October 7, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Cinedigm is using AI to localize Bob Ross, and Light Field Lab is getting ready to ship its holographic display.
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The late Bob Ross has been a double-edged sword for Cinedigm: When the video distribution company launched a 24/7 Bob Ross streaming channel in April 2020, it quickly became one of Cinedigm's most popular channels.
However, when Cinedigm executives were looking for ways to bring the channel to international audiences, they quickly realized that it was prohibitively expensive to hire dubbing professionals to localize the show's 30-some seasons. At the same, Cinedgm couldn't afford not to take Ross abroad.
"It's kind of a no-win situation for us," Cinedigm Chief Product and Technology Officer Tony Huidor told me this week.
Now, Cinedigm is using AI to dub Bob Ross for Spanish-speaking audiences in Latin America. The company has teamed up with U.K.-based AI translation specialist Papercup to dub the show, and hopes to tackle additional languages in the near future.
Key to making AI work for the show was to pick a suitable voice that doesn't aim to sound like Ross, but can convey some of the original's calming qualities and positive vibe ("happy little accidents!").
Sooner or later, a lot more content will be AI-dubbed, despite those shortcomings.
You can check out an example of Papercup's synthetic dubbing of the Bob Ross show here.
"The thing about Hollywood is, you can behave badly, you can be rude, you can make duds, but the thing you cannot do is fuck with people's money. You just don't do that and hide behind technology as the reason why." — An anonymous producer venting to the Hollywood Reporter about Disney's decision to move some of its films from theaters to streaming.
"They never pivoted. Ever. Over nine years." — Media analyst Andrew Rosen, pointing out another reason why Ozy failed.
Zoom — the communications platform that has become synonymous with streaming video calls — experienced an even greater increase in that same time period. In June 2020, close to 3 million consults took place through Zoom's 100 top EPIC integrations. With its simple, reliable interface that patients — and health care workers — already knew, Zoom became the go-to for health care offices everywhere.
Holographic display startup Light Field Lab is getting ready to commercialize its technology: The company will begin signing up customers for its SolidLight platform, and expects to ramp up production of SolidLight panels next year.
Light Field Lab is looking beyond producing yet another display. It's been working on holographic display technology since 2016, and wants to build an end-to-end platform that includes the hardware necessary to render holograms in real time as well as authoring software to create holographic content.
Holographic video walls could be a big boon for location-based entertainment as well as corporate use cases. However, there's a reason the company's funders include telcos like Verizon, Comcast and Liberty Global: Ultimately, Light Field Lab wants to produce holographic displays for the consumer market, and supplying those displays with 3D content will require massive broadband pipes.
Dear readers, I need your help! Halloween is just around the corner, and I once again struggle to come up with a good costume idea. My general preference are costumes that are very low effort: One year, I dressed up as a DVD pirate (eyepatch + DVD "necklace"). Last time, I was simply wearing a beak and a sign that read "Toucan do it!" Suffice to say, my kids were not impressed. So how can I wow them without spending hours on a proper getup? Any and all suggestions welcome — and I promise I'll post a picture if I end up using one of them.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!