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Tech org’s job is to set high standards

SMPTE has had to reinvent itself to keep up

If you’re struggling to keep up with the tech changes sweeping through the entertainment industry, imagine the pressure they’re feeling at SMPTE.

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers is charged with setting tech standards for the new devices, formats and platforms that seem to arise overnight.

As Wendy Aylsworth, the org’s exec veep, says, SMPTE has had to reinvent itself to keep up.

“Some people think of us as a standards organization that takes years to get something finished,” Aylsworth told Variety. “The processes have been streamlined tremendously over the past five to 10 years. Typically most standards take about a year to complete or less. It’s not the same organization that was operating almost 100 years ago or even 25 years ago.”

Aylsworth, along with org’s prexy, Peter Lude, and engineering VP Hans Hoffman, spoke from a “strategic retreat” where the body is planning more expansive outreach to current and future technologists.

In addition to its existing events schedule, which has included conferences in New York and Los Angeles, the org is planning an international confab, with an eye toward expanding its reach. We’ve been talking about it for some time had hoped to have one in the past couple of years but the economic downturn didn’t support that,” said Aylsworth. Lude said, “It’s a matter of when and not if.”

As exec VP, Aylsworth will have a key role in planning that outreach. She had been engineering vice president, but now that she’s been elected to her current post — becoming the first woman voted to exec VP at SMPTE — she will be responsible for strategic planning and will be overseeing the conference committees.

With Aylsworth moving up, Hoffman steps in for the remainder of her engineering VP term. Hoffman is the first European to hold that post in almost 40 years. Richard Welsh, in turn, steps in to Hoffman’s role as the governor for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America regions.

Lude says the formats and workflows created by digital stereoscopic 3D are “the tip of the iceberg in terms of the tech transition we’re in right now.”

“It’s only recently the industry has appreciated the transition from streaming to file-based,” he says. “Until recently when we talked about shooting video we knew it was high-definition, maybe a couple of different standards. Today new camera technology is allowing a plethora of new imaging standards: New frame rates, 8K imagers, 12K imagers. How do you extract resolution off of those? Instead of the simple days of having a fixed image format and a fixed frame rate, things are getting far more complex.”

Hoffman says a key challenge facing the industry today is a split between two breeds of experts: people who know computers and information technology, and people who know audio-visual technology.

“What is needed is people who know both,” says Hoffman. “They don’t talk to each other in the same words. The IT and the visual production department have a communications problem. We need engineers who understand both traditional broadcasting technologies and information technology.”

Bits & Bytes

Grass Valley has announced a new leadership team. Alain Andreoli will be president and CEO. He comes from Francisco Partners, which acquired Grass Valley. Jeff Rosica will be executive VP and chief sales and marketing officer. Ian Halifax becomes exec VP and chief financial officer. All will be based in San Francisco …

In addition, reporting to Andreoli will be: Charlie Dunn, senior VP and general manager of editing, servers and storage product group. Dunn will be based in Beaverton, Ore.; Marcel Koustaal, senior VP and general manager of Cameras Product Group. He will be based in Breda, the Netherlands; Scott Murray, senior VP and g.m. of live production solutions group; Martin Fry, senior VP and gem of routing and signal management product group; and Dave Perillo, senior VP, global operations. Fry, Murray and Perillo will be based in Nevada City, Calif.

MTI Film as upped David McClure to vice president. MTI, which makes software for post, film restoration and digital dailies, is expanding into the services business … Double Negative has purchased a global site license for Shotgun, the web-based production tracking and collaboration system.

For Bits and Bytes go to Variety.com/techbytesWant to comment or suggest a column topic? Email david.cohen@variety.com

… Roxio has released Roxio Video Lab HD, which includes capabilities for creating stereoscopic 3D projects. … Sarofsky Corp. created the main title for Showtime’s “Shameless.” Company shot the sequence on the RED One camera. … yU+co did the stereoscopic 3D main-on-end title sequence for Warner’s “Yogi Bear.” … AlphaDogs Post is doing editorial and color correction on 12 episodes of “Brooklyn Kinda Love,” a documentary skein for the Playboy Channel. … Thought Equity Motion has purchased and installed a DFT Digital Film Technology Scanity Film Scanner, Bones Dailies software and Bones PlayoutMaster system … Vue 9 is now available in Franch and German versions. A Japanese version is “in the works.”