Josh Wiggins_5_2017

By Debra Kaufman

On May 24, HPA will hold its second NET (Networking Education Technology) event, the first since last summer’s. Last July, the then-SCRG (Sales Career Resource Group) changed its name to NET and announced a meeting featuring a “revitalized, disruptive and evolved format.” Taking a page from HPA Tech Retreat’s popular breakfast roundtables, the get-together featured tables with topics ranging from audio, VR and IMF to archiving and localization.

At this event, says NET co-chair Josh Wiggins, chief commercial officer of startup GrayMeta, the format has evolved. “It’s like the HPA Tech Retreat breakfasts meet speed dating,” he says. The number of topics has also been condensed to three main tracks, on complex content workflows, immersive content (360-degree video, VR/AR) and AI/machine learning. Each of three sessions lasts 20 minutes, with five minute breaks in between. An attendee can move among the tracks and topics at will during the three 20-minute sessions where, at ten tables, a table host leads the discussion.

Even though the table host stays at the same table, they too find the conversation interesting. “That’s because the attendees change, so does the conversation and the opinions,” says Wiggins. “Each session is different – and we’re stocked with good topics and participants.” To create the NET event, HPA president Seth Hallen and Wiggins tapped Eliot Sakhartov, a Microsoft account technology strategist in media & entertainment, as NET co-chair.

Sakhartov, who was a table monitor on a cloud discussion at the last NET event, notes that feedback from the past two events played an important role in transforming it. “People wished there were more time to go to more tables,” he says. “We revamped it a bit so people can understand the tracks and decide which portion of the business they’re interested in. We’re streamlining the themes.”

Along with Wiggins, he’ll be floating through the room on May 24 making sure everything works smoothly. “It’s not only a good experience for me,” Sakhartov says. “But the event itself is so valuable. It’s creating a way where people in our industry can come together and learn something new.” Wiggins points out that NET has also connected with the Women in Post and Young Entertainment Professionals teams to help organize the event and promote it among its members.

Wiggins stresses that no one is there pitching products, and that the topic-specific conversations can and will vary. Each topic or theme will devote a table to the beginning, middle or end of the supply chain. By picking among the 10 tables, an attendee can mix up topics and choose to focus anywhere in the supply chain. “If you don’t give a hoot about virtual reality, you can sit at the artificial intelligence tables,” says Wiggins. Just like the HPA Tech Retreat breakfast roundtables, if a table fills up, attendees can grab a chair and join.

Sakhartov enthuses about the AI portion of the event, as well as the examination of HDR, IMF and UHD. For the former, ETC @ USC project director and Novamente chief executive Yves Bergquist and Novamente chairman Dr. Ben Goertzel will lead a deep discussion on how machine learning and AI will play a growing role in the supply chain for entertainment. For the latter, Sony Pictures’ Greg Geier and Disney’s Ryan Kido will host a table discussion on the joys and challenges of mastering and distributing IMF, UHD and HDR.

Wiggins says that NET plans to maintain the three topics for the foreseeable future, since all the new technology looming in the near future fits into these buckets. “There’s room for growth,” he says. “Meanwhile, you can network, get education and keep up with technology.”

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