Cinema in India has seen a major shift due to advancements in technology used by the entertainment guild, be it feature films, documentaries or commercials. Many of the films today, both low and high budget, which did well at the box office, would not have happened, if not for the technology used.
The Indian cinema has been specially impacted due to what is seen as a shorter and cheaper way to make films on one hand and to make distribution and exhibition more mobile and flexible on the other.
A film's screening is not confined to multiplexes and the 'dying' single-screens. Exhibition is now available over the Internet as well. The growth of multi-dimensional projects such as 3D, 4D and so on, with surround sound and Dolby sound systems, have changed the way one used to experience watching a film, completely.
“People used to come for real cinema earlier, they liked the story. Now the technology has wooed them away from our screen to multiplexes (offering 3D and 4D)”, says Manilal Gupta, owner of Mahalakshmi theatre in Daryaganj. Filmmaking has always been about innovation. Filmmakers in the past realised, that to make advancements in the business, technological advent was of utter importance. Technological progress, decades ago, came simply because the filmmaker yearned to tell the story in a better way.
Earlier, smooth tracking shots were practically impossible because of bulky camera systems which led the crew members to shift backgrounds in order to give the illusion of a moving camera. With the advent of technology, the camera could move around and the sound was possible as well. Technology has opened up a new world of on-location shooting, making the world of cinema enter a new world in a snap of fingers. “It has become easy to make a film due to it’s low cost of production, particularly for ‘art house film’. The cost of the release print has also gone substantially low”, says Naresh Sharma, HOD of CRAFT Film School in New Delhi.
The world of motion pictures has seen a string of changes with the arrival of technology, from a Steadicam to a dolly. Initially the problem was to make a hand-held shot appear smooth and fluid rather than shaky. Before the Steadicam, the only way to move a camera was either by mounting it on a dolly, or by holding it over your shoulder.
Through a lot of trial and error, came a system that used weight distribution and a rotating gimbal (a pivoted support allowing easy rotation) to smooth out hand-held shots. A system of counterweights distributes the weight of the camera and allows for a steady shot.
Movies such as Devdas (2002) and Mission Kashmir have too exhibited stupendous works in a dramatic as well as an action sequence; all thanks to Sujit Sen, Bollywood's prominent steady-cam operator.
On similar lines, the invention of digital camera technology was first introduced on a small scale by Sony in the late 1980’s. No one in that era had any idea what impact it would make, and how soon. Major Bollywood films were a little slower to adopt the emerging technology, however digital cameras were clearly more efficient and easy to use.
Today, people can shoot HD video on their cell phones, hand-held cameras and camcorders, providing them with equally professional shots.Over a period of time, the Indian audience has tried to settle for a fact that surrounds around Bollywood for not being able to ace the art of merging technology and filmmaking together. People have settled for flicks such as Ra.One, whereas a contrasting audience is not ready to settle just yet. “Bollywood still needs to buck up as far as technology goes. Films like Bahubali have done it and so have others such as Ra.One, FAN and Dhoom with all the superstars and special effects stuff. All we need is a great story, that’s what I pay my money for,” says Karan Amar Kaushik, a travel agent and a movie buff.
"If I want to go for a mindless entertainment regime, I'd go for Bollywood. The likes of Nolan have utilised technology to bring out concepts which have had intriguing concoctions", said Rounak Kumar Gunjan, another movie buff.
Bollywood has too grown to great extents with technology. This shift in the use of technology brings about a change not only in the way a film is exhibited, but also how it performs economically. Movies making big use of the present-day advancements make bigger accomplishments at the box office.
Movies have really done it big in the industry in terms of the technology used. Films such as Bahubali, the costliest Indian film so far, made it huge at the box office with earnings of about Rs 190 crores. Gone are the times of Mr. India, where to show a scene where one goes invisible, shots were cut abruptly in order to make a proper sequence. Nowadays, a green background and a few software strokes do the trick.
Every single movie, be it Hollywood or Bollywood gets released in a 3D version too. Multiplexes around the country, over a period of time, have had 3D screens installed in order to cater to an audience seeking to see such movies. “The fun involved in watching 3D movies is par comparison, but that fun comes very heavy on the pocket.
The tickets are too expensive to afford every now and then”, says Rajput, a college student. “I still remember how I had to save money in order to go and watch Avatar in 3D”, she added.
However, multiplexes are expanding their businesses in order to cater to the audience demanding technology in cinema. "Cinema is all about technology nowadays, we are venturing into a new cinema concept under a sub-brand of SuperPlex in Noida which will have 15 screens with IMAX, 4DX, Gold Class, Premiere and Playhouse(specially for kids)", said a PVR spokesperson. The SuperPlex concept involves an investment of Rs 48 crores.
Owing to the high-end technology involved, such multiplexes attract a hefty amount of audience. The same audience may scatter post its release; main reason being- the storyline, which doesn’t do much justice to what the audience likes. “To me, it’s more about the story and screenplay. I enjoy watching old classics more than I enjoy watching the films that are being made today”, added Kaushik. One can never forget how an antiquated classic Mughal-e-Azam was the first black-and-white Hindi film to be digitally coloured and the first to be given a theatrical re-release.
The Sterling Investment Corporation, the negative rights owner and an arm of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, undertook restoration and colourisation of ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. They initially approached Hollywood executives for help, but found the sales quotations too high. In 2002, Umar Siddiqui, managing director of the Indian Academy of Arts and Animation proposed to enhance it digitally at a fraction of the cost.
The spread of new animation techniques like motion capture, which involves tracking the movement of objects and people to create more life-like characters – will also inevitably contribute to the data avalanche.
Meanwhile, the directors of the Star Wars films have announced the use of 48 frames a second rather than 24, signalling a new era for the film industry. As these numbers increase, studios will depend more and more heavily on faster processors and cloud computing. The onus is therefore on software companies to continue supplying the industry with cutting-edge technology that will enable and drive the next wave of film animation, to which there's no end.