Bollywood Meets Hollywood in Digital Production Era

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Sun, 01/11/2009 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

India is building a new cultural legacy—the movie business. Bollywood releases 1 000 films annually approximately 10 times what Hollywood produces each year. And like Hollywood more and more of Bollywood’s films are going digital.

Despite its prolific output the film business in this movie-obsessed society of more than a billion people is just getting geared up. For years moviegoers have flocked to Bollywood's traditional song-and-dance fare which was once described by NPR reporter Holly Kernan as three-to-four hours long chock full of songs and never sticking to just one genre.

While no one foresees those kinds of films going away the business is certainly expanding creatively as well as financially. Indian filmmakers are increasingly using digital filmmaking technologies for visual effects animation and post-production. The rise of multiplexes is allowing a wider variety of films to be distributed. Meanwhile Bollywood is investing in Hollywood and vice versa.

What's happened is the Bollywood folks are starting to take notice of what's going on worldwide and they're saying we want to get involved in this says Laura Dohrmann Nvidia's Digital Film Group marketing director who heads up the company's Digital Bollywood Initiative. Based in Mumbai Dohrmann's role is to help local studios develop the digital filmmaking community with training expertise and educational initiatives. Because of her regular interaction with most of India's major production houses Dohrmann has a unique perspective on the evolution of Bollywood filmmaking.

Among the milestones she cites is last year's release of Krrish the first major superhero movie to be produced in Bollywood complete with visual effects. Two other recent films Om Shanti Om and Chak De India featured visual effects by Red Chilies a production company founded by actor Shahrukh Khan. At the same time the growing business is attracting international players. Sony DreamWorks and Disney have forged relationships with Indian production houses and mainstays from Hollywood production such as Rhythm & Hues are opening dedicated facilities in India.

 The way Rhythm & Hues chose to address the Indian market is unique because it's not an outsourcing or offshore model says Prashant Buyyala managing director of Rhythm & Hues India. Essentially the artists and support staff are like employees of the Los Angeles office in another building.

 We kind of moved the building halfway around the world Buyyala says. We don't have any separate Indian projects or Asian projects or separate tasks that are done in India. It's all one common pool of resources. We have the same network the same software the same projects the same tasks and everything.

 Most of Rhythm & Hues' projects are for Hollywood feature films or television commercials. When a project comes in if a producer needs 30 animators they are drawn from a geographically agnostic pool. It could happen to be that 10 of the animators are in India and 20 happen to be in LA Buyyala says. The same shot actually can go back and forth between all the facilities. For a single shot the animation might be done in LA the lighting might be done in Mumbai and the final effects might be done in Hyderabad. So it's completely transparent even in a single shot.

 Other Hollywood production companies and studios are using modified offshore models that illustrate the truly global nature of the film industry. DreamWorks for instance has struck a strategic partnership for Indian production that might best be described with a flow chart. The DreamWorks Animation Unit in Bangalore is a dedicated unit of Paprikaas which is majority-owned by Thomson. Thomson invested in Paprikaas to build up its Technicolor Content Services division. Altogether Technicolor has four divisions operating out of Paprikaas which in addition to the DreamWorks Animation Unit include Paprikaas Animation Paprikaas Interactive-Video Games and Paprikaas Visual Effects for Moving Picture Company London.

Paprikaas Animation as a separate Technicolor division maintains its own offices in Los Angeles and Bangalore in a more traditional offshore production model. Vice president of business development Sanjee Gupta represents Paprikaas Animation in Los Angeles meeting with clients to discuss using the Paprikaas Animation production staff in Bangalore.

The same way that most Hollywood deals are done most of Gupta's business comes via relationships and word of mouth. Given the nature of production it relies heavily on freelance artists and producers Gupta says. They tend to move from project to project as the production schedules ebb and flow. Quite a few of those people have now dispersed onto other projects and our name has just proliferated through the marketplace. The increasing influence of Bollywood is evident in another trend a kind of reverse offshore production model. One example is the purchase of Post Logic Studios a post house with offices in New York and Los Angeles. Another sign of the times is that the first Indian production at Hollywood's Universal Studios is being shot—Kambakkht Ishq (Incredible Love)—with Sylvester Stallone in a starring role.

 Although India has many talented digital artists the rapid expansion of the industry demands ever-increasing numbers to keep up with demand. Consequently one of the most important ongoing initiatives is training and supporting artists. There's a lack of training and such a tremendous desire for it says Dohrmann. The challenge is the animation and effects industry in India is fairly young. Many artists and animators working in Los Angeles have 20 or more year’s experience. We don't have people who have been in the industry with that much experience unless they are transplants to India.

 There's a shared commitment to training and educating among all the key companies in the Indian film industry including competitive companies. Dohrmann works with companies such as Big Animation Rhythm & Hues DreamWorks Autodesk and local companies to advance the cause. We're really all trying to be involved in it together she says.

 Other events are more oriented towards community building such as Women in Animation which Nvidia has supported through its Women in Technology group. We've done two really great events Dohrmann says. We had probably 2 000 people show up for the two events combined. They were great and really well received. We also do CG Meet-Ups which are monthly meetings where people come together to talk about modeling texturing or rendering or production challenges. There's also a concerted effort to establish educational curriculum standards. We want to help establish core competencies in digital production including what the exit competencies need to be from a training program what the entrance competencies need to be and how much emphasis needs to be placed on art says Dohrmann. Anyone can learn software but being an artist isn't something you can learn. You either have the inherent skills or you don't. There is no gray area.

To put the flurry of activity and investment surrounding Bollywood in perspective a report issued by the consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers last year projected that annual revenues for the Indian film business would reach $4.5 billion by 2010—up from about $2 billion in 2006.

The view from ground level in Mumbai bears that out. If you look at London Paris Los Angeles San Francisco over the next three years I don't expect to see more than five studios opening in any of those cities any time soon says Dohrmann. But over the next three years I expect to see a minimum of five studios opening in India. There's just so much interest in the possibilities India holds along with people who want to get involved in this up-and-coming market sector. Nvidia Corporation Paprikaas Animation Rhythm & Hues ,658
Kiki Chansamone and Jason Forest Create Finishing House Bully Bros. Post,2009-01-12,Creative Director/Lead Effects Artist Kiki Chansamone and Executive Producer Jason Forest have opened Bully Bros. Post a new full-service post and visual effects facility in Santa Monica California. The facility located at Christopher Sliney’s Playground Media Group will specialize in HD finishing for spots compositing Red and P2 conversions 3D previz/storyboarding and on-set vfx supervision with emphasis on end-to-end workflow creation and full visual effects design and supervision for commercials. Chansamone comes to Bully Bros. after nine years as lead Inferno Artist at Riot in Santa Monica and Forest is the founder/executive producer of TV spot production house Bully Pictures in Marina Del Rey California. The new facility has already finished ad campaigns for IW Group (Wal-Mart and Met-Life) DraftFCB (Taco Bell) Bozell/Jacobs (Alegent Health) Ogilvy & Mather (Nature Made) and Chiat/Day (Visa). Chansamone and Forest have been good friends since meeting on a Bacardi campaign several years ago and that friendship fuels their vision for Bully Bros. Post. “We started Bully Bros. Post with the goal of creating a family atmosphere not just for ourselves but for our clients as well ” Chansamone says. “Artistically and technologically we want to build a company that is based on working with well-known brands for well-known agencies.” Chansamone a professional artist his entire adult life began his career as a penciler at Marvel Comics at age 18. After studying at UCLA he joined Modern Videofilm in 1996 doing rotoscope work on animated shows such as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers later becoming a lead artist on TV’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  He joined Riot in 1999 working on features such as Armageddon Species and Mortal Kombat as well as building a loyal following of high-profile TV commercial clients that included Microsoft UPS Geico Ford GM Toyota Honda and Taco Bell. Forest was a freelance producer in commercials and music videos for a decade before starting his own commercial production company Bully Pictures. He brings soup-to-nuts experience from pre-production through finishing to the new entity.  The company’s other partners are rounded out by Sara Barnthouse and Gaelon Swift.  Barnthouse was a producer/rep at Jigsaw Editorial and brings a combination of post-production and marketing experience. Swift has been responsible for engineering nearly every technological system for the company and continues to help keep Bully Bros. on the cutting-edge as new shooting and finishing formats hit the marketplace.   “We’re not just a finishing house; from storyboard to delivery we can do everything at the Playground ” says Chansamone. “Because of our experience with effects supervision we can work with agencies to cover everything from assisting on conceptual design to working with creatives and directors to help determine the best ways to approach vfx shots. We also shoot second unit for green screen as well as production and capture for effects-oriented projects. For us it’s all about being involved as early in the pipeline as possible.” Bully Bros ,659
RealD Launches First 3D Stereoscopic Converter PODs,2009-01-12,RealD Pro has introduced the first 3D stereoscopic converter PODs which present a conversion solution when upgrading to a new stereoscopic display monitor and enable development teams to more easily present their work improving collaboration and productivity reducing prototype expenses and accelerating time to market. The RealD converter POD provides a replacement option for CRT or LCD monitor users. The PODs automatically detect the output format from a connected display device and convert most stereo-enabled software applications from native stereoscopic output format to the required format for stereo viewing on the display monitor. The 3D converter PODs are designed specifically for research and development environments where 3D visualization is heavily used and where departments or organizations are seeking alternatives to CRT display technology for stereoscopic applications. Industries include government and defense entertainment oil and gas education design and development and medical. RealD's introduction of 3D-POD technology brings yet another tool to the industry cost effectively facilitating 3D visualization says Michael Lewis chief executive officer of RealD. RealD ,660
Panasonic Broadcast Unveils New Scene Files for P2 HD,2009-01-12,Panasonic Broadcast announced that it has developed a wide range of scene files for its line of P2 HD camcorders to expand users’ shooting capabilities. The scene files— a total of 118 are available—provide users with the tools to move quickly from one preferred look to another without having to make manual setting adjustments in the camera. Customized for use with the Panasonic AJ-HPX3000 AJ-HPX2000 AG-HPX500 shoulder-mount camcorders and the AG-HVX200 AG-HVX200A and AG-HPX170 handhelds the new scene files can be downloaded onto an SD card and read from the camera’s built-in SD card slot. The scene files feature looks suited for shooting sports independent films news beauty music videos and horror scenes among others. Click here to download the scene files. ,661
S3 Entertainment Group Launches Michigan Film Finance,2009-01-12, S3 Entertainment Group has announced the launch of Michigan Film Finance a company to collaborate with producers and out-of-state lenders in financing films maximizing the film production incentive tax credit and creating new jobs in Michigan. Currently Michigan Film Finance is the only Michigan-based company financing the state’s film incentive. Productions can receive up to a 42 percent rebate on interest and other financing costs paid to Michigan Film Finance. The company created a local investment fund to provide the financing to these films. Michigan Film Finance investors receive a 12 percent annual return from the film investment fund. Michigan Film Finance only lends to fully bonded productions and creates additional security for investors by bonding the amount of the incentive as well.

 In addition to financing the film production incentive up-front Michigan Film Finance works with out-of-state lenders and producers to originate process and disburse loans for the productions thus enabling them to take advantage of the film production incentive and bring increased film business quickly to Michigan.

 “For most productions the state film incentives are critical to getting the movie financed ” says Jeff Stern co-managing partner of S3 Entertainment and Michigan Film Finance. “We are now providing an important part of that financial equation and giving filmmakers another reason to film in Michigan.” 

“Michigan’s film incentive is certainly the brightest spot in Michigan’s economy ” says Jeff Spilman co-managing partner of S3 Entertainment and Michigan Film Finance. “And financing of productions is essential in order for Michigan to be successful in both the short and long term.” Productions can save up to 42 percent in production and financing costs by working with Michigan Film Finance and its parent S3 Entertainment Group. The goal is to bring film business to the state of Michigan and to create jobs in the film industry that can employ many Michigan workers.

 S3 Entertainment Group ,662
American Society of Cinematographers Announces Achievement Nominees,2009-01-27,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button photographed by Claudio Miranda; The Dark Knight shot by Wally Pfister The Reader by Chris Menges and Roger Deakins Revolutionary Road by Deakins; and Slumdog Millionaire by Anthony Dod Mantle are the finalists in the feature film category of the 23rd Annual American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards competition.  Slumdog and Benjamin Button were both shot digitally. The winner will be named during the awards celebration at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles on February 15. This annual celebration is our way of letting our colleagues from around the world know that their peers in the ASC recognize their inherent visual talent and spirited ability to get compelling stories on the screen in this collaborative art form says ASC president Daryn Okada. We also hope this celebration inspires generations of filmmakers to follow their dreams. These are the eighth and ninth nominations for Deakins who earned top honors in 1995 for The Shawshank Redemption and in 2002 for The Man Who Wasn't There. It's the fourth nomination for Menges the second for Pfister and the first for Dod Mantle and Miranda. Artful cinematography is generally meant to be transparent to audiences but there are countless visual nuances that help to create a sense of time and place while evoking emotional responses that are in tune with the intentions of the actors and directors says ASC Awards Committee Chairman Michael Goi. In the opinion of their peers who considered hundreds of movies these five extraordinarily talented individuals have set the contemporary standard for artful cinematography in a very competitive field. Society of Cinematographers ,680
Ballantyne to Install 100 Digital Projectors in Chinese Theatres,2009-01-27,Ballantyne of Omaha says its Chinese subsidiary has received an order to supply and install 100 NEC digital projectors in theatres around China. The order comes as a tight credit market in the United States has slowed the implementation of a planned $1 billion-plus rollout of digital technology on about 20 000 movie screens in North America a precursor to showing movies in 3D. The order was placed by China Film Group an influential state-run film enterprise. China currently has about 6 000 movie screens. 3D is just starting to take off in China ” says Ballantyne senior vice president Ray Boegner. “I think China just wants to be seen as a leader in getting there. The average revenue per projector is between $45 000 and $55 000. About a quarter of the revenue for the order will be booked in the quarter to March with the remainder by May Boegner says. Ballantyne of Omaha ,681
UK Cinema Admissions Increased by just over One Percent in 2008,2009-01-27,British cinema admissions totaled 164.2 million last year an increase of 1.1 percent according to figures from the Cinema Advertising Association. The 2008 summer period marked the highest number of cinema admissions for 40 years with UK venues attracting more than 50 million visitors (53 642 237) between June and August an increase of 5.6 percent year on year. It was the most successful period since 1969 with July the best single month for visits. Mamma Mia! became the highest-grossing British film and then the highest-grossing film in the UK with £69.2m while Quantum of Solace recorded the highest opening weekend for any film in the UK with £15.4m. Gemma Atkinson sales director for digital cinema media says The pull of the big screen remains incredibly strong. Despite consumer confidence sliding these admission figures prove that the cinema experience is one thing consumers are not prepared to sacrifice. The Cinema Advertising Association is a joint initiative between cinema advertising sales houses Pearl & Dean and Digital Cinema Media. ,684
Dalsa and Arri Unable to Make a Deal,2009-01-27,Dalsa Corporation is shuttering its digital cinema operations after an unsuccessful attempt to sell some of the unit's assets to German company Arris the Canadian Press has reported. A Dalsa spokesman told the Press that it has closed its cinema equipment rental facility in Woodland Hills California and terminated or redeployed the division's staff. The company has failed to reach agreement with ARRI as to acceptable terms on a definitive agreement Dalsa said in a statement. As a result the company set aside discussions with Arri and the company is currently pursuing other alternatives to maximize value of its digital cinema operations. Dalsa previously announced it was committed to eliminating the ongoing losses in its digital cinema division by the end of 2008 and was hoping to sell certain assets of the division's assets to Arri. ,686
Doremi Chosen by Odeon/UCI for Digital Cinema Expansion,2009-01-27,Doremi Cinema was selected by Odeon/UCI Europe’s largest cinema operator to supply the next phase of its digital cinema expansion with DCP-2000 servers enabling 3D playback. Exhibitors have freedom of choice with the Doremi digital cinema server line which works with every type of projector and 3D technology. In response to the significant number of 3D releases slated for 2009 Odeon/UCI’s latest expansion will triple its coverage of 3D digital screens. Beginning this month Doremi will equip 70 new Odeon/UCI screens throughout the UK Spain Portugal Germany and Austria bringing the total number of DCI compliant screens to 111. “We are very excited about Odeon/UCI’s accelerated digital cinema deployment ” says Michael Archer vice president of Doremi Digital Cinema. “We are very pleased to see Odeon/UCI has chosen RealD as a partner for their deployment”.  Doremi recently announced that the RealD 3D EQ ghost busting technology would be available in Doremi servers within the next two-to-three months. Drew Kaza executive vice president of digital development for Odeon/UCI Cinemas says “Odeon/UCI is dedicated to installing the latest technology across our cinemas. We look forward to working with Doremi on this project.” Doremi Odeon/UCI ,687
Gamma & Density Releases a 3cP-Red Workflow,2009-01-27,Gamma & Density has announced that it has created a new 3cP-Red workflow designed to increase the technical efficiency and creativity of all aspects of a cinematographer's work. A practical understanding of data-based image capture image and color management throughout the production/post-production process how to communicate color and “look” information to post-production and how to smoothly move and transform the large volumes of image data from the raw camera capture through dailies to editorial is very important for today’s DP and DIT especially for those working with the revolutionary Red One cameras. 3cP simplifies all of those steps into one application freeing the filmmaker to concentrate on the creative aspects of the craft instead of the tedium of technical issues. 3cP takes color decisions made on the set combines them with the .r3d raw image files to produce color corrected dailies QuickTime proxies for editorial image sequences and ASC CDL or 3D LUT files for the DI suite. “After enjoying the success we’ve seen with 3cP being used on Hollywood-style studio productions we’re proud to make the same color control capabilities affordable for Red camera based productions ” says Yuri Neyman ASC a DP himself and CEO of Gamma & Density. “No cinematographer should have to go without the opportunity of a consistent predictable controlled color and post-production workflow throughout the entire creative and production process.” The new workflow features: 1. Direct import of .r3d raw camera footage 2. On-set color correction with real time playback 3. Generation of color-corrected dailies for use as editorial proxies 4. Interface to post-production and DI via DPX and QuickTime intermediates 5. Full integration of all features avoiding the complexity of “piece-part” solutions Gamma & Density ,689
IndiePix Sees a Nearly Six-Fold Increase in Independent Film Web Sales ,2009-01-27,IndiePix has announced an almost six-fold increase in unit sales for the full year 2008 compared to 2007. The sale of fiction and non-fiction independent films significantly rose towards the end of 2008 with Q4 sales figures jumping 12 times that of the same period in 2007. During 2008 IndiePix transformed its Internet platform by enabling film fans to choose whether they want to download stream or rent a title straight to their PC or iPod a net distribution technique that is attributed to IndiePix’s strong sales growth. Throughout 2008 IndiePix expanded its efforts to restructure the economics of the independent film industry. Commenting on the many closings and failures among indie film labels Bob Alexander president at IndiePix says They failed because their business models failed—their economics were simply not in line with today's market realities. Trying to be a middle ground player between Hollywood and true independent films is not a good place to be.   IndiePix Studios is soon to release its 2009 production and release slate following the success of its recent films including The End of America which achieved Top 10 opening weekend in New York. IndiePix is now represented across all major online and retail channels as it continues to strengthen its partnerships with like-minded companies such as SnagFilms and iTunes. 2008 really has been an important year in building the new world of independent film ” says Alexander. “Mid-sized companies have failed the do-it-yourself experiment has floundered new forms of digital distribution have been introduced and new platforms – especially the mobile platforms – have gained attention. We're energized to be part of this rapidly developing business and to be pioneering ways to deliver great movies to fans and commercial benefits to filmmakers. IndiePix ,692
State Court Awards Aspen Theatre Rights to Ingmar Bergman Films ,2009-01-27, The entire library of master Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman plus dozens of other films were awarded to Isis Litigation LLC of Aspen Colorado in an unprecedented legal victory that started when Svensk Filmindustri allegedly refused to honor its guaranty of a lease of the Isis Theatre.
 A Colorado District Court appointed a transfer agent for the intellectual property held by Svensk. Isis is considering how to obtain the highest value for the Svensk assets including a potential sale of the catalog.
   “Isis’s right to garnish Svensk’s rights fees in America to satisfy the judgment undoubtedly has had a chilling effect on distribution ” says Isis’s attorney Jack Smith of Denver’s Holland and Hart. “We believe that these films including the outstanding Bergman collection will be of great interest to both distributors and the general film audience. The Swedish film industry and particularly Svensk has produced an admirable body of work over the years. Svensk’s willingness to let this resource go is very difficult to understand. Isis will be embarking on a program to bring these films to a wider audience by sale expanded distribution or possibly by marketing collaborations with other established catalogs.”
     For most of the past decade Bergman’s films were trapped behind the obstinacy of Swedish film company Svensk Filmindustri which steadfastly brushed aside a United States court judgment of nearly $10 million in its legal battle with Isis. 
    Svensk has ignored every judgment and order entered against it in the United States courts to the point that it is now being fined $2 500 a day—more than $900 000 a year—for contempt of court. The latest ruling resulted in the transfer to Isis of the rights to all of Svensk’s film holdings which include Bergman’s portfolio developed over a fifty-year relationship during which the company became a subsidiary of the Bonnier Group. Isis has launched a web site which hosts links to distributors of Svensk’s former film catalog including Bergman’s works. Isis also continues to run where a debt ticker shows in real time exactly how much Svensk owes Isis. A reward of up to $100 000 still stands for anyone who has information that can lead to Isis recovering lost royalties from Svensk.
   “Eight years ago Svensk could have avoided this day by accepting its responsibilities and honoring its guaranty of the lease. And it could have satisfied the judgment entered over five years ago by paying far less than it owes now because of the interest that has continued to accrue on the judgment ” says Smith. “Now Svensk owes almost $3 million more than the original judgment and has lost the rights to all of its film holdings. This is without a doubt an unprecedented event in the history of cinema and the level of arrogance and indifference it took on the part of Svensk to get here is astonishing.”
 Svensk was an owner of Resort Theatres of America which went bankrupt in 2000 and rejected its lease of the Isis Theatre in Aspen. Despite the fact that Carl-Johan Bonnier chairman of the Bonnier Group Svensk’s parent company acknowledged in writing that Svensk “made a guaranty” of the lease Svensk refused to honor the commitment and the matter went into litigation.
            Isis prevailed in the trial and in subsequent appeals but eight years later it has received nothing from Svensk. Without domestic assets to seize Isis has been unable to collect on its judgment as United States courts have limited authority to enforce internationally. 
In a July interview with Variety—which has followed the matter closely—Torsten Larsson head of Bonnier Broadcasting and Entertainment made it clear that Svensk has no intention to comply with the United States court orders.
    A court decision in Colorado means nothing in Sweden ” Larsson told Variety.
 In 2003 Isis was awarded a judgment for over $5.9 million against Svensk to which was later added over $850 000 in costs and fees. Svensk has never paid this however and with interest it now owes Isis close to $10 million.
          The stakes of the litigation were raised significantly earlier this year when Colorado District Court Judge Denise Lynch held Svensk in contempt of court and fined the company $2 500 a day—over $900 000 a year—for disobeying a court order requiring it to disclose its assets to Isis so that the judgment could be enforced. 
          Svensk claims the rights to more than 1 200 films—some of them nearly 100 years old—including the works of Ingmar Bergman. The titles affected by the order include Cries and Whispers Fanny and Alexander Hour of the Wolf The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries as well as such classics as Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog and Bo Widerberg's Elvira Madigan.