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27 2016 Sep

Update on NASA Imagery with Rodney Grubbs

RodneyGrubbsAt the HPA Tech Retreat this year, NASA Imagery Experts Program Manager Rodney Grubbs gave a compelling presentation about how the space agency is using professional cameras to capture outer space images. For fans of space exploration or sci-fi, the chance to see these images is a thrill. But NASA isn’t simply showing off pretty pictures. It’s actively asking the film/TV community for its expertise to take even better pictures.

During his presentation, Grubbs enumerated the challenges in capturing high-res imagery in space: radiation, fickle and extreme temperatures, operating a camera in a vacuum, and, at the end of the line, transmitting those spectacular images to earth. All the cameras with high-resolution sensors tested thus far, says Grubbs, have been consistently damaged by ionizing radiation, up to seven to 10 pixels a day.

Since then, the NASA team began testing its first Bayer-pattern camera, the RED EPIC on the SpaceX Dragon, the first-ever private spacecraft to rendezvous with the Space Station. The first RED camera, housed in a standard body, has just come back and is undergoing testing to determine the level of pixel damage. Meanwhile, says Grubbs, RED president Jarred Land commissioned a carbon fiber camera body to house the second ISS RED camera’s sensors. “It’s not getting damaged as much as the first one,” says Grubbs. “It’ll be interesting when we get it back and compare it with damage to the first RED.”

Other cameras that NASA has tested are two Panasonic AG-3DA1 twin lens HD 3D camcorders. “The first one flew on the last space shuttle mission and was up for a little more than a year,” he says. “The second flew on a SpaceX Dragon and it stayed up for over 1,000 days. Both of them performed better than any CMOS camera we’ve flown before. We just got the second one back and it actually performed better than the first one, although it was up for three times as long.”

The Canon XF305 is the workhorse day-to-day camera, says Grubbs, but it exhibits enough damaged pixels that it’s replaced every eight months or so. He’s looking to replace it with a camera that can shoot 4K and has a built-in encoder, such as new models from Canon and Panasonic. “The Panasonic AJ-PX270PJ microP2 handheld camcorder is showing promise,” he says. Grubbs is eager to segue to a camera with a built-in encoder, to make it easier to stream live HD. “The Panasonic 270 features an optional built-in encoder, which would make life easier on the crew and much less cumbersome than a standalone encoder.” Currently, Grubbs’ team is testing the AJ-PX270PJ in a lab “to simulate the Internet on the Space Station, with the latency for communicating with an orbiting spacecraft.”

The SpaceX explosion on Sept. 1 was a temporary setback. “We were going to fly the next RED Epic cameras with a UHD encoder, to give us live UltraHD, the first such broadcast from space,” says Grubbs. “But the explosion put that on hold.” Since RED is on the verge of introducing its Super 35mm Helium 8K sensor, says Grubbs, NASA is in a “wait and see” mode. “We’ll probably switch in 2017 or 2018, because it gives us more aperture and would be easier for low light and time-lapse photography,” he says.

In addition to live UHD from space, virtual reality is next on NASA’s “event horizon.” “We’re looking at the Nokia OZO,” he says. “NASA has also received proposals from all kinds of startup companies saying they’re building their own VR cameras. All these are proprietary, so I can’t go into detail, but we’re reviewing these proposals for technical merit. In a year or so, we hope to fly one if not more VR camera rigs.”

One of the biggest benefits of using a VR rig, says Grubbs, is that NASA would be able to show smooth pans and tilts of the Space Station exterior, something not possible with mechanical pan/tilt units. “If I want to build a new pan/tilt unit, the cost is estimated to be millions of dollars,” he says. “But with a VR rig with virtual pan and tilt, via stitching views from cameras with no moving parts, that gives me the functionality I need.”

“If you could be inside the Space Station with any view you wanted, that would excite the public like nothing we’ve done before,” he says.

29 2016 Aug

Data Gravity in the Content Creation Industry

By Chuck Parker, HPA Board Member

The longer you work in and around the production and post production industries, the more you notice the accelerating change to the industry’s underlying workflows.  In the mid-2000’s, most of the cataclysmic change facing the industry was a transition from physical and analog workflows to digital workflows.  A few years later the digital business model hit the industry with full force, causing upheaval in pricing and cost models for those that did not adapt quickly.  The result was a number of new players across the value chain and the end of some storied brands and companies in the industry.

Chuck ParkerAfter a decade of significant change, the majority of the steep process (physical / analog to digital) and massive price pressure changes have been endured.  However, our industry is now largely subject to Moore’s Law as a result of that digital transition.  The net effect of a “doubling” of “digital power” for price point parity every 12-18 months is a phenomenon that touches many (but not all) parts of the production and post production process and is a driving economic force that can bear good tidings or incredible pain.  However, its continued source of disruption is often the result of “linear thinking” – falling prey to the assumption that a change which took 5 years to achieve in price point capability will take just as long to be duplicated. In fact, the capability to price point will improve somewhere between 8x and 32x over that period.

What does all this mean?  Taken in its most basic form, many would believe it means the cost of shooting a 2K feature in 2015 should deliver a significant cost reduction to shooting that same feature in 2016.     However, if we take a cue from the storage industry, they would tell our industry that the amount of data stored by enterprises on average has doubled every year for as long as anyone can remember.  This is largely the result of changing behaviors and processes as the cost of keeping data around gets cheaper (i.e. everything becomes less efficient).  Don’t believe this?  Ask yourself how many photos you have stored online with your Apple or Android phone today vs. 3 years ago—at some point the cost of iCloud, DropBox or Google Photos got so “cheap” that managing your photo catalog was “more expensive” to you than the cost of the service to just keep everything.

Combine this impact of price point on behavior and process efficiency with the march of 4k data presentation to the consumer, the increasing availability of 6k cameras at affordable price points, and the inevitable march to 8k for either virtual reality or some future Japan-like broadcast standard, and we have rapidly arrived at a point where shooting that used to result in 1-2 TB of raw footage daily is now often more than double that amount and occasionally results in 15-25TB of daily capture on high-end projects.

The net impact of this incredible change is that every professional in our industry needs to master a new term: data gravity.

Everyone in the production and post production value chain needs to start thinking differently about the way they impart their magic upon the content creation process.  Visual effects teams  have been dealing with  the challenge of remote compute resources for years. already (geographically dispersed office locations) and adapted to the challenge of cloud compute rather quickly, which typically requires them to push a large amount of data to another location very quickly (and securely), work their magic on the content in that location (data gravity), and then move the end result to where it needs to be delivered.  It is very likely that this kind of process change will be required of most creative processes in the very near future.  For example, the convenience offered to professionals by the creation of digital dailies (think Pix/Dax for review and approvals on iPads) will become a requirement for real-time color grading, editing, and review and approve workflows to match this data gravity concept and content production sizes continue to grow as these rapid rates.

Managing data gravity requires both the change of process to account for some abstraction layer (i.e. visual review of a sliver of the data vs. moving all of the data for the review) and the ability to push large amounts of data from one creative collaboration partner to the next quickly and securely.  Solving the data abstraction layer is about understanding your creative process and at which points others can peer into that process to impart their magic vs. having to have all of the data to impart their magic (i.e. review and approve vs. creation of a new visual effect).  Solving the data transport issue requires an understanding of the problem from a transport layer (layer 3), including the speed of light, contention and latency, as well as understanding how the application layer (layer 7) can help solve transport problems.  In short, it means knowing when you need dedicated private bandwidth vs. lots of cheap internet and the right software to solve your data gravity problem.

Regardless of how you decide to change your creative processes and deal with data gravity, one thing is for sure: as long as the price of underlying cost drivers in the digital workflow reduce product price by half every 12-18 months (or their product capability doubles for the same price), someone else in the chain will be innovating the creative process to deliver a better, faster and cheaper solution  to present to your customers because the opportunity for disruption it creates is just too large to ignore.

29 2016 Aug

MPSE/CAS Golf and Poker Tournament Tees Off 18 September

8th annual charitable event co-sponsored by the Cinema Audio Society.

The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) and the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) will host the 8th Annual MPSE Golf and Poker Tournament September 18, 2016 at the Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland, California. Proceeds from the event will benefit the MPSE’s Ethel Crutcher Scholarship Fund, which provides mentoring and support for student sound artists, as well as the organization’s work promoting the role of sound in movies, television, gaming and other entertainment media.

MPSE Golf and Poker

29 2016 Aug

HPA Awards: Engineering Excellence, Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation Winners Announced

During a recent day long special judging event at IMAX, industry experts convened to consider a variety of compelling presentations for two special awards from the HPA. Recipients of both the Engineering Excellence Awards, and the Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation have now been announced.

2016 HPA Engineering Excellence Award

The Engineering Excellence Awards were created to spotlight and reward companies and individuals providing services to the professional media content industry for their outstanding technical and creative ingenuity in media, content production, finishing, distribution and archive.

NAB Show returns as the sponsor the Engineering Excellence Award.

Winners:

Aspera FASP Stream

Grass Valley, GV Node Realtime IP Processing and Edge Routing Platform

RealD Ultimate Screen

SGO Mistika

Honorable Mention:

Grass Valley – LDX 86N Native 4K Series Camera

Canon USA, Inc. - 4K / UHD / 2K / HD display

 The Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation

The HPA Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation Award was conceived to recognize companies and individuals who have demonstrated excellence, whether in the development of workflow and process to support creative storytelling or in technical innovation.

The Mill: BLACKBIRD is the 2016 recipient of the HPA Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation. The BLACKBIRD is the first fully adjustable car rig that creates photoreal CG cars.

 

 

26 2016 Aug

ShotPut Pro 6 Offloading Application is now available!

SPP6M_Video_Screenshot-01Pause/Resume offloads for hours at a time, even when ejecting hard drives and camera cards. Create PDF offload reports with metadata and thumbnails and customize them with your company logo. Two different offload modes make it easier to queue up offloads or search files and drag to new offload destination. A color coded progress window allows users to see the progress of multiple jobs at a glance. Advanced naming features in presets offer naming consistency and nesting of files into folders. Export and send presets to other ShotPut Pro users. Allow ShotPut Pro to optimize the offload sequence or choose from several different options. Information buttons on both the attached media and offloads provide real time information like size, space and estimated time of completion. Desktop notifications as well as email and text can be set up easily. Export offload reports from previous jobs quickly and in multiple formats. No other offloading application has this kind of functionality, which is why so many major movie studios and insurance companies require it in their workflow.

Learn More: https://youtu.be/lan2KsH5_eU #offloadconfidently

26 2016 Aug

Xytech Expands Transmission Services With Launch Of New Division

xytech logoXytech launched its Broadcast Services Division.  The new division will address the rapidly changing needs of global video transmission services. Industry expert Daniel Lynch, with Xytech since 2011, will lead the division. Xytech Broadcast Services will build upon the company’s success in bringing holistic transmission and asset management solutions to the complex operations of facilities, studios and networks. The division will provide a technically advanced, modern solution delivering flexible, scalable and seamless software to operations facing increasingly intense content demands.

“Today, the unprecedented volume of digital content continues to drive change,” comments Xytech COO Greg Dolan. “This volume will grow exponentially for at least the immediate future. Successful transmission management must go beyond a feature-set to integrate with the key components of the ecosystem. We do not approach transmission management as a silo. We match a broad footprint of transmission-specific features to our message-based integration platform, Fuse – a full featured web interface – and our trademark configurability. This unified approach is the only way to succeed in today’s world.”

As VP of Broadcast Services, Lynch will drive the evolution of the platform. Lynch is well known in the industry for his groundbreaking work with the Associated Press. At AP, he served in crucial positions for over a decade. Lynch has led Xytech’s Europe, Middle East and Africa Division for five years.

Lynch comments, “From transmission architecture and SDN to high output satellites and fiber, the ecosystem is dynamic. It is our mission to provide a powerful platform compatible with the nature of today’s applications.”

26 2016 Aug

WCPMedia Services Provides Media Management Solutions for “Sports Memories: Rio 2016”

Innovative B2B Cloud-based platform used for sports media exposition hosted by the Brazilian Olympic Museum.

 Rio de Janeiro — WCPMedia Services’ revolutionary cloud-based digital asset management platform is currently being used to manage content for Sports Memories: Rio 2016, a traveling sports media exposition depicting a cinematic history of world Olympic and Brazilian sports spanning 100 years.

rioWCP is being used to ingest, manage and distribute both the exposition’s historical media and the festival submissions. The platform makes it easy and efficient to manage very large media files, resulting in significant cost savings for the festival over traditional distribution means. It also offers improved security, as well as cutting edge tools for transcoding, digital screening rooms and monitoring.

26 2016 Aug

FuseFX Expands New York Facility

Buoyed by rising television productions, FuseFX has expanded its presence in New York, moving its operations to larger quarters to be able to accommodate a dynamic team of more than 50 artists. Fuse current projects include “Mr. Robot,” “The Get Down and “Luke Cage.”

FuseFXFuseFX New York’s new quarters are in the same SoHo building as its original facility, with more than 60 percent more physical space. The studio has also beefed up its workflow – which is optimized for 4K – with additional workstations, more servers and a larger rendering farm.

 

26 2016 Aug

The Molecule provides VFX for OWN’s Highly Anticipated New Series ”Queen Sugar”

The Molecule’s Senior VFX Producer Lauren Ellis describes her experience on set for OWN’s upcoming series “Queen Sugar” as diverse, supportive, and high caliber.

Based on the book of the same name, “Queen Sugar” focuses on three siblings who manage their family’s sugar cane farm in Louisiana after a family crisis bands them together. Executive Producer, Writer, and Director Ava DuVernay has been in production on the series throughout this year. The Molecule has been working on the Visual Effects and Motion Graphics in our LA studio since April.

“It has been my most encouraging and growth-inducing experience to date for me as a VFX Producer –  in the best possible way! The bar is high but you’re not alone in making sure you meet it. The honesty and transparency is refreshing and there is no covering of your behind only. Everyone covers everyone.”

One of the most unique elements of DuVernay’s hand-selected crew is that the group is mostly female. “Statistics on women in film and television are grim,” notes Lauren. “By bringing in an impressive list of direct-hers (as she calls them), Ava is not only showing that women are capable of taking on these roles but that it’s not very hard to find them!”

“It’s an all-female directing team for a show on the only African-American Woman-owned network,” Lauren continues. “Her inclusive message is resounding through the industry.”

Although “Queen Sugar” seems like a show that wouldn’t need extensive  VFX work, Lauren notes that there are many kinds of visual effects – not all are of the Jurassic World variety. “The most common effects are the ones you don’t notice: monitor burn-ins, removal of environmental elements, split screens, etc.” She continues, “Nearly everything we watch every day has been touched by a VFX team.”

Throughout the production, Lauren advised the production team on how to prevent VFX work later on. She recalls, “they shot in this gorgeous home in the hills but there were endless amounts of reflections. Calling out where the crew should move and how they should blend in helped to keep costs down.”

This is why a skilled VFX producer is an integral part of the production team; little fixes can add up to a large chunk of a team’s budget in post, but a VFX producer can help prevent those overlooked aspects. The result is that more of a team’s budget can be put toward creative aspects of the show instead of fixing tiny imperfections like crew reflections.

“Queen Sugar” is slated to make its debut on OWN in a two-night event on September 6 and 7. As anticipation continues to build ahead of the premiere, Lauren offers a couple key reasons why you should mark your calendar: “Tune in to support history and, of course, a fantastic story. Tune in to make sure this isn’t the only opportunity we’re given to support female voices.”

Read More
26 2016 Aug

VES Summit on Saturday, 29 October, 2016 at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills

Join the Visual Effects Society (VES) for their annual one-day Summit devoted to shaping the future of the visual effects industry. This year’s theme “What is Real?” explores the realities of virtual and physical experiences, new technologies, new business platforms and the latest storytelling forms.

  • Expert Panel Discussions – include “Visual Effects in the Wild” and “Cinematography and VFX: What Constitutes ‘Real?’
  • Thought-leading Speakers – Speakers to be announced soon!
  • Networking Roundtables – https://www.visualeffectssociety.com/news-events/summit/tabs/2016-roundtables
  • Product Display and Demo Booths

This year’s speakers to be announced soon.

To purchase tickets, go to: https://www.visualeffectssociety.com/news-events/summit/tabs/2016-register

To enjoy sponsorship recognition while networking with 200+ entertainment professional and thought leaders, please contact Nancy Ward.

About the Visual Effects Society
The Visual Effects Society (VES) is the entertainment industry’s only official organization representing over 3,000 visual effects practitioners including studio executives, supervisors, artists, producers, technology developers and educators in 30+ countries with 10 global Sections. Our global members contribute to all areas of entertainment from animation, hybrid films, films, television, VR&AR and commercials to music videos, games and new media. The top grossing 100 films of all time are visual effects driven or animated films: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/alltime/world/. To learn more about the VES, visit www.visualeffectssociety.com and follow us on Twitter @VFXSociety