Bollywood's going digital

Digital cinema has finally arrived in Bollywood.The technological revolution has also brought in a revolution in the way films are distributed and exhibited in Bollywood and nowhere is this shift — away from the old theatres and old technology — more visible than in the collection figures. Bollywood has earned 40 per cent of its revenue from these digital screens between March 2007 and August 2008. The number of prints of recent hits that has been released in the digital theatres — over and above the prints released in non-digital format — gives another indication of the direction in which things are heading. “Amitabh Bachchan’s Sarkar Raj released in 372 digital theatres all over the country, Shah Rukh’s Om Shanti Om on 384 digital screens and Akshay Kumar’s Singh Is Kinng in 415 such theatres,’’ Sanjay Gaikwad of UFO Moviez said. The trend remained the same for the other big releases like Love Story-2050 and Welcome; the first released in 320 and the latter in 392 digital theatres. “It has paved a new path for the century-old film business. The large number of digital screens all across the country gives an extra opportunity to our fantasy-loving janata to catch a film’s very first show throughout India,’’ he added. What he leaves unsaid is that the industry is also loving it. These digital releases are over and above the normal quota of non-digital releases and give collections a huge boost. Money plays a large role in Bollywood’s eagerness to release films on multiple (digital) screens. Trade guru Amod Mehra explained: “Producers today are keen on releasing their film in the digital format with a pan-India release because they can cash in on the initial hype. The digital format is advantageous to the producers and distributors as they are sometimes able to recover the cost in the first week itself, irrespective of how the film fares later. Singh Is Kingg, for instance, has earned something to the tune of Rs 59.5 crore in the first weekend itself; and 40 per cent of this revenue has come from the 415 digital theatres.’’ Digital cinema also helped Om Shanti Om earn Rs 48 crore over the first weekend. And Welcome earned Rs 44 crore over the same period when it was released. Trade insiders say the biggest grossers of 2007, like Heyy Babyy, OSO and Welcome, managed their numbers because of the unyielding advantage that digital cinemas gave.Being able to release in around 300 theatres in A, B and C centres simultaneously along with the X number of non-digital prints gave them an unbeatable lead. Heyy Baby, like OSO and Welcome, released in 340 digital theatres. Siddharth Roy Kapur of UTV agreed that the digital cinema had proved to be a boon for the film industry. “It has other advantages,’’ he said.“By going digital, for instance, we save on the print cost and so our earnings from digital theatres start being counted from the first rupee that comes through the door,’’ he explained. Kapur also added that most upmarket single theatres had been digitalised in even B and C centres. So they, too, can beam movies on the first day just like A centres.

The analog version (called prints) comes in reels and has to be ‘interpreted’ by a movie projector. Cinemas stored on digital format are kept in a CD; it is encrypted with a secret code and played back by a digital/computer projector. Reels are bulkier and occupy more space; they have to be physically moved from the film laboratory to the theatres. But there is no physical lugging involved in the digital format and it eliminates the cost of making prints. Resolution in digital films is measured in terms of picture elements or pixels. The specification of the resolution is determined by pixels in the horizontal direction multiplied by pixels in the vertical direction.The 2K standardcalls for a resolution of 2048 pixels multiplied by 1080 pixels.

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