolutionizing the future of audio/visual entertainment.
These are arguably the most interesting times for the SMPTE. On one hand we have all the new visual enhancement technology creating a hyper-realistic audio/visual experience for we lay people. But on the other - it’s a critical time for the SMPTE to set the standards that will bridge the gap between the business realities of content production and the newest distribution demands of the consumer. New technologies aren’t simply putting more wow-factor into the content itself, it’s also affecting how, when and where we consume content. The 2016 SMPTE Conference will undoubtedly be the flashpoint for all of these issues as they shape the future, and we will be paying close attention with excitement – and with our own point of view.
On the lighter side of the industry, SMPTE 2016 will continue its tradition of honoring industry giants. This year, Avatar and Terminator director James Cameron will receive an Honorary Membership, and Douglas Trumbull, the man behind the visual effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, will receive the SMPTE’s Progress Medal.
Mark October 25-27 on your calendar, as it’s sure to be a key event in the history of movies and TV.