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Studio CTOs Discuss Physical, Digital and 4K

7 May, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey

MALIBU, Calif. — Hanno Basse, chief technology officer for Fox Filmed Entertainment, May 7 fielded a question posed at a lot of entertainment conferences: Will Blu-ray Disc be the final version of disc home media?

Maybe, maybe not, but one thing’s for sure: “If there’s going to be another evolution of physical media, it absolutely has to be integrated with our digital strategy,” Basse said during the Hollywood IT Summit at Pepperdine University.

The wide-ranging discussion featured the studio’s top technology experts, who tackled everything from UltraViolet to crowd-funded movies.

Chris Cookson, president of technologies at Sony Pictures Entertainment, said UltraViolet — the cloud-based digital movie storage platform — was intended to remove any barriers between ownership of content and the platforms to use that content. But, despite 12 million-plus UltraViolet accounts, “there’s still not a lot of understanding behind it,” Cookson said, adding that providers like Vudu and Flixster have experienced a learning curve with consumers.

“What we’re trying to establish is give all the benefits of ownership, that have existed for years, and extend that beyond what you could do previously,” said Justin Herz, SVP of direct-to-consumer business for Warner Bros. Digital. “The value needs to be seen.”

On a separate issue, Herz said the studios are spending more effort establishing a long-term relationship between consumers and brands. “It’s about creating an ongoing [history] of transactions [with consumers] and that has to start early in the process,” Herz said.

Basse said one of the ways studios can to that is by integrating tie-in elements — like second-screen apps — with the content itself in an easier way.

“One of the issues we’re facing still is these more interesting elements we’re putting out there aren’t integrated with the movie experience itself,” he said.

Second-screen apps may get hundreds of thousands of downloads, but they could be packaged with the Blu-ray, Basse said. “[We’re] working to package it all together,” he said.

“Where we have to get as an industry is proactive,” agreed Jaime Voris, chief technology officer for The Walt Disney Studios. He said the studios are mostly being reactive to consumer demands for added content.

Herz pointed to the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter project as evidence. The series creator raised enough money via fans on the crowd-source-financing website to finance a movie adaptation of the canceled TV series.

“That’s creating an experience ahead of the content itself,” Herz said. “A big part of what I see developing is ongoing … feedback between the audience and the entertainment.”

The technology experts also weighed in on 4K video, denoting screen resolution of 3840x2160, four times the resolution of current HDTVs.

“4K offers one more tool to create that greater sense of reality,” Cookson said. “Some people don’t want it to be hyper real, [but] how long is it before people expect that to happen at home?”

Voris said he’s interested in seeing what plans multi-system operators have for 4K TV, and Cookson said that with high-speed Internet coming to more homes every day, “If there’s an interest from the audience, there’s a way to deliver it,” he said, whether it be Blu-ray, satellite or fiber.

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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