It will reduce film piracy

Updated: Nov 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
Digital cinema or as some in the industry refer to as e-cinema is the latest concept in cinema distribution and exhibition in India and globally. The term digital cinema is the combination of three phases - digital production or post-production, digital delivery and digital projection combined into a system or chain that offers a higher or enhanced movie-viewing experience to audiences.

A film can be projected through a digital video projection system by taking an already produced movie created either digitally or using celluloid and converting it to digital video format. This video once transmitted to the theatre either using a physical mean or using a satellite distribution is stored on a computer hard drive installed at a theatre for repeated play-out during the various shows. This offers not only a technologically enhanced alternative channel of cinema distribution, but also provides added benefits to the entire value chain from film producers, distributors, cinema hall owners and consumers.

One of the biggest advantages that digital cinema offers as against traditional cinema delivery is the ability to curb piracy a menace that has afflicted the industry for years. This is because digital cinema takes away any physical handling of the film or print. The film is transferred to a digital medium which can then be transmitted via satellite or cable to any theater or all the theaters at once. The product can be transmitted anywhere in the world as encrypted data. Decryption of this data takes place at the projection system itself and is thereby protected. No new prints ever need to be sent out, as digital material does not wear or get scratched or dirty, lose its color, get noisy or in any way lose quality. The last showing of the film perhaps months later, will look just as good as the first showing!

The other benefits that digital cinema brings is the ability to simultaneous make available new movie prints to scores of theatres in smaller towns and cities on the first day itself. This helps in doing away with the 3-4 months of wait period that was the norm earlier.

Digital distribution also helps increase revenues for the distributors by reducing the duplication costs linked with the conventional mode of film distribution. On an average, the per movie cost on the digital format is approximately Rs 3 lakh with no additional cost involved for producing additional prints. However, in the traditional frame of things, a distributor needs to invest approximately Rs 60,000-65,000 to create a single print and then multiply this with the required number of prints basis the success of the movie. Therefore, every print will thus need an incremental investment of Rs 60,000-65,000.

Even if we assume that the distributor makes only five prints, his counterpart who is using a digital distribution model has already broken even. Finally, digital cinema enhances the overall quality of movie experience manifolds due to superior audio and video output. This model also helps to bring in new revenue streams for the theatre owners who are considering using the exiting bandwidth (used to download the film on the server at the premises) for other services like digital signages and hosting ATMs within the theatre premises.

Therefore, digital distribution of cinema not only allows viewers to get a superior movie going experience, it can also help create a platform to build other convenient services onsite, besides dramatically reducing the total cost of ownership of distributors.

The writer is president and CEO, Hughes India