Corey Carbonara and Michael Korpi
Season 4 - Episode 425
Corey Carbonara and Michael Korpi are developing a system that could revolutionize color display on high-definition screens. 6P has drawn the attention of NASA, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and a variety of media organizations. In this Baylor Connections, Dr. Carbonara and Dr. Korpi, professors of film & digital media at Baylor, share the story behind a system designed to display a greater range of colors that God created the human eye to see.
Derek Smith:Hello and Welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week, we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more discussing important topics in higher education research and student life. I'm Derek Smith. Today we are talking with Dr. Corey Carbonara and Dr. Michael Korpi, professors of Film and Digital Media at Baylor, long time educators and innovators. They each joined the Baylor faculty in the early 1980s, and have bolstered Baylor Film and Digital Media into a nationally renowned program. Both have been honored with Prestigious Excellence in Education metals from The Society of Motion, Picture and Television Engineers, Carbonara and Korpi further advanced their industry through leadership in a number of areas most recently in 6P Color Inc, a new color imaging system with the capacity to dramatically impact visual storytelling by increasing the range. Number of colors displayed on digital screens. 6P was unveiled earlier this month at an event that included representatives from NASA, SMPTE, Pixar, Gearbox Software, and more. It's been a busy a month for you guys, a busy stretch here over the last three years that we're going to spend some time talking to you about today. So Dr. Korpi, Dr. Carbonara, thanks so much for joining us on Baylor Connections today.
Michael Korpi:Glad to be here.
Derek Smith:Great to have you here and...
Corey Carbonara:Great to be here.
Derek Smith:I should just, I'll just point out to two of my former professors. So it's fun to have you here as someone who spent a lot of time in the Castellaw building, and of course neighbors when KWBU was there as well over the years. So great to have you on the show. It's been exciting to hear about the growth of 6P that we're going to talk about. So I know for you guys, it's been quite a journey over the last three years just to set the stage 36 months or so ago. Could you have envisioned that we'd be talking about something like this now, or that so much would have happened over these last three years or so?
Corey Carbonara:Well, I'll go first and just say no. That this has been an amazing situation to have developed and brought to our attention and to see the response of Baylor in terms of this particular project has been just astounding.
Derek Smith:Dr. Korpi, you guys have been involved in a lot of these things before. What stands out to you about the opportunity to be at something that could really change the way color is displayed on screens?
Michael Korpi:Oh, the core idea was really attractive. So at first we thought, "Okay, this is interesting. We want to work on this because this is interesting." As you know, we have a track record of doing that with a whole list of technologies. What's different about this is that Baylor as a Baylor jumped in so quickly to participate, to enable this, to provide resources and impetus behind it that we'd never seen before. So that was the biggest surprise and a blessing.
Derek Smith:So let's talk about what this is, and I want to have you all give people a little bit of background is maybe if we're in an intro FDM class, but as we talk about what this is, what is the maybe 30 second elevator pitch for when we talk about 6P, what this is.
Michael Korpi:Sure. 6P is a color system, a color space, a way of reproducing color for a display. Traditionally that's been done just with red, green, and blue, as the main colors on your television set. That's all you have is red, green, and blue pixels. The combination of those gives you the appearance of realistic color scenes. This is an extension of that with more than just red, green, and blue, we can give you more colors, more accurate colors.
Derek Smith:The colors between the colors, Dr. Carbonara you've used the example of, you have more crayons at your disposal.
Corey Carbonara:You got more crayons in the box. You know, certainly the idea of using red, green, and blue to create a lot of the colors has been with us since the dawn of imaging for either film and then later for television. But the interesting part about this is that there are a lot more colors that get to be unfolded if you will, with having three more additional primaries. The primaries that Michael just talked about were red, green, and blue, but then cyan, yellow, and magenta become the first set, if you will, of colors in between those colors that are created. So the volume of color capability becomes increased greatly.
Derek Smith:Now you will. I give some examples from you. You've got friends at NASA and other places who are participating in this and describing things, but a colleague of mine when reading the story the other day said that one of his favorite places in the world is Crater Lake in Oregon. He says, it's the deepest, richest, shades of blue he's ever seen, but the pictures never ever do it justice. He'll take pictures, come home and be disappointed. What you're doing, I guess, would allow those variations of blue to be more vivid on a digital screen.
Corey Carbonara:Absolutely. If you think about it in terms of the triangle, right, of red, green, and blue, what we're doing in enabling with this idea of having again, multiple colors beyond those three original ones is that we open up space that normally wasn't utilized by an imaging system. So by opening up this space, you have more capability for greater blue, have more shades of blue, more depth of the blue area or the green area, or the cyan that could be embedded in that blue, in that lake, which would be very difficult normally to see just with three primaries. But you open it up for three more, at least all of a sudden it gets to be pretty interesting. You get to see more, even one additional color cyan, for example, would probably open up a lot more Vista and opportunity to see the colors that this person saw in Oregon in that lake.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Corey Carbonara and Dr. Michael Korpi, and Dr. Korpi as we talk about things like primaries, RGB. Could you give us a little bit of a 101, if someone's looking at their phone screen right now, or a digital TV screen, there's a lot of activity behind the scenes that we never think about for the most part. So could you help us understand what that primary means and a little bit about how opening it up, gives us the ability to see those additional colors?
Michael Korpi:Sure. So red, green, and blue as primaries. First let me explain why those make sense, we see a range of colors. I mean, so God created our human visual system to see a particular range or color space, a collection of colors. We have three different types of cones or color sensitive cells in our eyes. They are sensitive to short wavelength visible light, medium wavelength visible light, and longer wavelength. Those are roughly equivalent to blue, green, and red. Okay. So it makes sense to pick three primaries that match the sensitivities of the cells in your eye. When you're first going to create a color reproduction system, whether it's film or whether it's electronic for television, that's the most straightforward, simple way to do it. So at the beginning of visual media, that used color in that way, photographic or electronic, that was the approach. With three primaries and combinations of those, you can recreate any color that's within the triangle defined by those colors on that color space that God created for us, that we can see, okay. But you're limited to just the colors that are within that triangle, okay. Now you could pick any three primaries anywhere else. You could pick any other three and you'd be able to recreate colors within that triangle. But RGB makes sense because it's the closest match to what the sensitivities of your eye are, but it leaves out a lot of color space as Dr. Carbonara just said.
Derek Smith:You've showed images of the color gamut. If people have seen the color gamut that shows the range of colors you can see, the RGB is a triangle in the midst of all that. But almost like looking at a map, if you draw a triangle in the center of the map, there's a lot of space on the external area that you either can't go to, or in the case of the color gamut can't see.
Michael Korpi:That's absolutely right. It's roughly the shape of a fingernail. I mean, I like to think of it at like a pegboard. You've got a rectangular pegboard, I've got three pegs, and I can then wrap a string around that or stretch a rubber band out around that triangle. Well, there's only so big I can make that triangle within the rectangular pegboard. But if I can add a fourth peg, then I can make a rectangle and I can match that whole area, if I need to. Now, like I said, the color space is shaped kind of like a fingernail. So it's rounded on one end, it's flat on the other end. It has angled sides, a triangle is a pretty good shape to start with, but it won't cover everything. So if we add a fourth primary, a fifth or a sixth, or even more, the more of those we add the more of that complete color space that God created, we can recreate.
Derek Smith:Dr. Carbonara what he's describing, I know people have thought about for a while, but no one's been able to, to really get there. What is it about 6P and this approach that's different. If you'd also just give us a little bit of a history of that, because I know some longstanding relationships that you both have had through Baylor FDM and Sony and other places have helped lead to this.
Corey Carbonara:Let's start with the relationships and then I'll answer that other question that you had. So part of our history is the fact that, we had been involved in research with regards to high definition television, for example, in the earliest of stages. I always give Dr. Korpi the credit for this. When I first joined Baylor, we had an idea to make a mark for the Film and Digital Media division, which it's called today. But we knew that in order to make that mark, it's very difficult when you're in Waco, Texas, back in the eighties, and you're trying to compete with NYU and you're trying to compete with UCLA and USC and all the other name brands, right. But one of the ideas that he had, and I told hardly agreed was that we could take a look at creating a level playing field. The way to do that is with new technologies, cutting edge technologies, to be exact. We both had enough knowledge of film and television to really be able to add to the conversation. So one of the interesting things is that straight off, we became a chapter of The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Once we did that, then that allowed us to actually get involved in the committees that would form with regards to this new technology called high-definition, back in the early eighties. Well, the reason why I mentioned that is because out of that, I was actually tapped to become the first product manager of high definition television for Sony, as it was unveiling the high definition system. At the same time I started, a man by the name of Gary Mandle at the very same year, very same time. Our relationship began, with regards to us, both being at Sony. Well, he stayed at Sony the whole time and I left after a couple of years and came back to work with Dr. Korpi at Baylor. I missed Baylor. I cut myself one day and all of a sudden my blood was green instead of red, I saw that's a sign.
Derek Smith:Glad you're here.
Corey Carbonara:But the interesting thing is we get a phone call. Well, actually it started with the text. Then it was followed up with a phone call from Gary Mandle, he had an idea. An idea about rethinking the way in which color was managed and the way that color was processed. This idea of increasing the number of primaries was very attractive as Dr. Korpi mentioned. So that's how we got to the project because Gary Mandle had some ideas and then we took those ideas, added to those ideas. All of a sudden now, we're at looking at 6P. Now going back, really, I think to your first question, and remind me again. I want to make sure I get all of it. So your first question was about the...
Derek Smith:Yeah. When he came and came to you with this idea, Gary Mandle, people have tried this before, Dr. Korpi you've said before, it's never really gone anywhere. What was it about this that made you think, "You know what, there's something here."
Corey Carbonara:Thank you for reminding me. So the interesting part about this is that, there was an elegance to the design of introducing three more primaries that allowed for a very simple approach of being able to be backwards compatible with a lot of what the system flow was today. So it wasn't a situation where you had to reinvent all of the pipes, for example, of sending the signals and reinventing all of the different cameras that were out there. It was very, very elegant because it was backwards compatible. The complexity was not that high, especially since he had thought of three different systems to start with, and those three different systems. The third one is what we really helped him the most with when he started to work with Baylor, allowed us to do a demonstration, which we were able to show two weeks ago here at Baylor of the system three or the third system that was developed. Again its attractiveness is that it shows a relative advantage over the other attempts to try to provide color. It was a full system end to end approach, which meant it could take camera signals, process those cameras signals in a unique way, flow them through the existing pipe and allow them to come out the other side with the capability of at least showing you the difference, the colors in between the colors for example. It was only a demonstration that we were doing. We're not in the business of trying to manufacturer create a brand new display ourselves. But the fact that we have this approach is so unique. Another key thing about it is the fact that Michael talked about the pegs. I usually use the analogy of poles. The interesting thing is, is that as we're building let's say a tent, which you can do with a pup tent, a teepee or something that looks like a triangle, all of a sudden, you can have a better tent size. If you start to look at things like a wedding, you're going to have more polls to support that. The shape is going to look a lot different than a triangle. One of the unique things about how this has evolved to the current day is that it also now moves from just being a pole, that would be very thin for example, to a pillar, to have more width, if you will, for support of many, many more colors, that will be easier for people to distinguish as the colors between the colors come onto the scene.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Corey Carbonara and Dr. Michael Korpi. Dr. Korpi, one thing that in visiting with some of your partners in this one, Jim DeFilippis mentioned something that might be, it was helpful to me to think through and maybe other people as well. He mentioned that in the industry, and he's a long time Fox executive, there's always been a glass to glass problem as he put it. What you record through the glass in your camera isn't always what comes through the glass on the other end, when I'm looking at my phone or or TV. One thing that's key is the fact that cameras are actually saving more information than most of us realize. Can you take us inside that and how important that is to what you're able to work with and to hopefully develop in it further.
Michael Korpi:That's one of the advantages that makes this possible for us to do now as a complete system. Prior to this people have tried to do more than three primaries on a display and they've made demonstration displays. Then they've had to come up with some way to create content, to show that's what it's actually doing, because there weren't cameras to do that and so on. But since we've had digital cinema cameras, since the late 2000s, mid 2000s to late 2000s, and most films have been acquired, shot that way, those cameras capture colors outside of the red, green, blue triangle. Now, normally what happens with that is that the colorists, the people who determine it, the final adjustments of color for the movie, they just throw those colors away. They just ignore those, but they have been captured. So, one of the things that is an opportunity for us to show that our system from glass to glass works is that there's already content that has additional colors that we can show on an experimental display. Our system is compatible with all the existing transport mechanisms, all the connections, all the wires, all the formats of the way you send the signal. So we're able to do this demo because here is source material that has additional colors, in our case cyan for this thing we did two weeks ago, footage of the earth shot from the international space station, obviously lots of blues and cyans and things involved with our view of the big blue marble. We can send that signal to a display, and then we can show that those colors arrive there. So we don't just have the idea of, "Oh, let's have a display with more than three primaries. Let's show you the system all the way from the camera to the end screen." Now, the other part of that is the creative people who make those decisions about color at the front end, of the camera. Those are the cinematographers and they care a great deal. They make those choices very carefully. So they care about whether those actually survive through the whole post-production process and through the delivery process, to your display. So that they look something like what they intended on your home television, on your iPad or your mobile phone, or whatever other screen, motion picture screen. Those are very different technologies with different capabilities, but we want the movie to look like the movie, right? So that's one of the reasons the cinematographers are so involved in this, is one that gives them more crayons to select from, just because you have the big crayon box doesn't mean you use all the crayons. It just gives you a bigger range of choices of which particular ones to use. Then you want those to be able to go all the way through. You want a color process that maintains those creative choices all the way to the display and that's key.
Derek Smith:I know you've got some patents on this and some proprietary stuff that makes all that happened. What's that been like, seeing that develop from, like you said, initially six, adding three primaries to now there's more.
Michael Korpi:Yes. Yeah. Well, that's been quite an adventure. First of all, I thought the patent process always took a long time. So, Gary Mandle says he has other patents. His patents took three to five years each to go through the whole process. Our first patent application was then approved in three months. I had never heard of that before.
Michael Korpi:We've been working on this coming up on three years now. The total number of patents is to approach one a month, average is going to be like one a month. It's not there yet, but in the pipeline of things applied for and approved and not issued yet and so on. I think we have seven currently that are issued. So that's been a huge surprise. One, how fast that process worked. Two, how many things we built on the original idea.
Derek Smith:Well, Dr. Carbonara part of that growth has been the formation of a company, 6P, a color ink through Baylor's lab to market process, and lab to market part of Baylor that helps translate research into actual products that can help people. You guys were the first company formed through that. I know there's two other since then. But what can you tell us about that process of working with lab to market and with the Provost's Office and other places around Baylor that have seemed to, as Dr. Korpi described really coalesced around this?
Corey Carbonara:Yeah. It's been fantastic to see the climate now that's at Baylor with regards to accelerating research and one of the catalyst to do that as lab to market. The lab to market then which helped foster a group of investors that would be local and then outside of the Waco community to create a company surrounding what we were doing with our 6P Color project called 6P Color Inc was phenomenal. It really was an accelerant to help us maintain the sponsored research that we need in order to have the tools and to have the funding necessary, to put the effort, throw this into the development, crucible, if you will, to provide that output that Mike talks about, which is astounding. I mean, when you look at, again the average of about one patent per month, that is miraculous. He talked about the blessing that this project has had, that everyone who looks at the output of what has happened in this short period of time says it's nothing short of miraculous. So what that means is, is that there is a blessing that has happened to us to have a climate within Baylor, that fosters entrepreneurship. The idea of being able to have the commercialization output is very, very much integral to a university to have that tie to the needs of the world. I mean, not just the industry, but of the world and bringing that outreach of Baylor to the world, which is part of its charter, right? Bringing that to the forefront, to allow students then to have an opportunity to work on these cutting edge projects that come from L2M that come from Blueprints, which is another company that's part of this catalyst that I talk about. Then to see the opportunity for our students to even be working with 6P Color Inc, for example on internships or other opportunities just as providing them with the unique capability. One of the things that Dr. Korpi and I have always said is that the research that we do, we want to do with our students, both undergraduate and graduate. To see the excitement of our students, getting a chance to see 6P unfold and to have them be a part of this. They truly have been a part of it. They've been working with us in terms of learning how to color time, how to manipulate these colors, these new colors, the best way possible on the cutting edge development of working with not only 6P Color Inc. But our partners, who we have that are in place to provide the actual mechanism so that we can demonstrate this, while our students are getting the incredible opportunity of being at the forefront of this. Just like we did with HDTV back in the day when we were the first university to be involved in having curriculum surrounding HDTV or looking at editing movies on the desktop, which is another kind of first that we've had. So this has been exciting for us, and it's been wonderful to see the climate within Baylor.
Derek Smith:Absolutely, let's wind down here. I think probably everyone wants to know what's next? You have the event with SMPTE+ on June 3rd. You had SMPTE, American Society of Cinematographers, NASA, Pixar, representatives from any number of organizations that people would recognize. So you sort of introduced the concept to a lot of people. What happens next? I know it's not as easy as you said, you're not creating screens, so it's not like we make this and we're done. So what happens from here?
Michael Korpi:Well, we're interested in this idea of succeeding. To succeed it has to be adopted. Someone has to use it. So one, we have a lot of work to do on just refining the system and making sure everything is operating as we want it to. Two, we need to be selective on what kind of things happen next in terms of which displays, what kind of displays that we reach out to. So for example, a large screen, like billboard type screens and advertising screens in Times Square, that sort of thing. That's a niche market that we think is an early target for multiple primaries. Advertisers care very much about their brand, the look of their brand, how their brand is presented, what the colors are exactly. Does the ad grab attention, certain colors like cyan, excite the brain, draw people's attention, hold their attention better than other colors. So the fourth primary we added is cyan. First of all, just because there's more area in the color space to gain there. Secondarily, because we know the psychological, the perceptual characteristics of that are positive, draws people's attention. So advertising is possible. Anyone who cares about incredibly accurate color, not just creatives, but say doctors doing remote tele-medicine, reconnaissance of any kind, oceanography. There are all sorts of applications beyond the entertainment space
Derek Smith:Want to wind down, I gave the example of a colleague who mentioned Crater Lake, but I think it even better example of Dr. Carbonara is a Baylor alum, works at NASA. He was a part of the SMPTE+ event, Dylan Mathis, but NASA is involved in this research as well an umbrella agreement you have. What is it? What's the example Dr. Carbonara that they use, that I think kind of ties it all up for everyone.
Corey Carbonara:Well, one of the things that they say when they talk to the astronauts who come back after being in space for a long period of time, the astronauts lament on the fact that they can't really see the same color as being reproduced, when they see them on a television set or on any display, right. They lament that they don't have the capability of really seeing the same colors that they see up in space. So for them, I think there's a lot of interest in being able to see what difference additional primaries can really make. Now because of COVID, we have not had an astronaut here to even look at our demonstration. We look forward to that opportunity to see, is this something that's closer to what it is that you lament, right, by not being able to see it. But I think the other thing too, and Dr. Korpi mentioned it, is the fact that you have scientific exploration that continues and space exploration, which means we're returning to the moon project Artemis, for example. So we feel incredibly blessed that we have a space act agreement with the potential and the opportunity to have NASA look very carefully at our 6P system and to provide us with unique images that allow us to continue to work with those images. We already, with just one additional color cyan, have seen things that are different in our cyan plus RGB projection system versus just the RGB alone. So I think they're very excited to be able to come up and see them this themselves, and we're excited to have them.
Derek Smith:So storytelling, research, medicine, and a lot more, and it's just cool too. So very exciting, well I really appreciate you both coming on today and sharing about this. It's exciting to see it launch and get out there. We're excited to see it develop in the years ahead. So Dr. Korpi, Dr. Carbonara, thanks so much for joining us today.
Corey Carbonara:Thank you Derek.
Michael Korpi:Great to be here.
Derek Smith:Thank you, Dr. Corey Carbonara and Dr. Michael Korpi, professors of Film and Digital Media at Baylor our guest today here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. Reminder you can hear this and other programs online, baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.