How best to advance the production and distribution of entertainment content in 2012? As a MESA panel of major-studio technology executives advised at the International CES earlier this week: keep it simple.
MESA’s Burbank Think panel was part of theÂ Variety Entertainment Summit, which co-located with the International CES in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Whether it’s UltraViolet or second-screen apps, with “any of these services we look to launch, theÂ consumer is first â they have to be first,” said Darcy Antonellis, president of Warner Bros. technical operations.Â ”They don’t want to know how itÂ works, they want it to be transparent. We love that challenge.”
Chris Cookson, president of technologies at Sony Pictures, told MESA executive director Guy Finley (who moderated the panel) that studios must work to make technology transparent to consumers â particularly when it comes to marketing the cloud-based UltraViolet concept. From a consumer’s standpoint, said Cookson,Â ”I shouldn’t have to think about what’s the shelf lifeÂ of the technology I might buy in order to determine whether or not thatÂ channel is the one I want to get to put the movie in my library. TheÂ question is, ‘How do I engage the content I’m interested in and have theÂ technology serve me, not the other way around?’”
Transparency can instill consumer confidence, noted fellow panelist Arnaud Robert, senior vice president of technologies for the Walt Disney Co. But Robert cautioned entertainment content distributors against overpromising in their value propositions.Â ”If we say seamlessÂ access,” noted Robert, “consumers will do the leap of faith and think it’s really any deviceÂ and really anywhere: ‘And right now, I’m traveling to Africa with thisÂ non-smartphone, how come I can’t see my content in HD?’ That’s anÂ expectation we need to manage, I think.”
On the cloud, Ed Leonard, CTO of DreamWorks Animation, commented that cloudÂ infrastructure has enabled greater fluidity and efficiency in the studio’s global production process. Leonard also emphasized the importance of studios keeping storytellingÂ at the forefront of their business; technology, he said, should be seen as anÂ enabler of studios’ core business of producing engaging entertainmentÂ content.
MESA is planning to hold its next Burbank Think Tank at NAB in April.
More on the Burbank Think Tank CES panel atÂ Variety.
The next Burbank Think Tank will showcase a crowd-sourced program of fresh and innovative ideas from the home entertainment community about this timely subject. The most innovative ideas will receive a minimum of 5 minutes stage time to share their strategy with the audience. All submissions will be hosted on the Burbank Think Tank website.
Do you have an idea? A tech, marketing, sales, packaging, supply chain innovation that could help build the market for packaged media? Give it some thought and submit your idea in less than 150 words to Guy Finley, Executive Director, MESA, at guy@MESAlliance.org.
And join us for another one of our interactive, fun and thought provoking programs. Remember to bring your brain!
By Mel Lambert
The evolution and impact of file-based workflows formed the focus of the inaugural âBurbank Think Tank,â presented by MESA and sponsored by Testronic Labs, held Thursday night at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel. Moderated by Carolyn Giardina from The Hollywood Reporter, the six-member panel of industry insiders brought a hands-on focus to the operational advantages of file-based operations. The event attracted close to 200 attendees from the Burbank entertainment, production and digital services community.
Directly addressing the challenge of transitioning from a tape- to a file-based workflow, panelist Thomas Moran, senior director of media & entertainment at Savvis Communications, acknowledged that file sizes can pose problems. But Moran said that file-based workflows hold âseveral major advantagesâ for the TV/film post-production community and digital supply chain: âIt is easier to make the media secure and prevent piracy; and the time to market is reduced.â
âSince media can be accessed in parallel, a file-based workflow becomes easier,â agreed John Crosier, SVP of digital architecture and delivery with Cinram. âBut delivery can be harder,â because of increased storage and data-flow requirements.
Standardized file formats are widely considered a secret for success. Annie Chang, VP of post-production technology at Walt Disney Studios, outlined key aspects of the new Interoperable Master Format (IMF) project, which is being finalized by a consortium of film studios and post facilities, and hosted by The Entertainment Technology Center @ USC. âIMF combines a play list with essencesâ â audio, video, images, metadata and other material â âthat can be mixed and matched to generate a variety of master files via an Output Profile List that contain instructions for particular versions,â says Chang, who chairs an IMF working group for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).
A working proposal for the open-standard specification to streamline the interchange and automated creation of downstream distribution packages will be published later this year. As Chang explained, IMF will store a single master set of file-based elements that can be assembled using multiple Composition Play Lists (âRecipesâ), similar to that used in current Digital Cinema Packaging. The project promises lower costs, improved time-to-market and increased interoperability of existing production processes.
âNow we can record one master and use metadata to deliver different versions,â added Michael Zink, VP of technology strategy at Technicolor. âWe finally have a standard.â
During the past year, Chang said, Disney has transitioned from 27 tape-based to 10 file formats, with a concomitant savings in mastering costs. The studio produces no standard-definition master, for example, instead using a high-definition master for such conversions. âBut a one-terabyte file can take a long time to transfer,â Chang cautioned, âwith increased distribution costs.â
Securing The Cloud
While The Cloud might offer some storage options for the post community, Garrett Smith, VP of production technology at Paramount Pictures, acknowledged that there are multiple types of private and public cloud services. âI was at a meeting yesterday and it could have been an episode from Seinfeld…but without Jerry,â he recalled with a laugh. âBut some types will work for production.â
Security issues for assets stored in The Cloud also need to be addressed, Cinramâs Crosier noted. âSecurity is key for our clients, which is why we concentrate on internal cloud-based services.â As Savvis Communicationsâ Moran pointed out, âThe Cloud is not all about technology. Security is inherent â we just need to find a way to make it work.â Moran cited the storage of secure financial information on cloud-based servers. âBut The Cloud, as we now use it at an enterprise level, was not designed with security in mind. Because such companies do not have an IT core competency, they need to bring in experienced IT professionals.â
As Brian Kenworthy, VP of digital distribution at Deluxe Digital Studios, said, âEducation is key. We need to collaborate with our clients,â to outline the benefits and drawbacks of cloud-based workflows, where appropriate.
Mel Lambert is principal of Content-Creators.com, a Los Angeles-based consulting service.
Free Webinar: Learn How To Monetize Access to Digital Content
This webinar sponsored by ModusLink will explore key strategies to help youÂ monetize and control access to digital content and services, including:Â end-to-end subscription management; system administration and back-officeÂ provisioning; piracy prevention and digital lifecycle management. Speakers include:Â David Sidebottom, Senior Consultant – Digital Media, FuturesourceÂ Consulting; Bill Routt, VP Technical Operations, MobiTV; and JasonÂ Thibeault, Senior Director, Product Management, Limelight Networks.
Bring Your Brain: Burbank Think Tank
Please join us for the debut event of MESA’s Burbank Think Tank series.Â Burbank Think Tank is a new, bi-monthly meetup developed by the Media &Â Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), providing members of the BurbankÂ entertainment, production and digital services community with an easy andÂ accessible way to meet, mingle and advance the creation, production andÂ distribution of entertainment content. Â The initial BT2 hosted by TestronicÂ Labs, ‘Waiter, There’s a File in My Soup,’ brings together a panel ofÂ visionary thought leaders in candid and expansive conversation on theÂ explosion of the file-based world and the evolutionary changes that areÂ happening to our supply chain.
The event will take place Thursday, June 9th at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel in Burbank, Calif., from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.Â Free registration closes Tuesday at Noon. Â Click here to registerÂ (http://www.mesalliance.org/burbank/).
Burbank Think Tank (BT2) is a new, bi-monthly meet-up developed by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), providing members of the Burbank entertainment, production and digital services community with an easy and accessible way to meet, mingle and advance the creation, production and distribution of entertainment content.
The city is home to the most concentrated population of entertainment professionals in the world, and BT2 will develop into the place to be for the local community to share best practices, stay on the cutting edge, network and unwind at the end of a typically stressful, high-pressure workday.
The debut event, hosted by Testronic Labs, is set for the evening of June 9 at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel. On the agenda: a panel discussion on the evolution and impact of file-based workflows. Click here to register.