CES: What Mattered to Hollywood

From the arrival of "Filmmaker Mode" for TVs to the approaching rollout of Quibi, the annual consumer tech fest showed off innovations with consequences for entertainment. "Our work is being dramatically changed by technology," said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris

The impact of technology on Hollywood — from how movies are made to how they are displayed — was evident last week at the annual CES Show in Las Vegas, where participants included technology leaders and representatives from organizations including SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America, the American Society of Cinematographers and the Film Foundation. Here's some of the highlights:

SAG-AFTRA and AFL-CIO Address Deepfakes, De-Aging

Deepfakes, artificial intelligence, de-aging technology and their impact on actors and the workforce was discussed and debated at SAG-AFTRA and AFL-CIO’s 2nd annual Labor Innovation and Technology Summit, held on the opening day of CES.

“Our work is being dramatically changed by technology,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris in her opening remarks. “But of all the people talking about it, who is really looking out for the working people?”

Topics included the advantages and potential pitfalls of new technology. This included discussion of how an actor's likeness can be exploited from unauthorized Deepfakes (relatedly, last week Facebook revealed plans to prohibit Deepfakes on its services). Meanwhile, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA COO and general counsel, urged members to contact the union if they are going to be scanned for a motion picture to better understand their contractual rights.

Speakers representing labor and technology also included David White, national executive director, SAG-AFTRA; Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer, AFL-CIO; and Jonathan Taplin, director emeritus, USC Annenberg Innovation Lab.

Said Carteris of the purpose of the summit: "As the rapid pace of innovation in entertainment and media blurs the lines between industry and consumer application, it is critical for SAG-AFTRA to participate in CES. Exploring how new technology impacts our members ensures that we continue to have a strong voice in shaping innovation and policy."

DGA, ASC Back "Filmmaker Mode" TVs as Rollout Begins

A rollout of a “Filmmaker Mode” setting on a range of 2020 television models from most major set makers is slated to begin this spring, and the first supported TVs were previewed at CES. Meanwhile the DGA, the ASC, the International Cinematographers Guild and Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation all endorsed this setting as their preferred method of viewing in the home. 

There has been concern in the production community that with the many settings available on consumer UHD TVs, the filmmaker's artistic intent is not always what is displayed. Filmmaker Mode is a TV setting that effectively disables post processing such as motion smoothing and aims to give consumers the opportunity to view content in the way that the filmmakers intended, including with the original aspect ratio, color and frame rates.

Development of "Filmmaker Mode" was announced last August by leading directors including Scorsese, Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, Patty Jenkins and Rian Johnson, who had teamed with the UHD Alliance (UHDA), a coalition whose members include Hollywood studios and consumer electronics manufacturers.

At CES, UHDA announced that Samsung, Philips/TP Vision and Kaleidescape have joined the effort and will offer Filmmaker Mode-enabled products this year. Additionally, LG, Panasonic and Vizio — the trio of set makers that previously expressed their intent to support Filmmaker Mode — revealed supported 2020 TV models.

"Preserving intent is an important part of our creative rights work at the Directors Guild of America," Christopher Nolan, co-chair of the DGA creative rights committee, said in a statement. "As the home has become an increasingly important viewing environment for cinematic content, our guild has made it a priority to work with the UHDA and television manufacturers, giving the filmmaker's perspective on the development of this important feature."

Quibi Makes Its CES Debut, Previews Turnstyle Feature

Most streaming services prioritize getting the right programming into the right living rooms at the fastest speeds possible. But when Quibi executives Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg took the CES stage on Wednesday, they unveiled technology that has the potential to change the way people watch video.

The duo showed off a new feature called Turnstyle that allows users to move their phones between vertical and horizontal orientation without interrupting the viewing experience. Behind the scenes, Turnstyle requires filmmakers to deliver two versions of their project — one oriented for a vertical screen, the other for a horizontal screen — that are then “stitched” together. The result: No matter what way viewers hold their phones, they are seeing the framing and edit that the filmmaker intended.

Dozens of shows — Katzenberg touted that Quibi will have 175 shortform series in its first year, including projects from Antoine Fuqua, Catherine Hardwicke, Lorne Michaels and Chrissy Teigen — will utilize Turnstyle, but the question remains whether audiences, in the age of Peak TV, will find the combination of content and technology enticing enough to shell out at least $5 per month for Quibi after its April 6 launch.

"NextGen TV" Launches With New Mobile, 4K Capabilities

The U.S.' voluntary “NextGen TV” broadcast transmission system got a kickoff at CES, though it is something that will take time for the industry to roll out and, frankly, to make known to consumers.

The Internet Protocol-based NextGen TV system — developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee and also known as ATSC 3.0 — is a voluntary upgrade from the country’s free, over-the-air HDTV broadcasting system (meaning this doesn’t affect cable, satellite or streaming services).

The new system includes the ability to receive an over-the-air TV signal on a cellphone or tablet without using a cellular service or a data plan. That will include TV series, news, live sports — everything you currently get on your television.

If the broadcaster chooses, it could offer programming in 4K and/or HDR, as well as new sound capabilities. The system is also developed with safety in mind, bringing an advanced broadcast emergency warning system to mobile devices. “The standard can deliver a better experience for viewers and new business models for broadcasters,” said ATSC president Madeleine Noland.

As it is a voluntary system, consumers can access these new capabilities if a broadcaster in their region chooses to offer them, and if they have a NextGen TV-supported television or mobile device. (A NextGen TV logo was unveiled at CES to identify supported devices.)

Kicking off the effort, 20 new TV models with NextGen support debuted at CES from LG, Samsung and Sony.

National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith reported that he anticipates a rollout of NextGen TV services in roughly 60 U.S. markets in 2020.