CES: 'Breaking Bad's' Vince Gilligan and Sony Pictures' Michael Lynton Talk Content's Future

Vince Gilligan CES - H 2014
AP Images

Vince Gilligan CES - H 2014

Saying he wanted to bring the "wow" factor back to Sony products, company president and CEO Kazuo Hirai was joined by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan during Hirai's CES keynote to talk about how tech is enabling richer storytelling.

Hirari also revealed a new cloud-based TV service featuring live and VOD content launching later this year in the U.S, but details were sketchy.

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Gilligan talked up high-resolution large TVs and how they have changed the way storytellers like him compose shots.

"When I grew up, TV series were framed and cut to a smaller screen size, which led to a lot of talking heads," he said. "With giant, wide TVs, you get to frame and emulate John Ford or Sergio Leone and, in the case of Breaking Bad, you can place characters in an endless expanse of Mexico prairie, which gets to look very painterly and cinematic. That's a wonderful development."

The Emmy winner name-checked Sony's head-mounted display, still in development, as "a thing to watch" since "it will allow folks to be enveloped by storytelling."

Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO Sony Pictures Entertainment, talked of the impact of SVOD services on content delivery.

"Now we have five to six SVOD services competitively bidding on TV series and films that never existed before, both in first-run as well as syndication. It has changed the economics dramatically for us -- but in a positive way," he said.

To this point, Gilligan added, "When I started out on shows like The X Files, the conventional wisdom was that serialized storytelling was to be avoided, that one episode completes the story. SVOD allows a hyperserialized form of storytelling and gives people the freedom to access content when they feel like it."

He also praised the quality of images captured on digital minicameras for certain scenes in Breaking Bad, which he said were indistinguishable when cut into motion picture film.

Heralding a new era of freedom of choice and content, Andrew House, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, announced a new cloud-based TV service launching in the U.S. this year, combining live TV with VOD.

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House said the service will have a personalized interface, which will serve up recommendations. It will feature a "watch and resume'" function spanning multiple devices from a PS4 to a tablet.

"Our goal is to transform the user experience so that finding live and VOD is immediate," House said. "We will make TV a more personalized and dynamic experience."

Further details were not revealed; however, House unveiled Playstation Now, a new streaming game service.

"This will provide existing gamers access to PS2 and PS3 games and will introduce the world of Playstation to nonconsole owners via smartphones, tablets and other devices," he said. "For the first time ever, you can play blockbuster PS3 titles on a mobile phone."

Users can rent by title for specific games. The service begins a beta test in the U.S. later this month, with the rollout planned for the summer. Examples of it in action over Bravia TVs and Vita mobile devices are demonstrated at the Sony booth.

Hirai stressed his belief in the power of technology to enrich lives, provided the technology has an emotional core that engages with people. This, he said, was the "wow" factor that he aimed to bring back to Sony.

"All Sony products must be inspired by emotional connection," he said. "The cloud itself is not the 'wow' -- the 'wow' happens when your senses are engaged."

He spoke of the generation born since 2000 as "generation remix" and the demographic Sony aims to target. "They are true digital natives. They know how to use a touch screen and a DVR before they are toddlers. Previously people were required to adapt to technology, but this generation will bend technology to their will. They will control technology, not be controlled by it."

Hirai spoke vaguely of an advanced stills camera in development, comprising an array of image sensors to provide focusable postcapture metadata. Background, foreground, focus, depth of field and logarithmic data are just some of the elements users will be able to manipulate after the image has been captured.