Mandy Walker, ASC, ACS to Keynote 2021 HPA Tech Retreat

Annual event boasts more than 200 leading industry thinkers, including Poppy Crum, Jim Helman, Annie Chang and Andrew Wallenstein.

Noted cinematographer Mandy Walker, ASC, ACS will be a featured keynote speaker at the upcoming HPA Tech Retreat (March 15-24). Walker, whose recent work includes Mulan (2020; AC story here) and Hidden Figures (2016), is a respected artist who has been working throughout the pandemic and will share her experiences and insights. The event features live and recorded content, live Q&As, interactive roundtables, and networking opportunities, all presented in HPA’s new Engage portal.

Walker at the eyepiece during the production of Mulan (2020).

Walker was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. In high school, she developed an abiding love of photography and after graduation she went on to study film criticism and cinema studies with John Flaus, the prominent film theorist and critic. Walker apprenticed as a camera assistant on documentaries, feature films, and music videos, and shot her first feature film, Return Home, at the age of 25.  She has 30 screen credits as director of photography and has filmed over 100 high end international commercials, most notably the commercial films for Chanel No. 5: The Films directed by Baz Luhrmann and featuring Nicole Kidman, and, more recently, Gisele. Walker is a sitting Governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the American Society of Cinematographers. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Australian Cinematographers Society, of which she has been a member since 1999. She was the Kodak Artist in Residence at UCLA film school for the 2014-15 academic year, and in 2015 she received the Kodak Cinematography Mentor of the Year Award. Her notable feature film credits also include Australia, The Mountain Between Us, Red Riding Hood and Shattered Glass.

The 2021 HPA Tech Retreat is designed to be more than an “online conference” or series of zoom calls masquerading as an event. This year’s presentations cover a diverse array of topics across significant areas of interest that include production; workflow and the cloud; industry developments; and the impact of covid.

There are dozens of sessions, and a complete list is here. Recently announced program additions include:

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning in Production
Tom Sahara, Tom Sahara LLC
A look at the current state of AI/ML. While AI/ML holds great potential, the reality is it will take years to mature and many hours of human effort to build, train, and manage these systems.

Industry Impact: COVID and the Media Business
Andrew Wallenstein, Variety Intelligence Platform
Wallenstein will present an overview of the many different ways that the pandemic has impacted content consumption habits across a wide range of media and devices encompassing video, audio and more. 

A Cloud Based VFX Workflow for Pulls and Receives
Randi Altman, postPerspective
David Rosen, Sony Electronics, Inc.
Stephen Shapiro, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Innovation Studios and Sony Media Cloud Services have developed a workflow that enables automated cloud based VFX pulls and delivery directly to VFX vendors.

Computer: The Ultimate Communication Device
Aayush Bansal, Carnegie Mellon University/Facebook Reality Labs
Humans can easily observe, explore, and analyze a four-dimensional (4D) audio-visual world, yet struggle to share observation, exploration, and analysis with others. The goal in this presentation is to learn a computational representation of the 4D audio-visual world that can be: (1) estimated from sparse real-world observations; and (2) explored to create new experiences. We introduce Computational Studio for observing, exploring, and creating the 4D audio-visual world, thereby allowing humans to communicate with other humans and machines effectively without any loss of information. Computational Studio serves as an environment for non-experts to construct and creatively edit the 4D audio-visual world from sparse real-world samples.

Is Creative Intent Wrecking the Intent of the Creative?
Poppy Crum, Dolby
Nigel Edwards, Streamland Media
Andy Quested
Craig Todd, Dolby
While audiences may complain about content, it’s often stories of incomprehensible dialogue or too-dark images that hit the headlines. Because of social media, we know before the end of a presentation if the audience has a problem with the way it looks or sounds. The panel will explore some of the background to the issues and look at the filter of “creative intent.” Is it making content better or worse?

Post Disruption: How Production Pipelines Are Going Global
Annie Chang, Universal Pictures
Darin Grant, Animal Logic
Jody Madden, Foundry
Sebastian Sylwan, Technicolor
Last year we saw the disruption of the content supply chain accelerated by the rapid expansion of premium video platforms, coupled with a near-instantaneous pivot to a distributed workforce brought on by COVID-19. How is distributed global production affecting all stages of the content pipeline, and what key factors need to be considered in order to take advantage of the opportunities this new reality brings to our industry.

Fundamentals of Virtual Production and Safetyvis
Zach Alexander, Lux Machina
Ramy Katrib, DigitalFilm Tree
Sam Nicholson, ASC, Stargate Studio
Erik Weaver, [email protected]
“Simplified” presents the fundamentals of Virtual Production as explained by key community pioneers Zach Alexander (CO-CEO Lux Machina) and Sam Nicholson (CEO Stargate Studios). The blue-ribbon panel will discuss important concepts including  pixel pitch, parallax and moiré. Following the presentation, there will be an introduction of Safetyvis and how Unreal and lidar scans are taking safety to the next level on set. A look at the “Ripple Effect'' and how Safetyvis was leveraged on set.

Mark Schubin, longtime curator of the Tech Retreat main program, remarked, “While there has yet to be a Tech Retreat that does not bring forward proposals that inspire, challenge, and impress, the past year’s unique circumstances have pushed us to break out of our preconceived notions of how we work. The speakers in this year’s main program are singularly able to address the state of our industry and the possibilities that lie ahead. Frankly, I'm in awe of this year's program.”

In addition to live programs and panels, content drops will be presented (“dropped”) daily throughout the Tech Retreat. These important presentations were created specifically for the HPA Tech Retreat by speakers and companies.  The drops will be introduced daily by Mark Schubin.

Networking remains a central part of the HPA Tech Retreat, and the virtual platform will support meeting and conversing with fellow attendees.  Additionally, registrants can dive into more than 130 roundtable discussions; the topics are listed on the HPA Tech Retreat schedule at hpatechretreat.com. The Tech Retreat Innovation Zone will once again offer opportunities to learn about the latest technologies and speak directly with the experts. Full details about the event can be found at hpatechretreat.com.

HPA President Seth Hallen remarked, “While no one could have been completely prepared for the events of 2020, our attendees at the 2020 retreat were able to draw on an incredibly relevant body of knowledge gained from attending last February, when they were faced with an unpredictable and rapidly changing situation. We have taken that responsibility seriously in planning for the 2021 Tech Retreat, assembling speakers and topics to prepare our attendees for all of the changes that have been wrought and the possibilities of the work ahead of us. Personally, I’m inspired by the breadth and depth of the sessions being offered, and I’m looking forward to both interacting live on the platform and having the flexibility to catch up on some of the challenging content at my discretion, when I have time and focus to devote to it. I invite you to take a look at the program, and urge you to register as soon as possible.”

The HPA Tech Retreat takes place thanks to the generosity of diamond title sponsor Adobe; platinum and cocktail sponsor Equinix; registration sponsor Sohonet; gold sponsors Frame.io, GB Labs, Mo-Sys Engineering, NetApp, Ownzones, Signiant, Vcinity, and Wasabi; event sponsors Evercast and Keycode Media; silver sponsors Avid, Blackmagic Design, Dalet, Dell Technologies, Tedial, Unreal Engine, and Zeiss; bronze sponsor Eluvio; and contributing sponsors Blackmagic Design, Envoi, and Vizrt Group.

2021 HPA Tech Retreat registration is available at $199 to HPA members and $299 to nonmembers. Nonmember registration includes a complimentary one-year individual membership to the HPA. More information about HPA and the HPA Tech Retreat, including registration and program details, is available here.

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