Cinema, Digital Technologies

HOW HAS DIGITIZATION CHANGED THE INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY? – CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

The advent of the digital insurrection revolutionized the communication landscape and transformed the way media functions. No area coming under the broader domain of media has remained untouched. Entertainment, in fact, has had the maximum impact. The infusion of digital technologies has reoriented cinematic realities and has made producers and viewers look at cinema from a hitherto unknown perspective.

The intermingling of digital technologies and audio-visual creativity has been nothing short of a romantic fable. While the western world adopted digital technologies in cinema long back, India joined the bandwagon roughly a decade and a half back. By 2008-2009, the transformation was complete. If we look at the current scenario, we shall be able to appreciate that all the Indian screens have already been digitized.

What Does Digitization of Cinema Actually Mean?

It is, however, important to comprehend as to what digitization of cinema actually connotes. If we were to put it in very simple terms, cinema digitization essentially means the usage of digital technologies to project films on screen. Notwithstanding, in the contemporary parlance, digitization of cinema has a broader meaning. It also means a digital route to distribute, market and merchandize cinema. While there is an overt emphasis on converting analogue cinematic content into digital content, the process that is followed to monetize cinema has also become digital.

How Does Cinema Digitization Help?

Let us try to dig a little deeper. Earlier, the storage of films was in the form of negatives that required huge space, infrastructure and funds. There have been instances when copies of films were destroyed subject to multiple calamities – natural and otherwise. Prints of some of the finest Indian movies no longer exist – one of the examples being ‘Alam Ara’ (1931), directed by Ardeshir Irani. It is pertinent to note here that ‘Alam Ara’ happens to be the first Indian talkie. Thanks to the arrival of digital storage, we can now consider losing a cinema print as a thing of the past.

Subject to digitization, the process of showing a movie has become easier and cheaper. Therefore, releasing a movie throughout the country at the same time has become a common practice. Earlier, analogue prints had to be sent physically to different places of the country. Therefore, not every place in the country had access to a movie at the same time. Movie enthusiasts had to wait for months to see a coveted film. Currently, digital prints can be sent through the infinitesimally easier electronic route.

We can also look at the distribution mechanism to better comprehend the impact of digitization. Thanks to digital platforms (which are more commonly referred to as the Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms) such as Netflix, Hotstar and YouTube, movies can reach a larger audience. The format of cinematic storytelling is no longer considered to be of any consequence. Therefore, of late, there has been a convergence of cinematic platforms. In very simple terms, movie content no longer depends on the format.

One of the other major advantages of cinema digitization has been in the arena of post-production. Computerized non-linear editing has ensured more flexibility and better final products. The usage of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and advanced Visual Effects (VFX) has transformed the cinematic experience for viewers. If the story is good and the execution plan is neat, there is no reason as to why the eventual product won’t be good. It would suffice to say that audio-visual content is no longer the same anymore.

One of the distinct advantages of cinema digitization has been its positive impact on low-budget movies. Viral publicity campaigns through social media have ensured that some of the smaller budget movies made it big. Today, even a student can make a movie and market it on Social Media for people to consume it. In very simple terms, the medium in itself has taken a more democratic avatar.

Is Cinema Digitization All Good?

However, not everything is rosy when it comes to the obvious repercussions of using digital technologies. Piracy has become more rampant than what was the case earlier. The proliferation of multiple torrents sites have ensured that viewers get access to illegal copies of cinema practically anytime they want to. This has had a huge impact on the business of cinema.

While there are enough laws to deal with piracy, the bare fact remains that the implementation of these laws is a huge challenge subject to technological constraints. Thankfully, though, law enforcement agencies and filmmakers have been working in tandem to reduce piracy to the minimum possible extent. However, most of the people associated with the Indian Film Industry contend that it is impossible to completely eliminate piracy.

While there are obvious challenges, the process is only going to help Indian cinema go the distance in the near future.

What Does It Mean for Prospective Filmmakers?

There hasn’t been a more exciting time for aspiring filmmakers than now. All that one needs to make it big in the reel universe is a good story idea. The popularization of digital technologies has ensured that a movie can be successful even without featuring the so-called stars. Content indeed has become the king. However, proper education has become a sine-qua-non for those who want to go the distance. The sheer presence of talent is no longer enough. The talent needs to be polished. Just in case you have the propensity to tell stories and the audio-visual medium fascinates you, make sure that you get trained by the right set of people and get exposed to the right sort of environment. There is a whole new world waiting for you.

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