Digital’s the way ahead for Bollywood


    MUMBAI: “Futureproof yourself, go Digital” seems to be the mantra at the ongoing FICCI FRAMES 2007.


    In the session on ‘Cinema of the future- India going digital’, speakers expounded on the strides made by the Indian film exhibition industry on the digital cinema technology front. Although the technology is still in its nascent stage, it has established a strong foothold in India, speakers noted.


    Players like UFO Moviez, Real Image, Pyramid Saimira and E City have already gripped the market, and Fame Cinemas too has gone digital by installing a Digital Projector in their Malad, Mumbai property, it was pointed out.


    Focusing on the box office prospects and benefits of going digital, DLP Cinema Manager Head Nancy Fares pointed out that the “Indian movie industry should go digital for two reasons – a potential of a 100 per cent increase in BO revenue, and piracy, that eats into 40 per cent box office collections can be curbed with this technology.”  DLP installations worldwide have increased from 1200 installations in March 2006 to 3700 in one year. Fares also stated that all Hollywood films released in 2006 that grossed $ 100 million were released digitally. UFO Moviez too has played a significant part in ramping up Indian movie box office collections by adding as much as 25 per cent to the box office revenues, she noted.



    Unlike the USA, where Digital Cinema Initiative (a joint venture founded by seven Hollywood studios) dictates terms for this technology, India is yet to establish a similar association, with each player using the technology as he thinks best.


    Though DCI propagates the use of JPEG 2000 technology, which is also being followed by Real image in India, UFO Moviez’ Raaja Kanwar does not feel the need for the same. “While JPEG is an image format, MPEG is a movie format; hence it is advised to use this format. As far as the quality is concerned, the human eye cannot make out any quality difference beyond 1.3 K, whether it be 2K or 4K.” 


    Dolby Labs’ president Bill Jasper argued, “MPEG 1K format would make sense to watch on a relatively smaller screen, but on a 50-60 feet screen, one can spot the difference in quality, but unfortunately DCI will not allow use of MPEG format.”


    “In India, screen sizes are 40-50 feet and 1.3 K works perfectly well for us,” countered Kanwar.


    Ritesh Sidhwani, producer of the recently released Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd and Don shared his experience with Digital Cinema saying, “We advertise on a mass level and our film ads reach smaller centers but unfortunately our films do not release in those areas.”


    Agreeing with the logic, distributor Shravan Shroff pointed out that while D Cinema technology works well for A Class centers, B and C class centers call for E Cinema technology. “Prints don’t reach smaller centers in time, hence we opted for E Cinema technology for these centers and now the film collections have shot up tremendously in these places,” he said. Shroff said he foresees the simultaneous survival of both D and E Cinema technologies in the Indian market.


    E City representative Chandresh Daftiri pointed out that E City has had a successful roll out in Bombay circuit, with 55 screens.


    A comparison of celluloid and digital prints of movies released in the last one year – 


    Lage Raho Munnabhai – 133 Celluoid Prints and 98 Digital Prints


    Guru – 125 Celluoid Prints and 111 Digital Prints


    Salaam-e-Ishq – 150 Celluoid Prints and 105 Digital Prints


    Eklavya – 130 Celluoid Prints and 128 Digital Prints


    Looking ahead, the speakers agreed that in addition to film exhibition, film production too may be digital in times to come. “Digital movie production is a stigma in our industry because it is cheaply available. But Excel entertainment is looking at using High Definition Cameras for a medium budget film to begin with,” said Sidhwani.  


    D Cinema has also received incentives in the recently concluded annual budget wherein the 12.5 per cent service tax has been waived off completely while the import duty too has been slashed from 38 per cent to seven per cent.


    UFO Moviez plans to set up as many as 200 screens with their technology in India by 2008 and also launch technologies in the UAE, Europe, Malaysia, Indonesia Singapore and Mauritius.


    Industry estimates say that 90 per cent of movies made in 2007 will use digital technology