Next show, a digital leap
Y. SUNITA CHOWDHARY
Digital filmmaking techniques are all set to revolutionise silver screen economics.
TECHNO RULES Filmmaking has taken a quantum leap from celluloid to digital technology Collage: K. Ramesh Babu
Money makes the film world go round. No matter what critics, loyal fans and maverick directors might think and do ("an aesthetic film", "my favourite movie" and "creative satisfaction" in that order), the most beautiful sound in the world for a producer would be the tinkle of cash registers.
Now, an amazing new technique is all set to revolutionise the way films will be shot and screened. All a film-maker would need to invest in is a digital camera, a computer and a great script.As one computer geek puts it bluntly, "It would be far too expensive to make films on celluloid as compared to those made with digital technology." He adds that financiers and studios are already getting jittery, especially in Hollywood where the digital format is getting increasingly popular. Citing the example of the just released Mumbai Express, which was digitally shot, D. Suresh, Producer, Ramanaidu Studios says, "Digital equipment, cameras and projection systems today cannot be favourably compared with the existing system when it comes to the budget. The high-end ones are expensive. So it's just the timing that's a problem. This situation might turn around in four or five years."
As far as the filmgoer is concerned, there isn't going to be much of a difference on the visual front between digital and celluloid-driven cinema. The advantage eventually is that it's going to be a cheaper medium. "We will be able to do many more prints than in the existing technology and that too at lower costs. Probably it will happen in India sooner than in Hollywood," predicts Suresh.
The techies also point out another advantage with digitisation in that it requires no expensive editing. The producer can as well run the film on a computer and edit online. At the flick of a mouse he can even change backgrounds or locales to suit the script and the moods of the actors. Apart from superb picture and sound quality, it also gives producers a chance to recover investments within the first few weeks of release. A digital movie can also ensure a much wider release, enabling screening of the movie in hundreds of theatres across a state on the very first day. More theatres releasing a new film on Day 1 would automatically mean more movie-goers flocking to the halls in the first few weeks, increasing collections dramatically. As a result, even a potential `flop' can do well in the box office since it reaches out to all sections of the audience before word-of-mouth reviews spread.
According to Akkineni Ramesh Prasad of Imax and Prasad labs, "Digital cinema is bound to arrive on the scene sooner or later. Right now, there are no standards accepted by all manufacturers. Once the standards are in place, the system will be very cost effective. The cost of one disc can possibly be Rs 5000 against Rs 50000-60000 in the current medium. The role of distributors will be cut down and this will remove the commission system. Such economics will also give scope for small films to be made."
In other words, the cost of film prints, which currently makes up for up to 20 per cent of the production costs, is reduced to a minimum. This means the risks are reduced when a distributor plans a large release. Maximum revenues can also be gained before piracy is resorted to. In fact, a complete digital release will remove all possibilities of video piracy since there will be no physical prints to copy from. Suresh nods affirmatively,
"It is very easy to watermark digital prints. You will then know exactly from where the copies have been generated. And since you can release the film directly to the theatres, handling prints gets much easier." To cap it all, a producer also has the option of reducing a film's duration, change the language or even alter the climax. The techies have promised the film fraternity a digital trip. When it happens, it would be every film-maker's dream come true. And by the looks of it, the producers will have just one thing to say about the whole business - it clicks!
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