Smart Coun­try, a Con­sti­tu­ti­on for Plat­forms and Data from Space: Media­Tech Hub Pots­dam at re:publica 2022

“Any­whe­re the wind blows” is sung by Fred­dy Mer­cu­ry at the end of Bohe­mi­an Rhap­so­dy - and this line in the song ser­ved as the mot­to for the re:publica digi­tal con­fe­rence when it was held again after a two-year break due to the pan­de­mic. The four-day event at the begin­ning of June attrac­ted 25,000 visi­tors, and included 400 ses­si­ons with 700 spea­k­ers. While the light sum­mer wind blew over the out­door area of Are­na Ber­lin, the­re were dis­cus­sions going on in the dar­kened hall that, very much in kee­ping with re:publica’s ori­en­ta­ti­on, were not just focus­sing on purely digi­tal and media tech­no­lo­gy, but also addres­sed such socio-poli­ti­cal issues as sus­taina­bi­li­ty, cli­ma­te chan­ge and social chan­ge. Many repre­sen­ta­ti­ves from the Media­Tech Hub were part of the programme.

In a dis­cus­sion entit­led “Socie­ty in Per­ma­nent Cri­sis”, the cli­ma­te eco­no­mist Ott­mar Eden­ho­fer of the Pots­dam Insti­tu­te for Cli­ma­te Impact Rese­arch ser­ved as a spar­ring part­ner for the jour­na­list Caro­lin Emcke to pro­vi­de the facts as well as the pos­si­ble cour­ses for action bet­ween war, cli­ma­te cri­sis and the chal­lenges of our age. Ste­fan Schel­ler, one of the lea­ding HR influen­cers, blog­gers and pod­cast hosts on new work, new manage­ment and recrui­ting shared his expe­ri­en­ces about the advan­ta­ges and dis­ad­van­ta­ges of working from home and remo­te working.

The new job oppor­tu­ni­ties can also make life in the coun­try­si­de more attrac­ti­ve again for digi­tal talents and con­tri­bu­te to new eco­no­mic growth out­side of the urban conur­ba­ti­ons. An approach that is sup­port­ed by the Eco­no­mic Deve­lo­p­ment Agen­cy Bran­den­burg (WFBB). The Agency’s Till Mey­er and Stef­fen Kamm­radt explai­ned how the sta­te of Bran­den­burg is trans­forming its­elf into a smart coun­try around old man­or hou­ses, rail­way sta­ti­ons and fac­to­ry sites. Things got more media-spe­ci­­fic with Mar­cus Pfeil and Micha­el Antho­ny from Ver­ti­cal 52. Their start-up is brin­ging data from space back to earth in short sto­ries: whe­re can one find bridges in dan­ger of col­lapsing in Ger­ma­ny? Whe­re is ille­gal mining taking place in India? How much of the land is in fla­mes in the Ama­zon regi­on at the moment? Their plat­form for ana­ly­sing satel­li­te and radar data sup­ports NGOs and jour­na­lists in their work.

Anna Fran­zis­ka Michel from the Media­Tech Hub Acce­le­ra­tor start-up yoo​na​.ai spo­ke in her pre­sen­ta­ti­on “The Meta­ver­se SaaS Solu­ti­on” about the pio­nee­ring role that the digi­tal fashion indus­try can play in the field of sus­tainable life­styl­es. As the CEO of yoo​na​.ai, she is dri­ving the deve­lo­p­ment of AI-based design for­ward. Lau­ra Hir­vi, Mana­ging Direc­tor of the VRBB ser­ved as the host for the “Women in XR and Allies Panel”, which brought lea­ding women from the XR indus­try tog­e­ther to dis­cuss trends and deve­lo­p­ments. How important the aspects of a uni­form Euro­pean regu­la­to­ry frame­work for lar­ge digi­tal plat­forms can be was high­ligh­ted by Dr Eva Fle­cken, Direc­tor of the Medi­en­an­stalt Ber­­lin-Bran­­den­­burg (mabb), as one of the panelists in the dis­cus­sion on “Digi­tal Art Ser­vices - Are We Now Going To Have the Plat­form Constitution?”.

How is vir­tu­al pro­duc­tion chan­ging the media hub of Berlin/​​Brandenburg?

An important tech­ni­cal dis­cus­sion in the Media pro­gram­me strand fun­ded by Medi­en­board Ber­­lin-Bran­­den­­burg and sup­port­ed by mabb, shed light on the uphe­avals that new tech­no­lo­gy is brin­ging to the film indus­try by asking such ques­ti­ons as “Whe­re will we be shoo­ting in 10 years?”, “What does that mean for Pots­­dam-Babels­­berg as a pro­duc­tion hub?” and “Will we only be shoo­ting vir­tual­ly in future?”.

Vir­tu­al pro­duc­tion has beco­me a major issue for film­ma­kers. Cine­ma­tic LED screens, like the one the Pots­dam Halos­ta­ge show­ed next to Stage 1, will soon beco­me an indis­pensable part of the world of cine­ma. The ana­lo­gue and digi­tal worlds are now alre­a­dy mer­ging during actu­al pro­duc­tion - this doesn’t only chan­ge the pro­ces­ses, but also the way we are able to tell sto­ries. Actors as well as the came­ra or light­ing can now inter­act direct­ly in front of digi­tal back­drops ins­tead of mono­co­lour green screens. A dis­cus­sion entit­led “The Future of Cine­ma - How is Vir­tu­al Pro­duc­tion Chan­ging Berlin/​​Brandenburg as a Media Hub?” saw crea­ti­ve indus­tries con­sul­tant Fran­zis­ka Koch, Erik Wolff, (CEO of Halos­ta­ge), Wolf Bos­se (Co Foun­der of Reac­tion­link SE Tech­no­lo­gies GmbH) and VFK pro­du­cer Sche­rin Raja­ku­ma­ran out­lining their very own par­ti­cu­lar experiences.

“Ever­y­thing always chan­ges in post-production”.

But the tech­no­lo­gy isn’t that new, She­rin Raja­ku­ma­ran sug­gested. Whe­ther it’s pain­ted screens or green screens, cine­ma has always mana­ged to crea­te enti­re worlds in the stu­dio wit­hout the film crew having to tra­vel to a par­ti­cu­lar loca­ti­on. What is new is that the pre­vious­ly known pro­duc­tion pro­ces­ses are chan­ging. This has an impact on bud­gets and work pro­ces­ses. Pro­­duc­­ti­on-rela­­ted delays, such as tho­se that might occur in ren­de­ring, are eli­mi­na­ted. And, as Wolf Bos­se noted, typi­cal­ly down­stream pro­ces­ses are now brought for­ward in the pro­duc­tion cycle. Taken altog­e­ther, this chan­ges the dyna­mics of film­ma­king right through to the dif­fe­rent ver­si­ons of the screen­play. Aut­hors can make allo­wan­ces for the new tech­ni­cal pos­si­bi­li­ties in their sto­ry­li­nes. It is then much easier to rewri­te plots during film­ing becau­se the shoo­ting loca­ti­ons don’t then have to be chan­ged at gre­at expense.

What doesn’t chan­ge are enter­tai­ning sto­ries, Wolff adds. The rest of the dis­cus­sion is a tech­ni­cal one. Is a VFX shot worth con­side­ring at a par­ti­cu­lar point or is 3D con­tent more appro­pria­te? Such con­ver­sa­ti­ons have to be held at an ear­ly stage, with the dis­cus­sions always revol­ving around pro­duc­tion cos­ts and the crea­ti­ve aspect.

Hig­her, fas­ter fur­ther in post-pro­­duc­­ti­on: more pixels, more frames, hig­her bit rates

The fun­da­men­tal natu­re of film­ma­king will the­r­e­fo­re not have chan­ged in ten years’ time, but new tech­ni­cal pos­si­bi­li­ties will have appeared. Com­plex tech­no­lo­gies that were too slow befo­re will now be easier to use. More arti­fi­ci­al intel­li­gence is cree­ping into the pro­ces­ses, accor­ding to Bos­se. In addi­ti­on, the­re is a bet­ter qua­li­ty of pre­sen­ta­ti­on, which is also reflec­ted in the pho­­to-rea­­li­­stic repre­sen­ta­ti­on of the actors’ facial expres­si­ons and ges­tu­res. The actors won’t be repla­ced in the future, but the addi­tio­nal extras can be crea­ted more easi­ly using digi­tal tools. Accor­ding to the hypo­the­sis, the hybrid forms of real-life images sup­ple­men­ted by digi­tal aids are increasing.

Event tech­no­lo­gy, games indus­try and film indus­try bene­fit from one another

The film indus­try is not the only field invol­ved in new deve­lo­p­ments. A lar­­ge-sca­­le LED screen like the Halos­ta­ge with high­ly pro­fes­sio­nal LEDs cove­ring a total area of 1,000 squa­re met­res was ori­gi­nal­ly deve­lo­ped for event tech­no­lo­gy and trade fairs. Moreo­ver, the­re are deve­lo­p­ments from the gam­ing indus­try that can crea­te the image with track­ing glas­ses via Game Engi­ne. Accor­ding to Bos­se, expe­ri­men­ta­ti­on invol­ving dif­fe­rent media tech­no­lo­gies tog­e­ther will deve­lop even fur­ther. The film indus­try is not the only dri­ving force here.

Apart from time savings, the­re will also be lower cos­ts in future. For exam­p­le, the­re will be less need for cos­t­ly road clo­sures for shoots or the asso­cia­ted shoo­ting per­mits. As an exam­p­le, Wolff cites a shoot in Berlin’s Tier­gar­ten tun­nel. Sce­nes in the tun­nel were film­ed in advan­ce and the remai­ning ones done in the stu­dio. Clas­sic “car shots”, the like one often sees in the Tat­ort crime series, are also con­se­quent­ly less expen­si­ve. This makes the shoots safer, some­ti­mes more effi­ci­ent, and one can have bet­ter con­trol of other ele­ments such as unwan­ted reflec­tions on cars or wea­ther conditions.

“None of us are oppon­ents of live-action shoots,” Bos­se stres­ses. “We mar­ry the beau­ty of the live-action shoot with tech­ni­cal safe­ty”. Howe­ver, all of this has to be well plan­ned in advan­ce. Vir­tu­al pro­duc­tion has an impact on direct pro­duc­tion as well as on the pro­fes­sio­nal crafts in the indus­try, and the trai­ning pro­gram­mes keep chan­ging. In the future, for exam­p­le, the­re will be more desi­gners of immersi­ve content.

The Pots­dam team pre­sen­ted the mobi­le ver­si­on of the Halos­ta­ge LED stu­dio right next to the main stage during the re:publica event. Visi­tors were able to have a go at film­ing them­sel­ves in front of a digi­tal background.

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.