For someone who’s been writing about the intersection (or, I prefer to say, the clash) of media, entertainment, and technology for decades, Los Angeles’ annual Infinity Festival can be a candy store of sorts, an opportunity to do an overview at one Spot the bleeding edges of change in all of these areas.
This year’s gathering, the fifth, will take place November 2-5 at Goya Studios in Hollywood. It will feature some familiar names, even for those hopefully enmeshed in traditional entertainment circles: comedian/game show host Howie Mandel, Napoleon dynamite himself Jon Heder, Bollywood voice AR Rahman and actor/virtual reality director Elijah Allan-Blitz, whose credits include VR experiences accompanying works by Ken Burns and Michael Pollan.
The conference will also feature demos and panels from sponsors such as HP
So what connects everything?
“The show has always been a professional conference focused on how storytelling is enabled by technology, with a real focus on the media and entertainment category,” said the show’s chief curator, Lori H. Schwartz. “Story is part of how all business categories communicate their offerings, and in relation to (media and entertainment) it’s also at the core of the actual product. So our audience has always been a mix of creative, business and technology resources focused on content creation.”
It’s no surprise that Allan-Blitz will be speaking about another of his VR projects on this occasion Recall, with Brie Larson, who debuted on Disney+ last month. Mandel will be speaking about something far from his usual haunts, Proto, which allows people to broadcast interactive holographic images of themselves to audiences thousands of miles away. For a comedian who isn’t sure how much his audience likes his jokes, Proto could be a gold mine.
Heder has partnered with Verified Labs for an NFT collection called The Order of the Tigons, with art inspired by Heder’s own spider-like hand and penchant for jumbled-up imaginary creatures similar to those seen in Napoleon dynamite.
Perhaps the liveliest event of the conference takes place before it really gets going. Two-time Academy Award winner Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) and the festival’s immersive cinema chair, Intel’s
“We’ve been absolutely blown away by how much this event has grown over the past five years and established itself as a highly relevant, not-to-be-missed festival,” said Hanno Basse, Chairman of Infinity Festival, CTO of Digital Domain. “But we’re just getting started. As more people recognize the unique value of our integration of entertainment and technology, and more industry leaders see it as the perfect place to discuss innovative ideas, we see no limits to what Infinity Festival has to offer.”
The festival will also feature mini-summits focused on a variety of topics, including a SoCal Women’s Summit with panels from groups such as Women in Tech Hollywood and MESA, the trade group for behind-the-scenes Hollywood technology professionals. Virtual production, one of the hottest trends in video creation in Hollywood, is getting an entire workshop sponsored by HP’s Z-line of computers and peripherals and graphics card maker Nvidia.
“What’s exciting about the show’s growth reflects multiple trends,” Schwartz said. “The pandemic has accelerated technological innovation and remote work. The democratization of tools provided by many of our partners and the expanded opportunities for creators around the world to gain access to those tools has created a perfect storm of interest and understanding of the content we’re bringing to the festival reflect.”
Schwartz outlined several trends that are changing Hollywood and have been spotlighted by the show:
- “Virtual production is a very big focus right now. It completely changes the production pipeline and creates new job opportunities.
- “Artificial Intelligence and its Impact on All Aspects of Media and Entertainment.
- “The cloud and how it enables many of the remote work solutions that have really emerged since the pandemic.
- “Under the umbrella of Web3 are certainly NFTs as fan engagement (mechanism), but also the virtualization of experiences, be it VR (augmented reality) or a mixture of both.
- “Experience or immersive venues that take the traditional family entertainment venue to the next level.”
The conference lends itself well to Los Angeles, which not only boasts all of Hollywood’s studios, but also a sizable and growing tech presence, including huge Apple TV+/Beats Music, Google/YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix production hubs whose lot the operation is in Angeles is mostly just a few blocks from Goya Studios, where the conference will be held.
“We are truly a show that is a product of Los Angeles and its unique cultural history, as home to Hollywood and bordering Silicon Valley,” Schwartz said. “Los Angeles has become the true home of technology solutions for content creation.”