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ETC 2013: USC Honors Chuck Dages; and Ponders Future of Entertainment Technologies

By Newton Lee

ETC 2013: USC Honors Chuck Dages; and Ponders Future of Entertainment Technologies

Chuck Dages, former executive vice president of emerging technologies at Warner Bros., received the first annual Bob Lambert Technology Leadership Award from the USC Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) on May 8, 2013. Former ETC director David Wertheimer said, “We can never say enough amazing things about Bob Lambert, and there is not a person in the world that Bob Lambert would rather see honored that Chuck Dages.” The late Bob Lambert, former executive vice president of new media and new technology at The Walt Disney Company, was one of the founding associate editors of Computers in Entertainment. The honoree Chuck Dages is best known for bringing the TMZ.com website to television while keeping the immediacy of breaking news. Lambert and Dages had worked closely together and made significant contributions to the success of the ETC.

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the ETC, which started in 1993 when George Lucas urged USC to establish a group to navigate the evolving technology in the entertainment industry. After a TMZ reel introduced Chuck Dages, he said in his acceptance speech, “We have remained focused on creating great content that people want, and we are seeing a tremendous volume shift. The problem is we can’t get the same ASP [average selling price], so the challenge becomes: How do we get the cost of distribution down? The people in this room hold the keys to how our business will stay viable by finding ways to distribute content to consumers at a cost that makes it profitable for us in the industry. That is a huge opportunity to remake an industry that is 120 years old and take it into the next century.”

Dages said he had spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. government informed him there are only three types of industries in the U.S. that are making positive trade balance: entertainment, agriculture, and airplane/auto parts. They are still trying to figure out the secret success formula to apply to other U.S. industries.

Dages reminisced about the past and talked of the future. He told a captive audience, “I can’t even imagine what projects you are going to tackle in the future. We didn’t know how to get broadband around the San Fernando Valley so Boeing came up with the idea of flying an airplane constantly over the Valley and then selling the service to us. It was ridiculous but at the time we all thought it would be kind of cool.”

A lively panel discussion followed the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership Award. The panelists included Wendy Aylsworth, SVP of Technology for Warner Bros. Technical Operations; Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies; Hanno Basse, CTO of Fox Filmed Entertainment; Joseph Cates, SVP of Technology at Universal Pictures; Craig German, Executive VP of Worldwide Technical Operations at Paramount Pictures; and Vince Roberts, Executive VP of Global Operations and CTO at Disney/ABC Television Group. The discussion mainly focused on the digital workflow, metadata, asset management, employee training, user consumption behavior, and technological advancements. The panel agreed that the industry is lacking an automated tool that can handle all possible digital distribution formats, subtitling, metadata, and search.

Elizabeth Daley, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, called the ETC one of the “crown jewels” at the university. The ETC industry sponsors include DTS, Fox, LucasFilm, Paramount, Sony, Tata Communication Services, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Warner Bros., The Walt Disney Company, Telus, deluxe, Dolby, EMC2, EVault, Haromic, LG, Rockspace, Real D, Sharp, Technicolor, and Thales.

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