Cinema Conference Explores Future of Motion Pictures

Keynote speaker Rob Legato served as visual effects supervisor for “The Jungle Book.”

The constantly evolving state of cinema — and how its technological, artistic and business components interact — will be considered in-depth by dozens of experts during the Future of Cinema Conference, April 22–23.

The annual event, with this year’s theme “The Intersection of Technology, Art & Commerce in Cinema,” is being produced in partnership with the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE).

Cynthia Slavens, director of Mastering & Operations at Pixar Animation Studios, chairs this year’s conference program and said that, as the business of cinema evolves, it becomes increasingly important to ac- knowledge the “marriage” of art and technology. “Gone are the days of purely physical sets,rigid film-out schedules and pipelines and content viewed solely in theatrical settings,” Slaverns said. “Content for the cinema can be created anywhere, to go everywhere. It’s an exciting but bewildering time, as the industry undertakes new art and technology opportunities in an environment where the latest and greatest comes at you in the blink of an eye.”

Acclaimed visual effects supervisor Rob Legato, known for his work on “Titanic,” “Apollo 13” and “The Jungle Book,” will present the keynote for the conference on April 22. One key segment that appears especially bright (both literally and figuratively) is display and projection technology, according to Jaclyn Pytlarz, an engineer at Dolby Lab- oratories’ Applied Vision Science Group. Over the next few years, she said, display technology will incorporate wider color primaries, higher frame rate and higher resolution — and actually begin to catch up with the limits of human perception.

“With this new technology comes the challenge of interoperability. How do we take what we have from the past and make it work for the future?” said Pytlarz. “One thing we can say for sure is we’re going to see something we’ve never seen before!” Pytlarz is moderator for Saturday afternoon’s session “Next Generation Cinema: How You See It — Projection & Displays in Cinema.” Filmmaker Jennifer Hall Lee, a moderator for Sunday morning’s “Is Cinephilia Dead or Is It Just Expanding,” maintains that cinema still remains a storytelling art traditionally viewed in a shared setting. “This shared experience is part of the story because it changes us as people. We emerge from the theater as a group — having just experienced a film collectively. If we’re lucky, we can walk away with a line of dialogue or an image that stays with us…” she said.

Yet Lee does acknowledge a shift to a more singular viewing experience. “Moreover, we in the movie industry increasingly use the term ‘content.’ That formally changes the concept of cinema as ‘art’ and relegates it to ‘data.’ However, being able to view a film at any time on any device expands its power. Cinema as an art is changing, but it remains to be seen if it’s dead, or just undergoing a large expansion,” said Lee.

The Sunday afternoon session “How You See It or How You Don’t: Better in HDR?” examines the still-evolving technology behind high dynamic range. Moderator Patrick Griffis, SMPTE’s executive vice president and a vice president at Dolby Laboratories, says HDR is rapidly expanding with more than 300 Dolby Cinemas and state-of-the-art laser projection systems committed in the United States, Europe and Asia by theater chains. “AMC is now accelerating their deployments in the U.S., based on good consumer response,” Griffis said.

HDR also is used as a selling point for TV sets. “HDR theatrical releases are capable of nearly full Rec 2020 color and 500 times the contrast ratio of conventional projection systems, through use of laser projection,” Griffis said, “while TV color volumes can reach up to 10,000 nits peak white,but with a slightly reduced color palette compared to cinema to- day. The theatrical HDR grade is, thus, a great starting point for a home HDR master.”

Echoing the century-old SMPTE itself, this year’s conference reflects “the new phase of cinema after 100 years of film,” said SMPTE Education Vice President Richard Welsh, the CEO of Sundog Media Toolkit, who will participate in Saturday afternoon’s “Movie Security: How You Steal It (and Then How You Stop Everyone in the Audience From Succeeding).”