For a generation raised on Star Trek who’ve witnessed the evolution from Pong to Xbox 360 and from Star Wars: Episode Four to Episode Three, Moore’s Law is just part of the cycle of life. And by now we’ve come to expect that if we just survive long enough, someone will build a holodeck.The big question is, what’s the next step? And I’m only half joking.The post industry has always had its back against the wall with smaller boutiques snipping away as much work as they can handle on cheaper infrastructure. What the traditional post house brought to the table was firepower, with big investments in plant and equipment that could outstrip any independent artist working on his own machines.But suddenly, as we get into the world of 2K and 4K production and post, there seems to be a ceiling, and it’s not quite clear that the big old-school post houses have much room left to retreat. HD 4:4:4 might just knock the wind out of the facilities that have invested heavily in 2K DI services.And technologies like holographic storage promise capacities of up to 1.6 TB on a single disk. In late October, InPhase Technologies conducted a demo with Turner Network Television playing content to air that originated on a prototype holographic storage drive using 300 GB holographic disks manufactured by Hitachi Maxell (an InPhase partner and investor).So, as these technologies become commodities, what happens when storage is no longer a sales point, and post houses can no longer compete by offering bigger bandwidth?Technologies like HDV are already chewing their way up from the bottom of the market. And while the new DCI digital cinema standard gives the industry a bit of headroom with its support for 4K, Moore’s Law shows no signs of slowing down. Even the move to 4K feature mastering will only buy the post industry a little more time before it has to answer the question: What’s after 4K?What happens when there’s no point in adding any more pixels because the human eye can’t see them, and the dynamic range extends beyond the limits of human perception (as is the case with DCI’s XYZ color space)?I suspect post will just keep doing what it always has done—retreat upwards. Just keep generating more and more data and specializing in work that would be cost prohibitive for the boutiques. And there’s always plenty more data to add.Here’s where it starts getting interesting.Thomson recently supplied eight Grass Valley Viper FilmStream digital cinematography cameras, together with Canon lenses and Manfrotto mounts, to the University of Surrey in England. The cameras will be used as part of a university research project designed to ultimately put the camera angle, lighting and even the movements of the actor in the hands of the viewer.“Our research uses multiple camera systems to allow capture of a 3D representation of a scene, from which the producer or viewer could have free control over a virtual camera,” explained University of Surrey professor Adrian Hilton. “In essence, a very high-resolution capture of the scene should allow us to create a video-realistic synthesis of real objects, people and environments.”Marc Valentin, president of the Grass Valley business within Thomson, said, “This is an extraordinarily exciting project, which could have a major impact on television, movies, games and interactive entertainment in the future.”This is just one of a myriad experiments with the goal of redefining the entertainment experience, from 360-degree panoramas, to the computer-based “choose-your-own-adventures”—all of them aiming for something more interactive or immersive. And with the rise of the video-game industry to the point where it now surpasses Hollywood’s box office take, generating some $10 billion a year in the US alone, there’s good reason to re-examine some of the possibilities. There’s also a growing market for ride films and specialty films for science centers, museums and amusement parks—projects that go beyond traditional video or film—and companies like IMAX have rebounded tremendously in recent years.There’s a huge amount of academic work going on in this area. Siggraph’s Emerging Technologies Pavilion is loaded with bright young minds, inspired to create computer interfaces that emulate touch, taste, smell, 3-D depth perception, 360-degree virtual reality, and interaction as well as accepting new verbal, tactile and gestural inputs.These are technologies just waiting for Moore’s Law to catch up before they become part of the entertainment experience, but sooner or later, somebody is going to put them all together and build me a holodeck.
Written by Scott Lehane