Apple iPhone 4S: What Hollywood Is Saying


Industry insiders discuss content delivery and the future of the human interface as related to the new smart phone.

In Hollywood, Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4S and advancements including iOS 5 and iCloud generated talk about what Tuesday’s news might mean in areas such as content delivery and the future of the human interface.

But some also acknowledged that overall, they were underwhelmed by the news, saying that they expected some surprises beyond what had already reached the blogosphere.

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Voice Recognition

Shipping Oct 14, iPhone 4S will include a beta version of the Siri “personal assistant” voice system (named after the voice search company behind this technology, which Apple acquired in 2010), which underscores the promise of the human interface.

“I do believe computers are going to become personal assistants,” said Michael Cioni, CEO of Hollywood postproduction house LightIron Digital. “This is cognitive understanding. … We saw a computer having a conversation with a human on a consumer device.”

David Wertheimer, CEO and executive director of the non-profit Entertainment Technology Center at USC took a cautious approach to this announcement: “Apple is all about ease of use. Voice recognition is the next level in making it simpler for consumers. It will be interesting to see how well it really works. … Voice recognition is very difficult to do.”

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Content Delivery

Wertheimer noted that generally speaking about the iPhone 4S, “you have faster download speed, which means better streaming; and the whole cloud infrastructure enables more content buying and renting. That is good for Hollywood.”

Some also pointed to AirPlay Mirroring—a feature previewed earlier this year for iOS 5—that will come to iPhone 4S.

Said entrepreneur and industry vet Bob Lambert, a board member of ETC and a former Disney exec: “It is important that a smartphone becomes a nexus of your personal information and communication, offering delivery of live streamed content and prerecorded content to laptops and TVs.”

Lambert noted that in addition to content delivery, this also has potential applications in production, possibly for viewing of dailies.


Wertheimer suggested that the launch of the iCloud and iOS 5 -- both scheduled for availability on Oct. 12 -- is good for Hollywood in that it could help consumers to better understand rights lockers.

He sees this as a plus for the industry consortium Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), which is readying to launch UltraViolet, a cloud-based digital rights system that effectively allows consumers to create a virtual content library that can be accessed anytime and on any device.

“The idea that rights to the content can be stored in the cloud and brought to devices when needed is a big idea,” Wertheimer said. “This is hard for DECE to communicate. Apple is going to help educate consumers, and that works to DECE’s advantage.”

But despite more than 70 DECE member companies including most of the major consumers electronics companies and Hollywood studios (with the exception of Disney), Apple remains absent from the DECE table.

This remains a challenge to DECE in that iTunes will not support UltraViolet content. In earlier interviews, DECE members have said that they believed Apple devices might still be able to play UltraViolet content.

DECE was contacted Tuesday for this story but didn’t respond to an interview request.

Cloud Computing

Some suggested that iCloud could help to elevate the understanding of cloud computing in Hollywood.

“Behind the scenes there has been resistance to pursuing the use of the cloud aggressively (concerns surround dependability and security),” pointed out Lambert. “Once it can be shown that cloud connectivity can scale for devices such as this, it might make it easier for the production community to (introduce) professional cloud applications.”

1080P Video Camera

Director of photography Steven Poster, who is president of the International Cinematographers Guild, said of the iPhone 4S’s 1080P video camera: “This is great, any tool that can be used for even semi-professional work is finding its way into the business. Today we make images on tools that a year ago you wouldn’t have thought.” But he warned that it still take professionals to make good pictures with this tools.

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