By Debra Kaufman
IMF, Augmented Reality, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence… these are just some of the topics that will be discussed at the Nov. 28 HPA NET (Networking, Education, Technology) luncheon and gathering to be held at the Beverly Garland hotel in North Hollywood. “NET is a way for people to understand what the trends are with technology and how it applies to their businesses and daily lives,” says NET co-chair Eliot Sakhartov, who is a Microsoft technology strategist. “If you’re an editor or colorist, you probably already know about HDR, but you don’t know what’s going on with machine learning or artificial intelligence or other parts of the business that will eventually affect you.”
NET was born out of SCRG (the Sales Career Resource Group), founded in 2008 as a way for sales and marketing people to understand technology. Those meetings featured a single topic, explored by panelists and led by a moderator. “The idea is that we would evaluate the topics more from a commercial perspective,” says HPA president Seth Hallen, senior vice president of business development and strategy at Pixelogic Media who was a co-chair of SCRG and is now a member of the NET committee. “We didn’t go too deeply in the technical side.” During those years, SCRG addressed 4K, tapeless workflows and stereoscopic capture among other timely topics.
SCRG began to evolve, first by changing the format to roundtables. “The roundtable idea was similar to the breakfast roundtables at the HPA Tech Retreat,” says Hallen. “But the other difference is that everyone would get up and change tables at least once.” The new format quickly became popular; about 125 people attended the last NET event.
The last piece of the evolution came with the change of the committee’s name. “We decided SCRG was the world’s worst acronym,” says Hallen. “We wanted to rebrand it, and we came up with NET.” Sakhartov adds that the three words that make up the NET acronym are a spot-on description of what the group does. “You walk in the door and you’ll find 12 different subjects,” he says. “This is an open, free environment for two-way 360-degree conversations.”
Topics are divided into three categories: creation, workflow and disruption. “By committee, we try to keep it consistent,” says Sakhartov. “We find subjects in each of those three areas that we think are relevant today. And then we go out and try to find subject matter experts in those fields. Or sometimes people come to us with ideas, and we love for that to happen.” For example, he says, a digital dailies company that is using data to make dailies smarter came to NET and asked to host a table. “Amazon and Google want to get involved, but we’ve had startups as well,” he says. “We want people to give us ideas and talk about what they’re doing.”
The November 28 NET meeting will also be the first to have attracted sponsors: Dell/EMC and Smart Stack. “We’re excited to have these two companies join us,” says Hallen. “The HPA is always dedicated to bringing value to the community and the industry, and this is another way we can do that.”
The event will feature several intriguing topics: Sony Pictures executive Greg Geier and Disney executive Ryan Kido will give attendees an update on IMF and what to expect in 2018. Microsoft’s principal audio designer Jeanne Parson will talk about “VoiceFont” and its role in artificial intelligence, and Max Bronstein, Media and Strategy Lead at Po.et, will moderate discussion on blockchain, security and media distribution. MPC Creative executive producer Matt Winkel will lead conversation on augmented reality as a tool for art direction, and Gearhouse Broadcast managing director Marc Genin will address unscripted live acquisition. Technicolor executive Daryll Strauss and 5th Kind chief executive Steve Cronan will lead discussion on artificial intelligence in post, and Netflix manager of post production Justin Holt will focus on unscripted live post workflow and delivery. Pixelogic CTO Raja Sahi and SDI CTO Scott Rose will moderate conversation on machine learning/artificial intelligence in localization. Keycode Media president Mike Cavanaugh will look at content creation and production for college sports and Prime Focus Technologies president Patrick Macdonald-King will address artificial intelligence and dailies.
NET’s new format works well for attendees facing such a rich list of topics. Sakhartov reports that the Nov. 28 event will allow them to sit at three tables for 20 minutes each. He also notes that staying at the same table for the entire hour will also yield an interesting result. “Every single conversation will be different,” he promises. “You can sit there for 20 minutes, but if you come back, it’ll be a new conversation.”
Sakhartov also stresses that NET is not only for the community but by the community. “If you have ideas for sessions or think of things we’re missing, please send that information to us,” he says. “We’d love to be able to cover it in the next round.”