2016 SMPTE Progress Report - Overview

Report Authors 
Curtis Clark, ASC; David Reisner; Don Eklund; Bill Mandel; Michael Karagosian; Eric Rodli; Steve Schklair; Gary Demos; Gary Mandle; Greg Ciaccio; Lou Levinson; David Stump, ASC; Bill Bennett, ASC; David Morin; Michael Friend; W. Thomas Wall

ASC Technology Committee Officers 
Chair: Curtis Clark, ASC
Vice-Chair: Richard Edlund, ASC
Vice-Chair: Steven Poster, ASC
Secretary: David Reisner, D-Cinema Consulting


Curtis Clark, ASC
ASC Technology Committee Chair

Following on from our 2015 American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Technology Committee progress report, we have been proactively engaged with several key technology developments shaping our motion imaging future. Prominent among these are high dynamic range (HDR), digital cinema laser projection, and wide color gamut (WCG) beyond both BT.709 and DCI P3. The rapid advance of HDR being deployed for ultra-highdefinition (UHD) television (TV) consumer displays, including the proposed BT.2020 WCG, has raised urgent questions regarding standards-based implementation, which filmmakers need to support their creative intent and ensure consistent display quality across multiple content distribution platforms. 

The release of the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) 1.0 has encouraged wider industry adoption of this crucial standards-based color management system that supports filmmakers’ creative use of WCG with HDR and defines an important new expanded creative canvas. The following reports from our subcommittees cover in detail the crucial work being done to address the array of motion imaging technology developments that are impacting the art of filmmaking. 

The ASC Technology Committee is guided by its primary mission to engage and influence motion imaging technology developments in ways that better serve and protect the filmmaker’s creative intent and the role of the cinematographer in realizing a creative vision that best serves that creative intent.

I would like to thank all those who devote their time and expertise to support the mission of the ASC Technology Committee.

Secretary's Comment

David Reisner
ASC Technology Committee Secretary

For the past 15 years, our industries have continued to change at a remarkable rate, and the ASC Technology Committee has helped find, guide, defend, and expand artistic options through those changes.

The most significant recent issue is HDR imaging. I immediately changed from an HDR skeptic to an HDR believer when I participated in the first HDR color correction experiments for the Image Control Assessment Series (ICAS). When used judiciously, we were much better able to express the intent of the original footage, both for bright
sunlit scenes (e.g., out the window of the diner) and for dark scenes (e.g., bicycle ride into the nighttime alley and subsequent festivity).

HDR is often immediately noticeable and desired by viewers. Some forms are being delivered by over-the-top (OTT) TV providers, who sometimes also have some control of TV settings/behavior, and others by UHD Bluray. However, although the UHD Alliance and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have published some HDR formats (e.g., hybrid log-gamma [HLG] and Dolby’s perceptual quantizer [PQ]), we do not have a clear, single, consistent agreement on what HDR will be when ultimately delivered to the viewer. HDR capabilities are different for individual models of display, which makes it particularly difficult to deliver the artistic intent reasonably consistently. Image reproduction adjustments for significantly different display capabilities are particularly dependent on viewing environment—something we are only beginning to account for. We clearly still need additional work in handling of out-of-gamut and out-ofdynamic-range images on a display. BT.2020 defines a very good WCG—nicely encloses the Pointer’s gamut (all colors reflected by the surface of real objects)—so it makes a good goal. However, we need to figure out an appropriate set of primaries that are less prone to metamerism and an economically reasonable way to illuminate those primaries. At this point, BT.2020 is “aspirational”—it describes a goal, not what we can widely build and deliver today. Partly for that reason,
the current generation of consumer displays has taken P3—essentially movie film’s color gamut and digital cinema’s minimum gamut—as the de facto standard and reference for color performance. BT.2020 implementation is an issue for the new generation of TVs and will likely be an issue for any future wider gamut cinema.

For everyone who needs to deal with the issues of HDR, I strongly recommend a careful reading of this year’s Advanced Imaging Subcommittee Progress Report, by Gordon Sawyer Award winner Gary Demos, whose expertise in motion picture imaging is exceptional.
Demos is doing some of the most sophisticated and advanced exploration of HDR imaging characteristics and perception. It is in no way a “casual” read, but it raises a number of practical questions that should be considered. The ASC Technology Committee is exploring the possibility of research, testing, and demonstration to increase understanding and to find and test solutions on some of those issues. However, if you master content, make displays, or are involved in content delivery, I recommend that you read Demos’ report and think about it carefully.

The next several years will probably show as strong an emphasis on digital motion picture camera lenses as on the camera bodies and imagers themselves.

Computational imaging—multiple sensors plus computation, rather than sensor plus lens—is going to be showing up very widely very soon. Computational imaging will show up on cell phones this year and next. It provides a different enough set of imaging choices that it is not clear when or if it will play a significant role in motion picture or TV entertainment imaging. Some versions of computational imaging fit right in with the revolution in cloud-based storage and processing that we are presently in. In addition, on the computer side of imaging, it is possible that an as-yet undeveloped application of artificial intelligence “Deep Learning,” cloud storage, cloud computation, and a different slice through Big Data may actually hold our best promise for automatically creating and delivering HDR artistic intent for our wide range of devices and environments.

Our emphatic thanks to outgoing ASC president Richard Crudo, ASC, and new president Kees Van Oostrum, ASC, and to the ASC membership and the staff and team at the ASC. The ASC was formed 97 years ago to help industry experts work together as a team to produce exceptional imaging and tell exceptional stories. The modern ASC actively continues that tradition through the everyday work of its members, associates, and staff.