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2016 NAB Show's 'The Future of Cinema Conference: The Immortal Movie'

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The newly crafted NAB Show's 'The Future of Cinema Conference: The Immortal Movie', produced in partnership with SMPTE, featured an array of remarkable sessions that made the event a show highlight for many attendees, writes Aimée Ricca, SMPTE Marketing and Communication.

The conference brought together top industry minds and creative talents to discuss forward-looking techniques and challenges related to making content for theatrical release and beyond.

High dynamic range (HDR) was chief among conference topics. The day before the conference, SMPTE and the Advanced Imaging Society, with the generous support of Disney, Pixar, Warner Bros., and Dolby, offered two special screenings of HDR clips from such theatrical releases as 'Inside Out', 'Zootopia', 'Tomorrowland', and 'Jungle Book', all shown in Dolby Vision HDR. A full showing of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' accompanied the afternoon session while the evening session included a feature presentation of 'Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice', also in Dolby Vision and with Dolby ATMOS. Creatives who worked on these and other innovative releases participated in further discussion during the sessions 'First Forays: High Dynamic Range in Animation' and 'First Forays: High Dynamic Range in Live Action and Visual Effects'.

During 'How Does Event Cinema Deal with Advanced Technologies?' a panel of event cinema experts debated whether 4K, 8K, or wider colour gamut provides compelling technology for cinemagoers. In addition to explaining the improvements that higher frame rates and HDR offer to the event cinema experience, they discussed challenges these technologies create in terms of distribution. Panellists also provided their views on the future of event cinema, including a new initiative — the Vista Project, presented by panellist Bud Mayo, president of alternative programming and distribution at Carmike Cinemas, and SMPTE — that supports young filmmakers and their plans to develop stories incorporating second screens.

While Sony Pictures offered a first look at the upcoming feature 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' earlier in the week during CinemaCon, attendees at The Future of Cinema Conference got the unique opportunity to see 11 minutes of the film in 120 frames/sec, 4K, 3D. This first public screening of the movie in its native format occurred in a special screening room tailored to the requirements of its renowned director, Ang Lee. The screenings were so popular that attendees queued patiently in lines that extended beyond the length of the hall, and an additional screening was added. Lee, himself, along with production systems supervisor and engineer Ben Gervais, personally introduced each screening, and the two later joined editor Tim Squyres to present a keynote in which they described their visions for cinema and the creative opportunities for the future of filmmaking.

Gervais introduced Lee to the standing-room-only audience, and Lee began by saying, 'I'm not a technical guy at all. I just have a lot of curiosity to see drama, examine humanity, storytelling … that's my thing'. He then spoke about his work on 'Life of Pi', discussing his thought process and how his storytelling curiosity required him to get in touch with digital cinema and the tools, such as 3D, that it provides. Still, he admitted that he was careful with the technology that stated that he is an advocate for the cinema as a destination to view films. 'I don't like when people watch movies on their iPhones,' Lee said. 'I like to bring them to a special place that we call theatre. I like to go there like a temple'.

Lee continued by discussing how he created 'Billy Lynn', saying, 'This is really the beginning of a new quest.' He credited Doug Trumbull and James Cameron with laying the groundwork for the technology that he's using to bring his creative vision to the screen and to touch the audience on a deeper emotional level. Lee discussed adjustments he made to accommodate increased frame rates, and Squyres spoke to the differences between editing 3D and 2D content. Even with the successful technological advances he is using in Billy Lynn, Lee acknowledged that commercial applications for utilizing these technologies are still difficult. He stated, 'This is a long journey, and we're in the beginning for what I think digital cinema means.'

During the session 'Deep Technical Dive Into Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk', Lee, Gervais, and Squyres were joined by stereographer Demetri Portelli of Sony Pictures, along with Scot Barbour and David Cohen of Variety. They discussed the technical challenges of production and postproduction in 120 frames/sec, 4K, stereoscopic 3D. 'What Ang's done with the technology is tremendous,' said Barbour. 'It's rare that a filmmaker will come to us with a technological challenge that will change a lot of different parts of the industry at once. With this one, we were really pushing the boundaries lens to lens.'

Other session topics included the challenge and necessity of increasing and sustaining diversity in cinematic arts and the status and future of light field imaging technology, which allows images to be refocused, reframed, and viewed from any angle, much like a hologram.

The conference programme committee included chair, Richard Welsh of Sundog Media Toolkit; along with Abi Corbin, writer and director; media technology consultant Christy King; SMPTE Education Vice President Pat Griffis of Dolby Laboratories; motion picture consultant Bill Hogan; Pete Ludé of RealD; Cynthia Slavens of Pixar Animation Studios; digital cinema consultant Jim Whittlesey; and Chris Witham of The Walt Disney Studios. In addition to chairing The Future of Cinema Conference, Welsh is the co-chair of the HPA Tech Retreat UK, presented by SMPTE, which comes to Heythrop Park Resort in Oxfordshire 13-14 July. Details and registration are online at

Photos and videos, including the Ang Lee keynote, from the conference, are available at A full recap of The Future of Cinema Conference will appear in the May/June issue of the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal available in the SMPTE digital library online at

Image: Robert Seidel, Ang Lee, Barbara Lange and Richard Welsh. Credit: Robb Cohen, courtesy of NAB.

This article can also be read at BFV online here.


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