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Call for Proposals for Presentations at the 2017 HPA Tech Retreat

September 5th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Schubin Cafe, Schubin Snacks



Welcome back from Labor Day! It’s time to get back into the grind and to consider the Hollywood Professional Association’s upcoming technology event.

The 2017 HPA Tech Retreat will take place February 20-24 at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Indian Wells, CA (Palm Springs area). Those of you not familiar with the event will find information about last year’s on the HPA web site here. And this post from 2010, when HPA still stood for Hollywood Post Alliance, offers a broader sense of who attends and what takes place.

As usual, the 2017 HPA Tech Retreat is expected to have seminars, a super session, and a demo room. This notice is a call for proposals for two other aspects of the retreat, presentations in the main program and breakfast roundtables, both of those taking place February 22-24 (Wednesday through Friday).

main programTopics may include ANYTHING related to moving images and associated sounds, including (but not limited to) augmented reality, bit-rate reduction, the contrast-sensitivity function, digital rights management, energy use for HDR TV sets, format conversion, gigapixel imaging, higher frame rates, immersive-sound, just-valuable-differences, kleptomania in distribution, long GOPs in an era of rapid changes, multi-language subtitling, near-field communications, open-source processing, psychophysics, quantum entanglement for zero latency, retinal (frame-free) imaging, soundfields, terabit transmission, ultra-high-whatever, virtual reality, wider color gamut, x-rays in 8K, young interpupilary distances, and zoom lenses for 32K imaging. Anything from scene to seen and gear to ear is fair game.

No formal submissions are required. A sentence or two is usually sufficient. If we need more info, we will ask. Presentations in the main program are typically of half-hour duration, including set-up and Q&A (if any). Longer or shorter presentations can sometimes be accommodated; if a different duration is desired, please request it. Panels are typically longer. Panel proposers are expected to provide both the moderator and the panelists.

There have typically been about six times more submissions each year than can be accommodated in the main program; for 2016, it was more like ten times. Many factors affect selection, including themes that emerge from submissions, so rejection does not necessarily reflect on the quality of the submission. Presenters, moderators, and panelists may all attend their sessions free and get a substantial discount on the full retreat.

Proposals, which must come from the proposed presenter, should be sent to Mark Schubin at or by the end of the day on Friday, October 28, 2016. Every proposal received is quickly acknowledged; if you don’t receive an acknowledgement, your proposal probably wasn’t received. Decisions are expected around the beginning of December.

breakfast roundtablesThe breakfast roundtables are, literally, round tables at which attendees eat breakfast, starting at 7:30 AM. Each has a number, and the numbers correspond to lists of topics and their moderators posted at the doors. Attendees may choose a roundtable based on its topic, moderator, other attendees, proximity to the food, available seats, or other factors. Popular roundtables might be surrounded four layers deep; unpopular ones might have a lone moderator sipping coffee.

Unlike the main program, which is intended to be marketing-free, the breakfast roundtables are Liberty Hall. Moderators may teach, preach, ask, call-to-task, sell, kvell, or do anything else that keeps conversation flowing for an hour.

There is no vetting process for breakfast roundtables (though the size of the topic title might be truncated into a smaller version to fit on the list); there is, therefore, no retreat-registration discount conveyed by moderating one, and all breakfast-roundtable moderators must be registered for the retreat. Tables are assigned on a first-come first-served basis. Topics and even moderators may be changed at the moderators’ option up to the last minute, but once a moderator commits to a slot that slot MUST be covered from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM, even if no one else shows up and even if the moderator would rather sit in on someone else’s table.

Requests for breakfast roundtables may be submitted only by their proposed moderators to the same e-mail addresses. There is no deadline, but once the maximum number of tables is reached (nominally 32), no more can be accepted for that day. Wednesday and Thursday typically fill to the limit; Friday typically doesn’t. Requests should list the desired day(s) and the desired topic(s).

innovation zoneInformation about retreat registration (it often sells out) and Innovation Zone (demo-room) applications will become available later.  Check the HPA web site.

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HDR: The Bottom Line by Mark Schubin

September 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe

This is a modified version of the original presentation given at the 2016 HPA Tech Retreat on February 18, 2016.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) imagery offers the most bang for the bit in viewing tests.  Equipment is available, and issues are being worked out.  What happens in theaters and homes, however, is a different matter.

Download: HDR: The Bottom Line by Mark Schubin (TRT 5:07)



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The Technology Year in Review by Mark Schubin

August 17th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe

This is a modified version of the original presentation given at the 2016 HPA Tech Retreat on February 17, 2016.

What were some of the hot technologies of 2015?  Could they have been books, film, and television?  And might the greatest advance in television be something first written up in 1877?

Correction: The Polaroid Snap camera shown starting about 8:12 in does make instant prints but is not a film-based camera. There are also new Polaroid instant-film cameras being sold.

Download: The Technology Year in Review by Mark Schubin (TRT 12:49)


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The Bottom Line

January 26th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Schubin Cafe


Like many other innovations, high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging can bring benefits but will require work to implement. And then there’s the bottom line.

HDR’s biggest benefit is that it offers the greatest perceptual image improvement per bit. Different researchers have independently verified the improvement, and it theoretically requires no increase in bit rate whatsoever.  In practice, to allow both standard-dynamic-range (SDR) TVs and HDR TVs to be accommodated with the same signal (and because not everyone keeps the appropriate amount of noise), the bit rate might increase a small amount — perhaps 20%.

Viewing Tests

Above are comparisons of viewer evaluations of higher spatial resolution (e.g., going from HD to 4K) at left, higher frame rate (HFR) in the middle, and HDR at right, with the vertical scales normalized. The distance from the top shows the improvement. To achieve the improvement that HDR delivers with a zero-to-20% increase in bit rate, HFR would need a 100% increase or more. Going to 4K from HD can’t even approach the HDR improvement, but, if it could, it would seem to require more than a 1600% increase in bit rate. HDR is the clear winner.

That’s one piece of HDR good news. Another is that it can deliver more colors separately from any increase in color gamut. It also allows more flexibility in shooting and post production. And it doesn’t appear to require any new technologies at any point from scene to seen.

Below is an image presented at the 2008 SMPTE/NAB Digital Cinema Summit. It was shot in a Grass Valley lab using the Xensium image sensor. The only light on the scene came from the lamp aimed at the camera at lower right, but every chip on the chart is distinguishable. From lamp filament to darkest black, there was a 10,000,000:1 contrast ratio, more than 23 stops of dynamic range. And, on the viewing end, TV sets have already been sold with HDR-level light outputs. New equipment might be needed, of course, but not new technologies.


That’s the good news. Getting everyone to agree on how HDR images should be converted to video signals, how those signals should be encoded for transmission, and how SDR and HDR TV sets should deal with a single transmission path are among the issues being worked out. They’ll be discussed at next month’s HPA Tech Retreat. And then there are interactions.

hue shift with increased luminanceSean McCarthy of Arris offered an excellent presentation on the subject at the main SMPTE conference last fall. Appropriately, it was called “How Independent Are HDR, WCG [wide color gamut], and HFR in Human Visual Perception and the Creative Process?” Those viewing HDR-vs.-SDR demos have sometimes commented that image-motion artifacts seem worse in HDR, suggesting that HDR might require HFR or restrictions on scene motion; McCarthy’s paper explains the science involved. It also explains how color hues can shift in unusual ways, becoming yellower above certain wavelengths and bluer below as light level increases, as shown in an excerpt from an illustration in McCarthy’s paper above at right (higher light level is at top).

Then there’s time.  McCarthy’s paper explains how perceived brightness can change over time as human vision adapts to higher light levels. And there’s also an inability to see dark portions of an image after adaptation to bright scenes. “In bright home and mobile viewing environments,” McCarthy notes, “both light and dark adaptation to [changes] in illumination may be expected to proceed on a time scale measured in seconds. In dark home and theater environments, rapid changes going back and forth from [darker to lighter light levels] might result in slower dark adaptation.” In other words, after a commercial showing a bright seashore or ski slope, viewers will need some recovery time before they can perceive dim shadow detail.

Billiards_ballsHDR also brings concerns about electric power.  It’s often said that the high end of the HDR range will be used only for “speculars,” short for specular reflections, like glints of lights on shiny objects, as shown on these billiard balls, from Dave Pape’s computer-graphics lighting course. If so, an HDR TV set would be unlikely to need significantly more electric power than an SDR TV set.

Samsung SUHDTV_UHDA_Main_2 (2)Those snow and seashore scenes, however, could need a lot more power if shown at peak light output. At right is a scene shown in promotional material for a Samsung HDR-capable TV, with bright snow, ice, and clouds. Below is a section of the technical specifications of the Samsung SUHD JS8500 series 65-inch TV. As shown below, the “typical power consumption” is 82 watts, but the “maximum power consumption” is 255 watts, more than three times higher. The monitor used in Dolby’s HDR demos is liquid cooled.

Samsung 65-inch SUHD specs cropped

All of the above are issues that need to be worked out, from standards and recommended practices to aesthetic decisions. And working such issues out is not really new. Consider those motion artifacts. Even old editions of the American Cinematographer Manual included tables of “35mm Camera Recommended Panning Speeds.” As for power, old TV sets from the era of tube-based circuitry used more power even with smaller and dimmer pictures. But then there’s the bottom line, the lowest light level of the dynamic range.

uhd_alliance_uhd_premium_logo_headerConsider the HDR portion of the requirements for the “Ultra HD Premium” logo shown above that Samsung TV. According to a UHD Alliance press release on January 4, to get the designation, aside from double HD resolution in both the horizontal and vertical directions and some other characteristics, a TV must conform to the SMPTE ST2084 electro-optic transfer function and must offer “a combination of peak brightness and black level either more than 1000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level or more than 540 nits peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level.” The latter is a ratio of more than a million to one.

The high end of those ranges is beyond most current video displays but achieved by some. Again, new equipment might be required but not new technology. And the bottom end seems achievable, too. Turn off a TV, and it emits no light. Manufacturers just need to be able to have black pixels pretty close to “off.”

Ma8thew TV (2)What the viewer sees, however, is a different matter. At right is an image of a TV set posted by Ma8thew and used in the Wikipedia page “Technology of television.” The TV set appears to be off, but a lot of light can be seen on its screen. The light is reflected off the screen from ambient light in the room. Cedric Demers posted “Reflections of 2015 TVs” on The lowest reflection listed was 0.4%, the highest was 1.9%. Of course, that’s between 0.4% and 1.9% of the light hitting the TV set. How much light is that?

Luxury-holiday-letting-Hyeres-Le-Mas-des-iles-d-Or_10 (2)At left is a portion of an image of the TV room of a luxury vacation rental in France, listed on IHA holiday ads. The television set is off. It shows a bright reflected view of the outdoors. It looks very nice outside — possibly too nice to stay in and watch TV. But, if one were watching TV, presumably one would draw the drapes closed. If the windows were thus completely blocked off and not a single lamp were on in the room, would that be dark enough to appreciate the 0.0005-nit black level of an Ultra HD Premium HDR TV?

It would probably not be. What’s the problem? For one thing, the viewer(s).

Consider a movie-theater auditorium. When the movie comes on, all the lights (except exit lights) go off. The walls, floor, and seats are typically made of dark, non-reflective materials. Scientists from the stereoscopic-3D exhibition company RealD measured the reflectivity of auditorium finishes (walls and carpet), seating, and audiences and concluded that the last were the biggest contributors to light reflected back to the screen (especially when they wear white T-shirts). Discussing the research at an HDR session in a cinema auditorium at last fall’s International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), RealD senior vice president Peter Ludé joked that for maximum contrast movies should be projected without audiences.

Sony World Cup 4K to Vue WestfieldLudé went a step further. Reflections off the audiences are problematic only when there is sufficient light on the screen. So, he joked again, for ideal HDR results, the screen should be black. At right is an image shot during a Sony-arranged live 4K screening of the 2014 World Cup at the Westfield Vue cinema in London. The ceiling, the walls, the floor, and the audience are all visible because of light coming off the screen and being reflected.

Now consider a home with an Ultra HD Premium TV emitting 540 nits. The light hits a viewer. If the viewer’s skin reflects just 1% of the light back to the screen and the screen reflects just 0.4% of that back to the viewer, there could be 0.0216 nits of undesired light on a black pixel (it’s more complicated because the intensity falls with the square of the distances involved but increases with the areas emitting or reflecting). That’s not a lot, but it’s still 43.2 times greater than 0.0005 nits.

A million-to-one contrast ratio? Maybe. But maybe not if there’s a viewer in the room.

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Sensor-Lens Options for 4K Acquisition

February 25th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe, Today's Special

Recorded at the 2015 HPA Tech Retreat, Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, CA
February 12, 2015

Are “4K” cameras really 4K? Is de-bayering a form of upconversion? Why should lenses be different for HD and 4K? Why are higher-resolution image sensors usually bigger than HD sensors? Was there ever a real 4K camera? Mark Schubin provides a quick look at sensors and lens options for 4K.

Direct Link (6 MB / 5:40 TRT): Sensor-Lens Options for 4K Acquisition


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Technology Year in Review

February 18th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe, Today's Special
Annual Technology Year in Review recorded at the 2015 HPA Tech Retreat, Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, CA
February 11, 2015

Direct Link (13 MB / 10:36 TRT): Technology Year in Review


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Everything Else

February 11th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe, Today's Special

Recorded at the HPA Tech Retreat Super Session, Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, CA
February 10, 2015

The moving-image media are now all file-based and post-produced — except, that is, for news, sports, and live events ranging from awards shows to zoo births, with art-exhibit openings, ballet, concerts, opera, and theater thrown in.  Even in movie theaters, live events are the fastest-growing segment of the box office.  How does “everything else” figure into the big shift?

Direct Link (39 MB / 21:59 TRT): Everything Else


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HPA 2014 – Is Nothing New? [video]

March 19th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe, Today's Special


Mark Schubin’s Is Nothing New? presentation from the HPA Tech Retreat, presented on February 21, 2014 (audio recorded later).

Video (TRT 31:26)

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HPA 2014 – Resolution Frame-Rate and Dynamic Range [video]

March 12th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe, Today's Special


Mark Schubin’s Resolution Frame-Rate and Dynamic Range presentation from the HPA Tech Retreat, presented on February 20, 2014 (audio recorded later).

(Extended Version: Bang for the Buck: Data Rate vs. Perception in UHD Production by Mark Schubin at

Video (TRT 12:57)

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When Will We Convert to HDTV?

February 28th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Schubin Cafe


A few weeks ago I worked on an event television production in New Jersey. Last week I was at the HPA Tech Retreat in California. Yesterday I attended Panasonic’s pre-NAB press conference in New York. What do the three have in common? They made me wonder when we will make the transition to HDTV. That’s right: HDTV, not “4K” or any other form of beyond-HD television.

ScheideThe event was called Ode to Joy, a concert at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium celebrating the 100th birthday of philanthropist and musical scholar William H. Scheide. It was shot in HDTV, which has a picture shape or aspect ratio, worldwide, of 16 units wide to 9 units high, 16:9, wider than the old TV aspect ratio of 12:9 or 4:3.

Schubin ScheideThe producers released an eight-minute, behind-the-scenes, promotional video, which I recommend highly to anyone who wants to see some of what’s involved in such productions, from running cables through the snow in sub-zero temperatures to going over the music and shots with the camera people before the concert. Here’s a link to it:

Schubin Scheide 4x3In addition to its YouTube release, the promo was shown on a number of public television stations. I watched one, via cable television, at a friend’s house. No setting of the friend’s TV or cable box allowed me to see the promo as was intended, filling the 16:9 HDTV screen; the sides were chopped off, at either the station or the cable system, back to old TV’s 4:3.

Such chopping is why some broadcasters still want their content configured in “shoot-and-protect” mode, shot to fill the 16:9 frame but with important content and graphics protected to schubin scheide 4x3 stretchedbe visible in what remains after the sides of the HDTV image are chopped off. Maybe shoot-and-protect made sense in the early days of HDTV, when most viewers watched narrower screens; today it can mean most viewers watching stretched out, unnatural pictures as they try to fill their widescreen TVs with chopped-off images.

I know that it’s most viewers because I follow and report on surveys of television households in the U.S. One of the places where I do such reports is at the annual HPA Tech Retreat.

HPA slide pic

Above is the opening slide of the “Technology Year in Review” that I present there (you can get the whole presentation on the “Get the Download” section of this site here: For many years, I’ve been running essentially the same slide, just tweaking the numbers a bit. This year I noted that the Consumer Electronics Association, Leichtman, and Nielsen all agreed that, as of the beginning of 2013, about ¾ of U.S. television households had HDTVs. That’s most.

So, while shoot-and-protect is preventing a minority of viewers from losing important information at the sides of the picture, it is fostering an environment in which the majority of viewers is watching content in the wrong shape and/or, as in the case of my viewing of the broadcast of the Ode to Joy promo, losing important content at the sides. And that’s not the only problem.

Ode to Joy was an event. That’s the type of television show on which I work most often. And events are often newsworthy. Often the event producer will invite members of the press to cover it. When that happens, part of my job is providing the radio and television press with the feeds they need.

walesaFor a live transmission, that can be as simple as delivering satellite coordinates or authorizing a carrier to feed a station. Most newsworthy events also require some form of “press bridge,” audio and video distribution amplifiers and connectors. A 32-output press bridge is shown in the image in the slide above. The most I’ve ever fed was about 175 when Solidarity-leader Lech Wałesa spoke at the AFL-CIO convention in 1989 in Washington, D.C. I’d prepared for only 150, so some press daisy-chained off of others.

For most of the analog television era, such daisy-chaining was relatively easy. Video was 4:3 standard-definition NTSC color on a coaxial cable with a BNC. Audio was monaural and used a XL-type connection. Press bridges often had switches to deal with the biggest issue, such as whether the audio desired was to be line level or mic level; those press needing mic level usually brought their own attenuators, just in case.

va32-6hToday, in the supposed surround-sound HDTV era, press bridges provide… 4:3 standard-definition NTSC color on a BNC and monaural audio on an XL-type connection, as in the Opamp Labs VA-32 shown at left and still being sold. If someone shows up with a recorder that can accept an HD-SDI input with embedded, AES-3, or analog audio, I can usually accommodate it. If there’s an HDMI input, and I know of it in advance, I can usually accommodate that, too. Unfortunately, those are rare. And that brings me to yesterday’s Panasonic press conference.

AJ-PX270Among other products, the company is introducing a new HDTV camcorder, the AJ-PX270. It’s relatively low cost, and, based on everything reported about it at the press conference, extremely flexible and high in quality. The company suggested many possible uses for it, including news coverage. Its small size and light weight seem to make it a good choice for shooting a car accident or fire or tornado or for rushing in with the rest of the crowd to get shots of an acquitted or convicted defendant after a trial.

Unfortunately for me and others of my ilk who try to provide press feeds at planned events, it will also likely show up at those, and, like other camcorders of its ilk, it lacks any form of video input, and a news videographer bringing along a separate recorder would cancel the small-size, light-weight, and low-cost advantages. So, as I have done in the past, I will provide a monitor for the camcorder to shoot. And, as I have done in the past, I will tweak the numbers on my first Technology Year in Review slide, the one with the picture of the pre-HDTV-era press bridge still being sold.

I really, really, really look forward to junking that slide some day. That’ll be when we’re truly in the HDTV era.

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