Releasing soon: Movie 2.0

Written by Rakesh Raman | Updated: Sep 18 2007, 03:48am hrs
You'd agree: for most of its existence, the Internet has been an underexploited medium. Especially in the corporate realm. Corporate websites tried plainly to sell products and services. Though touted as an interactive medium, the Net mostly helped companies tell only their side of the story without giving web surfers much saybeyond tick-the-box optionsin interactions.

In showbiz, too, movie vendors have used the medium for pre-release promos, trailers, reviews, DVD sales and the like. Movies are also being offered for online viewing. In 2005, under a massive virtual cinema digitisation project, for example, the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at Jerersalems Hebrew University used a website to offer over 300 movies to the online consumer. Most such initiatives are based on selling what vendors have and not what consumers demand. The flow of information, willy-nilly, has mostly been one-sidedfrom content provider to the consumer. How different is this from a corporate site

But things are changing fast, thanks to Web 2.0. The new buzz is social networkingservices like YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook are proving to be the better mousetrap that the old web couldnt create. User-generated content is the new action spot. Surfers personal blogs, comments, product reviews, personal profiles and even video clips, these are making for the information cross-fertilisation that was envisioned by the mediums new frontier pioneers. YouTube, a video repository created by userswith clips ranging from the tedious to the astoundinghas already had major impact.

And thus emerges the new business paradigm for movie makers. They can identify audio-visual talent available online and outsource parts of a films raw footage to people in different global locales. This could save on travel bills and logistical overheads, while creating a prototype Net-collaboration production model.

Think about it. If complex software projects are globally executed, why not film production Filmmakers could buy reusable content components available online for one-time use from their original creators. It will save production costs. Bollywood producers, who make about 1,000 flicks a year, many of them on shoestring budgets, should be pleased. Moreover, Web 2.0 promises enhanced interactivity, and filmmakers could even get creative inputs from far-flung places. Get some of the audience involved, and this can usher in a paradigm shift in the film production and distribution business.

Filmmakers can skim reviews and requirements off the Net. If, for example, online cine enthusiasts are veering towards a special new type of treatment for a certain genre, movie makers can gain from these early leads long before they hit the big screen. This could reduce risk, spur innovation and sense demand.

This does not mean singing or dancing to the beat of online opinion. Good cinema must always be the filmmakers own art. But embracing Web 2.0 could help enhance the craft of showbiz. As it is, production timelines are being crunched to cut the lag-to-market.

As Internet penetration deepens, movie vendors can emulate such software distribution models as software-as-a-service (SaaS) to offer movie-as-a-service (MaaS) on a pay-per-use basis. Advanced mobile devices are another outlet. Take, for instance, PocketMovies, a site that delivers movies anytime, anywhere. It claims that in a four-month period starting April 2007, there were nearly 25,000 downloads of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. Since the cost of movie-hosting on a site is negligible, vendors can keep it for months and years for more users to download. With multiple sites in the fray, film distribution costs will tumble, even as access expands.

So, here lies a big Web-led opportunity. The Indian film fraternity must start thinking of cyberspace as an ally that can change the rules of the game, and to its own favourprovided they are early adopters.

The writer is a technology market analyst. These are his personal views. Email: rr_thakur@yahoo.com