HPA Tech Retreat Looks at Approaching Tipping Point in Media

The annual HPA Tech Retreat opened in Indian Wells, California, near Palm Springs. The sold-out event hosts 600 executives and technologists in broadcast, cable, digital and feature film industries. In addition to an “Innovation Zone,” the new term for the former demo room, the HPA Tech Retreat is known for its days-long series of lectures and panels, all of which are a deep dive into technology. All of Tuesday was devoted to a single topic: Snowflake Workflows are Turning into Distribution Snowstorms!

Disney executive, HPA president Leon Silverman coined the term “snowflake” years ago when it became apparent that the new digital workflows weren’t standardized but rather were one-off solutions.


The first speaker of the HPA Supersession afternoon program was Light Iron chief executive Michael Cioni, who showed a tape of his conversations with young film/TV students where he exposed them to a range of new technologies including UHD, HDR, HFR and other new technologies to elicit their responses.

With regard to grain, one student noted that, “Images with grain were ones that I had the greatest emotional response to — it’s great that you can use it as a tool.”

“When I look at an image with no uniting quality like grain, it looks like wallpaper,” said another, regarding an image without grain, “It’s too clean.”

Still another student pointed out that, “grain is an anxiety-inducing element. No matter what your image is, there’s something moving in it.” It is content dependent, said Cioni, but 50 percent preferred it. “Keep making grain,” he concluded. “And keep making de-noise tools.”

Cioni showed the students different aspect ratios, “tall and wide.” The result was that the students liked both options, for different types of content. “I think that’s an argument for more anamorphic tools,” added Cioni.

Then he showed high frame rate content. “I know my nostalgia plays a big part into my preference, but it annoys me,” said one student. “I get it for a couple of seconds and then I dislike it.” Another student said, “That’s not how I see everyday life. This is not right.”

“Your brain adjusts,” said another. “It’s not that big of a change.” But another one said, “I don’t think I could get used to it — it’s like setting a security camera up.”

Cioni’s conclusion was that he believes we’re on the verge of a major tipping point, by 2019. “When the OTT companies take over as the dominant content creators and distributors, I’ve positioned myself to benefit from that,” he noted.

“We are creatures of graduation,” Cioni added. “By that I mean that as people we like things to move slowly, on a predictable path. But things happen rapidly and fast — things are going to happen fast. The OTT group are becoming much larger factors of influence in a more compressed amount of time.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this post mistakenly suggested that students negatively responded to Ultra HD 4K, rather than HFR.

Leon Silverman Hands Reins of Hollywood Professional Association to Seth Hallen, Press Release, 2/18/16
Hollywood Post Alliance Gets New Leaders – And New NameVariety, 2/17/16

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