ETC@USC Mourns the Loss of Industry Veteran Jim Houston

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jim Houston, a longtime friend and supporter of The Entertainment Technology Center. In addition to attending our events and contributing to many of our programs, Jim served as a moderator and panelist for several of ETC’s Digital Town Square symposiums. He was a two-time Academy Award-winning engineer, SMPTE member, and 34-year veteran of the industry, serving senior positions at media leaders including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Pacific Title & Art, Walt Disney Feature Animation and, most recently, Samsung Research America. Continue reading ETC@USC Mourns the Loss of Industry Veteran Jim Houston

Pixar’s Catmull, Hanrahan Honored With ACM’s Turing Award

Computer graphics pioneering researchers Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan were awarded the A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery and are splitting the $1 million prize money. Catmull recruited Hanrahan, a fellow computer graphics researcher, to found Pixar in 1986. Catmull started his work as a grad student at the University of Utah’s graphics lab in 1970 and vowed to create a feature film from computer generated imagery. Catmull and Hanrahan, between them, have received eight Academy Awards. Continue reading Pixar’s Catmull, Hanrahan Honored With ACM’s Turing Award

ETC@USC Announces Winners of Immersive Media Challenge

ETC’s Immersive Media Challenge judges selected four submissions that best meet the criteria of “a great idea, well told.” Jack Vomacka’s Audio-Visual Animation describes a blend of physical objects and projection technologies that would create more believable LBE experiences. Sam Clempson’s Mind Palace is an AR-based memory-improvement tool. Courtney Zhang’s Affa Streaming AI Experience uses mood detection to make content recommendations. And Lance Newby’s MIC (ML for In-game Content) turns non-playable characters into minor characters who participate in and can influence the action of a video game. Pitch videos and answers to challenge questions for all submissions are posted on ETC’s homepage. Continue reading ETC@USC Announces Winners of Immersive Media Challenge

Microsoft Develops Scalable 2D-to-3D Conversion Technique

Transforming 2D objects into 3D ones is a challenge that has defeated numerous artificial intelligence labs, including those at Facebook, Nvidia and startup Threedy.ai. Now, a Microsoft Research team stated it has created the first “scalable” training technique to derive 3D models from 2D data. Their technology can, furthermore, learn to generate better shapes when trained exclusively with 2D images. The Microsoft team took advantage of software that produces images from display data, as featured in industrial renderers. Continue reading Microsoft Develops Scalable 2D-to-3D Conversion Technique

HPA Tech Retreat: Perceptual Difference Between 4K and 8K

Warner Bros. vice president of technology Michael Zink described the results of a test, conducted with several partners, to resolve questions about the impact of higher resolution displays with larger screen sizes on the user experience. The test did so by assessing the perceptibility of 4K vs. 8K on a consumer 8K TV displays at a typical viewing distance for various types of content. Partners included the ASC, with content from Pixar and Amazon Prime, and LG for its 88-inch 8K OLED TV display. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Perceptual Difference Between 4K and 8K

Updated Chrome Ad Blocker Will Soon Address Video Ads

In August this year, Google’s Chrome ad blocker will expand to include video, per the new set of standards just unveiled by the Coalition for Better Ads. The Coalition based the standards on global research from 45,000 customers. Websites with video, including Google’s, will need to review their ads for compliance with the new rules. Google joined the Coalition for Better Ads two years ago and started blocking ads not compliant with Coalition standards — including those on its own websites — since February 2018. Continue reading Updated Chrome Ad Blocker Will Soon Address Video Ads

Snap’s Bitmoji TV Features Users’ Avatars in Short Videos

In Snapchat’s animated series Bitmoji TV, which launches February 1, the user’s avatar stars — and the last person he Snapchatted co-stars — in various TV scenarios, including sitcoms, soap operas and reality competitions. This first season will debut 10 three-to-four-minute episodes, unveiled on Saturday mornings. As Bitmoji founder/chief executive Ba Blackstock puts it, “we’re bringing back Saturday morning cartoons.” The series takes off from Bitmoji Stories, which stars the user’s avatar in funny situations. Continue reading Snap’s Bitmoji TV Features Users’ Avatars in Short Videos

CES 2020: Holiday Smart Lights Have Multiple Applications

The Internet of Things is about to offer middle America a new creative outlet. Italian startup LEDWORKS produces strings of individually addressable LED Christmas tree lights. Twinkly’s phone app maps the location of each individual light: one camera scan to map lights arrayed on a flat surface and two or three camera scans to map the lights arrayed around a 3D object like a Christmas tree or a wall outside. The app can then wirelessly load a program into the lights’ plug to display preset patterns and images or, if you are clever, patterns of your design. The current app can control up to 10,000 lights. By the end of 2020, Twinkly should be able to control 20,000 lights. Continue reading CES 2020: Holiday Smart Lights Have Multiple Applications

Adobe Reveals AI-Enabled One-Click Audio Enhancement

At the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles this week, the company gave a sneak peek of its Project Awesome Audio, which will clean up problematic audio recordings in Adobe Audition with the click of a button. The project is the brainchild of Adobe research scientist Zeyu Jin who, back in 2016, demonstrated a tool that allows the user to easily insert speech into an existing clip. For Project Awesome Audio, Jin, with Princeton University computer science PhD student Jiaqi Su, leveraged Adobe’s Sensei AI for “end-to-end audio enhancement.” Adobe also showcased a mobile Photoshop app, a new AR authoring app, and more. Continue reading Adobe Reveals AI-Enabled One-Click Audio Enhancement

Twitter Plans to Improve Conversations, Acquires Lightwell

Twitter has purchased Lightwell, an app creation engine originally debuted two years ago by Hullabalu, an interactive storytelling startup. In its Twitter account, Lightwell said its work would focus on conversations and that its toolset, which has required a subscription, will be available for free this week as part of the purchase. Without the need to create an account, Lightwell users will be able to “layout, prototype, and export to iOS.” Lightwell also announced that it would no longer support or add new features to the toolset. Financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. Continue reading Twitter Plans to Improve Conversations, Acquires Lightwell

Streaming Bundle to Feature Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu

Starting November 12, Disney plans to offer consumers a $12.99-per-month streaming bundle that includes Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu’s ad-supported tier. November 12 will mark the U.S. debut of the anticipated Disney Plus service. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the bundle during the company’s most recent earnings call with Wall Street. According to Iger, Disney is in discussions with Amazon, Apple and Google to offer Disney Plus via additional platforms. “We think it’s important to achieve scale relatively quickly and they’ll be an important part of that,” he said. Continue reading Streaming Bundle to Feature Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu

New Disney Hub on Spotify Designed for Families and Kids

Spotify recently announced a new partnership with Disney that brings a collection of Disney playlists to the streaming music platform. The Disney Hub on Spotify — currently available for fans in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K. and U.S. — features soundtracks and other music related to Disney movies and TV shows. Among the current categories are Disney Hits, Disney Favorites, Disney Classics, Disney Sing-Alongs, Disney Princess, Marvel Music and The Best of Star Wars. Continue reading New Disney Hub on Spotify Designed for Families and Kids

Facebook Watch Readies Original Content for Summer, Fall

Social giant Facebook revealed that its strategy for building viewership of Facebook Watch is paying off, saying it is experiencing “big momentum” for the platform with original shows such as Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” and “Sorry for Your Loss” with Elizabeth Olsen. Facebook Watch, since its launch two years ago, has a global daily user base of 140 million people who each spend an average of 26 minutes per day watching videos, nearly double from 75 million daily users in December who watched 20 minutes daily. Facebook has inked a series of partnerships and has more original content on its way. Continue reading Facebook Watch Readies Original Content for Summer, Fall

Hulu Has 28 Million U.S. Users, Announces Original Content

At the Digital Content NewFronts in New York City this week, Hulu revealed that its streaming video service now has 26.8 million monthly paid subscribers in the U.S., plus 1.3 million promotional accounts. That’s an increase from about 20 million total users this time last year. Hulu announced a new “binge advertising experience” that intends to be a less intrusive way to target binge viewers. Hulu also detailed new content deals, including a multi-year partnership with Vox Media Studios for food-centric programming and two new live-action series from Marvel for 2020. Continue reading Hulu Has 28 Million U.S. Users, Announces Original Content

Verizon Media Tackles Production Tech With Global Studios

Verizon Media (formerly Oath) now has production studios located in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, Singapore, Sunnyvale and Taiwan. In addition, it built a 5G Los Angeles studio with plans to help pioneer new formats and production tech enabled by advanced 5G wireless connectivity. The worldwide facilities are being used by Verizon Media brands such as AOL, HuffPost, TechCrunch and Yahoo. The L.A. space — led by Verizon Media’s immersive media arm RYOT — is outfitted with full motion capture and volumetric capture stages. Continue reading Verizon Media Tackles Production Tech With Global Studios

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