A Digital Success In The Big Films Category Will Set The Ball Rolling

Updated: Nov 17 2003, 05:30am hrs
Ramesh Meer is the chief creative director and CEO of THE FX Factory, a company dedicated to creation of digital visual effects for films and television. He has 37 years of experience in the field of visual effects and has worked in more than 300 feature films and scores of TV serials. His latest film release is Pinjar and the next release is Bharat Dhabolkars God Only Knows. In an interview with Sibabrata Das Mr Meer talks about the rich prospects digital films offer for different kinds of film makers. Excerpts:

Are digital films a cost-effective way of making movies
Digital films can be made on shoestring budgets. My son made a 20-minute experimental film with just Rs 20,000. Even commercial movies can be made at a very low cost. I am making a commercial film with a budget of Rs 10 lakh. It will be digitally shot and have six songs.

If you wouldnt have shot digitally, what would have been the cost
It would have at least cost me Rs 20 lakh more, if I had not made it digitally. I also do not have stars in the movie. That is a major expense saved.

Is cost the basic reason for shooting digitally
You can also make lavish movies on digital technology. Creative Eye is producing a 3D film called Aabra Ka Daabra on a budget of Rs 7-8 crore. We are a co-producing partner. It is an expensive movie, full of special effects. We are shooting it digitally. You can make a digital film expensive or cost-effective. It depends upon you.

What is so special about the movie
We have one-and-a-half hour of special effects. The sets are computer-generated. The hero of the film is technology.

But what makes digital films cost-effective
Eastman Colour will cost Rs 9,000 for a 10-minute stock. Compare that with the raw stock cost for digital films. It is Rs 150 for a 60-minute cassette. Editing is also simple and cheap. You need a computer. The firewire card will cost Rs 15,000. Once you install that, you can do the editing yourself. If you know the technology, then you dont have to spend. For Eastman Colour, you need processing, printing, and editing. All this costs more money. There is convenience in digital shooting also. You can use less lights and speed up the shots. Editing is cheaper and faster.

Why has it not caught on in India
It is beginning to happen. I believe 15-20 films are being made on digital technology in India at present.

But why are big film makers out of it
Big film-makers cant think small. If you plan to make a digital film, you have to understand digital technology. People are slowly getting conscious of the technology. Film maker N Chandra was asking me to explain him the technology. He is, perhaps, planning to make a movie in this technology. There are two ways of using the digital format. You can make a low-budget film and release it in digital theatres. Or you can make the movie digitally and transfer it to 35 mm. The conversion will cost additional money. Film makers will flock to digital technology, once they see a big movie succeeding. Aabra Ka Daabra can, perhaps, start the trend.

Digital films have been talked about in the last couple of years. Why do you see the possibility of it succeeding now
The camera and technology prices for digital work have gone down drastically. A camera could cost as low as Rs 1.5 lakh and go up to Rs 50 lakh. An editing set up would cost Rs 30,000-50,000. Low budget film makers are encouraged by such trends. And a success in the big category would set the ball rolling for big film-makers.

Is digital film and lab an industry in transition
Digital theatres are getting installed across the country. We will have over 300 digital theatres by the end of this fiscal. It is a cost-effective way to make digital films for digital theatres. If you want to shoot a film digitally and then convert it into 35 mm, you need to spend an additional amount of about Rs 15 lakh for a two-hour movie. I am making a commercial movie, which I will shoot digitally and release only in digital theatres. The only problem is that digital theatres hardly exist in big cities. That will also start slowly.