11 August 2016 13:51:57 IST

Distributing movies, Rajnikanth style

The shift to digitisation has hugely helped those involved in the movie business. Here’s how

While some would like to believe that the worldwide release of Rajnikanth-starrer Kabali had involved some kind of wizardry, that’s not entirely true.

The movie, which smashed many box office records, was released in over 3,500 screens across 2,400 locations. This mammoth task was made possible thanks to Qube Wire, an internationally compliant digital cinema platform.

Developed by Qube Cinema, a subsidiary of Real Image Media Technologies (Real Image, a film and television technology provider), the platform made its debut with Kabali .

While it has been a decade since we switched from distributing movies using bulky film reels (aka the analogue way) to doing it digitally, Qube Wire probably takes it one step ahead. “Nobody has got a platform like this right now,” says Jayendra Panchapakesan, co-founder of Real Image Media Technologies and Qube Cinema.

The digital wave

It was in 2005 that the Indian film industry took its first steps towards digital distribution of movies, completely transforming the way this business was run. Today, over 70 per cent of the country’s cinema halls are digital. In fact, no Bollywood or Hollywood movies are released on analogue projectors anymore. 

So, how did going digital change the movie distribution business? Devang Sampat, director of Strategic Initiatives, Cinépolis India, explains in detail: “Earlier, film reels used to be delivered to the cinema halls. These reels would be run on analogue projectors. So, if a cinema hall wanted to play a movie on five different screens at a particular time, it would have to procure five prints, each of which could cost up to a lakh.

“Now, with digitisation, a cassette (costs about a few thousands) is still physically delivered to a movie theatre, but only one is required. There is also an additional safety feature — the cassette will work only on a particular projector, for which the KDM (key delivery message) has been provided by the distributor. This ensures content security. The KDM, which contains the security key, is mostly sent via email to the cinema operator.

“Also, today’s digital projectors come with a server (computerised storage system), which maintains a record of the movies, trailers and ads that have been played in a theatre.”

How it helped

So, has digitisation benefited everyone connected with the movies? How?

For movie producers, this has meant huge savings in print costs. It has also given the movie producer and the distributor (who has bought the rights to distribute the movie) better control over what is being exhibited and where.

“Earlier, once a print was sent to a particular theatre, the same print could be run in another cinema in a smaller town the next week, without the. producer’s knowledge. Now, this can be controlled,” says Devang Sampat.

Most importantly, digital distribution has helped control, though not completely eliminate, piracy. With a digital watermark (something like a code) embedded in the content, a movie distributor can track where the movie is being played. It can also help identify the source of piracy (the projector for which the movie was legally provided) too.

Thanks to the records being maintained, advertisers too can know for certain if their ads are being played during the movie screenings or not. 

Finally, with fewer leakages out of the system and more money flowing into box office collections, all players in the value chain — producer, distributor and exhibitor — can rake in more money.

But those in the movies business aren’t the only ones who have benefited — movie goers like you and me too have enjoyed a far superior movie-watching experience than what was previously available. All special effects and life-like experiences wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for digitisation.

In comes Qube Wire

The shift to digitisation has, over the years, made movie distribution less cumbersome, cost-effective and more secure. But a platform such as Qube Wire makes it even more easy, particularly when it comes to releasing a movie globally.

According to Jayendra, Real Image is the only company in India which complies with the international DCI (digital cinema initiatives) standards that must be met for a movie to be screened outside India. Until now, an Indian movie producer or a distributor would approach a company to take charge of distributing a movie. The company would then license the movie to different screens in different locations across the world.

The newly developed Qube Wire has simplified this process further.

A producer or a distributor can himself choose the screens he wants his movie exhibited in. Qube Wire then helps him generate the appropriate license (depending on the server that is in use) and send it to the intended recipient theatre. The content is then sent physically. In fact, if the theatres have the bandwidth for it, the content too can be transferred online instead of being physically delivered; something not being done currently.