What is SMPTE?

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is a professional membership association focused on the advancement of the art, science, and craft of the image, sound, and metadata (such as subtitles and closed captioning) ecosystem, worldwide. Since its founding in 1916, SMPTE has published the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal and developed more than 800 standards, recommended practices, and engineering guidelines.

The Society is sustained by motion-imaging executives, engineers, creative and technology professionals, researchers, scientists, educators and students throughout the world. Through the Society’s partnership with the Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA), this membership is complemented by the professional community of businesses and individuals who provide expertise, support, tools, and the infrastructure for the creation and finishing of motion pictures, television, commercials, digital media, and other dynamic media content.

SMPTE innovations include color bars which have set a consistent reference point to ensure color is calibrated correctly on broadcast monitors, programs, and on video cameras. SMPTE also fostered timecode, which gives every frame of video its own unique identifying number, makes digital editing possible, and enables the association of other data to make audio and video even more meaningful, accurate, and repeatable, whether in post for a major studio release, in hard news environments, live sports production, or for archival uses such as reference and transcription. It can also synchronizes music and is often used to automate lighting, pyrotechnics, video, and other effects in live concert production.

Other SMPTE innovations include digital camera standards, transport of high bit rate media signals over IP networks, and timed text, which makes broadcast content more easily accessible to tens of millions of people in the U.S. with disabilities. SMPTE Timed Text is also the basis for subtitles and closed captioning in the digital entertainment content ecosystem’s UltraViolet format for commercial movie and television content and is used by several video services and Internet video players.

SMPTE was founded in 1916 by C. F. Jenkins and a group of engineers to create a society of engineering specialists in the motion picture field. A constitution was then created, and Jenkins was named chairman of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (the T was added in the 1950s with the advent of television). Today, SMPTE is recognized as the global leader in the development of standards and authoritative practices for film, television, video and multimedia.

To accomplish its educational goals, SMPTE organizes annual conferences and seminars. It also publishes the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal, which includes technical papers, tutorials, practical application articles, standards updates and SMPTE Section Reports.