Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
Formation1916; 108 years ago (1916)

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) (/ˈsɪmpt/, rarely /ˈsʌmpt/), founded in 1916 as the Society of Motion Picture Engineers or SMPE,[1] is a global professional association of engineers, technologists, and executives working in the media and entertainment industry. As an internationally recognized standards organization, SMPTE has published more than 800 technical standards and related documents for broadcast, filmmaking, digital cinema, audio recording, information technology (IT), and medical imaging.

SMPTE also publishes the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal, provides networking opportunities for its members, produces academic conferences and exhibitions, and performs other industry-related functions. SMPTE membership is open to any individual or organization with an interest in the subject matter. In the US, SMPTE is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization.


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An informal organizational meeting was held in April 1916 at the Astor Hotel in New York City. Enthusiasm and interest increased, and meetings were held in New York and Chicago, culminating in the founding of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers in the Oak Room of the Raleigh Hotel, Washington DC on the 24th of July. Ten industry stakeholders attended and signed the Articles of Incorporation. Papers of incorporation, were executed on 24 July 1916, were filed on 10 August in Washington DC. With a second meeting scheduled, invitations were telegraphed to Jenkin’s industry friends, i.e., key players and engineering executives in the motion picture industry.

Three months later, 26 attended the first “official” meeting of the Society, the SMPE, at the Hotel Astor in New York City, on 2 and 3 October 1916. Jenkins was formally elected president, a constitution ratified, an emblem for the Society approved, and six committees established.

At the July 1917 Society Convention in Chicago, a set of specifications including the dimensions of 35-mm film, 16 frames per second, etc. were adopted. SMPE set and issued a formal document reached by consensus, its first as an accredited Standards Development Organization (SDO), registering the specifications with the United States Bureau of Standards.

The SMPTE Centennial Gala took place on Friday, 28 October 2016, following the annual Conference and Exhibition; James Cameron and Douglas Trumbull received SMPTE’s top honors. SMPTE officially bestowed Honorary Membership, the Society’s highest honor, upon Avatar and Titanic director Cameron in recognition of his work advancing visual effects (VFX), motion capture, and stereoscopic 3D photography, as well as his experimentation in HFR. Presented by Oscar-winning special effects cinematographer Richard Edlund, SMPTE honored Trumbull, who was responsible for the VFX in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, with the Society’s most prestigious medal award, the Progress Medal. The award recognized Trumbull’s contributions to VFX, stereoscopic 3D, and HFR cinema, including his current work to enable stereoscopic 3D with his 120-frames-per-second Magi system.

Educational and professional development activities

SMPTE's educational and professional development activities include technical presentations at regular meetings of its local Sections, annual and biennial conferences in the US and Australia and the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal. The society sponsors many awards, the oldest of which are the SMPTE Progress Medal, the Samuel Warner Memorial Medal, and the David Sarnoff Medal.[2] SMPTE also has a number of Student Chapters and sponsors scholarships for college students in the motion imaging disciplines.


Recreation of the SMPTE RP-133 Medical Diagnostic Imaging Test Pattern

SMPTE standards documents are copyrighted and may be purchased from the SMPTE website, or other distributors of technical standards. Standards documents may be purchased by the general public. Significant standards promulgated by SMPTE include:

Film format

SMP(T)E'S first standard was to get everyone using 35-mm film width, four sprocket holes per frame, 1.37:1 picture ratio. Until then, there were competing film formats. With the standard, theaters could all run the same films.

Film frame rate

SMP(T)E's standard in 1927 was for speed at which sound film is shown, 24 frames per second.[3]

3D television

SMPTE's taskforce on "3D to the home" produced a report on the issues and challenges and suggested minimum standards for the 3D home master that would be distributed after post-production to the ingest points of distribution channels for 3D video content. A group within the standards committees has begun to work on the formal definition of the SMPTE 3D Home Master.[4][5][6]

Digital cinema

In 1999, SMPTE established the DC28 technology committee, for the foundations of Digital Cinema.[7]


SMPTE Fellows

Honors and awards program

The SMPTE presents awards to individuals for outstanding contributions in fields of the society.

Honorary membership and the honor roll

Recipients include:

Progress Medal

The Progress Medal, instituted in 1935, is SMPTE's oldest and most prestigious medal, and is awarded annually for contributions to engineering aspects of the film and/or television industries.[9]

Recipients include:

David Sarnoff Gold Medal

Eastman Kodak Gold Medal

The Eastman Kodak Gold Medal, instituted in 1967, recognizes outstanding contributions which lead to new or unique educational programs utilizing motion pictures, television, high-speed and instrumentation photography or other photography sciences. Recent recipients are

Related organizations

Related organizations include

See also


  1. ^ The name was changed from Society of Motion Picture Engineers (SMPE) to Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) in 1950 to embrace the emerging television industry.
  2. ^ "Honoring the Contributions of Leaders – Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers".
  3. ^ TWiT Netcast Network (March 30, 2017), How 24 FPS Became Standard, archived from the original on December 11, 2021, retrieved March 31, 2017
  4. ^ Hollywood gears up 3D TV effort
  5. ^ "New SMPTE 3D Home Content Master Requirements Set Stage For New Market Growth". Archived from the original on May 2, 2009.
  6. ^ "Welcome to the SMPTE Store – Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers".
  7. ^ See Charles S. Swartz (editor). Understanding Digital Cinema. A Professional Handbook. Elsevier, 2005, p. 7.
  8. ^ Team, SMPTE Marketing. "SMPTE Fellows | Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers". Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  9. ^ "List of SMPTE Progress Medal winners". Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  10. ^ "SMPTE Progress Medal Historical List Recipients | Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers". Retrieved February 20, 2018.