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…And the Technical Emmys Go to…

The 65th annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) once again highlight just how important innovation has become for the future of the television industry. A look at each of the Emmy winners—who will receive their hardware during the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 9—shows how how they are helping transform the business.

The Emmy recognizes: “Development, standardization and productization of the High- Definition Serial Digital Interface.”

Winners: Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers; Sony; Yamashita Engineering Manufacture (subsequently acquired by For-A).

The work by SMPTE, Sony and Yamashita on the SMPTE 292 standard, commonly known as HD-SDI, or High-Definition Serial Digital Interface, was important in the early years of the development of HD production for 1080i and 720p video, notes Peter Symes, director of standards and engineering at SMPTE.

Equally important, SMPTE 292 also became the foundation for video standards capable of handling higher resolutions, including 1080p and SMPTE’s upcoming work on interfaces to carry UltraHD video. “It was a very welldesigned standard that continues to be an asset for the industry,” Symes says.

The Emmy recognizes: “Personalized recommendation engines for video discovery.”

Winners: John Hey (Adobe); Netflix; TiVo; YouTube (Google); Amazon.

As consumers access more content on more devices, the development of software and systems to help find the right content has been crucial to the success of a number of pioneering technology companies including Netflix, TiVo, YouTube and Amazon that are being honored with this Emmy. “From the very beginning, TiVo has worked to help [viewers] go through a vast amount of content to find what they want,” says Margret Schmidt, chief design officer at TiVo.

Notable early work in this area, which will only become more important in the future, was done by John Hey, who created the first general collaborative filtering system in the 1980s that became the basis of a recommendation engine technology used by Netflix and others in the 1990s, says Pritham Shetty, VP of video solutions at Adobe. Shetty worked at Hey’s LikeMinds start-up that was eventually sold to companies acquired by Adobe.

The Emmy recognizes: “In-camera electronic compensation for lateral chromatic aberrations in external lenses.”

Winner: Panasonic.

As TV stations embraced smaller, lighter, less-expensive cameras, camera manufacturers struggled to find ways to produce low-cost HD cameras with affordable lenses. “With the move to HD, you just couldn’t make the optics cheaper because it exposed all the flaws in the lens,” says Mike Bergeron, senior vertical sales manager at Panasonic.

Panasonic overcame that problem with a system to process images in the camera to compensate for flaws in the less-expensive lenses. The company first introduced the technology in 2005 with the AG-HVX200 handheld camcorder. Such systems will remain important in the future as the industry looks for even smaller cameras and moves to higher-resolution formats such as UltraHD.

The Emmy recognizes: “Inexpensive small rugged HD camcorders.”

Winner: GoPro.

Another very notable step in the miniaturization of cameras in recent years has been GoPro high-definition cameras. The company, founded by CEO Nick Woodman in 2002, launched several models before its Hero HD camera—which was small enough to mount on the helmet of a snowboarder—caught the imagination of the professional community.

“It really enabled people to do things that they couldn’t do before with larger bulkier cameras,” Fabrice Barbier, GoPro senior VP of product development, says of the Hero HD. “It provided a new way of capturing events and opened the possibility of creating more engaging content,” by showing the action from the perspective of a participant.

The Emmy recognizes: “Pioneering wearable camera stabilizer platforms.”

Winner: Garrett Brown.

This Emmy honors notable work by Brown on his Steadicam in the 1970s. Steadicam allowed filmmakers and broadcasters to make productions more visually appealing by moving the camera without using cumbersome dollies or cranes. “It allows you to create motion and camera movement to draw audiences into the story,” says Brown, who used his Steadicam systems on more than 100 movies and has taught thousands of people how to use the technology, which continues to evolve and play a very important role in production.

The Emmy recognizes: “Pioneering analog video repositioner.”

Winners: Steven Rutt, Robert A. Diamond.

Invented by Rutt and Diamond in 1974, the analog video repositioner allowed producers to shift broadcast video in real time so that other images, graphics or text could be inserted. The system produced such stunning results that it was quickly adopted by CBS, Sesame Street and others, says Diamond, who has produced video art now owned by the Smithsonian and had a long, innovative career in computers and software.

Rutt, who died at age 66 in 2011, “was an extraordinarily innovative person,” says longtime friend Michael Temmer. “He had a video facility that was always state-of-the-art because he was always inventing new things.”

The Emmy recognizes: “Gesture control systems for video and games (non-touchscreen).”

Winners: Microsoft; Nintendo of America; Sony.

This Emmy is a case study in how technologies from the consumer electronics world promise to transform the TV industry. Motion controls developed by the big game console makers to create more immersive products are now increasingly used to help consumers navigate through consumer interfaces and search for content. The motion controls are helping to simplify the cumbersome task of finding the right show among thousands of options. “If you think about gestures, it is a lot easier to navigate by using hand movements than to find a remote,” says Scott Berry, group program manager with Kinect at Microsoft.

The Emmy recognizes: “Pioneering work in implementation and deployment of network DVR.”

Winners: Time Warner Cable; Cablevision; Thirdspace (Velocix, Alcatel-Lucent).

Time Warner Cable’s early work on its Full Service Network in Orlando, Fla., in the mid- 1990s and deployments of VOD in the late ’90s led the operator to develop much of the underlying technology for network DVRs with the Mystro TV effort starting in 2001, says Mike LaJoie, TWC executive VP and chief technology and network operations officer.

Velocix, which was later acquired by Alcatel- Lucent, demoed a network DVR system in 2001. After lengthy litigation, Cablevision launched the first network DVR in 2011. “Cloud-based services [such as the network DVR] will play a big role in the industry’s future,” enabling operators to deploy new services and features much faster, explains Yvette Kanouff, executive VP of corporate engineering and technology at Cablevision.

The Emmy recognizes: “Pioneering development of video-on-demand (VOD) dynamic advertising insertion.”

Winners: Time Warner Cable; N2 Broadband (Ericsson).

As VOD usage continues to rise, the work by these Emmy winners is playing a key role in helping programmers better monetize ondemand content. Mike Hayashi, executive VP of architecture, development and engineering at Time Warner Cable, notes that in their early work on DVRs and VOD, commercials quickly became out of date as the content sat on servers. “The ads needed to be refreshed, and there were a lot of benefits to being able to dynamically insert ads,” Hayashi says.

Andrew Rowe, head of multiscreen TV solutions at Ericsson, adds that N2 Broadband (which deployed a dynamic ad insertion system with a major operator in 2002 and is now owned by Ericsson) and similar technologies “are going to help the industry monetize a lot of viewing that is not currently being monetized.”

The Emmy recognizes: “Development and standardization of the MPEG-2 transport stream.”

Winner: ISO/IEC JJC1/SC29/WG11 Moving Picture Experts Group.

This International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards committee—with its confusingly long name that is usually referred to as MPEG—completed work on the MPEG-2 transport stream in 1994. “Everyone came together on a specification that remains very, very important to the industry nearly 20 years later,” says Alexander “Sandy” MacInnis, committee chairman.

“There are now billions of devices that implement the MPEG-2 transport stream,” adds Matthew Goldman, senior VP of technology at Ericsson Television, who also worked on the standard. “It is used in pretty much all of digital television (except for DVDs), for digital broadcast, digital cable, direct-to-home satellite, Blu-ray. You could not have had digital television without it.”

The Emmy recognizes: Recipient of the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner: Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies

Unlike the other technical Emmys, which will be passed out at CES, Cookson received his honor at the 65th Primetime Engineering Emmy Awards held Oct. 23 in Hollywood.

Cookson, who oversees the studio’s technology policy, and processes and acts as Sony Pictures’ chief technical liaison with other Sony Corporation businesses in the technology area, has had a long and extremely innovative career that has earned him three Emmy Awards and more than 50 U.S. patents. A Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) Fellow, Cookson has also received a Technology Leadership Award from B&C for work that includes groundbreaking technological efforts at Sony and Warner Bros. that played a key role in helping the studios improve their systems for digital production and distribution, and his work to expand 4K and 3D production.

Cookson got his start in TV during the 1960s, working at a broadcast TV station in Phoenix. He also spent some time at ABC, where his work in 1984 as director of the ABC and International Olympics Broadcast Centers won an Emmy for pioneering digital technologies, and at CBS between 1988 and 1992.