The CHANGING THE PICTURE Technology Conference 2016 took place for the fourth time on November 17-18 at Studio Babelsberg (Potsdam). Over 250 professional guests from film, TV and digital content production, including screenwriters and producers, VR/AR developers and broadcasters, online platforms, film distributors and digital media players, discussed and experienced the latest technological innovations in the entertainment industry in various talks and practical tech sessions.
On the first day, international speakers shared their expertise in key technologies and applications in keynotes, panels and discussions with participants. The conference was moderated by Kate Bulkley, award-winning journalist and media commentator (The Guardian, Broadcast Magazine, London, UK).
Helge Jürgens, Managing Director of the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH, opened the conference by highlighting the enormous potential of the Berlin Capital region as the interface between creative content and technological innovation – a sentiment reflected in the conference motto: Where Tech & Storytelling intertwine.
Maria Ingold, a leading expert in the British television industry and Top 100 Influencer in the digital media sector, introduced all of the conference topics – from UHD / HDR / HFR technologies and technical and descriptive metadata, to the importance of sound design and the current state of VR hype. She took stock of the latest technological innovations and trends, offered her forecast on future directions and concluded with an idea that would be expanded upon with each presentation throughout the day: Technology is changing the way we think creatively.
Jan Fröhlich, Senior Image Scientist at ARRI (Munich) kicked off the series of Ignite Talks: “The Impact of Tech on Storytelling” with a presentation on HDR, 4K and UHD. According to Fröhlich, creatives should also focus on HDR, not just technologists – and he was regretful that HDR is not a big topic in the community in Germany. Fröhlich noted that HDR can only be used to full potential when combined with HFR (Higher Frame Rate) technology, and recommended further research into the influence of HFR on storytelling.
Florian Reimann (Seriotec, Munich) and John C. Roselund & Kvae Stein (drylab, Oslo) analyzed the importance of technical and descriptive metadata in workflows. Reimann presented the tools Yamdu and the Webgate Cloud System through their use in the ZDF project Hour Zero (AT), while the Norwegian drylab duo discussed the complete technical workflow from their award-winning, Oscar-nominated production The King’s Choice. They agreed that metadata is the key to ensuring that a film’s creative, visual language remains consistent throughout the production process and accessible to every crew member.
John Hurst, Co-founder and Technical Director of Cine Cert (Burbank, USA) presented the final Ignite Talk “Boosting Distribution with IMF”, revealing how an outdated tape-based mindset in post-production costs filmmakers time, money and new markets, and explaining the benefits of the Interoperable Master Format (IMF) – an international standard for processing different versions of a film in international film production and distribution.
In the ensuing discussion with all the speakers of the Ignite Talks series, it became clear just how vital interaction design is in the development of new workflow software. And, to engage all creative stakeholders in digital processes, the added value of new tools must be defined and communicated. This allows a direct mapping of the workflows and the quality of the data. After all, even if technical processes aren’t particularly “sexy,” the resulting benefit is extremely attractive for an industry under constant time and financial pressure.
Ian Forrester, Senior Firestarter Producer at the BBC (London, UK), and journalist Jan Lerch addressed in the Fireside Chat “Feeding the Giants: Storytelling for Social Media Broadcasters” the controversial question whether and to what extent large corporations in the technology sector and social media can establish themselves as new, major actors in the entertainment industry and how content producers can cooperate with them. Forrester introduced BBC’s innovative new strategy of “Perceptive Media,” to be tested in 2017, which allows content to be reshaped based on information about the viewer, creating a unique and profoundly affecting viewing experience. Lerch gave insight into the way technology platforms set requirements for creatives. Nevertherless creatives can push the limits of existing platforms of social media giants in new and exciting ways.
By involving production designers and VFX designers in the screenwriting process, productions can significantly increase the creative potential for their story – this was the conclusion of the panel ‘Writer’s Room Extended.’ Production Designer Uli Hanisch, Pixomondo Head of 3D Tonio Freitag, and producer and director Kerstin Polte (serienwerk) discussed their views on the topic. They answered the question of costs resulting from such development process unanimously: By investing more time and money into pre-production processes, expensive mistakes in during production could be avoided. In Germany, on average only 2% of the budget is invested in joint development (before pre-production). In the US and UK, it is 9%.
Innovative sound technologies and applications at the intersection of film, gaming and VR/AR was the subject of the panel “Follow the Sound”: Amaury La Burthe, Managing Director of Audiogaming / Novelab (Toulouse, France) and Felipe Sanchez Luna, Co-Founder of Kling Klang Klong (Berlin, Germany) discussed with Martin Frühmorgen, Managing Director of Rotor Film (Potsdam, Germany). La Burthe highlighted an emerging revolution in sound design through the emergence of new immersive, non-linear formats: “Sound and audio professionals are no longer there to place elements on a timeline, but to create entire worlds.”
Arnaud Colinart, Co-Producer and Creative Director of AGAT Film/ex Nihilo (Paris, France) presented the award-winning Film/VR-project Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness (winner of the 2016 Tribeca Storyscapes, Kaleidoscope VR, and the Prix Europa, among others). He shed light on the iterative process behind the production. What began as an idea for a podcast based on found sound material to accompany an existing short film evolved to become a groundbreaking VR experience that was not only technically astonishing, but remarkably moving. As Colinart puts it: “The DNA of the project, which was not initially planned as a VR format, is not the technology but the story.”
The centrality of the story was expanded upon by the final keynote speaker, Michael Koperwas. “In storytelling, we are only at the beginning of a new era in VR content”, Koperwas pointed out. “The technology is in its infancy – we storytellers have to consider how we make content for it.” The co-founder of the ILMxLab in San Francisco, USA has played a key role in several VR projects – including the VR extension to Star Wars. In his new position as a Mixed Reality supervisor, Koperwas is pioneering the application of VR and MR in the entertainment industry. While filmmakers are still coming to terms with the upheaval of storytelling brought about by VR, it’s clear that there is huge potential at the intersection of cinema and emerging formats.
On the second day of the conference, five parallel stages of Tech Sessions provided the unique opportunity to get hands-on experience with cutting-edge production tools together with experts and developers. The latest collaborative production software, a workshop on HDR and HFR, sound design strategies, and storytelling in 360° video and volumetric Virtual Reality were all explored in the top-notch experiment rooms at Babelsberg.
The focus of TECH SESSION 1 “COLLABORATIVE PRODUCTION” was on innovative tools for script writing, pre-production, on-set, data management and pre-grading as well as dailies and rights management. There were demos from Lockit Network, Drylab, Gamebook.io, DramaQueen, Film Data Box, rightsmap, innovations from the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and Yamdu together with ARRI Webgate. In this session, participants were able to deepen their practical know-how in collaboration with the technology developers.
TECH SESSION 2 “THE NEW PICTURE” allowed participants to ask experts Jan Fröhlich (ARRI, Munich, Germany), Sebastian Göhs (Rotor Film, Potsdam, Germany), Daniele Siragusano (FilmLight Ltd., London, UK) and Heike Quosdorf (Colorist, Stuttgart, Germany) in-depth questions on HDR (High Dynamic Range), HFR (High Frame Rate) and Wide Color Gamut.
Amaury La Burthe (Audiogaming, Toulouse, France), a leading expert in technology for sound, film, games and VR, gave a masterclass on interactive sound and audio tools in TECH SESSION 3 “THE FUTURE OF SOUND.” This session also featured the analysis of the development of the VR format Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness. La Burthe explained how the specific challenges of this extraordinary project led his team to develop innovative tools and specific strategies to create the the internationally award-winning VR experience that it is today.
In TECH SESSION 4 at the Medieninnovations-Zentrum (MIZ), Arne Ludwig (Headtrip & First German Association for Virtual Reality, Cologne, Germany) and Nicole Sengl (XEN.ON TV, Potsdam) set up a “360° PLAYGROUND”: Participants were guided through the integration of cutting edge tools into their own 360° productions.
TECH SESSION 5 “VIRTUAL REALITY STORYTELLING” explored the potential of volumetric VR, led by Emmy Award winner and Visual Effects Supervisor as well as Creative Director Rainer Gombos (Realtra, L.A., USA). Enthusiastic participants were able to test volumetric video capture in the studio and work directly with one of the pioneers of the field.
CHANGING THE PICTURE is organized by transfermedia production services GmbH, sponsored by the medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and supported by the city of Potsdam, the ZAB (Brandenburg Economic Development Board), the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce, the European Union, and in cooperation with the European Enterprise Network (EEN).