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Through the YEP Lens: HPA Tech Retreat 2020

By Garrett Braun

Not a cloud in the sky as I walked up to the Westin Mission Hills Resort entrance — This was my first time in Rancho Mirage but I was already sold on the beautiful weather in the Coachella Valley! I signed in at the front desk to pick up my badge and found my way to the 25th Annual HPA Tech Retreat. The HPA and the Young Entertainment Professionals program had provided All-Access passes to the Tech Retreat for the YEP 2020 class, and I had travelled from Atlanta to Palm Desert ready to absorb everything I could from the world-class roster of industry leaders retreating with me. As I took a seat next to my YEP classmates, the sage wisdom a colleague had given when I asked about the event floated through my head:

“Lots of knowledge out there. Meet people. Just don’t let your head explode.”

Then Monday’s opening TR-X session began! An afternoon jam-packed with keynotes and panels exploring the tech forecast of the next 10 years. Mark Turner led the first keynote that left me wondering when my television would have a graphics card more powerful than the one currently in my PC, and Josh Stinehour followed up with the reminder that at some point I need to be able to explain all this to a producer. I was furiously taking notes during the Video Over IP panel, and learned a surprising bit about the shifting legal status of sports betting in Mainstream Betting: The Gamifying of Entertainment. I was thrilled to see my two passions of film and video games combine with Epic Games’ virtual production presentation showing off the power the Unreal Engine has to help create real time content. Poppy Crum, Chief Scientist at Dolby Laboratories, closed down the day and left me stunned with her research on immersive technological experiences reacting to our emotional states.

“Well, there went my head…”

Tuesday’s Supersession kept up the momentum, with the live production of “The Lost Lederhosen” done before our eyes, with intent to screen the film at the end of the day. A simple set on the convention stage became a moving train car with an incredible demo of using LED panels to create a live in-camera composite. Another presentation by Lux Machina, the team behind the virtual production of The Mandalorian, had the cast of Lederhosen set in a scenic Bavarian forest to capture exterior shots for the film using the same techniques to scale on a sound stage. From shooting live scenes through the entire post production process, the Lederhosen crew showed off the speed and accessibility of cloud based workflows. Remote artists were able to pull files and lead live sessions with the audience. Including a remote color grade powered by Sohonet’s Clearview, a Boris FX and Mocha Pro tutorial with Mary Poplin, and a remote sound mix session from Skywalker Sound. To round out the day the audience raised their tall weizen of beer and sang a German drinking song for one of the final shots of Lederhosen before enjoying their premiere screening!

               For the remainder of the week my fellow YEPs and I networked and explored the HPA Innovation Zone. Booths from dozens of companies had the latest advances in hardware and software solutions, demos and sales reps on site! I sat down with Steven Cohen from Evercast and had a comprehensive look at the EBS streaming suite, an expansive streaming platform that I wanted to try for remote editorial and color reviews in my own workflows. The services provided by StreamBox, Sohonet Clearview, and Evercast have become instrumental in my process due to the reality of COVID 19, and getting to see them up close and personal at the Tech Retreat was an incredibly valuable experience. Conversations with my fellow YEPs fostered some valuable insights into how these technologies might apply to their own unique positions and workflows. Stacy Chaet and I spoke about end-to-end solutions and enabling remote work in the color pipeline, while Jason Zukor provided some real-world IMF anecdotes to help me through my IMF Essentials SMPTE virtual course. The network of professionals and peers the HPA had provided really made me feel like I was learning with a team.

The week truly had been a retreat from my day-to-day, and as I flew back to Atlanta I felt invigorated and excited to attack the challenges of tomorrow with renewed energy. Through the HPA and SMPTE I had been shown the community forging the future, today, and having a great time while doing it!

My calendar is already marked for next year’s Tech Retreat – see you in 2021!

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