Showest is always about showing the evolution of the movie theater experience. Whereas two years ago, the worry was that home theaters would take away the element of going to movies, the advent of 3D in the past two years has completely turned that angle on its ear. Last year’s argument involved the greater thought of how to afford to fit the current theaters to have 3D capabilities but the realization with “Avatar” is that there is always possibility. This motivated a new level of capital involvement because the films opening now do not have enough screens with audiences screaming for their inclusion. The paradox is quite humorous in its overall irony. This jolt of energy reflects in the intent of the studios and the inclement of star involvement which in recent years had been waning. The business is cyclical as ever.
Toy Story 3, Big 10 Award & Disney Opening Day Luncheon For the opening of Showest proper, Disney brought, through the voice of John Lasseter, the next installment in the Toy Story saga. While not directed by him, but rather by his longtime editor, his thought was that he wouldn’t give the films he made to anyone. After accepting the award from NATO for having 10 successful films at Pixar in a row, Lasseter introduced a new 3D short, “Night & Day”, shown for the first time outside the studio which he is says is the most creative piece he believes they have done to date. After this short, which uses Master Image 3D as an alternative to Real D, the producer and director of Toy Story 3 came out. Reflecting an earlier sentiment from John Lasseter that this screening would be in 2D and not 3D because post still had 5 or 6 weeks to go, illicited some questions. They also spoke that there was still temp score and that some shots near the end were not fully completed. Afterwards Disney held a luncheon in the main ballroom lining up the posters for all the Pixar Films side by side while Nathan’s served hotdogs and an 80s band worked the crowd. Buzz and Woody were present for pictures before the day moved on.
Letters from Juliet & Summit Dinner After a one/two punch last fall with “New Moon” and with a newly minted Best Picture Oscar in the form of “Hurt Locker” only a week ago, Summit is occupying the slot once beheld by Dreamworks. The key now is the types of films they present which is always in a general sense across the industry a crap shoot. This year they brought “Letters To Juliet” starring Amanda Seyfried set in Verona Italy which releases in the next couple months. The dinner following highlighted the Italian essence while the intermittance of Budweiser motivated conversation with theater owners on the pros and cons of restaurant integrated theaters and the hope of their return to major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles.
Lionsgate Reception, Kick Ass & Dinner The essence of Lionsgate this year rests in their progression of “Kick-Ass”, their take on the superhero genre. Lionsgate and the distribution team presented the screening to packed house along with a test consumer audience which allowed for a more organic interaction. It was proceeded by a new trailer of “The Expendables”, the new action movie directed by Sylvester Stallone and starring nearly every action star on the planet. The day before at the Bellagio at a private reception, Stallone interacted with the theater owners which is always important in terms of extending goodwill on the basis of the film. Crown shots and Patron Screwdrivers swirled with fondue as guests could take pictures in a green cape where their heads are photoshopped on top of one of the “Kick Ass” characters. The dinner proceeding the screening featured a great performance by all-female string quartet Phat Strad who played everything from “Moon River” to “Live & Let Die” as the character banners of “Kick Ass” flowed behind. With other films coming this year whose titles flew by on the party screen including “Killers” starring Ashton Kutcher and “Buried” (acquired at Sundance) starring Ryan Reynolds, Lionsgate as evidenced by the speech of one of its executives at the screening, is moving to evolve to the next level but realizes that the motion picture division is still what motivates the entire ancillary market whether it be digital home distribution, on demand or home video.
Back-Up Plan & CBS Films Luncheon CBS’ first foray into feature films plays into the aspect of its strengths but also in highlighting from possibilities in its TV archive. The first film “Extraordinary Measures” showcased Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser but in a structure more suitable to a TV movie. “The Back-Up Plan”, the second outing in more in structuring with a formative genre outlay. This romantic comedy stars Jennifer Lopez in a role both truthful for her but also formative as her comeback vehicle after taking some years off to be with her twins with husband Marc Anthony. Joining her in the film is Alex O’Loughlin who starred in the Joel Silver vampire series “Moonlight” and then the short lived “Three Rivers” both on CBS. It speaks to cross medium interaction which will be key to the introduction of new talent. With Lopez guesting on “How I Met Your Mother” in advance of the film opening, this kind of symbiotic element is in congruence of a new way of reaching audiences.
Post screening at the luncheon, Lopez took the podium, poised and business-like as she has always been, knowing the product that she is selling but also the importance of the business. She indicated her love of the genre and that it was the correct film to return in as she moves back into her movie career after her maternity break. Amy Baer, the head of the film division, seems to understand the aspect of demographic but also the necessary breakdown of different ideas at play.
“Beastly”, CBS’ next film, keys into the teen demographic but understanding that the young population is more adept to needing more stylistic substance as “Twilight” has shown. Stars Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer approached on stage but not to be undone by Neil Patrick Harris, who after hosting the Tonys and the Emmys, knows how to control a room. His humor spoke to the fact that Vanessa was hot but that Alex cannot be denied. In seriousness after showing a clip, Harris says that the key is giving this young person’s story the slickness of an ultra Hollywood production. He enjoyed watching it beyond being in it which speaks to his taste.
Aside from announcing the film adaptation of “Gunsmoke” which has not yet set its cast or director, Baer and her crew brought forth Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton straight from the set of “Faster” which is only two weeks into production. They showed a quick clip reel of what has been already shot which looks like a return to hard action form. Johnson spoke that after doing the family films, it was time to return to the genre he loves. He understands the balance needed. Thornton, a little thinner with dark hair, plays to the fact that these types of films are cool but that having the right studio behind you is necessary.
New Visions & Corner Spots Outside the ballrooms and screening theaters in the corridors of the Paris Convention area, the halls are covered with posters and standups providing trailer looks at new material to entice the theater owners. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” [Fox] tells of the return of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) as he seemingly draws in the young Shia Laboeuf who is involved with the former magnate’s estranged daughter. The poster is seemingly reminiscent of “Devil’s Advocate”. “Knight & Day” [Fox] by comparison in its trailer has paradoxes that can be effective and interesting depending on how it plays out. There are some feelings of a “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” though Cruise’s performance seems to play a bit broader with his comedy. It is actually refreshing to see him in this form. At one point he places on sunglasses and you see that glint of Maverick. Cameron Diaz is playing more to a bumbling form of physical play but you don’t get to see as much of the character persona in this short look but the action seems less CG motivated and more practical based. “The Other Guys” [Sony] involves a cool teaser where both Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are vaulting through the sky in slow motion but ends with them in the rigging that they use in the actual production so it is uncertain in terms of what the plot will revolve around. “Takers” [Screen Gems] plays to the dealer incentive and boasts an interesting street cred cast including Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen and recording star TI but gives no true indication of the narrative flow.
When in Las Vegas, it is always nice to get away to essential regulars and a new transition. Hidden on the other side of the 15 on Charleston, Frankie’s Tiki Room shelters itself from the knowledge that it loves what it is. The drinks have a verve of possibility from the Mutiny to the Bender Ender. Off Strip spots cater to the locals and understand the vibe. From the ultra grooved decor to the chilled bartender and specifically the sound appropriate set up, the cool spot to be was here. Not to say, that evenings don’t evolve. Always a place of infinite fun, especially when talking back to the girls behind the bar, Hogs & Heifers is a mainstay in downtown. Michelle Dell’s transplanted roughhouse from New York is the original inspiration for Coyote Ugly. Tequila shots go down every which way and balance especially on top of the bar received applause. With Fremont Street reaching South ever so succinctly, The Griffin Bar shows it dark coolness late into the evening. The Irish purmutation of the night requires Irish Car Bombs post Jameson with the pouring reaching generously into the night even as the signal light remained dim.
Warner’s Big Picture 2010 Warner has always been known for pulling out the stops at Showest. In a return to form, many studios understand the power of bringing talent out to meet the exhibitor since it shows an essence of enthusiasm on the part of stars themselves. This of course is buoyed by some script writing of course but the reality is that you can see when Alan Horn, head of Warner, believes in something. He gave the go ahead to “Harry Potter” when he became the top dog at the studio and the franchise has performed with flying colors.
Dan Fellman begins the presentation by bringing his distribution staff on stage. Warner has always been about making sure the right angle hits the screen. It is a very specific process which has become more and more refined over the years. When Horn comes onstage, he speaks of the record breaking year Warner has had and speaks to the success of “The Hangover” as a good example of cooperation between the studios and the exhibs as the longer it played, the more money it made everyone. He also hails the extreme success of 3D and that most of their films will be upgraded to the format to meet demand. This intrinsically painted the structure for “Clash Of The Titans”.
Director Louis Letterier who spoke of being an inherent fan of the original at the age of 8 also made reference of the man who they would all ask their 3D questions to in the form of Sam Worthington, the star of 2009’s monster hit “Avatar”. The 3D footage of “Clash” shown represents a cross section of what was completed in advance of the film’s anticipated release date. Christopher Nolan then came to the stage, professional, cut in a suit that has become his trademark. He explained that he wanted to give a little more of a glimpse into “Inception” without giving too much away so the exhibitors could have some sense of what they would be playing. He summarized the gist with Leonardo DiCaprio being a type of investigator who is able to enter other people’s dreams. The extended footage speaks to the more noir specifics of this perception.
John Patrick King next unveiled a more worldly approach with “Sex & The City 2” speaking of the essence of Morocco and the absence of Kim Catrall as his lovely ladies approached the stage with finesse in the form of Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and exec producer Sarah Jessica Parker. Catrall he speaks was starring in a production in the West End of London and could not be there. Zack Snyder, deep in post on his new “Sucker Punch” movie, presented his “Guardians” animated family picture. He admits that his kids wanted to know why they never saw his films which motivated him into this space at the motivation of Animal Logic whom he had worked with on “300”. This angle for him seems like a natural extension though the edginess needs to be maintained.
“Life As We Know It” brought director Greg Berlanti to stage in a romantic comedy format starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in advance of his next directing duties on “Green Lantern”. Heigl spoke of her love of the genre and doesn’t intend to slow down though Duhamel seemed a little uncomfortable on stage rather letting the material speak for itself. Todd Phillips, who brought “The Hangover” to Showest the year prior, precluded the volleying daredevil antics of Zach Galifinakis and Robert Downey Jr.as they perpetrated their new comedy “Due Date” which keeps the “Road Trip” mentality clear. Zach and Downey’s seemingly easy prankish carefree idealization in no small way helped by the smoked-out coolness of Phillips himself who knows how to keep the ball rolling.
The closer of “Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows” involved some unfinished sequences and shots that showed some of the darkness coming forth buoyed by the fact of Alan Horn’s announcement of the continuation of the 3D proliferation within their biggest franchise. Warner keeps the pace going understanding that the necessary is a nice cross section filled with energy and star power.
Prince Of Persia & Showest Awards Dinner Jerry Bruckheimer, in town to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, introduced his next big screen outing in the form of “Prince Of Persia”, being released this summer starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Post screening, the press interaction before the awards brought through three of the ensuing recepients. Jerry Bruckheimer spoke of “Pirates 4” which is set to start shooting in June but unsure if the film would be done for 3D. The market, he says, is saturated but what allows him to keep going at this level is his executives. In terms of “Persia”, he describes it as a romantic adventure, albeit one set in the 6th Century and says that is the kind of fun “Pirates” was but clarifying that it is much more plot driven. He also spoke of a new project entitled “Horsehunters” set in Afghanistan which was based on a NY Times article.
Comedy Director Of The Decade Jay Roach, best known for “Austin Powers” and whose “Dinner For Schmucks” comes out later this year, says no one knows what is funny. You tend to find it in the uncertainty. Steve Carrell, for example, he says, has a way of playing off-center delusional characters. In the end it all becomes about casting. Next, Katherine Heigl, recently a mother, came out with a new black hairdo which was seen earlier at the Warner function. She says she didn’t understand before what Showest really was about but now realizes that the theaters are trying to keep it current. She says that the hairdo is in anticipation for a role she is hoping to get off the ground which is Stephanie Plum, the heroine of Janet Evanovich’s “One For The Money” which is part of a franchise of books. She doesn’t she doesn’t feel like her native German/Irish with this hair. She also laughingly talks that she is beating comedies to death but that she loves them. She said also her next film which is in the can (“Life As We Know It” spotlighted at the Warner presentation) allowed her to “learn on the go” for her new role as mother.
With Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” hosting, the dinner sped by with chicken, salad and asparagus leading the way. Jerry Bruckheimer accepted first speaking of the point that the Lifetime Achievement Award is usually given when somebody is approaching the end of the career. He says though that his mother lived to be 104 so by that standard he has over 48% of his career still ahead of him. He also referenced his roots as a Detroit boy. Jay Roach balanced his perception as Comedy Director Of The Decade saying that “comedy is about exagerration so this is a very funny award”. The young in play were highlighted in the stars of tomorrow in Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer, both of CBS Films’ upcoming “Beastly”. Hudgens says that in this business she already feels old while Pettyfer gave his props to CBS Films Head Amy Baer who picked him from obscurity though he did have the lead in Weinstein Company’s “Stormbreakers”.
Amanda Seyfried, who received the Breakthrough Star Of The Year Award for her roles in “Dear John”, “Chloe” and the upcoming “Letters From Juliet” which also screened at Showest, maintained a humble structure calling the award “encouraging”. Katherine Heigl, picking up Female Star Of The Year, seemingly set her dress aflutter as one strap came undone as she was walking up to the stage. Billy Bush then became the designated holder as he tried to keep from breaking into a laugh on-camera. Heigl’s first comment revolved around “Thunder Down Under”, the male revue show in Vegas describing that the advertising couldn’t be any more obvious. Drumroll.
Sam Worthington, honored with Male Star Of The Year, said the honor was “embarassing” but also “gives you a shitload of confidence” adding that he has “the best job in the world” despite starting off as a bread maker in Perth Austrailia. Zach Galifinakis, with a newly forming beard collecting his Comedy Star Of The Year Award, seemingly went off script without even knowing the venue he was in which made his act all the more surreal and applause worthy. His “Hangover” director Todd Phillips, who nabbed Director Of The Year, accepted in perpetuity admitting “I am a moron” while simultaneously telling stories of loving movies in youth particularly encouraging movie theater attendees to buy “Ice Pirates” and see “Star 80”.
The darkness of the desert speaks to the evening even as the wine flows beyond the tables. The last year of Showest at Bally’s showed an increasing return to form after years retained of less stars returning to the confab in the desert. The companies realize that especially with the new advent of 3D, the exhibitors are essential to the formula especially with the riveting performance of “Avatar” in 3D. With its translation into Cinecon at Caesars Palace next year, the new decade will begin in earnest, hopefully with many new surprises and advances ahead.
The stagnancy of the consumer electronics business can be referenced to a recessed economy globally for sure. But the key becomes an aspect of freshness. The 2010 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas tends to prove that. Three years ago, the angle of 3D was being played with (albeit in a smaller way by Texas Instruments through their DLP brand). With the hype and now the overwhelming success of James Cameron’s “Avatar”, everyone is form is rushing to get on the boat and put some real money behind it. This was to avail most at Sony’s press day conference with one of its heavy hitters as revealed by Sir Howard Stringer, head of Sony Corporation globally.
Innoventions Before the press interaction begins prior to the first day of the show, the Innoventions reception is supposed to be able to highlight those new items that will intensify the presence of mind. What was available did not stand out despite a necessity of presence with both storage and 3D lingering in the background. Sensio was pushing their element of 3D with Vizio which was reflected in their apps store which was later eclipsed by Samsung’s announcement of similar outlay. The SD Association was showing their perceptions of the next couple years within the ability of SD cards to reach capacities of 1TB within 5 years but with no true accessibility yet to back it up. Pop Box also seen is just one of the many set top boxes attempting to bring new content into the home. However the universality of the apps process will have to come to play because not every manufacturer can create their own content pipeline.
OnStar w/Volt Recruited by girls in white shirts after the martinis of Innoventions had permeated flowed the wanton traveler into a nearby room hued in blue. There, Onstar proceeded to highlight their new technology for the Chevy Volt, a fully electric car. What the company was presenting was the ability of their new app on the Droid phone to control every facet of the car including watching where the charge is from a nearby angle, unlocking the door and otherwise controlling many amenities of the vehicle’s use.
Pioneer Starting off the essence of the ensuing press day within the Sands Expo on the cusp of The Venetian, Pioneer (formerly regarded as a leading consumer front facing home entertainment manufacturer) is now entrenched more fully within the automotive high-end industry with a focus on audio. The introspection of MusicSphere, one of their new technologies, takes the angle with a touch screen using “its own facets to control itself”. Their Pandora system will be interlinking MusicSphere with the other car systems but lacks full interactive application. Another interim of this UI is based within the use of Pioneer’s new Eco Tracking device which allows people to see the efficiency and impact of their vehicle. However, Karen Rubin, Director Of Product Planning at Pioneer, says that that the system does not retain or transmit back GPS locations in an effort to maintain the privacy of the customer. Voice recognition is also built into the touch screen functionality optimizing Bluetooth but such intents where not readily made until questioning.
Casio The smaller electronics manufacturer, specifically known for its watches (among other things) highlighted its propensity for high burst camera functionality which was touched on by founder Kazuo Kashio in his opening remarks. John Homlish, EVP of Sales & Marketing, then proceeded to focus on the Elixim line of cameras which allows (within a point and shoot [the EX-FH100 model] high speed photo bursts as well as high speed movie recording within 10x optical zoom. Another new product within the sect is their new digital picture frames which allows, with the use of both Wi-Fi and SD Connectivity, the ability to alter photos (especially using the high burst functionality) within artistic styles like gothic, oil painting or Faustian. It accomplishes this using a snapshot-to-painting conversion technology optimizing Adobe Flash playback to keep the file size down. On the digital projector front, Frank Romeo, director of that division, introduced a high brightness mercury free projector (Green Slim) that can illuminate over 20,000 hours without a bulb change or even a dim reduction.
Samsung Within a packed house, Samsung showed its leadership within the digital space introducing new 3D ready LED and LCD HDTVs. The LED 9000 is only .3 inches thick which is the thickness of a pencil with the LCD only .1 inches thicker. The metal sheen allows it to reflect light in an organic way. CEO Tim Baxter announced the initial play forward in terms of intent with Samsung Apps intending to make the interacting of Wi-Fi and internet plausible (although there was no intention of full internet interactivity – more just within the function of apps [which essentially act like widgets]). However this announcement was further verified by the revealing of a co-branding deal between Samsung, Technicolor and Dreamworks Animation. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO Of Dreamworks Animation, who has been a major proponent of 3D technology, came out in a show of support, saying that all Dreamworks’ animated movies will be authored in 3D. This process confirmed the essence of Samsung being the best to optimize this element. Katzenberg seemed quite impressed by the LED set that was less than 1/2 an inch thick marvelling at its briskness. Fredric Rose, CEO Of Technicolor, was also there delivering the first Blu Ray 3D disc of “Monsters Vs. Aliens” to Baxter. The Blu Ray Association only adopted the standard for the 3D discs a month ago so this prototype was straight off the line. The first abilities of these new discs should be seen entering into the marketplace next fall. In an additional arena, the Samsung E Paper Book Reader announced a deal with Google Books adding full access to their public domain book structure that numbers over 1 million.
Sony As the bustle of the convention center was bracing itself together, Sony waited to sally forth its wares. Sony recently, instead assuming the role of an electronics manufacturer, has been relating more to content integration although its professional Red Camera has been making a distinctive leap among filmmakers. Sir Howard Stringer, with his jovial and sardonic way (which makes him a fresh voice among his competitors) emphasized the extreme importance of 3D among the Sony brand. A heavy looking jib crane was perched alongside the audience with nare a thought to its actual functionaity. Sir Howard had people place on their 3D glasses through which they saw some projected concert footage of Jimi Hendrix. Stringer said that Sony had just made a deal with the Hendrix estate to optimize alot of his material in 3D including never-before-released footage. The next surprise Stringer introduced was Grammy award winning artist Taylor Swift, who is arguably one of the hottest tickets around. Swift confirmed that she is working with Sony Electronics within its 3D optimization to expand her empire and theirs. She states that she “always got cameras with me and laptops” and that this technology “lets me take everything I get to see” adding that “fans are always cutting edge”. She then proceeded to perform a song with her band that was being shot by the requisite jib camera (which turned out to be 3D) that broadcast live behind her as she was playing demonstrating a fully practical application of the technology in the real world. After the interlay of this performer, who needed to jet because she was attending The People’s Choice Awards that night, Sir Howard stood onstage with his trademark grin joking “maybe you’ll call us cool again…who knows?” He then went on to discuss the advent of Sony’s new deal with Discovery and IMAX to create a fully 3D network to optimize the possibility of what these enterprises have been able to capture, mostly within their wild and natural life divisions. Sir Howard also relayed that they will be doing a concert with Kenny Chensey called “Summer In 3D” to be shot exclusively with Sony 3D cameras. In addition, they will be opening a 3D technology center at the Sony compound in Culver City, California which will also be integrating live action technology. In even more advancements, they are also co-opting with CBS in the first 3D research outlay headed by David Poltrak and headquartered at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After all this, Sir Howard then brought out George Bodenheimer of ESPN to announce that they are working closely with them in also creating the ESPN 3D Network. Sony is sponsoring this venture, which is very interesting considering that ESPN is owned by Disney which is Sony’s main competitor and also is owned in part by Apple. Interesting. In terms of upcoming sporting events that Sony will be integrating in 3D include shooting the FIFA World Cup in South Africa (and producing a concurrent 3D Blu Ray) as well as the Sony Open on Oahu in Hawaii. The PS3 is also adhering to the 3d space with Sir Howard announcing that the firmware on the console will be 3D upgradable to play 3D movies and games (although one will need a TV optimized with 3D hardware in order to view it).
Stan Glasgow, CEO of Sony Electronics, began introducing some of the new hardware additions bringing some of the focus back to actual engineering highlighting Sony’s new “Monolithic” designs permeated by the NX 800 which uses LED backlighting technology. The design has basis but, in all actuality, it is not as engaging as Samsung’s comparative TVs in their functionality. In terms of Blu Ray outlay, the Vaio continues with its proliferation of Blu Ray drives but it was the 400 disc Blu Ray changer that was unveiled that seemed the workhorse though few seemingly would be able to afford it. On the personal front. Glasgow also introduced the Dash which is a personal internet viewer you can use by your bed. Despite this, emphasizing the ability to update your Facebook status using widgets from your bed distinctly sounds like overkill. Sony also finally decided to embrace the SD card format in addition to their Memory Stick Duo Technology indicating that future Cybershot and Handycams will be interactive with SD elements in the future. This builds on the additional announcement of 17 new models of camcorders including a prosumer model with progressive scan which are optimized by Sony’s R Cemos sensors. The new digital cameras also have the capability for Transfer Jet which is a high speed data transfer technology between cameras which simply strikes as a faster form of infrared from years ago. The pocket introduction is Sony’s answer to the popular Flip cam called “Bloggie” which is a small personal video camera that can instantly update to a blog. Adding on this point, with every manufacturer pushing their pliability of being green, the Vaio Eco Edition Network has a body made out of recycled DVDs and CDs and a carrying case made from recycled plastic bottles and includes only a digital users manual.
Wrapping up the extension of Sony within the networked world highlighted by the PS3, Kazui Harai, the President of Sony Networked Products, spoke on the essence of the expansion of the Playstation Network to over 2700 film titles and 16,000 TV Episodes in the current year but with no intention to its optimization. Harai also announced the formation of Sony Network Entertainment, headed by Tim Shaff, former replaced head of Sony Connect & Sony Media Software, who will report directly to him.
Show Floor Possibilities One of the most striking interims on the floor was the revealing of Panasonic 3D Prosumer Video Cam which uses odjulating lenses to line the images together in terms of the multiple layers. The real world demo in full view in Panasonic’s booth shows the first step in making this technology mainstream by allowing filmmakers to use it without the weighing price of something like the Red. This model, due to launch next September, will have a retail price of $21,000. LCD TVs, many of them 3D, as evidenced by LG, are getting representative of thinner progression while every system seems to function with its own app program with Samsung in all actuality leading the charge. HD Radio, the progressive cousin of satellite radio, warrants adoption but without an intent for its inclusion in terms of amenities and possibilities its adherence in the marketplace seems moot.
DivX TV Launch – Moon @ The Palms With the advent of companies such as Vizio and Samsung using the set top hardware to push their apps baseline into different directions, it would make sense that the reverse would be true. DivX which has been on the forefront of encoding mechanisms from the very beginning would be a natural applet beyond something like Quicktime to tackle this aspect of content in a visible strain. While a very good idea, the motivation of the idea will be decided ultimately by hardware in the Internet TV revolution and not software. The smoothness of the video and the variety of content in the beta shows promise but it all becomes about the gateway with multiple possibilities available. DivX might be able to overcome obstacles in this way without a major cooperative deal. The launch party held atop the Palms Fantasy Tower with spins by Danny Masterson was an elegant and fun persistence of time with multiple running demos and exceptional music which really made the groove. The party was the way a good launch should be where the material speaks for itself but is not overwhelmed by the function itself.
MPEG Industry Forum This inside panel discussion on the expansion and possibility of video signal brought forth new progressions in transmission technology. Different forays of companies speak to different strengths and weakness. The first approached was AT&T’s U-Verse technology which has been intending itself since the advent of IPTV in 2005 and was represented by Paul Whitehead, executive director of video planning. Just this year, AT&T added 24 Megabit data service which is available in 116 markets in 22 states with enabled remote video access via iPhone which itself has gotten over 250,000 downloads of the app. New aspects of the service include sports multi-view. Whitehead says that AT&T looks at 3D as an exciting advancement especially with the possibility of a true UI on a set top box. The big question becomes aspects of specified structure like emergency alert systems in addition to the add-ons, closed captioning and ad insertion problems. One way to assess the challenges of integration which AT&T is currently doing is adaptive streaming which will be limited to certain points of customer need. In the future, adaptive streaming, Whitehead said, will change based on what is happening with the network since with adaptive, there has to be multiple encodes of everything which dictates that there is still a role for managed networks.
On a different view, Jim Kutzner, chief engineer for the Public Broadcasting Service, takes a more statistics based stance. PBS with 169 member licenses is working on a next generation interconnection system. Right now they are operating on a MPEG 2 video signal with a AC3 audio feed. They hope to enhance their output to MP4 but funding is locked though they see the progression in the next 6 years to a new standard. In terms of 3D, Kutzner says PBS sees 3D as discussions within the organization in the future although there are no current plans. The overall intent within the structure right now is planning original productions and then worrying about delivery as a case of problem solving.
As a matter of circumspect, Ajay Luthra, Sr. Director at Motorola, has a more practical view of the overall situation. He was one of the founders of the m.264 standard. He explains that success requires working business models but that standards certainly help. The key issue is interoperatability. The negative side of standards comes about when too many people are working on any given problem. The ultimate deal breaker, he says, is the money part of intellectual property rights. The expectation in terms of expansion this year is to address the aspect of adaptive and net streaming which is a tough nut to track in terms of mp4 licenses. As far as his perspective of 3D TV, he cautions that what we are seeing in the current market is low-res meaning that it is a stacked image using an mp4 AVC. The non-standard version comes in how you re-stack these images. He says that Motorola expects the final to be MBC based with full resolution. The next progression would be each eye seeing full HD which requires translation into the 1080 system. In terms of input, HDMI will solve the problem in terms of integrating this to set top boxes. The trick is that AVC is based on the integration of half horizontal and half vertical lines. Ultimately with 3D, the setback is that all UIs have never been standard thus commercial insertion of 3D might be a long time coming based possibly within a PPV system. The second incarnation to follow then will most likely include MPEG 2. The question will become ‘Do you want to do real time on-the-fly transcoding’ which will require immediate scaling of the image.
To balance these statements, Yuval Fisher, CTO of RGB Networks, says that digital program insertion is working in broadcast standards but PC delivery is still non-existent. 3D TV, he says, is heaven and hell for vendors at the same time. In terms of the problems of ad insertion as mentioned by Whitehead of AT&T, Fisher cites EBIF (enhanced tv binary interchange format) which is available on millions of current set top boxes that will allow for local insertion.
Bringing the aspect of a major distributor perspective in Microsoft, Christine Heckart, General Manager of Marketing and Business Development Of Entertainment, cites Microsoft Media Room as the comparative to AT&T’s U-Verse App. Her perspective is the necessity of “bucketing the future” in terms of distribution and consumption. The reality, she says, is that TV will be distributed over IP…”no question”. The first web pages we saw 10 years ago were “like brochures”. The new inlays are like TV in 1951. The truth, according to Heckart, is that shows on television don’t take advantage of the fact that they are on IP which is a two-way network meaning, in her estimation, that the “experience is unexplored and untapped”. She introduces the perspective of “The Cloud” DVR. Using this term, which Microsoft coined, you can download content through “the cloud” to your phone. This fact is what, she says, will change consumption dramatically. The TV will become all about layers. The Apps that are now being introduced are the “tip of the iceberg”. What developers are starting to realize is that advertising takes the consumer out of the experience. The standard should be the ads at the beginning while everything else is product placement. There needs to be what she calls an overall “shotgun approach” because the outward audience is fragmented. The key to making this work is open developers environment (which sounds kind of interesting considering Microsoft’s stance on this point vs. Mac). The reality is that all these evolutions are about money and what can motivate it. This is what causes change in the value plain. She admits that Microsoft has alot of different things it has to get done under “different wrappers” and that they “don’t always know what to bet on at the time” because of “meet-the-market requirements”.
To offer balance, George Huang of Huawei Corp. suggests that the relevance of all involved incorporates some of the trends which are becoming more consistent. The access here is contemplated in terms of wireless while consumption is decidedly based on demand. Operators are vindicated by the idea of being completely video centric but the reality (Huang cites Dubai as a truism) is that all the focus is purely on the business model. The question is how do you get media partners to work more directly with each other. The challenge becomes how to shorten the time from idea to market while keeping the cost down. The ultimate key is how to be mindful of the three “clouds”: internet, living room and digital.
Integrating the thoughts into conclusion, Theirry Fautier, Sr. Director of Convergence at Harmonic, explains that the first step of IP was getting it done. Now the idea is “how to compete”. The beauty, he says, of an IP network now is that you can publish to a device without knowing what it is or where it’s going. The reality is that the more you load a network, the more you have to invest in it.
CES this year was bombasted with the possibilities of 3D and the consumer implications, both in console and set top box application. The reality rests in the fact that there are intersections and kinks to be navigated on the way to enlightenment.