Thursday, March 30, 2017


  • Friday, Feb. 17, 2017
SmallHD debuts billion-plus color 17-inch monitor
SmallHD's 1703-P3 monitor

SmallHD introduces its first reference grade monitor, the 1703-P3. The monitor features true 10-bit color processing to deliver over a billion colors. It covers 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color space, features a 1500:1 contrast ratio and 179° viewing angle, along with SmallHD’s Pagebuilder OS and large toolset.

“It’s really all about P3 and color confidence. This monitor offers true reference grade cinema color, covering 100% of the DCI-P3 color space, which makes it the perfect monitor for DIT’s on-set and for mastering in post,” said SmallHD co-founder Wes Philips. 

The 1703-P3 is designed to serve the color display demands of both on-set and post production color grading professionals. Each 1703-P3 monitor comes pre-calibrated for DCI-P3 mastering, covering 100% DCI-P3 with a Delta E average of 0.5. Users can easily install their own 3D LUT calibration with advanced color management solutions like Light Illusion’s, LightSpace CMS, or SpectraCal’s CalMAN.

The monitor provides for one HDMI and two SDI inputs, as well as one HDMI and two SDI outputs. The fast and intuitive operating system allows ganging of on-screen tools like HD waveform, vectorscope, false color, focus peaking and 2x zebra bars simultaneously, at the user’s preference. A Dual View function allows the user to monitor two input sources at the same time with a side-by-side view.

The 1703-P3 has a bright 450-nit display that supports any LUT workflow through SmallHD’s ColorFlow 3D LUT Engine. This enables 3D LUT support, allowing previously created colorizing look-up tables to be used on-set. LUTS can be applied via the monitor’s full-size SD slot. This information can also be pushed downstream to other monitors. A LUT altered on-set with 3rd party software, such as LiveGrade, can be viewed on the monitor and/or downstream monitors, and uploaded to an SD card for reference in post. 

Ruggedly constructed of milled aluminum, this monitor is built to withstand the demands of production sets. And it conveniently features numerous ¼-inch and 3/8-inch threaded mounting points, as well as a VESA mount and RapidRail accessory mounting system. The 1703-P3 can easily power wireless accessories like Teradek with built-in 2-pin LEMO auxiliary power. For truly wireless operation, it can be powered by optional V-mount and Gold-mount battery packs. 

List price for the 1703-P3 is $3999, and it is slated to begin shipping late February 2017.

  • Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017
Blackmagic Design technologies deployed in Oscar-nominated films
Mahershala Ali (l) and Alex Hibbert in a scene from "Moonlight" (photo by David Bornfriend/courtesy of A24)
FREMONT, Calif. -- 

Blackmagic Design’s Pocket Cinema Camera digital film camera, as well as its DaVinci Resolve Studio editing, grading and finishing solution, were used on some of this year’s Oscar nominated films, including “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Arrival” and “Moonlight.”
Some of the 2017 Oscar nominated films that used Blackmagic Design products include:

  • “4.1 Miles” graded with DaVinci Resolve by colorist Chris O’Dea;
  • “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld of Deluxe’s Company 3;
  • “Arrival” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Joe Gawler of Harbor Picture Company;
  • “Fire at Sea” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Andrea Orsini of Grande Mela Film;
  • “Hacksaw Ridge” featured several action scenes shot on Pocket Cinema Cameras by DP Simon Duggan;
  • “Joe’s Violin” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Erik Choquette of Outpost Digital, the post facility for RadicalMedia;
  • “Moonlight” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Alex Bickel of Color Collective;
  • “Nocturnal Animals” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Siggy Ferstl of Deluxe’s Company 3;
  • “Silence” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Tim Stipan of Deluxe’s Company 3; and
  • “Tanna” graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist CJ Dobson.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017
Avid unveils innovations for next-generation newsroom

Avid® (Nasdaq: AVID) announced the availability of innovations for the next-generation newsroom. Powered by the Avid MediaCentral® Platform, the next-generation newsroom is based around a complete story-centric workflow that connects production teams anywhere in the world via the cloud and takes their stories beyond traditional media outlets. It includes multiple Avid solutions and new feature enhancements—including several new panes within MediaCentral | UX—for fast, efficient, modern newsroom management and news production.
The story-centric workflow puts the story at the center of news operations, and provides the best and most comprehensive tools and workflow solutions to enable news teams to plan, gather, create, collaborate, manage and deliver news to a wider range of viewers across multiple platforms. This holistic approach allows for more dynamic and organic storytelling and greater workflow agility--both inside and outside the newsroom.
In addition to news teams, anyone who needs to plan and schedule resources, gather information and distribute content around specific topics or stories can benefit from the story-centric workflow. It enables teams to quickly find and access the media and information they need to tell multiple angles of a story and increase viewer interest. Content can be pushed across a variety of platforms as the story evolves, including on-air, online, and on mobile devices. Audiences can get up-to-the-minute information and contribute to live broadcasts through social media interaction. And news teams can move away from traditional rundown-driven workflows, accelerating their ability to react to changing information.
“Today’s media organizations are under intense pressure to deliver stories to a broader range of outlets including social media, boost ratings without necessarily increasing resources, more easily incorporate social content, and engage a broader audience,” said Alan Hoff, vice president, Market Solutions, Avid. “The new story-centric workflow enables our preeminent customer community to capitalize on these opportunities while improving efficiency across workflows and resources, and future-proofing their investments with flexible licensing and deployment options including cloud-enabled workflows.”
The products that comprise the story-centric workflow include MediaCentral®| UX, iNEWS®, Interplay® | Production, Media | Distribute, Media Composer® | Cloud, Maestro™, and Social Media Hub. MediaCentral | UX, the cloud-based web front end to MediaCentral, is the hub and catalyst in the story-centric workflow, so customers who already have iNEWS and/or Interplay | Production systems can manage every facet of a news story from a single user interface.
Several new capabilities within MediaCentral | UX facilitate the story-centric workflow and integrate with other platform-connected solutions like iNEWS and Interplay | Production. They include the ability to create, and manage assignments and resources, and to gather story-related content in a collaborative workspace.  In addition, new integrated panes for Maestro and Social Media Hub provide seamlessly integrated graphics management and social media interaction.
With the new MediaCentral | UX Assignments pane now available, the story-centric workflow enables users to:

  • Assign and manage stories with a virtual assignment desk. Users can assign teams, resources, topics, and destinations to a story, which can then be easily searched for, filtered, updated, and managed throughout its evolution
  • Build a story by gathering and associating graphics, video, text, tweets, social media posts, and other potential story-building content in the Elements area of the Assignments pane
  • Sync stories across newsrooms with richer metadata tagging in MediaCentral | UX. Users can associate categories, topics, and tags to a story to enable better content searching and management across all accessible local and remote databases
  • Aggregate Twitter and Facebook content and display social media postings (from Social Media Hub) as on-air graphics (via Maestro)
  • Remotely access online and archived footage, scripts, and information back at the station or anywhere on the network and shoot, write, edit, and deliver stories from any location in the world using MediaCentral | UX and Media Composer | Cloud
  • Easily deliver a single story across multiple formats for viewing on TV, in a web browser, on a mobile device, or through a variety of social media platforms with direct integration between MediaCentral | UX and Media | Distribute
  • Broadcast up-to-the-minute graphics with the new Maestro pane in MediaCentral | UX, which allows users to drag and drop clips and images directly into Maestro templates to create and update real-time graphics quickly for on-air versions of stories

The MediaCentral | UX Assignments pane is available at no additional charge for customers who upgrade to MediaCentral | UX version 2.9.

  • Monday, Feb. 13, 2017
RED Digital Cinema provides cameras, accessories to USC film school

Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, announced that RED Digital Cinema has agreed to provide the school with state of the art digital cinema cameras and accessories. Valued at $700,000, the cinema-style camera systems provided by RED will be used by students in the School’s Division of Film & Television Production.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to exploit the unique filmmaking capabilities of the RED Digital Cinema camera in the production of our student projects,” said professor Michael Fink, Kortschak Family Division Chair in Film & Television Production. “This means more students will get more exposure to these fine cameras on a regular basis, expanding their facility in cinematography.  Our Advanced Cinematography, and Student Advanced Projects classes will be the first to benefit, and we’re very much looking forward to seeing the stories the students create with our new RED cinema cameras.”
“RED has always been committed to supporting emerging filmmakers,” said Jarred Land, president of RED Digital Cinema. “To have the opportunity to help advance the technology available to the students of one of the premier Cinematic Arts institutions in the world is something we are very excited about.”

  • Friday, Feb. 10, 2017
Cospective releases cineSync 4.0
Cospective CEO Rory McGregor

Cospective, creator of innovative software solutions to visual communication challenges, has announced the release of cineSync 4.0, a ground-breaking update to its Academy Award-winning remote review and approval solution.

cineSync 4.0 introduces a new iOS app, an overhauled video playback system, deeper production tracking integrations with Shotgun and ftrack, and a wealth of enhanced security features in cineSync Pro Studio--including on-demand watermarking via a new integration with MediaSilo’s Safestream.

Introducing cineSync Pro Studio
cineSync 4.0 has been developed in conjunction with the security departments of several major studios, meeting their requirements at every step. This has resulted in the creation of a new package in addition to cineSync and cineSync Pro: cineSync Pro Studio. 

cineSync Pro Studio includes all of the features of cineSync Pro, but introduces some major new security features:

A new integration with MediaSilo’s SafeStream watermarking technology allows for automated, on-demand, individual watermarking of all review files. All guests in the review will receive customisable files watermarked with their name, cineSync session key, IP address and the review time/date. The process is fast and efficient, due to Safestream’s scalable architecture.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Cospective to enable production and visual effects teams to collaborate securely on high-profile projects,” says Kai Pradel, CEO of MediaSilo. “Our joint goal is to remove friction from creative workflows while still ensuring the highest level of protection for valuable pre-release content.”

Guest authentication
For additional review security, guests are authenticated in advance--only guests who have been approved will have review access. This system has been designed in conjunction with Hollywood studios to allow the maximum control over who has access to review material, while imposing as few technical hurdles as possible. All reviews are also tracked in the management portal, allowing admins to see when reviews occurred and who was involved.

Other cineSync 4.0 features include:

cineSync iOS
A new cineSync app for iOS is now available, enabling guests to join cineSync reviews from mobile devices. The app integrates seamlessly with Shotgun and ftrack, meaning review information and media can be pushed securely to mobile devices. Files are automatically deleted at the end of the review, but all drawings and saved frames can be saved back to Shotgun or ftrack by the session host.

Revamped video playback
cineSync 4.0 features an overhauled video playback system. QuickTime has been retired and replaced by a new, adaptable video architecture. This means that cineSync 4.0 can support a wide array of video formats, resolutions, and frame-rates across all platforms.

Production tracking integration
cineSync 4.0 features a deeper integration with production tracking tools Shotgun, ftrack, and NIM. Users can browse and load media playlists directly from these applications, and access seamless transfer and recording of review information, saved frames and other feedback.

Rory McGregor, Cospective CEO, commented: “We worked closely with the world’s biggest production studios on cineSync 4.0. Security was a key concern. In working in close collaboration with MediaSilo and their SafeStream technology, we’ve met these concerns and more, delivering a tool that’s not only better positioned to deliver efficient, streamlined reviews, but also to do so in with the highest possible level of security and in a completely dependable environment. cineSync 4.0 is poised to service the unique needs of creative collaboration today.”

Jake Morrison, Marvel Studios VFX supervisor, stated: “Communication is vital in postproduction, but not at the expense of security. The cineSync team has elegantly addressed this both across desktop and, most awesomely, on the go with a cineSync app. Anything that protects the filmmakers’ creative vision makes me sleep better at night and cineSync 4.0 will do just that.”

cineSync 4.0 is out now. Cospective will continue to roll out new features for cineSync, cineSync Pro and cineSync Pro Studio over the coming months.

Users with a valid subscription to an existing cineSync package will be eligible to upgrade to the latest version.

  • Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017
DP Greig Fraser turns to Outsight Sky LEDs for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"
Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS (photo by Jonathan Olley)
SYDNEY, Australia -- 

Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS, the cinematographer of films including Lion, Zero Dark Thirty, Foxcatcher, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Mary Magdalene (currently in postproduction), and numerous commercials, relied on the Creamsource Sky, a water resistant five color 1200W LED light system from Outsight, for Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
“Creamsource Sky is just so flexible and renders colors amazingly,” said Fraser, who recently won the ASC Award and earned an Oscar nomination for his lensing of Lion. “I am obsessed with the technical, and Creamsource Sky produces really great skintones. That can be a benefit and a curse when having to mix Sky with lights from other manufacturers, so I use a single brand of lighting for each source — one for skylight, one for a window, and another for facial lighting.”
For Rogue One, Fraser relied on Sky’s ability to be used in all weather conditions, finding it especially useful for the raining stage shots depicting Eadu, a storm-stricken world and Imperial terraforming operation in the Outer Rim Territories. “We had Sky rigged in the ceiling for weeks while it was ‘raining’. It’s just amazing that we can do that,” said Fraser. In addition, Creamsource Sky delivers high power output with full creative control and repeatable, calibrated color that helps users craft emotion.
Fraser first discovered Outsight LED lighting many years ago while in Sydney doing a US television commercial for Old Navy, during the very early days of LED lighting. “My gaffer brought in an original 2x1 Creamsource, and we were amazed by how much power they had,” said Fraser. “We were so impressed that we both bought one head each. Fast forward to more jobs and I saw the technology evolve to portable battery power, making lights faster and more powerful, and lights I could gel.
“I now have four 2x1 and two 1x1 Creamsource lights in my kit that have just been upgraded to the fourth generation with new LED boards for better color, more output and higher CRI,” added Fraser. “Being able to buy these lights as a younger DP meant that I could own and have control of my lighting, without relying on whatever a rental house could provide.”
In addition to his film work, Fraser just completed a commercial for Budweiser and is scheduled to shoot a Ford spot this month, using his own Outsight kit for both.
What really impresses Fraser is the amount of freedom and flexibility he gets with Outsight LEDs. “They allow you to decide on the cover seconds before shooting, which is fantastic if you can’t prelight,” said Fraser. “You save time and money, going quickly from creative to a stage full of hung lights, knowing how much colour and correction you need. With tungsten, if you dim it, you need to know exactly what stops for the colour you want to capture. On big films, you can do testing and prelight a week in advance. With Outsight LEDs, I can prelight in an hour with flexibility and control of all parameters — plus do instant trial and error for warmth. You just can’t do that with tungsten — it takes days and weeks. Now it’s just flicking a switch — it’s game changing.”
“As a pioneer in film and television lighting, we’ve designed our LED lights to be both beautiful and tough,” said Tama Berkeljon, managing director, Outsight.  “DPs around the world are discovering that our Creamsource lights are built for the creativity that is needed on set or on location, with repeatable results.”

  • Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017
Blackmagic Design announces new ATEM Television Studio HD
Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio HD
FREMONT, Calif. -- 

Blackmagic Design announced ATEM Television Studio HD, a broadcast quality live production switcher designed for both broadcast and professional AV users. ATEM Television Studio HD features 8 inputs, multi view, aux, and program outputs, analog audio inputs, built in talkback, two flash based media players, incredible creative transitions, a DVE for effects and more.
ATEM Television Studio HD is available now for $995 from Blackmagic Design Resellers worldwide.
The new ATEM Television Studio HD replaces the original and extremely popular ATEM Television Studio. It features four 3G-SDI and four HDMI inputs so customers can connect a total of up to 8 different sources such as professional SDI broadcast cameras, consumer HDMI cameras, computers and even video game consoles. ATEM Television Studio HD is compatible with all SD and HD formats up to 1080p60. There are two channels of analog audio in, RS-422, Ethernet and a built in IEC power supply, along with program and auxiliary outputs. Customers also get both SDI and HDMI multi view outputs so they can monitor all sources, preview and program outputs, along with labels, audio meters and more, all on a single big screen television or broadcast monitor.
ATEM Television Studio HD is perfect for everything from professional broadcast studio shows and broadcast sports, to customers working on video blogs, gaming videos, internet talk shows, weddings, concerts, seminars and more. It also features resynchronization on every input so switching is completely glitch free. That means customers can even use it as a front end controller for AV systems and cleanly switch between sources with the press of a button.
Featuring an extremely portable design, ATEM Television Studio HD is the world’s smallest all in one broadcast switcher. It’s only ⅔ of a rack space wide and is packed with high end broadcast features that make it possible to create an entire live switched program, complete with effects and transitions, right from the front panel. The front panel features 8 large buttons for switching between sources, along with corresponding audio buttons, down stream keyer, fade to black, media player and cut buttons. There’s also a built in LCD screen, spin knob and additional buttons for menus and to adjust settings like transition and effect parameters. Customers simply press the button for the source that they want to see next in the program, then hit the cut or auto button to switch sources, add effects, or even key in graphics.
For complete creative control, ATEM Television Studio HD also includes a free software control panel for Mac and Windows. The software control panel features an intuitive interface with different pages for switching, managing media, mixing audio, and remote controlling and color correcting cameras. The Switcher page is modeled after a physical hardware control panel making it fast and easy for customers to switch between sources, adjust transitions, add upstream and downstream keyers, and more. The Media page lets customers drag and drop up to 20 RGBA graphics into the media pool and automatically upload them to the switcher’s flash memory so they can be recalled and used in realtime during a live program. The software control also features a 20 channel audio mixer that can used to adjust and balance levels from all inputs, including the analog audio inputs. The audio mixer displays meters, has sliders for adjusting levels, and controls for turning channels on or off, using the audio follows video feature and more.
The ATEM Television Studio HD software control also has a complete camera control section for remotely controlling cameras over the SDI program return feed. Blackmagic Studio, Micro and URSA Mini cameras are all compatible with the SDI control protocol. These cameras also feature built in DaVinci Resolve primary color correct that can be remote controlled, making it possible to balanced camera color and create unique looks, all from the switcher. In addition, customers can adjust focus and iris on compatible lenses, change camera settings, and even remote control PTZ heads.
The most exciting thing about the free software control panel is that multiple users can be connected at the same time. That means customers can have one person switching the program while another mixes the audio, and another uploads or changes graphics, while another person remotely color balances and controls the cameras.
ATEM Television Studio HD gives customers true broadcast quality transitions, effects and graphics. Using transitions such as mixes, wipes and dips are done by simply pressing a button on the front panel. There 18 included transitions give customers massive creative options because they can customize things such as border, border color and width, position, direction and more. In addition, there’s a built in 2D DVE for adding digital video effects that can position, resize and scale live video, all in realtime. That means customers can create professional picture-in-picture effects, use DVE powered transitions like squeeze and swoosh between sources, or create graphic wipe transitions with their own graphics.
ATEM Television Studio HD has a built in media pool that can store 20 graphics that can be used with the two built in media players. The media pool uses flash memory, so images are saved even after the power is turned off. That means customers can create completely custom graphics to use in their own programs. In addition, there is an upstream keyer with full chroma keying for green screen shots so customers can add weather maps, graphics, or even virtual sets. The upstream keyer works with chroma, patterns, shapes and linear keys.
ATEM Television Studio HD also features 2 downstream keyers for adding graphics, logos and bugs to video. Customers can even install a HyperDeck Studio Mini in the rack right next to ATEM Television Studio HD and use it as a source for ProRes 4:4:4:4 motion graphics files with alpha channels. That means customers can get fill and key graphics composited over live video, or they can use motion graphics with alpha as transitions between sources, all in real time.
ATEM Television Studio HD also includes a built in talkback converter for SDI cameras. The talkback information is sent back to the camera via the SDI program return feed on the rarely used SDI audio channels 15 and 16. When working live with a reporter in the field, there can be a slight delay that causes them to hear themselves as an echo in their headset. ATEM Television Studio HD includes a new mix minus feature that sends back all the program audio except their own voice, so they don’t hear a distracting echo of themselves while reporting.
“The original ATEM Television Studio has been a huge hit and is extremely popular with our customers,” said Grant Petty, Blackmagic Design CEO. “The exciting thing about new ATEM Television Studio HD is that it has even more inputs and more features than before, but now makes it possible for customers to create an entire HD program right from the front panel! When it comes to creating HD programs from live events, there simply is no faster, simpler or more affordable way to do it.”
ATEM Television Studio HD Features

  • 4 x 3G-SDI and 4 x HDMI inputs for a total of 8 inputs, all with auto re‑sync.
  • Supports all video formats from SD to 720p, 1080i and 1080p HD up to 60fps.
  • 1 x built in multi view for 8 sources, as well as preview and program.
  • Built in media pool graphics storage for 20 RGBA stills.
  • Built in DVE with 3D borders and drop shadow.
  • Transitions include cut, mix, dip, SMPTE wipes and more.
  • 1 upstream keyer including chroma keyer plus 2 downstream keyers.
  • 1 auxiliary output with front panel aux switching buttons and LCD screen for viewing.
  • Built in audio mixer live mixes embedded audio from all video inputs and independent audio inputs.
  • Balanced XLR stereo analog audio inputs .
  • Internal sources include black, color bars, two color generators and 2 media player outputs.
  • Ethernet connection for computer connection. Mac and Windows control panel software included.
  • Compatible with all ATEM Broadcast Panel control panels when hardware panel is required.
  • Black Burst and HD-Tri-Sync genlock input for integration into large systems.
  • Compact ⅔ rack unit size is perfect for when in a portable solution is required.
  • Desktop or rack mountable using the optional Teranex Mini Rack Shelf. 
  • Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017
The Foundry celebrates the 89th Academy Award nominees
This image released by Lucasfilm Ltd. shows Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in a scene from, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." (Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Creative software developer The Foundry applauds its customers and partners nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. The Foundry’s visual effects tools are behind numerous Oscar nominated films including La La Land, Arrival and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  
According to The Foundry, every single film nominated for the Best Visual Effects Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards was made using its VFX software tools, making this the sixth consecutive year that The Foundry has achieved the feat. Notable winners from previous years that have used The Foundry’s software have included Ex Machina, Interstellar, Gravity and Life of Pi.
This year’s VFX nominees lineup, which includes Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, have each used The Foundry’s tools to create award-worthy visual effects. The Foundry’s Nuke, Katana, Mari and Modo are just a few of the tools used to bring these highly acclaimed films to life through the creation of everything from spaceships to dancing wild animals. These films shine a light on the incredible talent of the people working in the visual effects industry today. 
Tools owned by The Foundry have been previously recognized by The Academy in the form of multiple Scientific Technical Awards. Its tools Katana, Nuke and Mari--the tools behind Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s infamous Death Star--have all been recognized by the Academy in previous years. The Foundry’s Sci-Tech award-winning motion estimation technology Furnace, which is fully integrated into Nukex and Nuke Studio, has also received Academy recognition.

Alex Mahon, CEO at The Foundry, said: “Recognition at The Academy Awards is the pinnacle for visual effects studios, and we’re proud to count such amazing organizations amongst our customers who are behind the nominated films. We continue to be inspired by the incredible artistry and technical prowess used to create some of the most incredible film visuals of all time. The Foundry is committed to continually advancing its software so that the visual effects industry can bring even more spectacular stories to life.”

  • Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017
Tech companies worry about cherished tech visas 
In this Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, file photo, Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a news conference on Google's collaboration with small scale local businesses in New Delhi. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, File)

Next on the immigration chopping block? U.S. tech companies fear the Trump administration will target a visa program they cherish for bringing in programmers and other specialized workers from other countries.

Although these visas, known as H-1B, aren't supposed to displace American workers, critics say safeguards are weak. Critics also say the program mostly benefits consulting firms that let tech companies contract out their jobs to save money. The administration is considering a broad review of such programs, though there weren't many specifics in a draft executive order obtained by The Associated Press.

This comes amid President Donald Trump's temporary ban on nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., including those who are employed by Google and other tech companies but were out of the country when the surprise order was issued Friday.

Here's a look at how the H-1B visa program works and why tech companies are worried.

The H-1B program is open to a broad range of occupations, including architects, professors and even fashion models. Companies must affirm that the job requires a specialty skill that cannot be filled by a U.S. worker.

Many of these skills happen to be in tech. According to the Labor Department, the top three H-1B occupations are computer systems analysts, application software developers and computer programmers. The Labor Department says about half of its H-1B certifications are for those three occupations.

The U.S. government allows up to 85,000 new H-1B visas each year, and recipients can stay up to six years. Demand is usually higher, so the government holds an annual lottery. Advocates say that's a sign the cap needs to be raised.

Companies must make a good faith effort to hire a U.S. worker before turning to an H-1B worker. They are also required to pay at least the prevailing wage for that occupation.

The Labor Department must certify that these conditions have been met. After that, Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services conducts a lottery and the State Department issues visas to the lucky winners.

Venky Ganesan, a managing director at venture capitalist firm Menlo Ventures, says that rather than displace low-wage workers, the program encourages students to stay in the U.S. after getting their degrees in high-tech specialties. He said many of them go on to start companies and hire U.S. workers.

A 2011 study from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that the Labor Department's review is "cursory and limited by law to only looking for missing information and obvious inaccuracies." An Associated Press review of Labor Department data showed that less than 2 percent of applications were denied in fiscal 2016.

Critics say the program has turned into a mechanism for companies to contract out jobs to consulting firms. Indeed, the data show that top companies certified for H-1B visas are large consulting firms. Apple ranked eighth, and no other traditional tech firm made the top 15 in the AP review.

Last week, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, whose district includes Silicon Valley, proposed raising the minimum annual salary for certain reporting exemptions to $130,000, from $60,000. The change could require more companies to prove that they indeed tried to hire U.S. workers first and hadn't displaced any Americans.

As news of the proposal circulated in India, shares of many Indian technology companies sank. The stocks of Wipro, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services - the fifth, seventh and 10th largest sources of H-1B applications - each fell 2 percent to 4 percent Tuesday on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

As a Democratic bill, it has virtually no chance of passage in the Republican Congress, although the idea could be incorporated into other measures from the GOP.

The draft order from the White House had few specifics, other than to review existing regulations, find ways to allocate visas more efficiently and ensure that beneficiaries are "the best and the brightest."

This suggests that the Trump isn't looking to kill the program entirely.

The order didn't propose anything specific about allocating visas, though one option is to scrap the lottery in favor of offering visas to the highest-paying jobs. Lofgren's bill would prioritize visas for higher-paying jobs and set aside 20 percent of slots for smaller businesses and startups.

Tech companies have been clamoring for the government to increase the number of annual visas allotted, but there's no indication that's on the agenda. In fact, the number of visas could go down. Although the cap itself is set by law, there's no legal requirement for the administration to issue that many visas.

AP Data Journalist Larry Fenn in Washington contributed to this story.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017
SMPTE unveils details of 2017 NAB Show's Future of Cinema Conference
Richard Welsh, SMPTE education VP and CEO of Sundog Media Toolkit

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers® (SMPTE®), the organization whose standards work has supported a century of technological advances in entertainment technology, released details about the 2017 NAB Show’s “Future of Cinema Conference: The Intersection of Technology, Art, & Commerce in Cinema,” produced in partnership with SMPTE. Scheduled for April 22-23 during the 2017 NAB Show, the conference will feature two full days of expert presentations delving into how technical innovation, artistic intent, and evolving consumption and business models will interact to shape the future of cinema.

“In the 21st century, cinema is evolving faster than at any time in its history,” said Richard Welsh, SMPTE education vice president and CEO of Sundog Media Toolkit. “With consumers seeking content via many distribution outlets, creators are working vigorously to maintain artistic intent in an ever-changing landscape. The Future of Cinema Conference will explore the burning questions, with thought-provoking sessions and speakers, as we examine the future of movie-making and SMPTE’s next century.”

On day one of the conference, sessions will address topics including the use of the SMPTE Digital Cinema Package (SMPTE-DCP) for distribution in a time of technical and creative innovation; the role of cloud technology in global distribution; the latest in cinema projection and displays, and how the industry is adapting to these advances; real-world implementations of Interoperable Master Format (IMF); the evolution and current status of immersive audio technologies and standards; and threats to content security and how to protect against them.

The second day of the conference will extend the conversation on content creation, as well as consumption and the consumer. It will tackle the impact of light field imaging on content production and feature a panel on high-dynamic-range (HDR). Sessions also will discuss topics such as consumers’ changing relationship to the movies; the significance of artistic intent to the consumer; the advance in augmented, virtual, and mixed reality (AR, VR, and MR) experiences; and new styles of narrative and performance as showcased in select Sundance Film Festival entries.

“The diversity of topics and perspectives showcased in this year’s conference sessions is remarkable,” said Cynthia Slavens of Pixar Animation Studio, who serves as program chair for the conference. “From cutting-edge technology and creative techniques to questions about visual arts and the consumer experience, we’ve got it all.”

In addition to Welsh and Slavens, the program committee includes Jaclyn Pytlarz of Dolby Laboratories; Chris Witham of The Walt Disney Studios; SMPTE Executive Vice President Pat Griffis, also of Dolby Laboratories; Nick Mitchell of Technicolor Creative Services; Jennifer Zeidan of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM); filmmaker, speaker, and writer Jennifer Hall Lee; Siegfried Foessel of Fraunhofer IIS; and Rajesh Ramachandran of Qube Cinema.

SMPTE members may use code EP02 to take $100 off the NAB Show nonmember rate for a Conference Flex Pass registration or to get a free Exhibits Pass. The offer expires March 24.

More information about the conference is available here