|The second Entertainment in the Internet Age (ETIA) conference was jointly sponsored by SMPTE and Stanford's Center for Image Systems Engineering (SCIEN). Taking place June 17 and 18, the event saw attendees gather in the Nvidia Auditorium in the Huang Engineering Building on the Stanford campus to hear presentations from over 50 industry experts.
Keynote Session: Web Business Models for Entertainment
In her keynote address, Vubiquity's Darcy Antonellis discussed the state of nontraditional TV viewing. 21% of pay TV customers are making use of on-the-go viewing, but that number is increasing quickly, she said.
Ms Antonellis stressed that users want a "combination of a linear viewing experience with a personalised navigational capability and a social component for sharing, commenting, and rating."
She said the challenge was figuring out how to use big data to determine when to hit users with offers for something they want to buy at that time.
Tools of the Trade: VP9 and Cloud-Based Content Delivery
With participation by Jan Skoglund and Renganathan Ramamoorthy from Google, this panel focused on the motivation for the new VP9 codec that is now being deployed to enable 4K video streaming. VP9 has also reduced buffering for YouTube viewers, SMPTE said, by 25% in developed markets and 50% in developing markets.
YouTube's Anil Kokaram followed up with some of the underlying technical data about the site's streaming backend. He said parallel processing is critical to timely content delivery, but that doing it effectively requires content-aware splitting of videos to avoid creating artifacts.
Kokaram's YouTube colleague Doug Stallard explained that the two-pass system enables the company to handle the 100 hours of user-generated content uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Microsoft's Martin Wahl discussed the advantages of a cloud-based media platform such as Microsoft's own Azure Media Services. Microsoft's Origin Server can provide real-time delivery of content in whatever format is needed for a particular viewing device, customised with business logic supplied by the content provider.
Disruptive Innovation in Moviemaking, Sports, and Games
New York University's Chris Bregler moderated a panel featuring Marv White of ESPN, Kim Libreri of Lucasfilm and Erik Johnson of game-maker Valve. White said that the equipment ESPN needed to implement the 'first and 10' first down overlay for American football originally filled an entire truck but can now fit on a tabletop.
Libreri revealed that Lucasfilm is exploring integrating movie technology into real-time games, such as in the company's 1313 project.
Lucasfilm has also discovered that the same technology can be used as a creative tool for moviemakers, allowing directors to preview the end results on their motion-capture stages with full lighting, computer-generated costumes and backgrounds.
Exploration Zone: Toward the Entertainment Holodeck
For the first time, at this year's ETIA conference was a demonstration of products and prototypes for virtual reality (VR).
The event was dubbed "The Entertainment Holodeck" after the famous Star Trek virtual reality environment.
During the two-hour interactive session, attendees enjoyed hands-on demos of several products including Google Glass; a cinematic VR system from Jaunt VR; the Leap Motion Controller from Leap Motion; an untethered VR device from GameFace Labs; 3D technology from Sixense; a concave HIVE (Highly Immersive Visualization Environment) video wall measuring 10 feet by 24 feet; and Epson's new augmented reality platform.
Contributions from colleges and universities included a smartphone-based 3D modeling solution created by Stanford Project Tango and a wireless VR solution from the VR Club at Homestead High School in Cupertino, California.
VR headsets were standard equipment among the exhibits, which included several immersive experiences built around Oculus Rift models augmented with audio. One of the most elaborate of these was 'Surround House 2: Monsters in the Orchestra' from AMD.
The system combines an Oculus Rift headset with headphones and a Leap Motion Controller to allow the user to control a variety of animated monsters and their simulated musical instruments.
Evening Event: Entertainment for the Next Generation
The most talked-about event at ETIA was a special evening session following the Exploration Zone demos. The session began with Electronic Arts co-founder and KPCB partner Bing Gordon in a one-on-one conversation with Dave Singhal, in which they discussed the power of immersive technologies.
The discussion was followed by a panel in which Gordon and Singhal were joined by Kati London of Microsoft Research, Paul Debevec of the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, and David Cohen of Variety magazine, as well as moderator Jon Peddie of Peddie Research.
The panel examined the role of technology and the importance of content development platforms in bringing immersive experiences closer and closer to reality.