New technology and Hollywood have not always been the best of friends, but the Fox Innovation Lab’s mission is to bring them together.
The Lab, which is receiving the Innovation Award at the Variety’s annual Press Play: Home Entertainment and Digital Hall of Fame, is 20th Century Fox’s research and development center established to advance groundbreaking technology and new and premium consumer experiences.
“A number of years ago, we internally pitched the idea to management that on a small scale we should start an innovation lab where we would have the opportunity to work with external technology partners, as well as different groups within the studio, to test new technologies, to essentially try to create for ourselves the future of entertainment and next-generation entertainment,” says Danny Kaye, exec VP and managing director, Fox Innovation Lab.
The Lab was a key player in helping forward 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range (HDR), which offers greater contrast and more vivid colors.
“As 4K televisions were coming into the marketplace several years ago, we were experimenting, along with Samsung, in high dynamic range, and together we put out the first 4K HDR TVs and digital and physical content,” Kaye says.
The Lab is working to advance HDR’s capabilities with HDR10+, an open, royalty-free HDR technology featuring “dynamic metadata,” which more precisely adjusts content to the capabilities of different TVs.
“Scene by scene and even frame by frame, that movie is being adjusted to be optimized to that particular TV,” Kaye says.
In addition to premium viewing experiences for traditional entertainment, the division is also working on new forms of innovative, au courant entertainment, such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Its work on virtual reality resulted in Fox’s groundbreaking first commercial VR product, “The Martian,” a roughly 20-minute interactive experience that put viewers in the world of the 2015 Oscar-nominated sci-fi feature film directed by Ridley Scott.
“You essentially were Matt Damon in the movie,” Kaye says of the inventive product.
That virtual reality experimentation helped result in this year’s creation of an entire new business unit at the studio, FoxNext, which not only works on VR, but on video games and also theme parks.
Fox Innovation Lab now also has its eye on incorporating artificial intelligence, or machine learning, both in the entertainment production and distribution process and in the content itself.
“The sky’s the limit,” Kaye says.