Focus on Artificial Intelligence

By Debra Kaufman

This year’s HPA Tech Retreat will feature the second half-day Monday program dubbed TR-X, for Tech Retreat eXtra. The topic, devised and developed by co-chairs Craig German, who is Senior Consultant for AWS Professional Services’ Media & Entertainment Global Practice, and Mark Chiolis, Director of Business Development for the Mobile TV Group, takes a deep dive into the impact that artificial intelligence is having on the media and entertainment industry. “Everything You Thought You Knew About Artificial Intelligence in M&E and What You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know” takes attendees through “the logical progression of a day for working professionals in the M&E space.” German and Chiolis expect that attendees will take away not only a better understanding of the foundations of AI, but will also get a practitioner’s perspective on the latest developments on AI in entertainment.

The keynote will be “Makeover or Takeover? Artificial Intelligence in Media & Entertainment”, by Yves Bergquist, USC’s Entertainment Technology Center Project Director of Data Analytics.  Yves will look at the “sheer intellectual mayhem” created around AI. “As a data scientist with years of experience in AI research and development, I’d like to lift the veil on what it means for the M&E industry,” says Bergquist, who is also Chief Executive Officer of Corto, an M&E AI engineering firm. “What is AI? What can we expect for it in media and entertainment? When? Which jobs will live, and which won’t? Will it help us take our stories higher?”

Following the theme of “a day in the life” for AI, the first session looks at real world AI case studies from people in the industry, including Amazon Web Services Senior Solutions Architect for M&E Paul Roberts, Veritone Director of Strategic Development Logan Ketchum, Facecake Chief Executive Officer Linda Smith, and Deluxe Entertainment Senior Director of Localization Product Development Greg Taieb.

Chiolis notes that searching for speakers on such a nascent topic had its challenges. “Looking at other AI conferences, most of the speakers were in finance, research or medicine,” he says. “We had to find people with a name in our industry or the ability to tie in what they were doing into M&E.”

Much of the mistrust and fear about AI is its potential to intrude on the creative process, a topic that will be addressed by USC School of Cinematic Arts professor and editor Norman Hollyn in a talk about the potential for partnering with artificial intelligence, an issue he has been studying for some time. “Like everyone in post, I’ve been working with AI in speech recognition and transcriptions for a few years,” says Hollyn. “But I’m now working with AI and machine learning to try and create better communication tools between creatives, and to streamline the metadata and organizational process. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Continuing the theme of intruding on the creative process, long-time M&E industry executive NVIDIA Vice President of Developer Programs Greg Estes will talk about “The Technology Behind the New Assistant,” a reference to the future role of AI in supporting the creative process during production and post production and how that will change the way we work, along with the new industry roles created and the potential for current roles to evolve or disappear.  “He’s been doing some unique work in this area, so I’m looking forward to what he’ll be saying,” says Chiolis.

To cut through the clutter of all the ways AI is being used in a multitude of industries, German and Chiolis chose to focus on “Bleeding Edge M&E Research.” Speakers here include USC Entertainment Technology Center Program Director Phil Lelyveld, Pixelogic Media CTO Raja Sahi, and AI startup Zeroth Chief Operating Officer John Vickery.

Debuting at TR-X will be Virtual Mark Schubin, a project created by Vickery in collaboration with Chiolis, who enlisted All Mobile Video in New York to videotape the iconic HPA Tech Retreat leader answering questions about every facet of his life and career. “Virtual Mark will be able to respond to a text-to-speech translation, or you can type in your question, and he will respond, so you can have an interactive conversation,” says Chiolis.

“The ultimate goal is to document the history of our business, as told by the luminaries who pioneered it,” he adds. “Once Virtual Mark Schubin is launched and the bugs are worked out, we’ll start adding other industry figures into our collection. It will become something that the HPA, HPA members, and the entire industry will have access to as a resource and benefit.” Virtual Mark will be on display during the Super Session and then moved into the Innovation Zone for the rest of the Tech Retreat.

The last session of TR-X will be a panel that looks into the future of AI in our industry, moderated by Sundog Media Toolkit’s Richard Welsh and featuring 5th Kind Chief Executive Officer Steve Cronan, GrayMeta CTO John Motz, Prizma Founder Rachel Payne, and Intelligent Assistance Software President Philip Hodgetts.

“I’m doing this because I want to learn, and I’m asking the questions I want answered,” says Chiolis. “I want to know where AI is for our industry, how fast it’s going to move and what we need to do to be prepared for the future.”

For those who can’t attend the Tech Retreat TR-X session on Monday, HPA will offer complimentary streaming video access. “We also are hoping to edit it down and make it available after the fact,” says German. “The hope is that the HPA community walks away from this event knowing a lot more about the technology, creativity and potential of AI and machine learning in the M&E space.”

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