HPA Tech Retreat Panelists: AI in M&E is in its Infancy

PALM DESERT, Calif. — Don Eklund, CTO for Sony Pictures Entertainment, sees a pretty simple explanation for why artificial intelligence has become such a prevalent technology today, utilized by so many different companies.

“Compute got a lot more powerful and a lot more economical,” he said Feb. 12 during the panel “AI Applications” at the Hollywood Professional Association’s (HPA) annual Tech Retreat event. And according to Eklund, media and entertainment has barely scratched the surface in terms of applications with both AI and machine learning, with uses in marketing, advertising, audience measurement, recommendation engines, casting, script development, content enhancement and more.

“It’s important to understand things on a granular level,” said Jason Brahms, CEO of machine learning video tech firm Video Gorillas. “The implications of how this can affect media and entertainment are interesting. It can have an impact on the creative process.

“Most of the solutions in the market are in the theoretical stage. That’s all right, it’s an evolution, not a revolution.”

AI-enabled computers can manage everything from sound synthesis to removing artifacts in analog-digital conversion to pinpointing the perfect actor for a role. Entire green screen backgrounds can be automatically adjusted to fit what’s described in the script. What an OTT subscriber wants to watch next can be foretold in ways manual processes just can’t manage.

Richard Zhang, research scientist with Adobe’s Creative Intelligence Lab, said his company’s work with machine learning has proved the technology is aptly named: machine learning becomes most effective — especially when tasked with doing analyses — by running assignments through the tech over, and over, and over again.

“Algorithms fail, and method can make mistakes,” he said. “Moving forward, you must allow … for more interaction.”

The 2019 HPA Tech Retreat saw nearly 20 members of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) present and attend, including Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Avid Technology, Dolby, GrayMeta, G-Technology, Microsoft Azure, NAGRA, Pixelogic, Prime Focus Technologies, Salesforce, Signiant, Sohonet, Sony, Technicolor, Teradici, the Trusted Partner Network (TPN), Video Gorillas and Western Digital.