For someone who’s been writing about the intersection of (or, as I prefer to say, the collision of) media, entertainment and technology for decades, the annual Infinity Festival in Los Angeles can be a bit of a candy store, a chance to survey in one place the bleeding edges of change in all those fields.
This year’s gathering, the fifth, runs from Nov. 2 to Nov. 5 at the Goya Studios in Hollywood. It will feature some familiar names even for those hopefully mired in traditional entertainment circles: comedian/game show host Howie Mandel, Napoleon Dynamite himself Jon Heder, Bollywood voice of voices A.R. Rahman, and actor/virtual-reality director Elijah Allan-Blitz, whose credits include VR experiences accompanying works by Ken Burns and Michael Pollan.
The conference also will feature demos and panels from sponsors such as HP
So what ties it all together?
“The show has always been a professional conference focused on how storytelling is being enabled by technology, with a true 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 terms of (media and entertainment), it’s at the core of the actual product as well. So our audience has always been a mixture of creative, business and technology resources who are focused on the business of making content.”
It’s little surprise that Allan-Blitz will speak about another of his VR projects, in this case Remembering, featuring Brie Larson, which debuted last month on Disney+. Mandel will be speak about something far from his usual haunts, Proto, which allows people to beam interactive holographic images of themselves to audiences thousands of miles away. For a comic who isn’t sure how much his audience likes his jokes, Proto could be a goldmine.
Heder has partnered with Verified Labs for an NFT collection called The Order of the Tigons, featuring art inspired by Heder’s own spidery hand and fondness for mashed together imaginary creatures, similar to those seen in Napoleon Dynamite.
Perhaps the conference’s splashiest event of the conference takes place before it quite starts. Two-time Oscar winner Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) and the festival’s immersive cinema chair, Intel’s
“We’ve been absolutely thrilled at how much this event has grown over the last five years and made a name for itself as a highly relevant, can’t-miss festival,” said Infinity Festival Chairman Hanno Basse, who is CTO of Digital Domain. “But we’re only getting started. As more people see the unique value in our integration of entertainment and tech, and as more industry leaders see it as the perfect place to discuss innovative ideas, we see no limit to what the Infinity Festival can offer.”
The festival will also include mini-summits focused on various topics, including a SoCal Women’s Summit with panels from groups such as Women in Tech Hollywood and MESA, the trade group for Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes technology specialists. Virtual production, one of the hottest trends in Hollywood video creation, will get an entire workshop sponsored by HP’s Z line of computers and peripherals and graphics-card maker Nvidia.
“The exciting thing about how the show is growing is reflective of several trends,” Schwartz said. “The pandemic accelerated technology innovation and remote work. The democratization of tools provided by many of our partners, the increased opportunities for creators all over the world to have access to these tools, have created a perfect storm in the interest and understanding of the content we reflect at the festival.”
Schwartz outlined several trends transforming Hollywood, and spotlighted by the show:
- “Virtual Production is a very big focus right now. It’s completely changing the production pipeline and creating new job opportunities.
- “Artificial Intelligence and its impact on all aspects of media and entertainment.
- “The Cloud and how it’s enabling a lot of the remote-work solutions that have really sprung up since the pandemic.
- “Under the umbrella of Web3 is certainly NFTs as fan-engagement (mechanism) but also the virtualization of experiences, whether it’s VR, (augmented reality), or a mixture of the two.
- “Experiential or Immersive venues that take the traditional family entertainment venue to the next level.”
The conference is well suited for Los Angeles, which not only features all the Hollywood studios, but an substantial and growing technology presence, including huge production centers for Apple
“We are truly a show that is a product of Los Angeles and its unique cultural history of being the home to Hollywood and adjacent to Silicon Valley,” Schwartz said. “Los Angeles has emerged as the true home to technology solutions for content creation.”