The shape of tools to come

Confab pushes biz tech buttons

As the f/x-driven pics of summer begin their reign at the box office, ShowBiz Expo 2001 promises to offer industry fans and players a chance to focus on the “art and technology of producing entertainment.”

Running today to Saturday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the confab will consist of exhibitions; more than 30 panels on topics like filmmaking, indie productions, digital cinema, commercial, post-production and television; an opening keynote on piracy from Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy-CEO Jack Valenti; and a closing keynote from cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who has worked with Steven Spielberg on films including “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan” and the upcoming “A.I.” and ‘Minority Report.”

“We’re positioning ShowBiz Expo (as) the gathering place of the entertainment production scene,” says Peter Caranicas, publisher and editor in chief of Film & Video magazine, which is presenting the confab. “You know how in the jungle or in the desert there’s a watering hole where all the animals come to gather at some point? That’s what we want ShowBiz Expo to be. We want it to be a marketplace of ideas as well as products.”

Those attending the conference, including industry software solutions provider Creative Planet, Fuji, Panasonic, Universal Studio Services and Mole Richardson Co., believe that the attitude of attendees and exhibitors will be a combination of wariness about the advances being witnessed in Internet piracy and intrigue about what that same technology can do for the biz.

Valenti’s opening keynote, 9 a.m. today, will focus on these issues, which the MPAA has played a major role in by shepherding several controversial copyright protection cases through the courts.

“I am excited to address the legitimacy of Internet usage and copyrighting in entertainment, and ShowBiz Expo is an ideal forum for the issue,” notes Valenti. “I’ll be pointing out that protecting copyright is a personal objective of anybody who works in any creative industry like ours.

“It’s not just something that’s alien, murky, or a clouded kind of thing that people only talk about in courtrooms. It has to do with the creation of jobs.”

Others who will be speaking at the confab include: Thomas MacCalla of the Entertainment Technology Center at USC; Steve Kazamjian of visual effects and design house Belief; Dr. Robert Hopkins of the Sony High Definition Center; and Paul Mitchell, who heads the interactive TV platform division at Microsoft.

For the first time, the 15-year-old confab is being run by Knowledge Industry Publications Inc./PBI Media, who acquired the show from Reed Elsevier Intl. (the publisher of ) last year. Knowledge Industry, founded in 1967 and a subsidiary of Phillips, includes magazines like Film & Video, A/V Video Multimedia Producer and TapeDisc Business. It also runs the Replitech confab.

This year’s conference is expected to draw 18,000 attendees, 1,000 conference participants and 400 exhibitors. And even with the angst surrounding the labor strife in Hollywood, ShowBiz Expo materials contain the warning that the agenda and keynotes at the confab may change as a result of the labor upheaval, organizers say attendance is already anticipated to be up over last year’s show.

“Our exhibitor numbers are on target, as are the number for attendees,” Caranicas points out. “Right now we expect 18,000 to attend and last year there was 15,000.”

The strikes will be among the topics at four special sessions set up by the organizers. Others will include the expansion of digital technology, the globalization of production and the effects of the California power crisis on the production industry.

Of the exhibitors, Caranicas says the most frequent type would be those specializing in equipment rental, particularly production dollies, mounts and cameras. Beyond that, film commissions, script writers, visual effects companies, costumers and makeup artists also will be in attendance.

Events scheduled for the confab include a screening of work done by up-and-coming cinematographers by the Intl. Cinematographers Guild. Other events will be hosted by the American Society of Cinematographers, American Cinema Editors, Visual Effects Society, Women in Film, PERA and the Assn. of Independent Creative Editors.

Also on the schedule is a screening of “Verboten,” a collection of banned commercials and short films, will be presented by Red Car/Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday at 2:30 p.m.