Podcast: Chris Buchanan, director of new business development at Samsung Electronics America

Aimée Ricca sits down with Chris Buchanan to discuss the future of moving pictures. As technologies ranging from LED screens to sensory immersion transform the viewing experience. Likewise exploring the future of movie-making and media consumption, additional conference sessions will dive deep into shifting models and opportunities for monetization, featuring hot topics such as next-gen cinema, high-dynamic-range (HDR), and immersive media (AR/VR/MR).




Aimée Ricca:                00:15               Hi, welcome to our series of informal chats with industry leaders so that you can get to know them and the technologies that you use better. And we're getting applause, and we haven't even started. We are here live at NAB Show, and you can hear the excitement. We are here with Chris Buchanan. Chris is the Director of New Business Development at Samsung, and he delivered the Future of Cinema Conference keynote addressed this morning.

Aimée Ricca:                00:38               It's great to catch up with you, Chris. How are you?

Chris Buchanan:            00:40               I'm awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

Aimée Ricca:                00:42               For those that couldn't attend this morning, can you provide a short summary of what you think the future of cinema is?

Chris Buchanan:            00:48               Yeah, absolutely. I'm very excited about the future of cinema. I know there's a lot of prognosticating going on about the demise of cinema. But, all of the new technologies and innovations that are happening in both video and audio, from capture all the way through distribution, out to exhibition to the consumers; it's just a really exciting time, I think, to be in the cinema business.

Chris Buchanan:            01:14               And so, the main point I made this morning is we have to move our focus from being about exclusive content, you know only available on this movie screen for this period of time before it goes into home entertainment and elsewhere. And really focus on delivering more of a premium experience for the consumers. Gen Z and the Millennials are two groups of young people that are very very excited about experience. They want to go places, be places, experience things; not just in a standard dark theater and watch a movie on a relatively poor screen. 

Chris Buchanan:            01:56               What I think is gonna happen ultimately is we're gonna see exhibition kind of diverge into two specific areas. One is what I call event cinema. And this will be cinema that we've seen the start of it, really with IMAX and four DX with screen X. Where we have things like very large screens, very bright projection or LED displays, haptic devices, which is the moving seats, having water spritzed on you; whatnot. And you know having added elements in terms of high dynamic range, high frame rate, things like this that will bring an experience that the consumer cannot replicate in their home or watching a movie on Netflix at Starbucks.

Chris Buchanan:            02:46               The second area is what I call social cinema. And that's almost the reverse. That's taking the home experience of watching a movie in your living room with your family or your friends and bringing it out to a theater. I always say it's like being in a billionaire's private screening room or living room. You know the best in exhibition technology. LED cinema walls, immersive sound, incredible seating, luxury, having food and beverage service available at the touch of a button. And also having a more casual environment so that if you want to chat with somebody or you want to take a selfie, or you want to get up and go get something to eat, that it doesn't disrupt the cinema experience for the other viewers.

Aimée Ricca:                03:31               Well, right now we're being a little disrupted by a backing up vehicle. 

Chris Buchanan:            03:38               It's Aimee, on the street here in Las Vegas, conducting interviews.

Aimée Ricca:                03:41               We are live at NAB show, and they are still setting up, so we do have a lot of activity around us. If you could see it, you would understand. 

Aimée Ricca:                03:52               So just getting back on track; why do you think we're seeing so much interest in the future of cinema now? And why it's important to determine what that might be? 

Chris Buchanan:            04:04               Yeah, I think part of the reason is if you look at cinema, it's a business that's about 125 years old. The first hundred years, the experience was remarkably similar; you sat in a row of seats, light was projected onto a screen, and you know starting with now sound, working your way to very immersive sound. It's a pretty simple experience. Innovation is moving so fast now that we can't wait another 10, 15 years to start to innovate. And I think the product that we brought to market at [CinemaCon 00:04:38] last year, which is our LED cinema screen; it's a 34 foot, 4K resolution, high dynamic range, capable of high frame rate screen. It's like something you've never seen, and we really caught the industry off guard.

Chris Buchanan:            04:52               I think that helped propel some of the talks about it because suddenly the exhibitors and the studios are starting to think this screen could be the screen of the future. What are the ramifications of that? What do we have to think about in terms of the filmmaking, in terms of distribution, different versioning, things like that? And then ultimately, how is that going shape the design and build of cinemas? Because you know you don't need a projection booth anymore, for instance.

Chris Buchanan:            05:20               We've seen this with some of the projector companies that we're working with things like RGB laser, which is the latest in laser projection. Suddenly the exhibitors said we're gonna take a beat and not make a decision. And that was because they saw the disruption and now it's started a lot of conversations about what's next for cinema. And what can we do to make sure that it survives for another hundred years?

Aimée Ricca:                05:43               So you've given us some examples about the specifics that indicate the future of cinema. Is there anything that you want to tell us a little bit more about that is gaining momentum in the industry now, that we can see?

Chris Buchanan:            05:56               Sure, absolutely. Well, one of the trends over really the last ten years has been that home entertainment, and televisions have exceeded theatrical presentation. This is nothing new, everybody in the industry has talked about this. So, why would consumers leave home? You know and their big beautiful Samsung TV ... hopefully Samsung ... and go to a small theater and have an okay experience?

Chris Buchanan:            06:24               What's happened that's kind of unusual is that technology is now going back towards theatrical. And so the first one that's happenings as we speak is high-dynamic-range. And what this means is that when you have higher levels illumination with something like a laser projector, or much higher levels of brightness with an LED screen, your able to have your blacks be blacker, your whites be blindingly bright like a flash of lightning or something, and your color saturation stays put all the way up into the high end of brightness. This is very different than the typical projection experience, and it's something that we feel ... certainly, at Samsung, we feel ... is gonna help direct consumers back into the theaters. Because it's better than you can get at home, which is amazing.

Chris Buchanan:            07:18               Same thing with sound. I mean you look at what Dolby and DTS have done with immersive object-oriented or object-based sound; it's pretty incredible. So, I think those experiences are really helping to drive forward this kind of innovation.

Chris Buchanan:            07:39               There's also things like high frame rate, which I referenced earlier. We've seen that in ... Peter Jackson used it in the Hobbit for instance, and Ang Lee used it in the film ... he used a very high frame rate, 120 frames per second, a couple years back.

Aimée Ricca:                07:55               Yeah, we actually had screenings of Billy Lin's halftime walk. We had screenings of it with the Future of Cinema Conference two years ago.

Chris Buchanan:            08:01               Yeah. And it's amazing, and there are some challenges there. There are some effects that consumers look at and say, "Ooh, maybe that looks soap opera." Or, "It doesn't look real." Or, "It looks too real." But those are things ... you know we have this technology now, and we're gonna work through it, and it's going to be a better experience for consumers. 

Aimée Ricca:                08:24               So what role ... I mean we talked about a bunch of technologies there. So we talked about wide color gamut and higher frame rates. But what role do you think standards and standards bodies like [SMTPE 00:08:36] are going to play in bringing these innovations to the market in the most effective way?

Chris Buchanan:            08:40               You know, I actually think this is a really simple answer. There's so much innovation going on. You know the speed of these things moves like it's never moved before in the history of cinema. And if we don't come together as an industry around certain standards and parameters and how we test things and how we measure things; it just turns to mush. We really need to come together again as an industry to do that. And it's not about ... you know, I don't want to impose anything onto the filmmakers that says oh, well you can only do it this way. I want it to be no limits for the filmmaker. But, we have to do that because otherwise all the different manufacturers and technology companies, we end up spinning our wheels and competing against each other to try to one-up each other and not bring the products to market. So I think it's pretty simple. It's a good thing.

Aimée Ricca:                09:36               So, how do these innovations benefit consumers? And the industry at large?

Chris Buchanan:            09:43               Well, I think for the consumers it's a great time to be a consumer of cinema content. Right? Between what's starting to happen in the theaters with great sound and big screens and these immersive experiences. And then also in the home entertainment window where the value you get on a Netflix or Amazon Prime; it's incredible. I mean, it's awesome to be a consumer. And I think all these new innovations are just gonna help differentiate the experiences. So you'll have a very different experience at the theater than you will at home, but they'll both be great experiences. 

Chris Buchanan:            10:21               I think for the studios it presents a challenge because there are so many formats and versions and things going on. That I think ultimately as we start to form kind of parameters around things like HDR, we can help with some of the workflows and whatnot. Simplify them. Make it so that they're not sending out 300 to 500 different versions of a movie across all of the different exhibition platforms all the way down to mobile devices. 

Aimée Ricca:                10:54               So what should members of our community, technologists, and creatives in the entertainment sector, do to harness the future of cinema innovations and bring these new experiences to consumers? 

Chris Buchanan:            11:05               Well again, I think we all need to work together. You know, hopefully, companies like Samsung, we're a huge company. I think we patent more than 6,000 things a year in the US alone. Again, we need to work together. And I like to think that we're open to help work with different technologists to help bring things to market and to filmmakers and exhibitors and whatnot. An example we're working on right now is HDR 10 plus. Obviously, that's all built off of SMPTE ... I think it's 2094. This is around high-dynamic-range in televisions specifically. And you know we all work off the same SMPTE spec, which has been great. And that's something that's gonna help make the artist intention go through into home entertainment and look as good as it possibly can, as representative of what the artist intended, through from premium TVs down to mid-range TVs. And so things like that where we can work together is gonna be awesome. And that's an open standard for everybody to use.

Aimée Ricca:                12:19               Great. So, thank you for spending time with us today and taking time out of the busy NAB schedule to be here.

Chris Buchanan:            12:26               You bet.

Aimée Ricca:                12:26               We really appreciate it, and we look forward to the future of cinema.

Chris Buchanan:            12:29               Yeah, well thank you for having me and we're really excited about it and can't wait to do this again next year.

Aimée Ricca:                12:35               Great. Thanks, Chris.