Thursday 8 September 2011

IBC 2011


The International Broadcasters Conference (IBC) begins in Amsterdam today. Part of this is a large - about 5 times as large as NSE Goregaon in Mumbai - exhibition that opens tomorrow and runs till the 13th Sept at the RAI complex in Amsterdam. This exhibition shows the latest in TV, video, film, broadcasting, webcasting and other allied fields.

As in previous years, I'll be there. But this time I won't be representing any post house, or manufacturer. Just myself. Roving around finding out the latest, and sniffing out trends that will affect the way we make movies, show them, and how audiences will 'consume' the stuff we create.

In the lead up to the expo, I've been in chatting with people in media out here in India. And overall many say they are gearing up for changes. Quite far reaching changes in the way things move in this field. And some are still living in denial and believe there's still business in post as it stands today.

Post, or post-production, which used to be done out of large facilities like Pixion, Prime Focus, Reliance. These, and others are closely observing the evolution in movie-making. Large, well appointed multi million dollar central machine rooms, proprietary systems - hardware and software - and other such expensive installations are being upstaged by small economical desktop systems that people own and use to create entertainment. The Rs 1 million ($ 20,000+) VTR being replaced by the memory card reader that costs under Rs 500 (US$ 10) even in Bandra. 

The revolution that happened in IT some decades ago when large mainframes were upstaged by desktop PCs. Huge tape storages were replaced by floppies at first, and hard disks later. This seems to be the trend that's nearly happening in post production - of films, TV shows, and commercials.

Broadcast - where one central entity sends entertainment out on cable or satellite... to homes which wait for it to arrive. Is gradually being nudged by webcast - where entertainment is always available for anyone to watch anywhere, any time. 

This is still in its infancy in India because of our slow Internet connections and not so widespread use of broadband. But this new method of 'broadcast' is poised to forever change the way the public receives programs - movies, songs, TV shows, shorts, etc. 

I've seen cabbies, and elevator operators ('liftmen') watch movies or parts of movies, or just songs, on their mobile phones. In their free time. Maybe these are downloaded at the present time, but they'll soon be streamed when bandwidth scales. 

People acquire and share movies via software like WhatsApp and see them or show them around to an audience that is increasingly getting used to watching entertainment whenever they have the time, rather than waiting for it to show up on their TV sets.

Digital is making rapid progress in quality while getting more and more economical to use. This has given birth to movies which get made at a very low cost. Where otherwise the cost and complexity of using film made it near impossible to make a movie that one had thought out in one's head. 'Stanley ka Dabba' has been a trend setter in this space and many more movies will follow suit in the coming years.

Film projector based theatres are giving way to digital projectors playing entire movies at high (2k, soon to be 4k) resolution with digital surround sound. And being digital, the movie looks as good three weeks later as it did on the first day.

So watch this space for the next week as I report on the latest, the greatest, the fastest, smallest and cheapest - tools for storytellers as Avid likes to call it. Tools which help us draw people into a darkened room, take money from them, and make them laugh, cry, and forget their daily lives. Within the end of the decade we will be doing it differently, far far differently than our forefathers did for almost a century.

Count on it. 

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