Former defense engineer takes key SMPTE post

During her fledgling engineering days in the aerospace industry, Wendy Aylsworth was drawn as much to explaining complex technology as she was to creating it.

Such an unusual trait for an engineer will stand her in good stead as the new — and first female — executive VP of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers board of directors, which oversees technical aspects of the motion imaging industry. During the next two years, Aylsworth plans to bring to the public the extent to which SMPTE’s impact has grown beyond TV and films.

“People don’t realize we’re also experts in broadband, and our standards are used in the medical and security industries as well,” says Aylsworth, who is also senior VP of technology at Warner Bros. Technical Operations. “We’re trying to broaden the organization so people realize that our expertise is content and how it’s synchronized and travels across media platforms. One of our biggest challenges is moving away from an analog, tape-based industry to a digital, file-based one, which is a matter of time, money, and a generational divide.”

Aylsworth studied music education (she played flute) at the U. of Michigan before switching to computer engineering. (“Writing computer code is like unraveling a puzzle,” she says.) She spent 15 years working on submarine warfare and aviation simulation imaging at Lockheed Martin and Honeywell before joining Disney’s theme park and animation divisions. She joined Warner Bros. in 1994.

“Pure sciences are very clean and clear-cut. Women tend to be more social and work in positions where they interface with people,” Aylsworth says. “I realized early in my career that I could play the role of someone who could communicate technically and in laymen’s terms.”

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