Blu Digital Group’s Paulette Pantoja to Be Honored With DEG’s Hedy Lamarr Award

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group will present Paulette Pantoja, founder and CEO at Blu Digital Group, with the 2022 Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology.

In its sixth year, the Hedy Lamarr Award recognizes female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry. The 2022 awards will be presented during an in-person event in Los Angeles in the fall. 

Paulette Pantoja

Pantoja founded Blu Digital Group in 2007 with a focus on quality control for film and TV content distributed on physical media. Her focus on proprietary workflows and her patented applications have since grown the company into a go-to solution for content owners and platforms of all sizes that need to deliver streaming content at highest quality and with best user experience, according to the DEG. Blu Digital Group’s cloud-based automation software for content distribution has demonstrated real innovation, and Pantoja’s expansion of the localization division within Blu in 2021 further broadened the company’s ability to deliver international content to audiences around the world, according to the DEG.

After working at Ascent Media and Panasonic Hollywood Labs, Pantoja set up Blu Digital as the first dedicated Blu-ray Disc testing facility. In 2015, she evolved the business to provide content services for the digital media supply chain, leveraging Blu’s cloud-based automation software for content distribution to broadcasters and OTT platforms. In 2017, Blu began licensing its software to give clients control and visibility of their content preparation and distribution workflows. The company now also provides localization services and ad-insertion technology. Since its founding, Blu Digital Group has reached more than 300 million viewers, provided media services for more than 25 film and TV titles recognized by the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards, and has serviced 3 million content hours. In 2021, Blu was recognized as one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the United States, and Pantoja this year is an Ernst & Young Greater Los Angeles Entrepreneur of The Year 2022 finalist.

The 2022 Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology, honoring a female college student whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise, will be presented at the same time to Danielle Takahashi, an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California who is majoring in Media Arts and Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts. She will receive a financial award to continue her education.

“It is my honor and pleasure to recognize Paulette Pantoja, who is well known to many in the DEG community, with this year’s Innovation Award. Throughout her career, Paulette has focused on proprietary workflows and her patented applications help streamline key operational aspects for entertainment companies. By extension, consumers benefit every day from Paulette’s innovations,” Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO, said in a statement. “It is also an immense pleasure to present the Achievement Award to Danielle Takahashi to support her use of her artistic skills for empowerment, social justice, and fostering empathy through storytelling. The 2022 Hedy Award winners are remarkable women in their field who clearly share Hedy’s passion for innovation.”

“I am so excited to accept the Hedy Lamarr Innovation Award from DEG,” Pantoja said in a statement. “I strive to build a culture of innovation and inclusion at Blu Digital, and DEG is helping to do that on an industry level with these awards recognizing women, who have traditionally been underrepresented in media technology. The pace of technology is always evolving, and I am honored to accept this recognition of Blu’s dedication to developing better and more efficient media management workflows.”

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Austrian American actor Lamarr was a Hollywood legend who is best known for her roles in film classics including Samson and Delilah, The Strange Woman and Tortilla Flat. She was also a lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this highly secure technology resists interference and dropout, and is used today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications. To honor Lamarr, the Innovation Award seeks to recognize and commemorate female industry leaders who have made a similar impact in the field of entertainment technology. Past honorees include Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Nonny de la Peña, CEO of Emblematic Group; Dean Willow Bay of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; Sara DeWitt, VP of PBS Kids Digital; and Poppy Crum, former chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories.

To determine the award winners, DEG enlisted industry leaders including members of its Canon Club Advisory Board, which comprises a cross-section of senior executives representing the entertainment, technology, IT and consumer electronics industries. Among other factors, the judging panel based its decisions on the candidates’ embodiment of the following principles: innovation, engagement and excellence.

Industry Veteran Darcy Antonellis to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award from HPA

Veteran media technology executive Darcy Antonellis will receive the Hollywood Professional Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award during a gala celebration at the Hollywood Legion on Nov. 18.

The Lifetime Achievement Award, given only at the discretion of the HPA Board and Awards Committee, honors the recipient’s dedication to the advancement of the industry. For 16 years, the HPA Awards have recognized creative artistry, innovation, and engineering excellence in the media content industry. After presenting a virtual HPA Award ceremony in 2020, the awards return to an in-person event this year.

The veteran technologist and executive has been formally recognized for the impact of her innovations and leadership in the media and entertainment technology space, according to the HPA.

During her early career at CBS, she led operations and engineering for the CBS News Bureau in Washington, D.C. Moving to New York, her responsibilities extended to CBS Network’s technical operations and ultimately as head of technical and Olympic operations for CBS’s coverage of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. In addition to these highlights at CBS, Antonellis held a variety of leadership positions covering a variety of global events cutting across news and sports, including the Albertville and Lillehammer Winter Olympics Games for sports, and as director of operations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Gulf War.

After her career at CBS, she was recruited to Warner Bros. as SVP, then EVP, of distribution technologies and operations. In 2004, she was named Warner Bros. corporate SVP for worldwide anti-piracy operations where she oversaw the creation of Hollywood’s first anti-piracy operation and developed a multi-tiered strategy focused on technology, business development, enforcement and legislation, to enable compelling, competitive options to piracy, according to the HPA. In 2008, Antonellis was named president of technical operations and chief technology officer at Warner Bros., where she was instrumental in the studio’s transition to digital technologies and automation for distribution across theatrical, home entertainment and television, and oversaw the studio’s supply chain.

Antonellis was named CEO of Vubiquity, a global media and entertainment distribution technologies and services provider, in 2014 and oversaw the company’s growth and global footprint expansion. In 2018, the company was acquired by Amdocs Inc., a provider of software and services to communications and media companies around the globe, where she most recently served as division president of Amdocs Media, bringing together content experiences linked to subscription and identity management, before taking up her current position as senior advisor.

Antonellis serves on the boards of Cinemark Holdings and Xperi Corp. She holds patents in the areas of digital distribution, imaging and audio processing and is a member of the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an SMPTE Fellow. Antonellis served on the advisory boards of Temple University’s College of Engineering and the Global Advisory Council for the professional Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). As a supporter of a number of socially conscious initiatives throughout her professional and private life, Antonellis has served in a variety of charitable roles. Some include the American Cancer Society fighting breast cancer, and on behalf of the American Heart Association ideating its STEM Goes RED program for SoCal, designed to encourage high school girls to gain interest in studying the sciences to support better health. She also served on the board of Kidsave, a non-profit focused on finding adoptive families for children ages 6 to 16.

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Antonellis earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Temple University and an MBA from Fordham University with a concentration in finance. She is a three-time Emmy recipient in the areas of Technical Production and Engineering (Lillehammer and Nagano Olympics and for Warner Bros.’ development of the first studio digital supply chain platform). Some additional acknowledgements include Broadcasting and Cable’s Technology Leadership award, India’s NASSCOM award, Hollywood Reporter’s Digital 50 and Multichannel’s Class of 2018 Wonder Women.

“HPA’s roots are embodied within our craft — as peers within media and entertainment — whether through technological innovation or most importantly through the content and experiences that come to life by incredible artists and talent. I’m humbled by this acknowledgement,” said Antonellis in a statement. “Most importantly, I am and always will be grateful for the talented and dedicated people who I’ve had and have the honor to work alongside.”

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“It is a great honor for us to name Darcy Antonellis as the 2021 HPA Award Lifetime Achievement winner,” said Seth Hallen, president of the HPA in the statement. “The impact that Darcy has had is irrefutable. Her efforts to build an anti-piracy framework for our industry, her leadership across the important companies she has steered, and her brilliant and innovative perspective is well known. Her patents, stellar record, her Emmys and other honors, all stand as evidence of the significant contributions she has made to our industry.”

AFI Announces Top Films, TV Shows of 2020

The American Film Institute announced the recipients of the 2020 AFI Awards, featuring 10 films and 10 TV shows, as well as a Special Award for Hamilton.

Top honorees include Netflix’s Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Da Five Bloods, “The Crown,” “Bridgerton” and “The Queen’s Gambit”; Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso”; the acclaimed Frances McDormand starrer Nomadland; HBO’s “Lovecraft Country”; Amazon’s One Night in Miami …; Disney’s animated Soul; and Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.”

The AFI’s global Movie Club program will showcase the official selections beginning in February, with new and exclusive content released daily, including special guests from the honored works introducing the titles and AFI “Behind the Scene” conversations with filmmakers and actors. 

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“For 20 years, AFI Awards has been a moment to gather artists in one room with a singular goal — to create community over competition,” Bob Gazzale, AFI president and CEO, said in a statement. “This year we cannot gather but will instead celebrate each honoree by creating exclusive content to be shared with a global audience through AFI Movie Club, shining a proper light on excellence.”

The AFI Awards tributes will culminate with a virtual benediction premiering Feb. 26 on YouTube.com/AFI and AFI.com.

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The AFI Awards is the only national program that honors creative teams as a whole, recognizing those in front of and behind the camera. Selections are made through a jury process where AFI Trustees, artists, critics and scholars determine the year’s most outstanding achievements and provide artistic and cultural context for the selection of each honoree. All of the honored works advance the art of the moving image, inspire audiences and artists alike, enhance the rich cultural heritage of America’s art form and make a mark on American society. “When placed in an historical context, these stories provide a complex and rich visual record of our modern world,” according to the AFI.

 

AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR

Da 5 Bloods

Judas and the Black Messiah

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

Minari

Nomadland

One Night in Miami…

Soul

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

 

AFI TELEVISION PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR

“Better Call Saul”

“Bridgerton”

“The Crown”

“The Good Lord Bird”

“Lovecraft Country”

“The Mandalorian”

“Mrs. America”

“The Queen’s Gambit”

“Ted Lasso”

“Unorthodox”

 

AFI SPECIAL AWARD

Hamilton

PBS’s Sara DeWitt Presented With DEG’s Hedy Lamarr Award

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group Nov. 9 presented its fourth annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Sara DeWitt, VP of PBS Kids Digital.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

DeWitt was surprised by presenters in masks and gloves who gave her the award in her home during the virtual event.

“A fun thing about this being virtual is that my whole family is here with me,” DeWitt said, surrounded by her kids and husband.

“Sara oversees PBS kids streaming video services, the PBS kids games app and PBSkids.org, which collectively serve over 13.5 million visitors each month,” said PBS CEO Paula Kerger, who introduced DeWitt. “Under her leadership PBS Kids has produced and published cutting-edge experiences for children from AR games and podcasts to game video hybrids and texting programs. Her drive to understand how digital media can impact children’s learning has yielded profound findings from a variety of research studies, and she’s established the gold standard for children’s digital privacy and security.”

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DeWitt paid tribute to Lamarr, an Austrian-American actress who was a Hollywood legend and lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this highly secure technology resists interference and dropout, and is utilized today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications. PBS chronicled her life in the “American Masters” documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.

“I loved this story of this glamorous movie star moonlighting as a technological powerhouse, but I think what struck me the most as I watched that ‘American Masters’ documentary Bombshell was how long it took for her contributions to come to light, that silence of 50 years from the time that she received her patent for the idea of frequency hopping to the time of actual public recognition for it,” DeWitt said. “And when I think about that piece of the story I get really frustrated. I hope many of you are as well. It just reemphasizes for me the importance of amplifying the successes of women here and now, women in technical fields, women in my own organization, women in our community. It reaffirms to me too how critical it is to provide opportunities for more voices, for those underrepresented in our industry to be heard and celebrated so that no one has to wait 50 years for their groundbreaking work to come to light.”

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DeWitt, who was a teacher before joining PBS, stressed the power of programming in helping kids envision their future.

“The media that we create has so much power to introduce kids to places and to people that they’ve never know about before,” she said. “Good storytelling has the power to help children imagine exciting possibilities for themselves and good technology can help even more children gain access to the tools and the resources that they need to realize these possibilities. I hope that our innovation at PBS Kids can inspire all children and all of those little girls in our audience to think big and to think about their own future to create new inventions and new art and new discoveries that won’t take 50 years to be recognized.”

The DEG also virtually presented the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology, which recognizes female college students whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise. The Emerging Leader award was presented to Molly Mielke, who is earning her bachelor’s degree in film, TV and digital media at UCLA. Mielke will receive a financial award to continue her education. Her work can be found on her website, mollymielke.com.

Lamarr’s son Anthony Loder also joined the virtual event.

“It’s wonderful that you’re sharing her legacy forward in history while making history of your own,” he said.

Nominations for the 2021 awards are open Nov. 10 on the DEG website.

USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay to Receive DEG Hedy Lamarr Award

Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, will receive the third annual “Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology” from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group this fall.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG also will present the “Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology,” which recognizes female college students whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise. Maya Tribbitt, who is earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism and international relations at USC Annenberg and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, will receive the Emerging Leader honor along with a financial award to continue her education.

The awards will be presented in Los Angeles to coincide with the 105th anniversary of Lamarr’s birth Nov. 9, 1914.

“We are thrilled to present DEG’s 2019 Hedy Lamarr Awards to Dean Willow Bay, for her traditional and digital platforms, and USC student Maya Tribbitt,” said DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith in a statement. “These communicators truly embody Hedy Lamarr’s dedication to innovation in media and technology.”

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Bay, a broadcast journalist, is the first female dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and holder of the Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communication. Since joining the USC Annenberg faculty in 2014 as director of the School of Journalism, she has launched the school’s state-of-the-art Media Center in Wallis Annenberg Hall, expanded the school’s partnerships with key media and technology partners, and accelerated curricular innovations, including an expansion of the school’s experiential education and career development programs, according to the DEG. Bay’s work to ensure that current and future communicators are fluent writers across many digital platforms was recognized with the Award of Honor from the PEN Center USA. She is married to Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger.

“I am honored to receive this award inspired by Hedy Lemarr’s relentless commitment not only to pushing the boundaries of invention, but also to forging new roles for women in the entertainment and technology industries,” Bay said in a statement. “At USC Annenberg, we prepare our students to lead with this same level of intelligence, curiosity and courage as they shape the future of media, technology and culture.”

Austrian-American actress Lamarr was a Hollywood legend who is best known for her roles in film classics including Samson and Delilah, The Strange Woman and Tortilla Flat. She was also a lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this highly secure technology resists interference and dropout, and is utilized today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications.

To determine the award winners, DEG enlisted its Canon Club Advisory Board, which comprises a cross-section of leaders representing the entertainment, technology, IT and consumer electronics industries. Among other factors, the judging panel based its decisions on the candidates’ embodiment of the principles of innovation, engagement and excellence.