Ross Video’s Compact Production Switcher

Ross Video introduced a new Compact Production Switcher, Carbonite Black Solo, with nine inputs and six outputs, specifically designed to meet the needs of smaller productions. Solo has …


Ross Video introduced a new Compact Production Switcher, Carbonite Black Solo, with nine inputs and six outputs, specifically designed to meet the needs of smaller productions. Solo has six SD/HD-SDI connections and three HDMI inputs, with six floating frame synchronizers and format converters that can be assigned to any input, making connecting unreferenced sources simpler. For outputs there are five SDI and one HDMI, all completely assignable.

Carbonite Black Solo features a single ME with four full featured keyers, a transition keyer for DVE and Media wipes, and a UltraChrome chroma keyer. Additionally, there are two MiniME’s that are ideal for small event production and for secondary produced outputs. Each MiniME has two individual keyers, providing Solo with eight key layers in all.

Solo also includes a fully configurable MultiViewer as well as four channels of MediaStore for animated graphics or stills. There is also a digital audio output for the playback of audio with animations.

Carbonite Black Solo comes bundled with XPression Live CG software which provides the ability to create and push static graphics like lower thirds, over the shoulder boxes and slates directly into Solo’s internal MediaStores via Ethernet from a customer supplied computer. It includes full DashBoard control integration, ViewControl touch screen visual control, and RossTalk protocol as well as Camera Robotics, Video Server, and Audio Mixer control interfaces.

The product is available in three versions.  The first is an all-in-one with combined control panel and electronic processing, offering maximum portability.  The second is a rack-mount electronic frame with soft control panel, while the third is a control panel with a separate electronic frame for installations where it is desirable to separate operation from electronics.

The Carbonite Black Solo systems ships with an XPression LiveCG license to provide a complete production system with graphics. There is even an easy upgrade path to XPression Go, Prime, or Studio systems.

Skyworth launches 7.9mm 4K Smart TV in India

The Air TV-55G 7200 sports a 55-inch screen and can beam 4K content Main article: Skyworth India Electronics, a wholly owned subsidiary of $8.98 billion Hong Kong-based company …


The Air TV-55G 7200 sports a 55-inch screen and can beam 4K content

Main article: Skyworth India Electronics, a wholly owned subsidiary of $8.98 billion Hong Kong-based company Skyworth, unveiled the Air TV in India recently.

The 55G7200 series priced at INR 1,69,990, is designed by a Red dot award winning team based on the Art technology, is 7.9 mm thin, sports a 55-inch screen and has a 4K UHD feature. Its 5-in-1 digital video broadcasting technology (DVB-C, DVB-T/T2, DVB-S/S2) is powered with a personal video recorder option that gives viewers the choice of recording content broadcasted on various channels.

Jackson Zhang, MD, Skyworth India, said “The 4K UHD AIR TV 55G 7200 is a testimony of Skyworth’s innovative engineering prowess in the manufacturing and marketing of high-quality entertainment electronics, efficient in any weather condition.” He believed that such products will have a great success in the country, as Indian consumers are appreciative of high technology and quality.

Skyworth is present in India for the past five years and largely focussed on the southern Indian markets. It presently gets some of its models assembled at its Hyderabad facility and imports other high-end products. Over the years, it has introduced LCD, LED, DLED, ELED, 3D, Smart TVs and in the upcoming years it will introduce 8K, OLED, Smart TVs, etc.

Going Solo

With the introduction of new types of content and formats, the viewing habits of consumers are evolving rapidly By Satyam Nagwekar Video content is being watched on a …


With the introduction of new types of content and formats, the viewing habits of consumers are evolving rapidly

By Satyam Nagwekar

Video content is being watched on a scale like never before. With viewers having a plethora of content to choose from and the flexibility of a convenient platform, online video content is competing with TV for consumer attention. In some countries, such as the US, content services like OTT and VOD have even gone mainstream while India is rapidly playing catch up, especially in the metros and tier-I cities.

TV, however, still has a critical role to play in an increasingly complex media environment according to the Ericsson ConsumerLab TV & Media Report 2016, which collected data from 24 countries, including India. There has been a rapid shift in TV and video viewing towards mobility. Content discovery remains a matter of huge frustration for consumers even as mobile video and on-demand TV viewing have soared over the past seven years.

Moreover, the viewing habits of TV and media consumers are changing with the introduction of new types of content and formats. Just as the preferences for TV and video content are changing, so is when and through which screen the content is viewed. This change is, however, not uniform across all TV user groups. For traditional TV viewers, television makes up nearly 90 percent of all TV and video viewing while the smart phone, tablet, and the laptop account for less than 10 percent, according to the report.

Anirban Sam, head – IT Infra & Communication, Panorama Television, said, “The Indian OTT market is very different from the US. In terms of affordability of subscription charges, the reason is clear. Hitting the correct price point for licensed content is a big challenge in India. English content covers 90 percent of viewers in the US whereas regional languages inevitably split the market in India. OTT providers in India such as Jio, nexGTV, Hotstar, Eros Now, Sony LIV, and Netflix are now all focussing more on developing original localised content for mass penetration. Hindi has the biggest chunk in regional language content. All OTT providers are trying to hook up with regional TV channels or news portals to provide localised content demographically.”

Continued shift to mobile
Mobile devices allow consumers to perform other activities while watching TV. The so-called second screen is used by 64 percent of consumers every week to complement the content on the TV screen in order to check ratings, post on social media, and watch video content on multiple screens.

TV and video content has always had a significant social component like discussing programmes while watching at home. Today, such habits have migrated online for traditional TV content as well as for user-generated content. Millennials, in particular, have more pronounced second-screen behaviour and these habits continue to evolve. Since 2014, the habit of browsing the internet for content related to what is being watched on the big TV screen has increased by 35 percent and watching two or more programmes at the same time has increased just as much.

As a result, average viewing times on mobile devices has increased by more than 200 hours a year since 2012, driving up overall TV and video viewing by an additional 1.5 hours a week. The surge in mobile viewing is offset by a decline in fixed screen viewing of 2.5 hours a week; the appetite for TV and video is not on the wane however.

A major issue, highlighted by the report, is low consumer satisfaction when trying to find something to watch. In the US, 44 percent of the consumers say they can’t find anything to watch on TV on a daily basis, an increase of 22 percent compared with last year (36 percent). In contrast, US consumers spend 45 percent more time choosing what to watch on VOD services than linear TV.

However, 63 percent of consumers claim that they are very satisfied with content discovery when it comes to their VOD service while only 51 percent say the same for linear TV. The findings suggest that although the VOD discovery process is more time consuming than with linear broadcast TV, consumers rate it as less frustrating as it implicitly promises the opportunity to find something they want to watch when they want to watch it.

VOD’s zooming popularity
The total viewing time of on-demand content, such as streamed TV series, movies, and other TV programmes, has increased by 50 percent since 2010. Strong indicators of this growing engagement with VOD services include binge watching, increased consumer spending, and rising YouTube watch time. Consumers continue to binge watch with 37 percent watching two or more episodes of the same show in a row on a weekly basis. Consumer spending on VOD services in the US has increased by more than 60 percent since 2012, from $13 to $20 per month. Moreover, 40 percent of respondents say they watch YouTube daily; a substantial 10 percent of consumers say they watch YouTube for more than three hours a day.

India being a single-TV-household country, cheaper smart phones, tablets, and Android TV-streaming devices have become the most preferred screens for everyone with a device and a decent data plan, pointed out Sam. Localised and original OTT content plays seamlessly on all affordable screens. High-quality streaming video in HD and ultra HD with multi-channel audio options for a theatrical experience will surely become the sweet spot for the general viewers, he added. Ease of use in the inexpensive touch screen handhelds plays a major role in getting the not-too-tech-savvy users glued to their own personal small screens. “I myself prefer to watch internet-streamed content on virtual reality glasses than on an expensive big-screen TV. No DTH, no STB, and no TV. Just a smart phone with a data plan and VR glasses. Pure bliss!” Sam said.

Zeynep Ahmet, senior advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab, said, “Based on our extensive research, we can see that consumers increasingly ask for seamless access to high-quality TV and video content, across services and devices. For consumers in general, and millennials in particular, being able to watch on the smart phone is key. Consumers not only want the shared, social broadcast TV experience, they also expect the flexibility of an à la carte on-demand media offering. Today’s experience is multifaceted and consumers want to create their own worlds of personalised content.”

Another Indian CTO pointed out that due to buffering or lack of coverage, streaming video content outside of the home is not a seamless experience in the country. However, the possibility of viewing content where the strong connectivity is available has continuously driven the consumption of TV and video. Hence, a mobile subscription plan that allows affordable streaming of TV and video content on a mobile device–with reasonable video quality and without having to ration data–is of great interest to 40 percent of consumers globally.

Millennials are the most interested group at 46 percent as these consumers typically use multiple on-demand services across several devices. A similar trend can be observed in individual markets, where consumers in India (72 percent), Colombia (60 percent), and South Africa (58 percent) show the highest interest levels for such capabilities.

Moreover, licensed content delivery on conventional TV, according to Sam, is way costlier than on VOD. Researching market trends, looping in advertisers, budgeting, producing programmes, and live playout through paid media like satellite uplink, DTH, and MSOs cost a lot and consume significant effort, resources, and time. “VOD is mostly licensed content ready to be streamed. In most cases, licensing is on a profit-sharing basis. We can see it’s very challenging for a conventional TV channel to deliver content as compared to VOD.”

The Indian market is very price sensitive and consumers will only subscribe to the content providers matching their taste at a comfortable price point. The market size of OTT content is still small and is dominated by YouTube, followed by Netflix, Hulu, Eros, and now Jio. As the advertising rates are very low, it’s very difficult to provide an economical price point even with advertisement-backed subscription models. With 4G and LTE internet speeds, affordable data plans have just begun to influence changes to the smart phone, tablets, and Apple TV-like device users in India. The combination of a very economical data plan and localised content is likely to break the ice. As of now, the real monetising is still in the initiation stage. “We are looking forward to 2017 for a reality check,” concluded Sam.

Imagine presents next-gen platforms

Imagine Communications last month displayed a broad range of leading-edge technologies at BES India 2016. Presentations made during the show included virtualized and cloud playout automation, multiplatform distribution …


Imagine Communications last month displayed a broad range of leading-edge technologies at BES India 2016. Presentations made
during the show included virtualized and cloud playout automation, multiplatform distribution and channel branding. The company also showcased comprehensive technology to meet the demands of ultra-high definition (UHD) production.

34-1 CANON

The demonstrations featured the next generation of the Versio integrated playout platform, a 100 % software and fully virtualized solution. Versio is a powerful integrated playout solution used worldwide by media companies from small, single-channel to very large, multichannel environments and master control operations. It combines the best of the world’s automation, branding, graphics, file server, storage and master control capabilities in an entirely software-based environment. The system simplifies the creation and management of channels and enables media companies to extend their brands and content with more freedom, visibility, and control than ever before.

Also on display was a new version of the Nexio server platform, which is capable of supporting all the requirements of UHD. Nexio AMP is an efficient and integrated server platform for managing digital content. From ingest to playout, the Nexio AMP Advanced Media Platform delivers the exceptional reliability, flexibility and format transparency that broadcast operations demand. Booth demonstrations included the delivering of multiple streams of 4K/UHD content.

BES also witnessed Imagine Communications’ latest in branding and promotional graphics tool including the company’s Nexio
Channelbrand is a multichannel branding platform that simplifies the creation, display and maintenance of a consistent brand, allowing broadcasters to get to air with data-driven content, logos, time/temperature display, rolls/crawls, and EAS information. Channelbrand also features cross-platform animation builder capabilities, which enable an integrated approach to graphics template creation and allow for simplified and streamlined workflows from creation to air.

34 CANON

Additionally, the demonstrations included SelenioFlex File and Selenio Next, key components of on-demand workflows to allow
broadcasters to expand into nonlinear delivery. SelenioFlex file-to-file media processing solutions seamlessly blend transcoding and workflow capabilities, supporting a comprehensive range of formats with superior quality for applications from post production and archive to multiscreen distribution. Built on the Imagine Communications Zenium workflow
manager — an agile software engine that enables customizable foundational architectures — SelenioFlex File delivers a dynamic system management environment, allowing ready access to a catalog of features, functionalities
and licenses that are required at run-time.

These systems sat alongside the latest member of Imagine Communications’ router family, the Platinum VX compact router and
the Selenio X100 signal processing system. When implemented as part of a larger routing system in a hybrid environment, Platinum VX can seamlessly operate under the overarching management of the Magellan SDN Orchestrator, which provides a seamless path to IP while maintaining standard routing and broadcast workflows. This versatile line of video routers
also fully supports the award-winning Magellan range of router control panels.

Built for on-the-job, 24/7 reliability, and supporting broadcasters and mobile production facilities as well as cable, telco and government applications, Platinum VX video routers are easily incorporated into any workflow and deliver an unparalleled level of versatility and value that helps any operation work smarter and more efficiently.

Needed: An act to regulate kids’ content

Essential for broadcasters, content creators to develop content that balances edutainment Digital Studio New Bureau The right kind of education is more important than Right to Education. Children …


Essential for broadcasters, content creators to develop content that balances edutainment
Digital Studio New Bureau

The right kind of education is more important than Right to Education. Children consist of almost one-third of India’s population, hence it is critical for broadcasters and content creators to develop content that adds value and balances education and entertainment. India, therefore, needs an Act that regulates and monitors content viewed by children, which should also provide parenting guidelines.

This was stated by media and entertainment industry veterans at a session on ‘India needs a kids content act’ during FICCI Frames 2016, which was held at Mumbai. Kids programming in India needs customization and original content, rather than just a replication of international content. An effective Act will ensure that the large children population of India gets the right nature of content and education through entertainment while preserving Indian cultural values and ethos by bringing in the right balance between the global content and Indian context.

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai said for children to grow as the real architects of the nation it was essential that they received extensive and in-depth knowledge about their culture and values. He pointed out that the state of education in India was mediocre and there was immense scope for many great Indian stories to be explored for creating content for kids.

Kids actt

M Srinivasan, Founder, GEAR Education, added that the personality of child develops in the first 10 years and it becomes essential that they were exposed to quality content. Hence, some regulations were needed to ensure that kids received quality exposure. He added that a comprehensive guideline for parents was also needed as the ambience of a child created his/her character.

Rajiv Chilaka, Creator of Chhota Bheem, noted that there were 630 million kids below the age of 16 years in India and kids’ content creators needed to add value to their properties. He suggested that to reach kids in the rural areas, there was a need for a dedicated channel like Doordarshan Kids as these regions may not have access to cable TV.

Mukesh Khanna, Chairman, CFSI, said that non-Indian content was being viewed by children as producers were scared to make products for kids as they were bound to lose money. Therefore, a regulation was needed that could encourage producers to develop original content for kids.

Citing the example of the film Baahubali, Nishith Takia, Producer of Delhi Safari, said that Indian content can be successful. Today children have lost respect for their own culture and the need was to promote kids content which was rich in Indian values. He added that kids must be taught to value their heritage and they should not be ashamed of their roots.

Nina Jaipuria, EVP & GM Sonic & Nickelodeon India, Viacom 18 Media said that when Viacom ventured into the kids segment, 100% content was from overseas but today almost 65% content was Indian. She added that with digitization sharper segmentation has taking place which is helping in reaching more kids as well.

The moderator of the session was Ashish Kulkarni, Chairman of FICCI’s Animation & Gaming Forum.

Behind Closed Captions

Dalet integrated a close captioning workflow for Canada’s CPAC, ensuring its metadata preservation The Cable Public Affairs Channel, or CPAC as it is more commonly called, is Canada’s …


Dalet integrated a close captioning workflow for Canada’s CPAC, ensuring its metadata preservation

The Cable Public Affairs Channel, or CPAC as it is more commonly called, is Canada’s only privately-owned, commercial free, not for profit, bilingual licensed television service. Founded in 1992, this Canadian Parliament channel shows the proceedings of Parliament from Ottawa in French and English languages.

Its content is delivered by cable, satellite and wireless distributors to over 11 million homes in Canada and worldwide via 24/7 web streaming on the CPAC TV 2 GO mobile app and the www.cpac.ca website. The organization ingests up to 80 hours of new content daily and has made over 30,000 hours of archived content available on these digital platforms.

“We urgently needed a closed captioning solution that could manage a variety of content from several different types of production workflows: news and magazine-style shows, live and studio production, and long-form programming. For each of these workflows we needed to be able to manage, and more importantly maintain caption data, especially after editing has been completed or the content is passing through another system,” said Eitan Weisz, Senior Manager of Broadcast Operations, CPAC. “We felt Dalet could deliver these facets in one package.”

LONG-TIME ASSOCIATION
If you are wondering why the broadcaster immediately thought of Dalet Digital Media Systems, a provider of software-based solutions for media organizations, there is a bit of history that the two companies share. The closed-caption system is the latest evolution of CPAC’s relationship with Dalet, which dates back to 2009. The partnership began when CPAC began digitizing its legacy tape content and selected Dalet as a front end Media Asset Management (MAM) provider to catalogue its new online archive.

During live shows, CPAC content is transcribed by operators using keyboard to generate live captions

A year later, CPAC and Dalet built a full MAM workflow to manage and control the client’s long-form programming all the way to air. The next step, in 2011, was to design, install and execute a newsroom computer system for all CPAC’s news output based on the comprehensive set of Dalet tools for news production.“The longstanding relationship we have enjoyed with CPAC is a testimony to the confidence they have in our technologies and services, as well as the unique way in which Dalet can grow with a customer as its needs change and grow,” Frederic Roux, Sales Director for Dalet proudly exclaimed.

CLOSED CAPTIONING SOLUTION
Coming to CPAC’s immediate requirement Dalet supplied and integrated an end-to-end workflow for the broadcaster’s English and French closed captioning. The solution combined Dalet AmberFin and Dalet Galaxy solutions to provide an automated workflow that maintains genealogy and captioning data for 24/7 operation.

The solution devis ed by Dalet in concert with CPAC deployed its AmberFin as a media and processing platform for insertion and extraction of caption data, leveraging the existing Dalet MAM deployment to manage transformation and distribution in an end-to-end media workflow with a key emphasis on maintaining captions as metadata.

During live shows or events, CPAC content is transcribed by operators using keyboard or stenography methods to generate live captions. Live feeds with captions are ingested into Harmonic and Dalet Brio video servers and written to an MXF file including a standard SMPTE ST436 data track. For pre-produced content, a proxy file is sent to an external captioning house for transcribing and generation of a separate caption file.

LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY TO THE HILT
Where the Dalet MAM detects valid ST436 data, Dalet AmberFin automatically extracts the caption information to a standard SCC caption file, associated with the relevant video file in the MAM. Also automatically generated is Timed Text Markup Language (TTML), a standardised XML structure that represents all the captioning information as time-coded metadata that can easily be catalogued, searched and modified. “The TTML pivot format is vital. Instead of keeping the information at file level, we expose it as timed metadata to the user so that they can directly view and search it as well as perform basic editing and correction of the caption information,” explained Roux. “CPAC has rich automated metadata created in the Dalet system and tagged to all its content through this captioning process.”

 

A common and expensive error in closed captioning workflows is the risk of losing captioning data during production process. Editing can destroy the captioning information at file level and require the user to recapture or recreate the original material.”
Frederic Roux, Sales Director, Dalet Digital Media Systems

In the other production scenario at CPAC, when an SCC file is received from the captioning house, Dalet will instantly match it with the video file and then perform the same workflow: transforming the SCC file into searchable, viewable and useable data.

“A common and expensive error in closed captioning workflows is the risk of losing captioning data during the production process,” added Roux. “Editing can destroy the captioning information at file level and require the user to recapture or recreate the original material, which is time-consuming and costly.”

Retaining caption data during the production process is integral to the Dalet end-to-end workflow. As Dalet maintains the genealogy of all produced content, the Dalet MAM automatically associates the corresponding caption metadata from the various pieces of production content to the final package created by the NLE. The final new asset then inherits the captions of the original material.

Distribution is also managed by Dalet at CPAC. For linear playout, Dalet uses the metadata caption information or the SCC file with associated video to re-embed the captions in the media file within the ST436 data track. Options exist for managing the captioning separately as a side car file. Should there not be an SCC file, Dalet will automatically regenerate it based on the timed text metadata.

For distribution to VOD, Web or mobile platforms, the text will be rendered automatically into a TTML file, the most suitable web format. Weisz is delighted with the captioning system and said that with this automated system his team can now prepare a video file for broadcast and for all non-linear distribution complete with captioning information in both French and English languages. What’s more, he is confident that the metadata will be preserved as well.

Profiting From The Past

Restoring old films is not just a tribute to cinematic excellence; it is also a rewarding exercise Noted Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, once said that never having seen …


Restoring old films is not just a tribute to cinematic excellence; it is also a rewarding exercise

Noted Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, once said that never having seen a Satyajit Ray film is like never having seen the sun or the moon. Imagine what generations of Indians would have missed out on if the Apu Trilogy (comprising Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and Apur Sansar) had not risen from the ashes like the proverbial cinematic phoenix.

Not many know that a year after Ray’s demise, original negatives of some his movies were destroyed during a fire at London-based Henderson’s Film Laboratories. These included the original negatives of The Apu Trilogy. Whatever was retrieved was badly burnt or considered damaged beyond repair.

The Academy Film Archive at The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences entrusted the salvaged content to agencies like L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna and the Criterion Collection for restoration where technicians used their skills and the latest technologies of the time to repair it. This included rehydrating the film, scanning the prints, removing traces of adhesive, tape and wax, rebuilding sprocket perforations on the sides of the film–at times manually.


Since the infrastructure of public domain entities are not on par with international standards, indigenous filmmakers often resort to private restoration facilities, like Shemaroo Entertainment, or freelance artists.

Fortunately, Janus Films had preserved duplicate negatives of the movies. Using this and fine-grain masters, suitable replacements were found for the unusable or missing sections of the original negatives. Importance was given to uphold the look and character of the original material, at times even preferring to leave the damage untouched. Peter Becker, president of the Criterion Collection and partner at Janus Films, said, “This monumental restoration and national re-release is the culmination of seven years of work by dozens of people on three continents from the Academy Film Archive, the Cineteca di Bologna, and our own team at Criterion.” The Apu Trilogy was released across the US in 2015.

Another Bollywood classic that was recently restored was Guru Dutt’s 1957 film Pyaasa, which starred Mala Sinha, Waheeda Rehman, and the veteran director himself. A team of 45 experts from Mumbai-based production house Ultra Media and Entertainment restored the damaged movie, prints of which had even melted away in parts. The team laboured over two lakh frames for more than four months, digitally transferring the original camera negative to retain its original essence. Later, scratches, mildew, patches, dirt, etc, were manually removed from each frame and the audio was mastered and enhanced. The movie was re-released at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival to critical acclaim.
This might lead one to believe that film preservation and restoration is a serious endeavour in India. However, this is not the case.

HISTORY MATTERS
According to Jai Maroo, director of Shemaroo Entertainment, part of this indifference stems from the traditional mindset that Indian filmmakers have of concentrating more on a movie’s revenue upon its theatrical release. “A movie’s restoration and preservation, till recently, was considered to be a time-consuming and expensive affair, and storing the reels suitably was not their top priority. It was only after cable TV gained ground and terrestrial TV networks started launching channels airing classic movies that they realised that these films could be monetised,” he stated.


Over 45 experts from Ultra Media and Entertainment laboured over two lakh frames of Pyaasa for more than four months to restore the badly damaged movie.

Sonia Huria, head – communication and CSR at Viacom18, felt that the lack of skilled practitioners in this niche field was another reason for this apathy. “Film handling and care is not looked upon as a career option. By the time the National Film Archive of India was established, most of the silent films were lost. Film producers, after the commercial run of the film was over, used the footage to extract silver from the nitrate component. This was one of the major factors in losing precious film footage,” she stated.

Rajiv Shah, a business development consultant who represents MTI Film and Belgium’s Memnon Archiving Services in India, agreed with Maroos and Huria. He stated that it was only after 2004 that media companies realised the importance of film and video programming content. According to him this interest was spurred by two major reasons. The first was the availability of new digital technology platforms by which content could be digitally restored, repurposed, stored, and delivered globally where there is great demand for Indian cinema and video programming. Second, this became a good business model for media organisations to buy, restore, subtitle or dub, and sell to international broadcasters (where the demand for old movies was high amongst the diaspora) for one-time or multiple telecasts.

In contrast, the US and European markets took to film restoration and preservation more earnestly in the mid 90s with the advent of DVDs and the realisation that significant non-theatrical revenue was available, which encouraged studios to spend money on upgrading the quality of aging elements. A good example of this is Universal Pictures, which, as a part of its Centennial celebration, restored and remastered some of its popular classic films in 4K. This included Jaws, the 1975 Steven Spielberg thriller, where the original prints were scanned to remove scratches and the audio was enhanced.


The original prints of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws were scanned to remove scratches, the colour was corrected, and the audio was enhanced.

The Hollywood studio has announced that during the next three years, it would restore 15 silent film titles from Universal’s early years in collaboration with outside film historians, institutions, and preservationists.

Jim Hannafin, senior VP-business development at MTI Film, explained the rationale of these studios saying that media companies continue to evaluate the condition of their libraries and selectively choose which ones can capture incremental revenue for the investment in quality. “Since most or all of the ‘platinum’ titles have been restored in 4K, the decision to spend on second- and third-tier titles is generally market driven.”

CHALLENGES IN THE PROCESS
The biggest challenge in film restoration lies in the films not being stored or archived properly. Sometimes, the original prints even go missing. Huria pointed out that it is a common mistake to focus on just cinema. “News reels, TV shows, documentaries–all were initially shot on film and need to be restored and preserved.” Shah pointed out that till date India does not have a facility for nitrate film restoration to restore movies that are badly damaged and are chemically decomposed. Non-availability of skilled preservationists, archivists, and restoration experts and lack of good quality film scanners, restoration software, physical storage facilities, and high costs of digital storage are the other challenges.

“Till 2008, there were few service providers that offered film scanning and telecine facilities for archiving purposes. Those who did charged high prices. Hence, many content owners decided to sell their content to studios or invest in only commercially viable films. Digital asset management entered the Indian post-production market very late. The biggest challenge was to find out service providers who offered physical inspection, film cleaning, ultrasound, scanning, telecine, restoration, colour grading, HD mastering, storage in open file format, metadata tagging, cataloguing, and connecting content to the digital asset management platform,” Shah stated. He pointed out that that barring Prasad Studios, Prime Focus, and Crest Animation Studio, few fell in this category and while the Films Division of India created millions of newsreels, it lacked an integrated approach and, hence, most of its legacy content got damaged over the years.

Professor Alexander Petukhov, CTO of Algosoft Tech USA, added that the real technical challenge is getting a restored copy of everything one scans by fully automatic, reliable, and real-time processing. The technical challenge is creating the software that makes all this work simpler by clicking a single button rather than doing in manually.

“Massive film restoration cannot be commercial. The only chance is getting the support of governments and private philanthropists. While restoration of popular titles is commercially successful, massive restoration is mostly unprofitable. These kind of processes to date have only really been applied, at least at the highest quality levels, to commercial titles with the potential to earn back their restoration budget through video sales, broadcast rights, and online access. For 99 percent of what sits in archives, those kinds of budgets are impractical,” Petukhov stated.

According to Hannafin archiving is just as important and requires diligent and constant oversight and recordkeeping. “The archivist must deploy best practices to ensure that elements are kept in the best condition possible and are up to industry standards and migrate to the latest formats as required. Regarding India, it has a low cost labour pool and has done quality restoration work on many titles,” he said.

India lacks a good pool of preservation and restoration experts who can preserve, archive and restore movies. Shah, who has worked with most leading production houses involved in restoration projects–be it Pixion Studios, Prime Focus, Famous Studios, Prasad Studios–believes that the best impetus for this industry can be given by the government. “The National Films Development Corporation of India and the Films Division of India have created some infrastructure but it is not at par with international standards.” Hence, indigenous filmmakers either resort to private facilities, like Shemaroo Entertainment or Ultra Studio & Digital Labor, or freelance artists.

Huria noted that for restoration, while digital is of utmost importance, celluloid is still much more valuable. It has lasted for more than 120 years; so it will never lose importance. Digital as a technology keeps changing with time. “It is a misconception that a film needs a certain temperature or preservation techniques to stay good. Digital also employs similar techniques of preservation. In fact, in digital a lot of migration is required. You have to bring it back to film because that will last for years. If you shoot it on digital platforms, you have to keep changing the format as there is no set format,” she said.

THE FUTURE LIES IN THE PAST
When our favourite classical novel gets frayed after being thumbed through repeatedly, we can order a new copy since it can be reprinted. However, one can’t do the same for a classic movie or documentary from several decades ago because the master print is subject to aging and damage due to exposure to the elements. It, therefore, needs to be archived properly so that the image quality does not deteriorate, or the colours do not wash out, and ensure that no scratches or stains damage the film.

Media perseveration and restoration can help future generations enjoy our rich cinematic heritage and also make movies that are sometimes beyond repair look better than before. With so much at stake, it should be a mandate for every filmmaker and media company to ensure that their content not only gets significantly longer shelf time but also better monetisation so that it is showcased for many more years to come.

How To Love Your Dragon

Cinematographer Jitan Harmeet Singh reveals to Vinita Bhatia how he managed to get the stark and ominous look for 24’s Season 2 by effectively using RED Digital cameras

When cinematographer Jitan Harmeet Singh was mapping his budget for Season 2 of 24, and was given the option between selecting cameras and lighting, he decided to invest a bigger part of his fiscal resources on the former. “In fact, I told the producers that I specifically wanted to go with RED EPIC DRAGON and WEAPON cameras and would settle for a smaller lighting budget,” he stated.

His reason for this decision was simple. At the end of the day, every creative project is more about the camera and the man behind it. “If your camera is not good, you will not get the best results; even if you have the finest of lighting,” Singh explained. There was a reason he was particular about selecting RED Digital cameras when he could have opted for any other brand. Part of it was his familiarity with the brand, as he had been using RED since it was available in India. “I like the image quality it offers; the blacks on it are much richer than any other camera existing in the country. I can say this after testing it thoroughly against several other cameras,” Singh stated emphatically.

He also chose RED for the Indian version of the popular American TV series since these cameras offered him lot more flexibility. “I primarily used two cameras throughout the series, except for few action sequences where I used three cameras. Typically, you get only one lens kit when you use two cameras. So, if I am using one camera with 50mm lens and I want to use another camera with 50mm lens, then I am in a fix. But with RED Digital cameras, if you use one camera with 32mm lens and shoot in 4K, then the output is as good as that of a 50mm lens; which gives me a great deal of flexibility,” he clarified.
Another advantage of RED cameras was their small size. This, he claimed, made it easier for him to carry it around during the shoot since almost 90 percent of 24’s shots were done in handheld mode.

GETTING THE RIGHT LOOK
24 was not treated as a TV serial but like a feature film, which explains why Singh was roped in for the project – this was the first time he was shooting for the small screen. Having joined the crew in the second season, he realised that this edition would be darker and more brooding than the previous version. Now while international viewers were comfortable with black and grey images on TV, director Rensil D’Silva (who directed 11 episodes of the series) knew that the Indian audience wasn’t used to seeing series that had shadowy and strong images. His only brief to Singh was to use variations of light and shade, but within accepted darkness levels for Indian viewers.

Singh therefore decided to keep the contrast ratios slightly lower than what he would otherwise keep for a feature film, so that the output looked aesthetically similar to the international 24, but was still bright enough for the local audience. To achieve this, he used functional lights for daylight and indoors, since these are cheaper to hire and offer higher wattage. “I created a pretty simple lighting package with functional lights for a specific visual theme in each scene. I also discussed everything with my production designer in detail to get a specific look for 24 in advance,” Singh elaborated.
This included discussing creative aesthetics like makeup in advance to get the right look for the main characters. Luckily for him, his decision to go for the RED cameras helped him here as well.

“There is a special OLPF available called Skin Tone-Highlight OLPF, which I used in both cameras effectively and extensively. Secondly, I ensured that the entire makeup palette for the main cast was decided before we began the shoot. So, we decided to give a slightly bronze look for Jai Singh Rathore (Anil Kapoor) when he is with Roshan Sherchan (Ashish Vidyarthi) who has slightly darker skin tone, so that there is a distinct difference between the two,” Singh revealed. This attention to detail can be observed during the close-up shots when Sherchan and Rathore come face to face in the jail. A lot of sweat was also used on the actors’ skin because these scenes showed anxiety. “Similarly, for sequences that showed lot of action we showed little sheen on the characters’ skin, which these cameras captured very well,” Singh disclosed.

KNOWLEDGE MATTERS
24 sported a graphic look at many junctures and only a DOP with a technical bent of mind could make this work. Providentially, since Singh had worked with RED cameras for years he knew its technical aspects “like the back of my palm”. For 24, his shooting kit primarily comprised a RED EPIC DRAGON camera; a RED WEAPON camera, a Teradek 300 series wireless system, etc. And he ensured he calibrated both cameras in advance so that he was spared any surprises during, and post, the shoot.

“Having handled RED cameras for years, I know that these machines have a function that allows a DOP to set a particular temperature level at which the blacks will be 100% absolute. If you calibrate your camera to that level before shooting, the battery consumption goes down by 90% and the camera’s sound levels go down by 100%,” Singh noted.
This is a problem that most DOPs often complained about when Singh was assisting them during the initial days of his career. He would tell them that they needed to regulate their camera to a specific temperature at which they were operating and then they would not face any problem. “During the 24’s shoot, I did not face any problems with the RED cameras, though a couple of times the Teradek’s did overheat when we were shooting in hot areas as it functions at a distinct temperature range,” he added.

IMPROVISING THE WORKFLOW
A Whistling Woods alumnus who knew the technical characteristics of cinematography well, Singh decided to improve the post production workflow too and tested all the compression ratios available for RED Digital cameras. Explaining this, he said that basically these cameras have compression ratios ranging from 5 to 20. So, if one is shooting at a compression ratio of 5:1, the data transfer file size would be around 1GB per second (GBPS). After testing various compression ratios, he realised that he got the maximum image quality and the best compression at 15:1 ratio.

But why was this experimentation needed at all? “If your ratio is 15:1, the file size will become 200GBPS. If I am shooting at 5:1, I would transfer 10 TB data weekly. Our post production house, FutureWorks, said that for 200 days of shoot that is a lot of data for them to handle. After all, with data increasingly becoming a cost factor, we now have to use it as a resource,” Singh elucidated.

When asked about his favourite scene from the series, Singh said it was the one where the second virus deal is transacted. To get the right ominous ambience for it, flaming torches were lit all over the set and the only other ambient light came from some moonlight. This was the first time he used the RED WEAPON camera in 24 and he immediately fell in love with it because of the smoothness and image blackness it presented.

“People say that there is no difference between the RED WEAPON and other cameras because the sensors are the same. But since the processor that makes the image and its algorithm is different, its output is much superior from what you get from other cameras. When I graded this sequence, it gave me almost a stop and half more latitude than I got from the EPIC DRAGON. That is a lot, because EPIC DRAGON itself has around 14 stops and WEAPON gave me another stop!” Singh explained.
Today, when he looks at 24, Singh derives a sense of satisfaction because the TV series has turned out exactly the way he had envisaged it. “I had a very clear idea about the show and each frame in each episode is reflective of my aesthetic feel and the director’s vision,” he expressed contentedly.