Cutting Edge

Utilizing the latest technologies and getting closer to our creators at Sony Pictures with a vision of "One Sony"

Nov 18, 2020

Sony Pictures Entertainment has dedicated teams to support film and television production with technology. Bill Baggelaar, who is leading these teams, talks about the missions of these teams and shares a future outlook.

  • Bill Baggelaar

    Executive Vice President & General Manager,
    Sony Innovation Studios
    Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer,

    Technology Development
    Entertainment Innovation & Technology Group
    Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc

Bringing Together Creativity and Technology to Create a New Visual Experience

──You were appointed as EVP and General Manager of Sony Innovation Studios and EVP and CTO of Technology Development Group at Sony Pictures Entertainment this April. What are the primary roles and functions of each group?

I am grateful and excited to be in this new dual role at Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony Innovation Studios is focusing on some very exciting technologies in volumetric virtual production. This comes at a time when there is a clear demand for these kinds of tools and services to help production, especially with the current COVID-19 challenge. We have a toolset called Atom View that allows the capture of a production set or real-world location, and we can faithfully reproduce that asset on an LED wall or green screen environment. You can put actors and props in the captured environment and shoot as if you were on the real set. The Technology Development department’s primary role is to work with internal and external partners to find, create and develop new technologies that can be deployed at the studio to drive new methods of production, post-production, archiving and distribution. We bring together industry partners, creatives and various groups around Sony along with the Sony’s R&D Center to develop new solutions. We are bringing these technologies to the studio in order to help creators realize their vision and to deliver those experiences to our customers.

──What is the mission for each group?

Sony Innovation Studios is pioneering production technologies to deliver state-of-the-art entertainment experiences. We advance Sony’s entertainment technologies through global partnerships and industry collaborations with creative visionaries.Technology Development fosters innovation at Sony Pictures Entertainment through the discovery, exploration, creation, and socialization of new technologies. We serve as a conduit for Sony Pictures Entertainment, other Sony Group companies, tech companies, and industry standards bodies. We strive to maintain Sony’s commitment to Kando (emotion) by identifying and influencing technology applications to improve efficiency, maximize quality, and enhance user experiences while protecting Sony Pictures Entertainment’’s intellectual property.

──“Getting Closer to People" is Sony Group’s corporate direction. How do you translate this direction into your work?

I have always seen my role to be a conduit between creative and technology. The strength of our team is that we embody that same ethic, we can translate between creative and tech. We speak both languages and therefore, we make technology accessible to our creative teams so that they can best determine how to use those technologies to deliver their vision. As we identify new opportunities that can enhance the viewers’ experience, like 4K, HDR and immersive audio, we are helping creators embrace new technologies like new cameras, virtual production, real-time game engines, new audio formats, machine learning and AI, all in pursuit of creating content for movie and TV fans that can deliver those experiential technologies.

Realizing more than ever the power of Sony teams

──You have experience working at different entertainment companies. Having such a background, what advantages do you think we have for film production as part of the broader Sony Group?

I came to Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2011 to help bring to life the vision of One Sony. We are realizing this now, more than ever, as we combine the power of the Sony teams. On the technology side, we have teams who are creating displays for consumers and professionals, teams creating cinema cameras, along with the R&D teams focused on new production and post-production tools. And on the creative front, we have fantastic IP at Sony Pictures Entertainment and as well as Sony Interactive Entertainment. Only Sony can bring all of these together to deliver a truly unique perspective and new entertainment experiences for our fans.

──Having those advantages, what sort of activities have you recently worked on with Sony’s R&D team and/or business groups?

We are working on a variety of projects with Sony’s R&D team and other Sony business groups. We have several projects focused on AI and machine learning to provide enhanced methods for up-converting the resolution of original content to 4K. New opportunities have opened up, thanks to Sony’s AI Sound Separation technology that was used on the new UHD HDR + Atmos releases of the feature films, Lawrence of Arabia and Gandhi, as well as some projects still in development that are aiming to allow creators to focus on truly creative work with AI tools supporting them. Virtual production tools and techniques are still being developed and we are working with several teams at Sony, such as Sony’s R&D Center and Sony Imaging Products & Solutions among others to make this happen. We are also working on future technologies that can bring machine learning to tagging, cataloging, archiving and preserving our content for generations to come. In addition, we have a long history of collaboration with the Sony’s professional camera and display teams and have worked closely with our internal teams to give Sony an expanded reach into the Hollywood community. Also, we worked with Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks to get Sony’s OLED displays into the production process and are currently working with studio operations to get Sony’s OLED and LED displays into employee’s homes for continuing stay-at-home work for quality control and master review.

(Left) Gandhi / (Right) Lawrence of Arabia

──You have been working with various creators in the field of entertainment. Can you tell us how our technologies are perceived by those creators in the industry? Are there ways in which our technologies can help transform or affect the art of filmmaking?

Sony is and always has been considered the highest quality in the industry. The perception from consumers to professionals is extremely positive. Sony continues to transform the industry and the art of filmmaking with professional cameras, professional displays, consumer displays, audio technologies, as well as new cloud-based tools. We pushed hard for the use of 4K cameras and HDR deliverables which have been adopted across the industry. We are now entering a new age where Sony will bring its unique perspective to virtual production in order to help filmmakers realize their creative vision that may have been impossible or impractical in the past.

Virtual Production demo at CES 2020

keeping us up and running

──Currently, physical production has been suspended and many of us continue working from home. Under such conditions, how have you leveraged technology and what steps have you taken to continue film production?

While we have kept post-production running and working remotely for both picture and sound at the studio, Sony Innovation Studios has been working closely with Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Television to help determine the way forward once physical production can resume. The use of virtual production technologies can allow productions to bring remote locations onto a controlled stage environment and help reduce travel. COVID-19 will possibly have a long-term impact on the production environment, and we are optimistic that virtual production will be a key component to keeping us up and running.

──Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Yoshida advocates, Sony has been pursuing “Reality”, "Real-time" and recently added “Remote” solutions to provide Kando to our users. Are there any possibilities for adding this value to your work, and if so, how will your initiatives contribute?

I have been lucky and proud to be a part of several One Sony initiatives, from the initial launch of 4K and then with the addition of immersive audio formats, to the subsequent launch of HDR. It has been a very exciting period where we have provided Kando (emotion) to our Sony creators and customers. My teams are well positioned to deliver on all three R’s of Yoshida’s vision for the company. Sony Innovation Studios provides the Reality and Real-Time components, while the Technology Development team is focused on Remote collaboration. Both Sony Innovation Studios and TechDev sit at the intersection of content creation and technology and are helping to bring the studio teams together with the Sony groups to further our overall collaboration.

──How do you think innovation and technology can contribute to find new approaches in the world with and after coronavirus?

Innovation and technology are critical for our success, now and in the future. We need to create, develop and harness new technologies in order to become better at what we do. We are already seeing this at Sony Pictures Entertainment where we are driving new methods and technologies that I discussed earlier to help deliver continued results. We will be living with Coronavirus for some period of time and so we need to adapt to the times. Real-Time, Remote collaboration will become an ever increasing imperative, especially after production resumes.

──How do you plan to pursue Sony’s Purpose,"Fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity and technology," through further collaboration with Sony’s R&D Center and other group companies?

Sony Pictures Entertainment embraces and is aggressively pursuing Sony’s Purpose by collaborating on a multitude of projects. We are committed to bringing together the best minds to help build on Sony’s fantastic IP to deliver new and engaging experiences; the stories that our filmmakers want to tell. We also have the ability to use technology to transform the way we operate as a studio, to harness technology to reduce friction and make content creation and distribution easier and more consistent. All of this will further lead to opportunities that we cannot yet imagine. Only Sony has all of these facets, from technology, R&D, movies, episodic shows, games and the professional and consumer products to bring together in a unified way to deliver on that promise.

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