Tag Archives: SMPTE

Netflix's Stranger Things

AES LA Section & SMPTE Hollywood: Stranger Things sound

By Mel Lambert

The most recent joint AES/SMPTE meeting at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City showcased the talents of the post production crew that worked on the recent Netflix series Stranger Things at Technicolor’s facilities in Hollywood.

Over 160 attendees came to hear how supervising sound editor Brad North, sound designer Craig Henighan, sound effects editor Jordan Wilby, music editor David Klotz and dialog/music re-recording mixer Joe Barnett worked their magic on last year’s eight-episode Season One (Sadly, effects re-recording mixer Adam Jenkins was unable to attend the gathering.) Stranger Things, from co-creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, is scheduled to return in mid-year for Season 2.

L-R: Jordan Wilby, Brad North, Craig Henighan, Joe Barnett, David Klotz and Mel Lambert. Photo Credit: Steve Harvey.

Attendees heard how the crew developed each show’s unique 5.1-channel soundtrack, from editorial through re-recording — including an ‘80s-style, synth-based music score, from Austin-based composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, that is key to the show’s look and feel — courtesy of a full-range surround sound playback system supplied by Dolby Labs.

“We drew our inspiration — subconsciously, at least — from sci-fi films like Alien, The Thing and Predator,” Henighan explained. The designer also revealed how he developed a characteristic sound for the monster that appears in key scenes. “The basic sound is that of a seal,” he said. “But it wasn’t as simple as just using a seal vocal, although it did provide a hook — an identifiable sound around which I could center the rest of the monster sounds. It’s fantastic to take what is normally known as a nice, light, fun-loving sound and use it in a terrifying way!” Tim Prebble, a New Zealand-based sound designer, and owner of sound effects company Hiss and A Roar, offers a range of libraries, including SD003 Seal Vocals|Hiss and A Roar.

Gear used includes Avid Pro Tools DAWs — everybody works in the box — and Avid 64-fader, dual-operator S6 console at the Technicolor Seward Stage. The composers use Apple Logic Pro to record and edit their AAF-format music files.


Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based copywriting and editorial service, and can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

 

SMPTE: The convergence of toolsets for television and cinema

By Mel Lambert

While the annual SMPTE Technical Conferences normally put a strong focus on things visual, there is no denying that these gatherings offer a number of interesting sessions for sound pros from the production and post communities. According to Aimée Ricca, who oversees marketing and communications for SMPTE, pre-registration included “nearly 2,500 registered attendees hailing from all over the world.” This year’s conference, held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel and Ray Dolby Ballroom from October 24-27, also attracted more than 108 exhibitors in two exhibit halls.

Setting the stage for the 2016 celebration of SMPTE’s Centenary, opening keynotes addressed the dramatic changes that have occurred within the motion picture and TV industries during the past 100 years, particularly with the advent of multichannel immersive sound. The two co-speakers — SMPTE president Robert Seidel and filmmaker/innovator Doug Trumbull — chronicled the advance in audio playback sound since, respectively, the advent of TV broadcasting after WWII and the introduction of film soundtracks in 1927 with The Jazz Singer.

Robert Seidel

ATSC 3.0
Currently VP of CBS Engineering and Advanced Technology, with responsibility for TV technologies at CBS and the CW networks, Seidel headed up the team that assisted WRAL-HD, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina, to become the first TV station to transmit HDTV in July 1996.  The transition included adding the ability to carry 5.1-channel sound using Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standards and Dolby AC-3 encoding.

The 45th Grammy Awards Ceremony broadcast by CBS Television in February 2004 marked the first scheduled HD broadcast with a 5.1 soundtrack. The emergent ATSC 3.0 standard reportedly will provide increased bandwidth efficiency and compression performance. The drawback is the lack of backwards compatibility with current technologies, resulting in a need for new set-top boxes and TV receivers.

As Seidel explained, the upside for ATSC 3.0 will be immersive soundtracks, using either Dolby AC-4 or MPEG-H coding, together with audio objects that can carry alternate dialog and commentary tracks, plus other consumer features to be refined with companion 4K UHD, high dynamic range and high frame rate images. In June, WRAL-HD launched an experimental ATSC 3.0 channel carrying the station’s programming in 1080p with 4K segments, while in mid-summer South Korea adopted ATSC 3.0 and plans to begin broadcasts with immersive audio and object-based capabilities next February in anticipation of hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics. The 2016 World Series games between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs marked the first live ATSC 3.0 broadcast of a major sporting event on experimental station Channel 31, with an immersive-audio simulcast on the Tribune Media-owned Fox affiliate WJW-TV.

Immersive audio will enable enhanced spatial resolution for 3D sound-source localization and therefore provide an increased sense of envelopment throughout the home listening environment, while audio “personalization” will include level control for dialog elements, alternate audio tracks, assistive services, other-language dialog and special commentaries. ATSC 3.0 also will support loudness normalization and contouring of dynamic range.

Doug Trumbull

Higher Frame Rates
With a wide range of experience within the filmmaking and entertainment technologies, including visual effects supervision on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, Trumbull also directed Silent Running and Brainstorm, as well as special venue offerings. He won an Academy Award for his Showscan process for high-speed 70mm cinematography, helped develop IMAX technologies and now runs Trumbull Studios, which is innovating a new MAGI process to offer 4K 3D at 120fps. High production costs and a lack of playback environments meant that Trumbull’s Showscan format never really got off the ground, which was “a crushing disappointment,” he conceded to the SMPTE audience.

But meanwhile, responding to falling box office receipts during the ‘50s and ‘60s, Hollywood added more consumer features, including large-screen presentations and surround sound, although the movie industry also began to rely on income from the TV community for broadcast rights to popular cinema releases.

As Seidel added, “The convergence of toolsets for both television and cinema — including 2K, 4K and eventually 8K — will lead to reduced costs, and help create a global market around the world [with] a significant income stream.” He also said that “cord cutting” — substituting cable subscription services for Amazon.com, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix and the like — is bringing people back to over-the-air broadcasting.

Trumbull countered that TV will continue at 60fps “with a live texture that we like,” whereas film will retain its 24fps frame rate “that we have loved for years and which has a ‘movie texture.’ Higher frame rates for cinema, such as 48fps used by Peter Jackson for several of the Lord of the Rings films, has too much of a TV look. Showscan at 120fps and a 360-degree shutter avoided that TV look, which is considered objectionable.” (Early reviews of director Ang Lee’s upcoming 3D film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which was shot in 4K at 120fps, have been critical of its video look and feel.)

complex-tv-networkNext-Gen Audio for Film and TV
During a series of “Advances in Audio Reproduction” conference sessions, chaired by Chris Witham, director of digital cinema technology at Walt Disney Studios, three presentations covered key design criteria for next-generation audio for TV and film. During his discussion called “Building the World’s Most Complex TV Network — A Test Bed for Broadcasting Immersive & Interactive Audio,” Robert Bleidt, GM of Fraunhofer USA’s audio and multimedia division, provided an overview of a complete end-to-end broadcast plant that was built to test various operational features developed by Fraunhofer, Technicolor and Qualcomm. These tests were used to evaluate an immersive/object-based audio system based on MPEG-H for use in Korea during planned ATSC 3.0 broadcasting.

“At the NAB Convention we demonstrated The MPEG Network,” Bleidt stated. “It is perhaps the most complex combination of broadcast audio content ever made in a single plant, involving 13 different formats.” This includes mono, stereo, 5.1-channel and other sources. “The network was designed to handle immersive audio in both channel- and HOA-based formats, using audio objects for interactivity. Live mixes from a simulated sports remote was connected to a network operating center, with distribution to affiliates, and then sent to a consumer living room, all using the MPEG-H audio system.”

Bleidt presented an overview of system and equipment design, together with details of a critical AMAU (audio monitoring and authoring unit) that will be used to mix immersive audio signals using existing broadcast consoles limited to 5.1-channel assignment and panning.

Dr. Jan Skoglund, who leads a team at Google developing audio signal processing solutions, addressed the subject of “Open-source Spatial Audio Compression for VR Content,” including the importance of providing realistic immersive audio experiences to accompany VR presentations and 360-degree 3D video.

“Ambisonics have reemerged as an important technique in providing immersive audio experiences,” Skoglund stated. “As an alternative to channel-based 3D sound, Ambisonics represent full-sphere sound, independent of loudspeaker location.” His fascinating presentation considered the ways in which open-source compression technologies can transport audio for various species of next-generation immersive media. Skoglund compared the efficacy of several open-source codecs for first-order Ambisonics, and also the progress being made toward higher-order Ambisonics (HOA) for VR content delivered via the internet, including enhanced experience provided by HOA.

Finally, Paul Peace, who oversees loudspeaker development for cinema, retail and commercial applications at JBL Professional — and designed the Model 9350, 9300 and 9310 surround units — discussed “Loudspeaker Requirements in Object-Based Cinema,” including a valuable in-depth analysis of the acoustic delivery requirements in a typical movie theater that accommodates object-based formats.

Peace is proposing the use of a new metric for surround loudspeaker placement and selection when the layout relies on venue-specific immersive rendering engines for Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro-3D soundtracks, with object-based overhead and side-wall channels. “The metric is based on three foundational elements as mapped in a theater: frequency response, directionality and timing,” he explained. “Current set-up techniques are quite poor for a majority of seats in actual theaters.”

Peace also discussed new loudspeaker requirements and layout criteria necessary to ensure a more consistent sound coverage throughout such venues that can replay more accurately the material being re-recorded on typical dub stages, which are often smaller and of different width/length/height dimensions than most multiplex environments.


Mel Lambert, who also gets photo credit on pictures from the show, is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based copywriting and editorial service, and can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

 

New England SMPTE holding free session on UHD/HDR/HFR, more

The New England Section of SMPTE is holding a free day-long “New Technologies Boot Camp” that focuses on working with high resolution (UHD, 4K and beyond), high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging and higher frame rates (HFR). In addition, they will discuss how to maintain resolution independence on screens of every size, as well as how to leverage IP and ATSC 3.0 for more efficient movement of this media content.

The boot camp will run from 9am to 9pm on May 19 at the Holiday Inn in Dedham, Massachusetts.

“These are exciting times for those of us working on the technical side of broadcasting, and the array of new formats and standards we’re facing can be a bit overwhelming,” says Martin P. Feldman, chair of SMPTE New England Section. “No one wants — or can afford — to be left behind. That’s why we’re gathering some of the industry’s foremost experts for a free boot camp designed to bring engineers up to speed on new technologies that enable more efficient creation and delivery of a better broadcast product.”

Boot camp presentations will include:

• “High-Dynamic-Range and Wide Color Gamut in Production and Distribution” by Hugo Gaggioni, chief technical officer at Sony Electronics.
• “4K/UHD/HFR/HDR — HEVC H.265 — ATSC 3.0” by Karl Kuhn of Tektronix.
• “Where Is 4K (UHD) Product Used Today — 4K Versus HFR — 4K and HFR Challenges” by Bruce Lane of Grass Valley.
• “Using MESH Networks” by Al Kornak of JVC Kenwood Corporation.
• “IP in Infrastructure-Building (Replacing HD-SDI Systems and Accommodating UHD)” by Paul Briscoe of Evertz Microsystems;
• “Scripted Versus Live Production Requirements” by Michael Bergeron of Panasonic.
• “The Transition from SDI to IP, Including IP Infrastructure and Monitoring” by John Shike of SAM (formerly Snell/Quantel).
• “8K, High-Dynamic-Range, OLED, Flexible Displays” by consultant Peter Putman.
• “HDR: The Great, the Okay, and the WTF” by Mark Schubin, engineer-in-charge at the Metropolitan Opera, Sesame Street and Great Performances (PBS).

The program will conclude with a panel discussion by the program’s presenters.

 No RSVP is required, and both SMPTE members and non-members are welcome.

Leon Silverman steps down, Seth Hallen named new HPA president

In a crowded conference room in Indian Wells, California, during the HPA Tech Retreat, HPA founding president Leon Silverman literally handed the baton to long-time board member Seth Hallen. The organization has also taken on a new name, the Hollywood Professional Association. More on that later.

Hallen, who joined the HPA board in 2007, is SVP of Global Creative Services at Sony DADC New Media Solutions. Silverman, who helped found the organization, will continue to serve on the board of directors in the newly created role of past president.

“It is a distinct honor to continue the important work that Leon has undertaken for this organization, and I am clearly dedicated to making the next phase of HPA a great one,” said Hallen. “Enabling our industry to evolve by fueling our community with ideas, opportunity and recognition remains our goal. I look forward to working with our incredibly talented and dedicated board and continuing our collaboration with our colleagues at SMPTE, and the staff, volunteers and community that are the heart and soul of HPA, as we build upon the work of the past 14 years and look toward the future.”

The HPA, which is now part of SMPTE, also announced newly elected board members, including Craig German, SVP Studio Post at NBCUniversal Media; Jenni McCormick, executive director of American Cinema Editors (ACE); and Chuck Parker, CEO of Sohonet. Newly elected board member Bill Roberts, CFO of Panavision, will assume treasurer responsibilities as Phil Squyres steps down from the post he has held since HPA’s founding. Squyres will remain on the board.

Wendy Aylsworth, past president of SMPTE, was named SMPTE representative. Barbara Lange serves as executive director of SMPTE and HPA. The new Board members join Mark Chiolis, Carolyn Giardina, Vincent Maza, Kathleen Milnes, Loren Nielsen and VP Jerry Pierce on the HPA board.

In commenting on the new HPA name, executive director Lange noted, “The nature of the work and responsibilities that our community is engaged in has changed, and will continue to change. After carefully exploring how to address this growth, it became clear that Professional more accurately and inclusively identifies the creative talent, content holders and global infrastructure of services, as well as emerging processes and platforms. As an organization, we are dedicated to seeing beyond the horizon to the wider future, and bringing a wide array of individuals and companies into the organization. Our new name and identity makes that statement.”

Ncam hires industry vet Vincent Maza to head up LA office

Ncam, makers of camera tracking for augmented reality production and previs, has opened a new office in Los Angeles, and they have brought on Vincent Maza to run the operation.

Maza spent much of his career at Avid and as an HD engineer at Fletcher Chicago. More recently he has been working with the professional imaging division of Dolby and with data transfer specialist Aspera. He is also a member of the board of directors of the HPA (Hollywood Post Alliance), now part of SMPTE. He will be in Indian Wells, California next week representing Ncam at the HPA Tech Retreat.

“2016 is going to be a great year for augmented reality and we believe we will see a huge uptake in people using it to make television more engaging, more exciting and more challenging,” commented Maza. “Ncam’s camera tracking technology makes augmented reality a practical proposition, and I am very excited to be at the heart of it and supporting our US presence.”

Ncam’s tracking system is able to achieve all six degrees of movement in camera location: XYZ position in 3D space, pan, tilt and roll, so even handheld cameras can be precisely tracked with minimal latency.

Broadcasters have embraced augmented reality with Ncam, including CNN, ESPN, Fox Sports and the NFL. This same technology is used to provide directors and cinematographers with realtime visualization of effects shots. Recent movies using the technology include, Avengers Age of Ultron, Edge of Tomorrow and White House Down.

Filmmaker Howard Lukk is SMPTE’s new director of standards

Film director Howard Lukk has joined the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE ) as its new director of standards. Over the next year, Lukk will transition into the position that has been held by Peter Symes — who is retiring — for the past eight years.

Lukk is a writer and director at independent film production and management company Pannon Entertainment, where he has been working on short films and providing technical consulting and education for clients. His last short film, “Emma,” was shot and finished in high dynamic range (HDR).

In an earlier role as VP of production systems at The Walt Disney Studios, Lukk oversaw a team responsible for the engineering, installation and maintenance of on-lot and on-set feature film production and post systems. Responsible for helping to incorporate new technologies into the workflow, he assisted the studios’ transition from analog to digital workflows. Lukk also led theatrical production, post and distribution projects focused on digital capture, digital cinema, 3D stereo, file-based workflow, color management and archive.

During two years as director of media systems at Pixar, Lukk was responsible for managing both the audio/visual engineering as well as the image mastering departments and the work of maintaining the recording, projection and post systems and workflows supporting Pixar filmmakers. Before joining Pixar, he held his first role with The Walt Disney Studios. As VP of production technology for the studios, he focused on integrating a new digital cinema workflow throughout the company’s global operations.

Lukk’s early work with Disney built on his previous experience as director of technology at Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), where he was responsible for research and development, design and documentation of a digital cinema system specification and test plan. Earlier, as chief engineer at International Video Conversions, Lukk worked with engineering staff to design, build, and maintain a high-end post  facility specializing in digital cinema, telecine transfer, audio post and standards conversion work.

“I have always respected and valued SMPTE’s work in creating the standards that support interoperability in image, sound and metadata, and I am excited about becoming even more involved in this process,” says Lukk, who is also a SMPTE Fellow. “The many significant technological changes taking place in our industry give an immediacy to the Society’s efforts and open up unprecedented opportunities to make a meaningful impact on the future of media creation, delivery, and consumption.”

SMPTE and HPA finalize relationship

After almost a year of working closely together, The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) have finalized their plans to consolidate. The partnership between SMPTE and HPA gives both organizations the opportunity to extend their reach — from engineering and technical professionals to the creative community.

“This is a monumental occasion for both SMPTE and HPA, two leading professional organizations serving the media and entertainment industry,” said Robert Seidel, president of SMPTE. “The new relationship between SMPTE and HPA presents many exciting possibilities, including fresh occasions for interactions and dialog, broader educational opportunities, and even richer contributions to standards development.”

SMPTE and HPA are already collaborating on two upcoming events. HPA Women in Post and SMPTE are presenting the Women in Technology Luncheon. The luncheon will take place in conjunction with the SMPTE 2015 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition (SMPTE 2015) at the Loews Hollywood Hotel at the Hollywood and Highland Center at noon on Monday, October 26 and will feature a conversation between Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), and Carolyn Giardina of The Hollywood Reporter. Also in conjunction with SMPTE 2015, the organizations are launching the SMPTE-HPA Student Film Festival on Tuesday, October 27 following the Opening Night Reception for the conference.

“HPA and SMPTE have long been collaborators in enabling the creative and technical communities to address the challenges and opportunities afforded by a rapidly changing media landscape,” said Leon Silverman, HPA board president. “Formal approval of our consolidation plan by the SMPTE Board of Governors and the HPA Board of Directors represents a major milestone in our relationship, and one that signals great things to come for the communities both organizations serve — within Hollywood and around the world.”

Wendy Aylsworth, SMPTE past president and former senior VP of technology at Warner Bros. Technical Operations, will serve as the SMPTE-designated member on the HPA Board of Directors. While this partnership establishes closer ties between SMPTE and HPA on many levels, from executive to administrative, each organization will maintain its unique brand and culture.

 

Stan Moote named CTO for IABM

The IABM (International Association of Broadcast Manufacturers) has tapped Stan Moote as its CTO. Moote began his television career in 1977 while interning as a plant engineer for CFTO-TV in Toronto, during the co-op component of his engineering degree from University of Waterloo. In 1980, he co-founded Digi-tel, Inc. and was responsible for the design and development of various digital video products before bringing his talents to bear at Leitch in 1984.

Moore was involved in the SMPTE Digital Video Standards Committee meetings creating CCIR-601 and continued his standardization work on video transport by being on the VSF (Video Services Forum) board of directors, 2001 to 2004. Stan is an active member of the ‪NATAS Technical Emmy Committee.

While holding VP/CTO positions at Leitch and Harris, he focused on workflow solutions, new technology, standardization and interoperability on a global basis. Moote developed several patents including scrambling systems, data monitoring, multi-viewer, router processors and IPTV systems.

Peter White, CEO of the IABM says, “Stan’s appointment comes at a time when the IABM is experiencing growth in both its membership and events delivery. Stan will contribute to IABM’s technology thought leadership and will assume responsibility for the development and scope of technical boards, committees, technology events and assist and formulate growth strategies in the North American and APAC regions.”

“The future direction of the broadcast and media industries is heavily based on quickly changing technologies,” says Moote. “With a strong member base, IABM is poised to give clear understanding of the issues that need to be addressed to keep the industry strong. I urge the membership’s CTOs and technical VPs to contact me directly, so we can work together helping end users meet their strategic goals.”

In related news, Moote, is set to be awarded the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers SMPTE 2015 Digital Processing Medal Award. First established in 2012, the SMPTE Digital Processing Medal Award recognizes significant technical achievements related to the development of digital processing of content for motion picture, television, games or other related media. Moote will receive the 2015 award for development of the first reliable video/audio scrambling system for composite analog video and analog audio in the early 1980s. This system digitized the analog signal, scrambled it, and reconstructed an analog signal that could be transmitted over satellite or microwave links with complete security. The system was granted both Canadian and US patents. Moote subsequently went on to serve as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Leitch Technology International before returning to engineering management. He also assisted in the invention of the video multiviewer, for which he received a patent. Moote became chief technology officer (CTO) at Leitch just before its acquisition by Harris Corporation.

D-Cinema Summit: standardization of immersive sound formats

By Mel Lambert

“Our goal is to develop an interoperative audio-creation workflow and a single DCP that can be used to render to whatever playback format – Dolby Atmos, Barco/Auro 3D, DTS:X/MDA – has been installed in the exhibition space,” stated Brian Vessa, chairman of SMPTE Technology Committee 25CSS, which is considering a common standardized method for delivering immersive audio to cinemas. Vessa, who also serves as executive director of Digital Audio Mastering at Sony Pictures Entertainment, was speaking at this past weekend’s joint SMPTE/NAB Technology Summit on Cinema during a session focused on immersive sound formats, Continue reading

Talking future workflows and future archives

By Tom Coughlin

This year’s HPA Tech Retreat, which took place in February in Indian Wells, California, had some interesting presentations and displays, pointing the way to the future of media and entertainment. But before I dig into some general observations and an update on the future workflows and archive solutions that were on display, I will share this: You likely have already heard that the HPA is now part of SMPTE, but the more recent bit of news is the organization is changing its name from the Hollywood Post Alliance to the Hollywood Professional Alliance. Ok, now let’s get to the tech talk…

In the CES Review at the HPA Retreat, Peter Putnum pointed out that there weren’t as many TVs on display as Continue reading