April 2018 – At the NAB 2018 show in Las Vegas we caught back up with Harris Morris CEO of Wazee Digital. This is our first interview with Harris since he took a break from the broadcast industry after leading the LBO of Harris Broadcast and its transition to becoming Gate Air and Imagine Communication.
Harris discusses trends in the industry regarding content availability and a philosophy based on the quality of the content and the quality of experience that results.
This interview was included in the Roadway Media coverage of NAB as part of the Executive Interviews episode of Bright Blue Innovation.
At the recent NAB show in Las Vegas, I had a chance to sit down and talk to Charlie Vogt, CEO of ATX Networks about the industry, what he has been doing since Imagine Communications and the challenges of video media distribution. He highlights the switching and distribution technology from the ATX product line that support the full range from SD through 4K HDR delivery.
Not surprising, an International flavor permeated this year’s computer Game Developers’ Conference (held at the Moscone Convention Center March 18 and 19, here in San Francisco). Delegations from Europe and parts of Asia included dozens of new game titles, and literarily hundreds of people. First-person shooting games remain popular, as were puzzles — fail to solve them at your peril.
The goal is to promote the uniqueness of the Polish gaming industry, says Lukasz Plesnowicz, a spokesperson for the delegation. Polish game developers are very “integrated” the designer says. He cites a B2B award in 2014 for “This War of Mine,” a game demonstrating the sense of despair (the decreasing number of choices) of residents in a war-torn city. http://store.steampowered.com/app/282070/This_War_of_Mine/
Jakub Marszalkowski “head geek” for the Polish Gaming authority cites the “deep story lines” of many Polish games, in contrast with intensive graphics supporting the on-screen runners or shooters. Popular Polish game titles like “Witcher” are easy to play, says Marszalkowski. The experiment with games as a “story-telling form” is recent.
But the experiments with intensive story telling is hardly peculiar to Polish games. The GDC also highlighted games from Europe (Swiss Nex), whose promoted title features a time-travel journey (“All We have is Time), Norway, Scotland Pavilion at GDC, and Korea, among others. Countries and multi-country consortiums touting products and infrastructure at GDC include:
A European consortium called “Swiss Nex” enables monetization for games with a block chain ecosystem for creators. In one game, a user brandishing a digital wallet hunts for “digital collectables.” A branch the Swiss arts council, Swiss Nex operates from San Francisco. https://www.swissnexsanfrancisco.org/event/swissgames/
The German Games Industry Compendium reported over 659 million Euros in game sales for 2017. And 43.9 million units in 2016. That’s 173 million users 2016 — up from 124 million users 2012. Success stories include “Angry Birds Evolution,” “Angry Birds Epic,” and “Drone Swarm” which runs on PCS.
The virtual reality “Eye of the Temple,” puts the play on the ramparts of an ancient castle, climbing on brick steps which may-or-may-not be real. Try not to fall over. Sanctum Dreams, the game’s creator, is based in Denmark. Its software runs on Macs, Linux, and PCs (but not consoles).
Norwegian Games are published by Innovation Norway, a subsidiary of the Norwegian Film Institute. Promoted titles include “Mosaic,” a tale of loneliness in an urban environment, “oVRshot,” a virtual reality game for multiple shooters, and “Trolls vs. Vikings 2,” a war game with trolls and dragons
Products of the Korean Pavilion (KOCCA) Korean Creative Content Agency include “Mad World,” in which a player fights multiple demons, and “Transformers” with augmented reality. KOCCA supports a wide range of creative industries in Korea, including gaming, animation, character licensing, music, fashion, and broadcasting. http://eng.kocca.kr/en/contents.do?menuNo=201433
“Fight the Horror” is a multi-monster attack uses an Unreal processing engine to depict attacking Zombies. The game’s main character, reminiscent of Laura Croft in “Tomb Raider,” must “fight, kill and resolve puzzles” according to the creator Lam Kai Wa (“Tony”) of 4DMacau. The first product out of Macau, “Fight the Horror” is slowly making its way into Hong Kong and Taiwan, where a government bans made it illegal to promote the horror game category. (No exploding heads here.)
San Francisco, March 25, 2018. At this year’s GDC 2018 (Game Developer’s Conference), there were a couple of demos that stood out that strongly reinforced my thoughts about the eventual futuristic merging of computer gaming and movies.
After just a few demos on the GDC expo floor, I was not be able to discern the difference between the computer game graphics and the live action from movies anymore. Realism for game developers have never looked so real.
On the first day of GDC, NVIDIA announced their latest RTX technology of Real time-Cinematic rendering. Nvidia’s RTX technology, alongside Microsoft’s new DirectX® Raytracing (DXR) API, has been an intensive work-in-progress for the last ten years. It’s ray tracing renders lifelike and realistic lighting, along with reflections and shadows that make it nearly impossible to distinguish what is real and what is not, in terms of computer graphics. It brings real-time, cinematic-quality rendering to content creators and game developers.
Yes, you read right: “real time”.
This new technology is a milestone for not just gaming developers and filmmakers, but any creator who needs to render an object as realistic as can be. The computer graphics of tomorrow will make computer graphics of today look like a lifeless imitation.
Nvidia had Project Spotlight “Reflections” at their booth at GDC, which looks more like a teaser trailer for the next Star Wars feature film, but in reality, it’s a real time tracing demo, which Epic’s team along with ILMxLAB and NVIDIA’s DGX Station, equipped with four Tesla V100 GPUs, Epic’s Unreal Engine and NVIDIA’s RTX ray-tracing technology.
It definitely wowed the enthusiastic GDC crowd as it was hard to believe that there were no actual actors used in the storm troopers costumes. It was all computer graphics being rendered.
At GDC, game developers will have access to ray-tracing denoiser module, part of the GameWorks SDK from Nvidia. Photo by Marcus Siu.
NVIDIA has also announced that the GameWorks SDK will add a ray-tracing denoiser module, helping game developers take advantage of new capabilities. This updated SDK, which is coming soon, includes support for ray-traced area light shadows, glossy reflections and ambient occlusion. This will help save a huge amount of time for creators.
Imagine how the Screen Actor’s will feel after they realize that computer graphics characters may jeopardize their career in the near future. One of those actors will
Motion capture performance artist, Andy Serkis, known for playing “Gollum” in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Caesar” in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy may not have problems finding work. Just a few sections away from the Nvidia booth, I saw a computer generated “digital” Andy Serkis acting out his lines as his alien creature character was being rendered in real time at the Unreal booth.
Just unreal – Andy Serkis’s character talks as Andy talks in real time at the GDC 2018. Photo by Marcus Siu
Maybe in the near distant future, we can just get rid of the entire Screen Actor’s Guild with the exception of performance capture or voice-over actors. Or perhaps one day we can just clone the actors so there wouldn’t be any need for them to come in and perform on a sound stage.
Imagine at the Academy Awards…, “and the nominees for “Best Clone Actor in Supporting Role are”…
In addition with the progress of computer graphics coming from ray tracing in the visual sides, audio will also be just as important for content creators. End user consumers are continuously looking for an immersive experience with their gaming, so many are reaching out to THX certified equipment for their PC gaming.
THX demonstrated their spatial audio platform, using the latest audio standard, MPEG-H, as well as UHD. They were using the game trailer for “Helblade”, which ironically, was one of the first live motion capture technology for Epic Games in 2006. It was in a way, ahead of its time. Coming from a 2.1 THX certified Logitech speakers and a sub-woofer, it was quite sonically immersive. I felt that I was right in the middle of the soundscape.
There was also a demo of it using headphones, but I still preferred the speakers.
Certified THX Logitech Speakers at GDC. Photo by Marcus Siu.
In addition, they utilize personalized audio profiles using HRTS’s (Head-Related Transfer Functions), which are optimized and customized for each listener, based on user’s unique hearing anatomy.
Long associated with the Lucasfilm movie sound in movie theatres in the 80’s, it seems that THX is staging a comeback into the public eye in the marketplace. In addition to its traditional THX certified products such as home entertainment products over the years, such as projectors, pre-amps, receivers and speakers, they have been gaining momentum into the gaming world by introducing THX certified products, such as laptops, headsets and satellite speakers.
CES 2018 will be remembered for its lights going out at the Las Vegas Convention Center filled with thousands of televisions and electronics. Those who were in the building found their ways to the exits using the lights from their cell phones. Within minutes, the blackout forced the convention center to be closed for over two hours. Although this unfortunate incident made international headlines, this year’s CES was still an exciting and stimulating event for the global tech community.
CES is a platform that allows an interaction with a new generation of technology! This year, over 170,000 attendees from 150 countries, 3,900 exhibitors presented their products and services, 7,000 journalists and bloggers all came to Las Vegas to report to a broad audience that the convention center wasn’t quite able to accommodate.
Steve Koenig, analyst and director of CTA (Consumer Technology Association) at the press meeting which took place two days before an official door opens, announced the main trends in the global tech world. His focus was on 5G and AI as the ingredient technologies for 2018 and beyond. 5G was the theme of my article in the last edition of Property Journal. It is important in the era that has a flood of automated data.
By 2020, the average internet user is going to create around 1,5 GB of traffic per day, but a smart hospital will produce 3,000 GB and an autonomous vehicle 4,000 GB per day. Today every big city has 4G and everyone who watches content on a mobile device is familiar with the buffering wheel icon which means that the operating system needs more time for downloading content. But for the consumer it means lost time for waiting. When 5G will be implemented that will no longer be the case.
How fast is 5G? Let’s use an example. How long would it take to download the two-hour-long “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie? In 3G (2001) it took 26 hours, in 4G (2009) only 6 minutes, in 5G (2020) it will be 3.6 seconds! There is no doubt that 5G is going to revolutionize everything including telecommunication, automotive, healthcare, social media, real-time GPS, mobile payments, video streaming (4K and 8K) and access to the Internet at the fingertips anywhere, anytime.
The second ingredient that will stimulate global technology is AI. Before, the abbreviation AI meant “Artificial Intelligence”, but some industry experts believe that the term is too closely linked to popular culture and has negative connotations. That is why AI is now described as “Augmented Intelligence”; to help people understand that AI simply improves upon products and services, and does not replace humans. Unfortunately, they both have the same acronym – AI.
IBM that heavily invested in Artificial Intelligence system called Watson suggested to use the term “Intelligence Augmentation” – IA. Quick note: it is not about Sherlock Holmes’s assistant, Watson, but Thomas Watson, the charismatic CEO of IBM during the years, 1914-1956.
Many companies invest in AI because they believe that Augmented Intelligence is the key to learn what humans like and dislike, perfectly suggesting the products to match their tastes. Just recently Google joined the race for more customers by using AI. For the first time, Google had a standalone booth in the middle of the convention center at the CES. Outside the convention center, they had many signs and banners on the streets of Las Vegas that was read – “Hey, Google”.
AR (Augmented Reality) is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on the top of existing reality enhancing it with meaningful information and to making it interactive. AR is developed into apps and is used on mobile devices the way that the components enhance one another but can also be detected apart very easily.
In 2010, founder and CEO of Augmented World Expo (AWE), Ori Inbar predicted that in ten years (2020) that everyone will be using AR to experience reality in a more meaningful way. There is a ramp and a learning curve and the technology has to get a foothold, but once it does the applications advance and the product become standard. Today AR is in that moment, Inbar stated in an interview with me in 2015 – it is still incubating and trying to hone in on the correct experience for the market but the monetization plan is close to being defined. Today, Inbar’s words are confirmed with others. Digi-Capital just published an article stating that mobile AR will top a billion users and will be a $60 billion dollar industry by 2021.
AR is often confused with VR.
VR is a fully computer generated image and AR is just a layer on real reality. But there are more differences. Ori continued, that there is a use model difference, since VR is a closed screen, it is a download based product. All of the content is created and scripted for consumption such as films, games or documentary style information. AR on the other hand is a see-through overlay type of experience. The content is typically streamed to the unit in real time based on the situation and feedback from user. This creates a dynamic content environment, and it is also much more familiar to the user.
There are two types of augmented reality. The first is vision based AR. The real environment is scanned with a mobile device with your phone or tablet and it will augment something within that data. The second is location based AR. Traditional GPS give us just minimum information about a trip from point A to point B. AR application could enrich it for much more including distances and measurements.
AR extends our vision. The AR glasses optimize production, when the technician who uses them see the safety warning or manual instruction. AR glasses optimize the performance for runners and cyclists giving them their performance metrics such as speed, distance, ascent/descent, cadence (steeps per minute) or heart rate. In healthcare, AR glasses allow the medical professional for precision of IV placement.
AR and VR worlds are diverse and competitive, but standards are coming in.