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A Kodak Moment Or Is It The End Of The World For Celluloid
In India, the local superstars still rule the cinema universe and give outstanding competition to the Hollywood fare. But in a nation obsessed with cinema, the war between celluloid or digital is already a zero-sum game as celluloid is on the verge of total and complete annihilation
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Christopher Nolan is a rare master craftsman in the cinematic space. I am just one among billions of his fans worldwide. His personal leadership in the preservation of celluloid is laudable. The case he makes out for shooting on film and preserving the subtle chemical imagery based cinema for the ages is worth a thought. The biodegradability of the celluloid is a strong point to consider on our fragile planet.
Yet just like a hero in one of his own films Nolan is lost somewhere in time and space and his precious passion for celluloid is a bit out of touch with the transforming reality of the digital world.
In Hollywood, the billion dollar studios are scrambling to take on Netflix, Amazon Prime and whatever else comes out at them through the digital doorway next. The top film festivals and film awards of the world are increasingly in a turf battle with the digitally produced content by OTT that bypasses the cinematic experience and is being delivered to the viewers directly on a television, tablet or smartphone device. VR experiences with their immersive technology are fast invading the viewer's minds as also posing a unique challenge that the traditional form of cinema viewing cannot duplicate or compete with. There is, however, an outside chance that 3D IMAX cinema may retain some form of large-scale family viewing that digital technology has yet to replicate. In the end, digital OTT companies with billions of dollars in valuation and a great financing model will carpet bomb more captivating content than Hollywood studios can afford. They will also provide end-to-end solutions to their paying subscribers globally and decimate the competition.
To wage a war against such a force of nature is a brave thought for every DarkKnight but eventually, this is a battle that can hardly be won. For even NASA's weapon of choice for still photography in space is now a Nikon D4 rather than a Hasselblad. In the end, the wise ones will embrace the digital lifestyle revolution in all its form and prosper while the rest will await evacuation to the digital interstellar from the shores of the celluloid world.
Christopher Nolan and his team travelled over the Easter weekend to India on the other side of the planet on a delicate and honorable mission to ensure the survival of the celluloid. The filmmaker joined British visual artist Tacita Dean for a series of events as part of India’s “Reframing the Future of Film” campaign, which included sold-out screenings of “Dunkirk” in 70mm and “Interstellar” in 35mm.
Here in India, the local superstars still rule the cinema universe and give outstanding competition to the Hollywood fare. But in a nation obsessed with cinema, the war between celluloid or digital is already a zero-sum game as celluloid is on the verge of total and complete annihilation.
The subscription numbers for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc fueled by the mobile phone and 4G penetrations are going through the roof. The several hours of original content such as the recently produced documentary series ‘Wild Wild West’ is bringing down the house. Cellphone cameras and digital devices are the windows of opportunity for the next generation filmmakers in India who are producing masterpieces on minuscule budgets that would be impossible if they had plotted their stories using celluloid. Major and minor stars and producers are lining up to cash in on the ever-increasing demand for content from OTT companies and are laughing all the way to the bank.
Though India produces a large number of films no Indian investor is heading in the direction of setting up film labs. A vast majority of camerapersons are already digitally capturing imagery on sensors on every form of digital cameras ranging from Arri Alexa to Red. Distribution of 35mm prints of Indian films across the world is ancient history as servers provide instant release in multiple markets. All new cinemas and multiplex chains are doing a digital projection and the massive 35mm projectors have hit rock bottom prices in the second-hand market. The fun of watching films on a mega-sized 70 mm silver screen is part of family lore as are the trips to the local photography studio to get family photos shot on 35mm still cameras developed. Our film archives that store our best-known feature and documentary films and hold the history of our nation in their vaults are forever struggling for funds to create more vaults. Going forward in the digital world it may be a good idea for every film produced in India to have at least one 35mm print in the archives for safekeeping for future generation and as a safeguard from being a short-term memory loss in the digital space.
Meanwhile to reverse the flow of digital technology in the cinematic sector is a lost cause more driven by emotion than by science, commerce and sadly even art. And like Dom Cobb, the master thief in Nolan's film Inception, we must state the obvious to the filmmaker, "Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange."
Looking forward to watching the next Christopher Nolan film already.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.