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India's Bollywood Opts for Low-Cost Digital Cinema 191

Posted by Zonk
from the why-wait-for-a-limo-when-you-have-a-cab dept.
Makarand writes "While Hollywood is yet to figure out who will pay for the costly $100,000 digital projectors required for the digital roll-out of films, the Mumbai (India) based film Industry (called Bollywood) is settling for cheaper projectors of a bit lesser quality available at one-third the price, to proceed with their digital roll-out. Industry officials call this cheaper version of the digital cinema the 'E-Cinema', in contrast to the 'D-Cinema' which Hollywood is waiting for. Over 1000 films are made each year in India and just 1 film in 12 makes a profit. Transporting conventional celluloid prints to remote towns gives video pirates plenty of time to copy and make prints. Digital cinema will cut down on piracy and help the industry to increase its profits."
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India's Bollywood Opts for Low-Cost Digital Cinema

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  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @09:49PM (#13907208) Homepage
    Only 1 film in 12 makes a profit? Perhaps the films are not intended to make a profit, but instead are money laundering?
    -russ
    • by metlin (258108) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @09:57PM (#13907241) Journal
      The film industry in India is a little more complicated than that, and even one movie that may turn a profit usually tends to bring in a whole lot of money that would cover the losses of several failed movies.

      And relative to Hollywood, the amount invested in Indian movies is far lesser, so that's another reason.

      Finally, the Bollywood has a lot of families which have been in the industry for a long time, so money isn't really a problem for a lot of them - they'd rather waste a lot of money making absolutely crappy movies just to launch a new actor or an actress from their family.
      • It's also notable that a 1 in 12 statistic is not as far off of american cinema as you would like to believe.
        • But don't forget, in the U.S. anyone with a camcorder and is willing to spend the time can become a 'movie maker'. Look at all the independent films there are online. Red vs Blue could be considered a sitcom. The hugely successful 'The Blair Witch Project' looks like it could have been made by a bunch of pranksters with a horror fetish. Heck, just look at 'America's Funniest Home Videos' and all its spin-offs. People getting paid for unprofessionally filmed, unedited, poor quality video clips.
        • I've heard that 1 in 10 video games make a profit, and the profit on that one more than makes up for the losses of the rest, which isn't that hard. Say the other nine earn back 90% of their production & marketing cost, and the tenth that makes a profit three times its production costs. Assuming all movies cost the same, a net profit was made.
        • Very few movies in America make "profit," but this is more about screwing people with the fact that any percentage of zero is zero.
      • by GunFodder (208805) on Sunday October 30, 2005 @02:08AM (#13907964)
        So Indian movie production companies are an insider industry controlled by several families. Many crappy movies are produced, but the profits from just a few hits sustain those companies. And many of the so-called new talents are actually related to higher powers in the movie industry.

        How is this different from Hollywoood?
    • Do you have any proof to back up your accusations of money laundering, or are you just making unsubstantiated claims, Russ?

    • Only 1 film in 12 makes a profit? Perhaps the films are not intended to make a profit, but instead are money laundering?
       
      You're kidding, right? One in twelve movies making a profit is stellar performance. Compare to Hollywood, where no movie has ever made a profit. See: "Hollywood accounting".
    • There is certainly a number of films made with that objective in mind (see "Bombay Boys" for a nice introduction to that). But its partly just that films are so much cheaper. The average movie there probably costs less than the average TV ad in the US. So that 1 movie which is a hit (and when its a hit Indians go solidly crazy over it) can easily pull 12 failures behind it.

      -F
    • Or maybe they just love to make movies.
  • Decrease Piracy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by n0dalus (807994)
    Digital cinema will cut down on piracy and help the industry to increase its profits.

    Last time I checked it was 100x easier to pirate a digital format by simply copying it as oppose to the usual digital-camera-at-screen method or even more difficult and costly telecine process.
    • I think the point in the article was that it brings movies to locations that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them. In such a situation, piracy isn't costing the industry money, but rather the lack of availability is encouraging piracy.

      There are also scary things that you can do with digital film to discourage piracy, such as watermarking films by theater, date, and time. If you look at a modern digital film, such as Spiderman 2, you'll occasionally see some dots along the bottom of the screen. That'
      • Re:Decrease Piracy? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by shawb (16347) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @10:38PM (#13907387)
        I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of watermarking showed up in DVD's soon.

        This is actually pretty unlikely for the near future. Commercial DVDs are generally stamped on a die rather than burned like a CD-R; I'm not quite sure, but I assume burning a DVD would take at least ten minutes on home equpment and this could probably be cut down a little, but one minute or even thirty seconds would probably be too much time on industrial presses. And the machinery required for burning high volumes would be much more complex and error prone than stamping. Stamping greatly reduces the cost and increases the durability of high volume runs, but pretty much ensures that every copy is identical, so watermarking would not be realistic, AFAIK. As for the small volumes sent out for promo copies and advance screeners, those could realistically be burned, and so watermarking those makes some sense and that is where you hear about this being done.
      • Some clarificiations...

        There are also scary things that you can do with digital film to discourage piracy, such as watermarking films by theater, date, and time.

        Watermarking is being done with analog film right now, and has been going on for the past year or so.

        If you look at a modern digital film, such as Spiderman 2, you'll occasionally see some dots along the bottom of the screen.

        Correct, and the same is done with analog but the dots are in a pattern across the screen.

        police can track do
    • Re:Decrease Piracy? (Score:5, Informative)

      by DarkMan (32280) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @10:05PM (#13907273) Journal
      True. However, that's not the problem. It dosen't really matter how hard it is to copy a film, it's currently happening.

      At the moment, with film, it's not economic to roll out a film everywhere at once. Therefore there is a time lag between the first showings, and when it's available to view locally. This time lag is where the pirates are operating. If you can remove this lag, then one of the benefits of pirated films (faster access) is removed. Digital projectors bring the benefits of digital copying to the movie producers, as opposed to currently, where only the pirates are reaping the benefits.

      As I understand it then, Bollywood is trying to defeat piracy by starving the pirates of a market.
      • This time lag is where the pirates are operating.

        I agree that is part of the motivation - but what about people that just want free movies?
        • From TFA, "But transporting celluloid prints to remote towns costs more and gives video pirates enough time to mint cheap copies, cutting into profits."

          Given the "cheap copies" line, this sounds like commercial-grade piracy, knocking off and producing, ah... cheap copies. In which case "free" doesn't come into play. Pirates need to eat too.

    • ^What he said^ (Score:5, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @10:08PM (#13907288) Journal
      The article says nothing about encrypted disks/formats or whatever.

      BUT I found a press release from RealImage [real-image.com] which explains that the distribution method is by satellite.

      So I'm assuming they'll use an encrypted satellite feed to send the movies to theaters.

      Film distribution via satellite is yet to pick up in other countries chiefly because distances are not too daunting overseas and thus it is not viewed as much of a cost saver, says a trade observer.

      But in India it has become an instant hit, given the vast geographical spread
      Reading some of their other press releases gives some good info: The distro method is web based, so theaters can pick whatever they want from a server.

      The other tidbit i picked up is that "The films in the MPEG 2 format will take 20 hours to download depending on the connectivity"

    • Re:Decrease Piracy? (Score:3, Informative)

      by L.Bob.Rife (844620)
      Yes and no. The problem with distribution is, it costs a couple of thousand dollars to produce 1 copy of a film at a film lab. So, in order to minimize the costs, companies will only make a certain number of prints, and then ship them around. Now, person X at the far end of the country, or another country, cannot go to the movies to go see it. Its simply not available in that region yet. But, he can buy a copy on the street corner because the organized criminals are using digital transfers.

      Simply, orga
      • The catch to that that many don't realize, as well, is that piracy concerns aren't necessarily the "freeloader techie" variety. In many cases, the people buying pirated goods are doing just that -- buying them. They're already spending money on the product, and the only reason they're buying pirated goods is a) it's not yet available or b) it's not going to be available. Sure, there are some instances where someone will buy the cheap VCD pirate copy of a movie over the $5 more expensive DVD copy, but in
  • I'm not sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @09:59PM (#13907247) Journal
    that this will cut down on piracy, but it will certainly be interesting to watch what happens. This is one area where DRM would work very well. There are others, of course, but this one application is a good place for DRM and encryption etc.

    Besides, all those call center reps need a night out once in a while
    • Besides, all those call center reps need a night out once in a while

      If so I hope they tell the rest of us when it will be. I could use a night in once in a while

    • I'm not sure that this will cut down on piracy, but it will certainly be interesting to watch what happens. This is one area where DRM would work very well. There are others, of course, but this one application is a good place for DRM and encryption etc.

      The way I've read the article, I don't think that DRM has anything to do with their reasoning as to why this will cut down on piracy. For all we know from the article, they might not even be incorporating DRM in their digital copies.

      The main pro

    • ... but this one application is a good place for DRM and encryption etc.

      Hang on, DRM works? Since when?

      DRM in a place with lots of budding technical talent & not a lot of distributed wealth would be a great place to test the DRM.
  • by vasanth (908280)
    The reason the digital system will reduce piracy is, in India movies are usually copied while moving the film tape (reel) from one place to another.. For example a movie released in a particular city might just have one reel and it has to be shared between cinemas and are exchanged on a show to show basis...
  • Excuses, excuses. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Over 1000 films are made each year in India and just 1 film in 12 makes a profit. Transporting conventional celluloid prints to remote towns gives video pirates plenty of time to copy and make prints. Digital cinema will cut down on piracy and help the industry to increase its profits.""

    "But, but, it doesn't hurt anyone"

    "It's free advertising"

    "I never would have spent the money on it anyway"
    • You missed one.
      It's not "pirates".
      Pirates kill people.

      People who copy stuff, many times, do it to benefit themselves, and other people, and nobody else gets hurt. Some times, like in this example, they are reaping other peoples benefits. Of course, it's a very heterogeneous group of people. So "pirate" does not define "people who copy stuff". It's very rare that a person kills people in order to copy a movie, although it might happen. So that word "pirate" is no good.

      The problem is that if you call people w
  • by Man in Spandex (775950) <prsn@kev.gmail@com> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @10:13PM (#13907310)
    high budget microphones to hear their voices while singing every 2 minutes.

    Rapsani: You killed my brother, how dare you then sleep with my sister!
    Hajil: No, it was him Gandapana! Look, he's running away. Let's Sing!

    Then you see 30 indians break into a dance while the evil killer is running away WHILE singing AND dancing.

    I bet the stories in Bollywood movies are much more interesting than the stories of today's Hollywood movies, regardless of how much they sing and/or dance.
    • Indeed, they often do use dance and song. Take a look at many 1950s movies from Hollywood. You basically have the same thing going on there, especially in non-musicals.

      That could be because many of the top Bollywood performers are also singers. They become famous because of their music, and then get top billing in many of the Bollywood movies. It only makes sense for them to sing, as that is their first talent, before acting.

      • That could be because many of the top Bollywood performers are also singers.

        Actually, this really isn't true.

        The music industry and the film industry rarely have people crossing over.

        They work together very closely, as music is a very important part of the scene, but singers rarely become actors and vice versa.

        However, every Ms India / Ms India who became Ms World / Universe / Foo automatically has a long acting career ahead of her

    • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @10:30PM (#13907367) Journal
      Then you see 30 indians break into a dance while the evil killer is running away WHILE singing AND dancing.

      I took a business trip to India a couple of years ago, and happened to see a bit of Indian MTV in my hotel. All of the Indian singers had vast throngs of dancers. Whenever an American or European act came on, it was jarring to only see the singer and four of five dancers. It looked like they just couldn't get the budget for a full-scale production. ;-)

      -jcr


    • Rapsani: You killed my brother, how dare you then sleep with my sister!
      Hajil: No, it was him Gandapana! Look, he's running away. Let's Sing!


      Wait a minute--sex, in an Indian movie? Don't you know that sex was banned in Indian following independance? Scientists are still trying to figure out how a country of women who haven't taken their clothes off since the Sixth Century A.D. could have reached the 1 billion mark.
  • by carcosa30 (235579) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @11:08PM (#13907469)
    Do the terms E-Cinema and D-Cinema have anything to do with the fact that 99% of films that are coming out these days are B movies?
    • Only the ones with A-List stars.
      • Yeah, NO SHIT.

        I've seen maybe 5 new movies in the last two years. I thought they were all trash. Two of the best ones had a scientologist killing people, and that should tell you something.

        IF ANYTHING my original comment was unfair to Bollywood. Bollywood at least tries.
  • by Dzimas (547818) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @11:09PM (#13907471)
    Low-cost digital cinemas should theoretically slash distribution costs, but I suspect the cost savings will be a negligible percentage of the total cost to make, publicize and distribute the film. What the shift WILL do is slash the cost of distributing the 11 out of 12 films that are money losers in a manner that will transform the industry. Currently, movieplexes *have* to play stinker films for a short while, because the print is couriered to them and there aren't extra prints of the popular films to replace them. The distributor manufactures hundreds of prints of marginal films, and wants to see at least some return on their investment. So the film lingers for a few weeks in the cinema. With digital distribution, money losers can be quickly deleted from distribution at not cost -- it's not like there are hundreds of film prints that suddenly become worthless.
  • So the movie industry says that digital cinema will save them money and of course they'll say it will have increased clarity, sound etc... and they'll probably even say it will be cheaper to make movies...

    In the end they'll raise ticket prices to "recover the cost of the digital cinema investment" and ticket prices will go up...

    It's like how there are 'conveinence fees' for paying bills online, it saves the company $$$ by having me pay for something online (1 less person opening mail), but they twist it aro
    • In the end they'll raise ticket prices to "recover the cost of the digital cinema investment" and ticket prices will go up...

      It's like how there are 'conveinence fees' for paying bills online, it saves the company $$$ by having me pay for something online (1 less person opening mail), but they twist it around to make me pay >${cost_of_stamp}.


      It won't necessarily work. In the US, these things work because enough people pay for them. We are a rich society, and therefore a lazy one. We are a lot more willin
  • by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Sunday October 30, 2005 @01:00AM (#13907773)
    Bollywood has discovered a very effective method of preventing illegal copying of their films.
    They make mostly Hindi musicals.
  • There are other Bollywoods I didn't know about?

  • Missing the Point (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AppleFever (917782)
    Everybody is missing the point here. The point is not that they are fighting piracy, but changing the way feature films have always been made and shown. If anybody has even taken a film history class, you would realize the effect film has on the audience, compared to ordinary digital. If you are going for a certain effect, you will use film. Film is far superior to watch than digital.

    The real issue here is the industry is cutting costs, while making us think it is better. We will all remember the days when
    • Maybe I'm too used to monitors set to 85Hz and games at > 60fps, but 24 fps is a really crappy framerate.

      I especially noticed the crappy framerate in the LOtR scenery pans- maybe because it was digitally rendered and nonmotion blurred?

      Anyway, it wasn't just LOtR, you can see that flicker/ripple thing in the cinema all the time.

      Filming in film is also crappy for low light shooting, unless you really want a particular effect.
  • The U.S. isn't the whole world. Bollywood movies regularly crack the top ten lists in the UK, are extremely popular in the Arab world, and have many devoted fans in Russia. In a recent UK poll, Amitabh Bachchan showed up as THE top movie star. Bollywood is developing much more of a following in the US as well. Even if you don't have an Indian cinema or an Indian grocery-spice-video shop in your area, you can sample the films through Netflix. After a while ... they kinda grow on you.
    • National Geographic had an article about India's film industry not long ago. Basically the thing condensed down to the following:

      India's movies are typically boiler-plate, and most are based upon the same recurring theme.

      Religion and social norms drastically influence the movies. The whole act of dating / courting would be considered extremely backwards and controlled here in the USA. It would be the type of thing we would attribute to the Amish, or the way things were 100 years ago here.

      Most of the movi
      • "Their target audience doesn't want to see realism, or even something down to earth. They want to see love stories where a poor person is escalated into another caste because their lover (not in the literal sense) is wealthy. They want to see 20 exotic locations that they will never get to physically visit, all compressed into a single movie, even though there is no reason whatsoever within the plot or storyline to visit 20 different locations"

        Y'know, I'm not a impoverished Indian villager, but I don't want
  • by polyp2000 (444682) on Sunday October 30, 2005 @04:48AM (#13908236) Homepage Journal
    Digital cinema will cut down on piracy and help the industry to increase its profits.

    In absolutely all cases i can think of going to digital has actually made piracy not only easier but faster. Gone are the days where someone from the cutting room or the projector room would have to go through the lengthy process of transferring to a digicam or whatever. Now that the films will come pre-digitised, its just a matter of moving bits from one format to another.

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