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Progress Measured by Games

September 17, 2021

September is the time for the annual SMPTE Progress Report. We know that every issue of the Journal is chock-full of excellent technical content that drives the industry forward. It is critical for any industry to have a peer-review process to share ideas and encourage new thinking to advance the science or engineering. I am always pleased to hear from our members who value this publication.

Every year, this is the issue in which we extend our reach to other organizations to learn the state of the art in their parts of the media tech world. This year, more than 25 groups, including the SMPTE Technology and Joint Task Force Committees and industry organizations, are reporting on their progress! From machine learning to immersive media to the latest news on internet protocols from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), this is one of the most important issues of the year. Stay tuned for an upcoming SMPTE+ mini-conference event focused on this issue in December.

Over the past 18 plus months, there has been significant progress in many areas. I am writing this column during the Summer Olympics and watching the games in ways I’ve never done before. It seems that every four years (or five, in this case), the advancement in technology is marked by how we consume the Olympics. For starters, I am a huge fan of the games. Summer or winter, the Olympics have always been something I looked forward to since I was a child. I am astounded by what humans are capable of accomplishing with dedicated training and exceptional talent. It is not uncommon for me to watch an event—even knowing the outcome—and wildly cheering on the athletes as they strive for gold, silver, or bronze. Just competing in the games is admirable, in my opinion.

We had a color television for the first time in our home to watch the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I remember it for so many highlights, including Bruce Jenner’s decathlon victory, the grace of Teofilo Stevenson’s boxing, and Nadia Comaneci’s countless 10s. The brilliance of color on our television, complete with remote control (!), added so much excitement to the athletes’ accomplishments.

Broadcasting the Olympics has been a pivotal event for many technologists over the years.i In the early years of the modern games, broadcasts were limited to local areas. In 1948, for example, the London Games were broadcast only from Wembley stadium, to London viewers. The 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, CA, in the U.S. saw the first use of “instant replay” to determine whether a slalom skier missed a gate. Today, instant replay is a mainstay of any sporting event, and it has even made its way into game rules.

The 1964 Tokyo Summer Games were the first to be broadcast internationally via satellites. The games were such a driver of innovation that the first communications cable between Japan and Hawaii was laid in 1964 in advance of these games.

I vividly remember the “miracle on ice” at the 1980 Lake Placid Games, where the U.S. played the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) for the gold medal in ice hockey. The professional Russian team outmatched the ragtag team of Americans, but they still managed to secure an exciting victory. But most of us did not watch the game live. It was a time when the broadcasters controlled how the games were presented, and ABC opted to show the games during prime time to maximize viewership.

These advancements laid the foundation for 2020 Tokyo Games, where the Olympic Broadcasting Service produced 30% more coverage than at the 2016 Rio Games. NHK’s presentation of 200 hr of 8K coverage to its Japanese audience was a significant milestone. For the first time, full coverage was provided in 4K HDR with immersive audio. New camera angles, 360° replays, and more analytical coverage processed by artificial intelligence than in previous games were available to further excite the audiences.ii The games have become more accessible due to the numerous ways to engage with viewers, ranging from traditional broadcasting to the Olympics app.

The Olympics have provided an excellent way for broadcasters to shine a light on their many amazing technological advancements. I remain a fan of the Olympics and truly appreciate the progress in broadcasting!


Tag(s): Featured , News

Barbara Lange

Barbara Lange joined SMPTE as Executive Director in January 2010.   Founded in 1916, SMPTE is the global professional association that supports the technical framework and professional community which makes quality motion imaging available to consumers in a variety of media formats.  Ms. Lange’s portfolio includes executing on the SMPTE Board of Governors’ strategic vision and to ensure the Society’s continued relevance in an ever-evolving media ecosystem.  Under Ms. Lange’s leadership, membership has grown by more than 30% globally, more than 200 leading-edge industry standards have been published -- including industry game-changers such as Interoperable Master Format (IMF), High Dynamic Range (HDR), and Video Over IP -- and the Society has educated thousands of professionals on critical technical topics.  Today, Ms. Lange’s focus is implementing a 3-year strategic business plan that will further SMPTE’s visibility and relevance with an emphasis on attracting a younger and more diverse membership demographic.  In 2015, Ms. Lange led the acquisition of the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA), a leading trade association focused on the application of technology in the creation, distribution and consumption of professional media content; she now also serves as HPA Executive Director.  Ms. Lange holds a BA in Chemistry and German from Washington and Jefferson College, and completed the Executive Development Program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  Prior to joining SMPTE she held executive roles in scholarly publishing at highly respected organizations including Springer-Verlag and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Ms. Lange has been recognized by IEEE, Washington & Jefferson College, and honored with TVNewscheck’s 2020 Women in Technology Award for her role in “making a difference in the media industry”.

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