Volumetric capture can record footage of a real person from various viewpoints, after which software analyzes, compresses, and recreates all the viewpoints of a fully volumetric 3D human, says Ravi Velhal
Developers and content creators use Intel hardware and software technologies to capture and process immersive digital assets for video games, virtual and augmented reality, holograms, film and other rapidly growing markets. Forecasters expect the volumetric video market to grow from $578 million in 2018 to nearly $2.8 billion by 20231. Read on to learn how Intel engages with film studios and innovative developers to bring volumetric video experiences to life.
TechCrunch explains that volumetric capture can record footage of a real person from various viewpoints, “after which software analyzes, compresses, and recreates all the viewpoints of a fully volumetric 3D human.” It can be described as “depth to point cloud from capture” or creating a point-cloud from frames. Volumetric video plays it back into video format.
Developers and content creators around the world see growing opportunities with this technology. Markets include architectural design, public safety, retail point-of-sale, gaming, mass-media entertainment, and many other exciting application areas.
Storytelling Meets Technology
At Cannes film festival Ravi’s keynote and panel session highlighted the power of production technologies to create multisensory immersive cinema experiences and Hollywood volumetric cinema productions. In the era of next-generation immersive cinema, storytelling and technology combine in a data-powered entertainment landscape.
Audiences respond strongly to the power of immersive cinema storytelling. You can see, hear, feel, experience and even smell that in the multisensory Intel collaboration, prelude to LeMusk by A.R. Rahman (double Oscar winner musician, composer, well-known for his hit film Slumdog Millionaire).Intel also collaborates on a growing number of exciting Hollywood productions, including SpiderMan: Homecoming VRE, Save Every Breath: Dunkirk VRE by Warner Bros., First Man: VRE by Universal Pictures, and SpiderMan: Far From Home multiplayer VRE over 5G at MWC 2019 and the summer blockbuster, SpiderMan: Far from Home VRE by Sony Pictures.
Intel Studios and “Grease” at 40
A key milestone in the transformation of Hollywood was on January 8, 2018. That day, Variety reported on the opening of Intel Studios, a dedicated volumetric video capture facility. The story summed everything up nicely by saying, “Intel wants to help Hollywood embrace the next generation of immersive media … essentially producing high-end holographic content…”
Intel Studios’ general manager Diego Prilusky and Randal Kleiser, the director of the 1978 iconic movie “Grease,” revealed at CES 2019 an exploratory, immersive teaser celebrating the film’s 40th anniversary. Growing up with Song and dance Bollywood influence , Ravi initiated Grease project with Randal Kleiser and Paramount Pictures. A little more than a year later, at the Cannes Film Festival/CannesXR 2019 event, Intel and Paramount Pictures released the five trillion pixel, full-volumetric experience based on a re-creation of the iconic song “You’re the One That I Want” for PCs and AR devices.
Advancing Data-Driven Storytelling with Sony Pictures Entertainment
In June 2018, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) launched Sony Innovation Studios in collaboration with Intel, Dell, and Deloitte Digital. Housed in a 7,000 square-foot sound stage on the Sony Pictures Studio lot in Culver City, Calif., the space features the latest in research and development in areas including volumetric video and customizable set scanning. Sony Innovation Studios works with engineers throughout Sony Corporation and pursues business development opportunities in motion pictures, television, music and gaming. Intel has teamed up with Sony Pictures to help expand the applications of Sony Innovation Studios beyond entertainment to other market segments. With Sony Innovation Studios, enterprises can leverage emerging technology to visualize real business solutions and solve problems within their industries.
Most recently, Intel teamed up Sony Pictures Virtual Reality to bring the Spider-Man™: Far From Home Virtual Reality Experience. This experience gives players the chance to select their favorite Spider-Man suit, and, for the first time, swing high above New York City. The short VR gaming experience was developed by CreateVR using Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. In addition to the VR experience, Intel worked with Sony Innovation Studios to capture Tony Stark’s jet with volumetric technology using a point cloud system and processed using Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Watch the Behind the Screens video about the making of the VR experience and a sneak peek into Tony Stark’s volumetric scanned jet.
Humanizing the Digital World
As glamorous as our work with Hollywood studios and world-famous directors may sound, some of the greatest value comes from developers and technology innovators like Underminer Studios.
Underminer’s Volumation product uses cost-effective technology to capture, optimize, and perform post-production clean-up in one process, without a green screen. It can increase realism and immersion and lower the barriers of accessibility and cost for 3D images of real humans or objects in motion.
Volumation was introduced at SIGGRAPH 2018 by Alex Porter, CEO of Underminer Studios. She described the opportunity for real world assets, objects, and people to be put into digital formats, as “humanizing the digital world.”
After a few initial designs, the rig for the Volumation demo at SIGGRAPH included 26 Grove* UP* boards and 128 cameras. Technologies used included Intel® NUC™ PCs, HTC* Vive* VR, Intel® Optane™ memory/storage, Google* ARCore* AR, Unity* real-time 3D, Intel® networking, Intel® Graphics Performance Analyzers (Intel® GPA), and of course, it all ran on Intel® CPUs.
Capture the Opportunity
Intel works with leading companies to ensure the creative software you rely on performs at its best, so you can get through production work faster and have more time to develop your next great idea. Get practical ideas on ways to adopt immersive technology for a range of markets at the Intel® Developer Zone/VR.
Ravindra aka Ravi Velhal leads Digital Media Standards, Technologies and Immersive Cinema programs globally at Intel.
As a Cinema Virtual Reality Experience (VRE) pioneer, he co-produced Le Musk multi-sensory VR by A.R. Rahman, Save Every Breathe: Dunkirk VRE with Warner Bros, FIRST MAN: VRE with Universal Pictures and RYOT, directed Rio Carnival 2018 VRE with GloboTV, collaborated with Sony Pictures on SpiderMan: Home Coming VRE which was nominated for prestigious Emmy, and he recently launched Innovation Studios with Sony Pictures. At Mobile World Congress in Feb 2019, he collaborated with Sony Pictures to launch SpiderMan: Far From Home, the world’s first multiplayer VRE gaming experience over 5G. His focus is to drive future immersive cinema, including future media formats. Ravi is recipient of Hollywood’s prestigious Lumiere award, Infinity Film Festival of Beverly Hills Audience Choice Award. Ravi holds several global patents, and he has served as a director on the AIS/VR Society board, and an advisor to film and trade organizations, globally.
The Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes announces the launch of Cannes XR, a program fully dedicated to immersive technologies and entertainment in the very heart of the Palais des Festivals. From May 14-19, Cannes XR will bring together artists, producers, investors, programmers, and tech leaders, offering a multitude of networking, financing and distribution opportunities.
Dedicated to the XR entertainment industry, Cannes XR aims to be a community-based marketplace oriented towards B2B networking, and to serve as a structuring point for the XR ecosystem on an international scale. Cannes XR is also a major showcase, gathering and shining the light on hundreds of XR experiences curated by the best XR International Studios. Industry Leaders (SDKs, LBEs) will be invited to spread knowledge through a series of summits and talks. XR Artists and Producers will be given the opportunity to promote and, potentially, finance immersive works in progress through pitch sessions, as well as present their works to festival programmers and distributors by registering in a dedicated Library. Cannes XR will boast an 80 seat conference room, a VIP Showcase Lounge to present new projects, a VR Arcade with 10 VR pods offering more than 200 films, and a dozen booths for XR tech companies – in total, Cannes XR will cover 1000 sqm.
“Cannes has been a pioneer in placing VR at the forefront within the film community with the creation of Next five years ago at the Marché du Film and the acclaimed presentation of Iñarritu’s Carne y Arena in the Official Selection in 2017 which was awarded by the Academy just after Cannes”, shared Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate of the Festival de Cannes. “With the creation of Cannes XR, the Festival is pursuing its efforts to foster all cinematographic art forms as it engages new audiences and draws different professionals in the Riviera”
Within this new context, the Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes and SpringboardVR have decided to partner up to offer selected XR studios the exclusive opportunity to distribute their XR works to global audiences. A dedicated Cannes XR channel, which gathers immersive works collected from 500 amongst the best XR studios across the globe, will be pushed and monetized through a network of 500 LBEs via SpringboardVR’s marketplace.
“We’re very excited about taking this game-changing step for VR in Cannes with SpringboardVR”, said Jérôme Paillard, Executive Director of the Marché du Film. “SpringboardVR will give Cannes XR the opportunity to travel beyond the Riviera and reach audiences worldwide as never before.”
Elie Levasseur, Cannes XR Program Leader, added: “Obviously, the Entertainment XR industry will need to conquer the general public at some point to pursue its development. Therefore, Cannes XR is committed to using its international notoriety to bring immersive narratives to moviegoers around the world and make the XR ecosystem grow.”
“SpringboardVR is honored to connect these creators with audiences outside the Festival through its industry-leading platform for location-based entertainment,” said Will Stackable, Co-Founder, SpringboardVR. “With our network extending to 46 countries, 500+ locations and over 4 million playtime minutes a month, this kind of immersive storytelling is a perfect complement to our portfolio of curated interactive experiences.”
During an extended Festival window, 100% of the revenue generated on SpringboardVR will go to the XR Studios. With this operation, Cannes XR and SpringboardVR wish to join the list of Festivals that actively support XR creation by adopting a unique approach: revealing the richness and diversity of XR works at a larger scale, not only to festival goers but also to global audiences.
Cannes XR is open to industry professionals accredited at the Marché du Film and the Festival de Cannes.
The wide level of internet penetration plays a huge role in the advent of Digital media. Easy access to the network makes it possible for the people to access the digital media anytime and anywhere, says Kandaswamy Bharathan, Joint Managing Director, Kavithalayaa. Kavithalayaa is at MIPCOM with its Digital series ‘Harmony with AR Rahman’
The Internet is the greatest thing that ever happened to the entertainment industry –Michael Ovitz.
India has always been the home for media content. There has been a steady increase of 11-12 per cent every year in the number of people turning towards Digital Media. The advent of Digital India Initiative in the year 2014 has played a pivotal role in the growth of internet penetration. With almost over 477 million internet subscribers and over 300 million smartphone users in India (according to an EY study 2018), Digital Media is getting the necessary traction. This has enabled platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc. to make their foray to get their slice of entertainment and business. ‘Binge watching’ web series became a house-hold habit. With the TV programs now being aired on digital platforms and applications, statistics shows that the number of people using their mobile to watch these shows are almost equal to that of the ones watching in television.
Social media is playing a huge part in propagating Digital Media. The Digital India initiative is noteworthy due to the ‘word-of-mouth’ culture that’s prevailing among the youth centric crowd which dominates the social media. The wide level of internet penetration also plays a huge role in the advent of Digital media. Easy access to the network makes it possible for the people to access the digital media anytime and anywhere.
India is not only known for movies and fictional content. We have noteworthy documentaries and non-fictional shows as well. Kavithalayaa is a 37-year-old production house, founded by the maverick story teller K Balachander, with 58 films under its production belt, and over 110+ serials to its name, has stepped into the Digital OTT platform with its very first non-fiction digital series ‘Harmony-with AR Rahman’, which is streaming globally and exclusively on Amazon Prime Video from August 15, 2018.
‘Harmony with AR Rahman’ is a curated musical and a visual exploration of the versatility of Indian music across years, transcending all barriers. Epitomizing the idea that “Sounds are many but Music is one”, this series is a true celebration of music with Mr Rahman bringing about the mind, body and soul in harmony with themselves and with Mother Nature.
The five-part digital series which was aired this year on Amazon Prime, has Rahman travelling across the country in real-time to meet the musicians in their very own dwellings and experience their traditional art forms. As the series unfolds the lives of the musicians, their day-today practices, performances and teaching of their craft to students, their stories of struggle and the challenges that come along, the audience will get to understand what it means to keep such a rich musical heritage and tradition alive in the 21st century. With viewers from India, USA and UK, this series has a rating of 9.5 in IMDb.
Indian content with international appeal has achieved a wide reach and a discerning global audience that has grown steadily. With an internet savvy audience and one of the youngest populations of the world (65% of India’s population are under the age of 45), the need for selecting the appropriate content has never been more critical. The OTT players in India sign up deals with both the television companies and digital platforms where the content either gets released on TV or the digital platforms first and then made available in the latter. They have to be on the constant lookout for fresh, differentiated and engaging content. The EY study forecast says that by 2020 the number of online consumers in India is expected to cross 4 million. So, the time for Indian content creators has finally arrived!
Content has evolved from being made for television in a linear form to an age where it is now made for a screen with a mode of delivery in mind, says Dinesh Gupta, Founder & MD of Sacom Mediaworks. Meet Dinesh at MIPCOM Stand No. P-1.B2
2008: A family of 5 gets in front of a television screen in their living room to get their daily dose of entertainment and family time.
2018: There are 3 television screens in the same home with every member owning a 4G enabled touch screen mobile device, each consuming content of their choice, either on a television screen which is delivered via cable, direct to home or internet, or on their handheld devices.
They choose to stream content on their personal device or simply mirror it from their devices on their television sets. This metamorphosis has made the transformation of M&E business a constant phenomenon, from content to viewers, platforms, modes of delivery and last mile devices that consumers consume on, all have evolved. While this ecosystem is now more well defined than it has ever been, evolution seems like the single biggest reality that will consistently continue to keep redefining the content business.
Content has evolved from being made for television in a linear form to an age where it is now made for a screen with a mode of delivery in mind. Appointment viewing pattern has drastically reduced to a point that it is now limited to daily soaps, news to some extent, with a large part of it being dominated by the live sports broadcasting globally. A viewer now finds content of his choice, on a screen of his choice at a time of his choice. Netflix introduced the binge-watching concept for high quality content, redefining how content can be consumed and invested heavily in making this simple yet path breaking pattern a way of life for its users. Different users of the same family can now use the same Netflix account in a way that they consume content of their own choice, yet find a personalized user experience based on their consumption patterns.
So, each of them have a different world of their own on the same platform. Netflix was ingenuous as it was the perfect marriage of content strategy and technology – a simple reimagining of the existing status quo that we inherited from appointment viewing based broadcast.
This metamorphosis has also brought an amazing pattern, where every form of delivery platform has found its own distinct viewer, while the consumer has now become content loyal and platform agnostic. There is a very clear distinction between the free and the paid user, between a Free TV and a Pay TV user, an AVOD on OTT, YouTube & SVOD user. Choice has not only spoilt the consumer but has also given them a much clearer sense on where they belong, even though this maybe dynamic. Mechanics on what to serve the consumer, where and how to find him are very well defined now. The quest for platforms to stay competitive is creating consolidation and new strategies that can help them drive growth.
Over the top platforms have a very deep learning of their consumers, trends and patterns that are driven by data analytics and machine learning. They are also able to deliver unparalleled user experience thanks to a variety of algorithms and AI driven recommendation engines.
Localisation has further been a vital tool for platforms to help improve content consumption. Platforms and devices are constantly working to improve user experience based on what a consumer really wants and adapting to technological innovations that can aid this. This helps digital platforms understand, predict and plan on how they can retain a consumer and bring new users into the fold. The media industry, in its latest avatar, has created a need that consumers previously, perhaps, were unaware of – choice. And this need of choice, quite ironically, has reduced his affinity to any particular brand or platform of content delivery.
But over the air broadcasting can’t be dismissed outright. Yet. Television viewing patterns have drastically changed and evolved and so has its audience. Platforms have worked hard to keep pace to stay relevant in these challenging times. No denying that media fragmentation and personalization has taken a lot away from the TV business, though they have worked to keep their content relevant by subscribing to catch up tv and over the top products addressing the same consumer and bringing back the lost consumer, as they find new ones in a bid to build newer sources of revenue growth.
Most developing and under developed countries witness sizeable amount of content consumption on television, which ends up as their primary medium of choice with reasonable growth driven by good content and innovations.
Metrics on how the TV business can deliver customization and a better user experience have been limited, though TV constantly works to add newer technologies, evaluate viewership patterns in deeper detail to plan an apt content strategy while maintaining the balance between subscription and advertising revenues. Media fragmentation, depleting subscription and advertising revenues have brought better cost controls and innovative methods for television networks to maintain viewership.
Mobile network operators now take a very keen interest in the M&E business. They view the content business as their single biggest tool to grow their data consumption and improve their ARPUs. With the world moving to 1 Gigabyte per second speed on broadband and 5G mobile networks, the single biggest business to be impacted by this change is be the M&E business content is consumed. This dynamic has also led to some of the leading global telecom giants like AT&T, Vodafone & Jio to invest in buying or partnering with television networks. This pattern is likely to stay and will provide the television business with the push it needs to survive and grow.
Mobile network operators will continue to evolve the world of television and content in the near future. The mode of distribution has changed and will consistently continue to change in the future. Content production and distribution are getting integrated. Content creators are increasingly investing in high end premium slates that are redefining rules of the game. High speed internet connectivity, access, high quality content, better devices at all price points, personalization and mobile network operators entering the M&E business are key drivers of today’s content ecosystem. All these are today’s truths that will become tomorrow’s history. The only absolute truth is that content business will be in a continuous state of evolution. And to stay topical we need to stay fluid – as organizations and as individuals. And that isn’t a choice; it simply is a necessity.
(Dinesh is the Founder & MD of Sacom Mediaworks, a content company that works to create, distribute and monetize content that reaches over 80 countries globally across Television, OTT & Telco platforms. Sacom owns 12 content IPs in 20 languages ranging from Health & Wellness, Food, Travel, Sports, Bollywood, Kollywood, Hollywood & women’s content. Sacom also has a proven track record of producing & distributing content for global markets, it has successfully distributed over 5,000 hours of content to 40+ platforms in 5 continents and 15 languages. Dinesh also co-founded TripFactory.com. Dinesh is at MIPCOM and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Side Hero with Rohan Sippy: Featuring Kunaal Roy Kapur as a fictionalised version of himself – the less successful younger brother of a hotshot Bollywood producer and star – this comedy-drama follows Kunaal trying to land a leading role in a bid to prove that his profession of acting is not just a ‘hobby.’ (Target release September 2018)
Smoke: An unflinching look at the politics within the drug mafia that resides in the intoxicant riddled underbelly of its tropical paradise, Goa. Smoke is led by an all-star cast including Jim Sarbh, Gulshan Devaiah, Kalki Koechlin, Mandira Bedi and Tom Alter amongst others. (Target release October 2018)
Dashavatar with Anirudh Pathak: When mankind became corrupt and greedy, Lord Vishnu, the protector of the realms, incarnated to vanquish evil and save the world. Dashavatar tells this fascinating story of Vishnu’s reincarnations. (Target release December 2018/January 2019)
Ponniyin Selvan with Krish Jagarlamudi: A multi-seasonal, multi-lingual show based on the famous Tamil novel. Written in five volumes, Ponniyin Selvan narrates the story of Arulmozhivarman – later crowned as Rajaraja Chola I – one of the emperors of the Chola Dynasty, during the 10th and 11th centuries. (Target release March 2019)
Flesh with Siddharth Anand: An eight-year-old girl goes missing and her NRI parents are forced to seek the help of a suspended female cop in their search for her. An ex-human trafficker is blackmailed to join the search or else risk his sinful past catching with him. (Target release March 2019)
Mrityulok with Zeishan Qadri: A story that shows a mirror to the ruthless, selfish face of the society and how we all are culprits in a system that offers no incentive to “be good”. (Target release March 2019)
Bhumi with Pavan Kripilani: A survival thriller set in a dystopian version of Delhi which begs the question, how far is our reality from this supposedly fictional dystopia? (Target Release April 2019)
Crisis with Nikhil Advani and Gaurav Chawla: On his 50th birthday, Dr Gopichand Wadhwani – one of India’s top cardiologists – decides to follow his childhood dream and become a rapper. Crisis is a story of two generations coming together to help each other get from life what they want. (Target Release May 2019)
Sanyasi Raja with Prakash Jha: A fictional depiction of the infamous Bhawal case of West Bengal, in which a possible imposter claimed to be the prince of Bhawal, who was at that point presumed dead for over a decade. (Target Release June 2019)
Kurukshetra: The tribals thought they were Gods. The army thought they were militants. What they turn out to be, are five children with ‘superpowers’ emerging from a genetic mutation. And with destinies that, almost uncannily, resemble the trajectory of the Mahabharata. (Target release TBD)
Blue Oak Academy: A teen-drama thriller that follows one young boy’s quest to exact revenge with the most prestigious academic institution of the nation. (Target release June 2019)
Great content is a result of skilled writing, direction and production. We believe in bringing stories that stay with our viewers for a longer time, says Ridhima Lulla, Chief Content Officer, Eros International.
As Chief Content Officer of Eros Group, how do you see the changing patterns of content consumption in India?
It is a great time for content currently in India. The ecosystem and the way we consume content is evolving. From 3-hour long films to 5-mins short snackable content, the co-existence of all formats is a reflection of the varied demands of the viewers. The platforms and genres have expanded as well as the audience base. More and more people are joining the digital wave to experience entertainment at their convenience. We, at Eros, believe in catering to this ever-changing pulse and by bringing the best of content to as many people as possible.
From the Eros film studio perspective, what are some of the films currently in pipeline? Two Eros International films are part of the official selections in Toronto and Venice…
Our film vertical has been rewarding this year. We released 14 films in the first quarter and the revenues were driven during the quarter with the releases ranging across regional languages like Hindi, Marathi and Bengali. We recently released Telugu film Saakshayam. Eros International has a comprehensive slate of forthcoming releases across genres and languages. Colour Yellow Productions’ Happy Phirr Bhaag Jayegi and Manmarziyaan are two releases that we are looking forward to in this quarter with Manmarziyaan enjoying a world premiere here at TIFF along with a Marathi and Malayalam release.
The next quarter will be exciting as well. Our ambitious project Tumbbad releasing in October, in association will Aanand L Rai, will be the first Indian film ever to open at the Venice Film Festival in the Critics Category.
We have various forms of content for consumption – theatres, TV, web-series, shorts for mobile, documentaries. Eros has been working with writers in recent years. Elaborate?
Great content is a result of skilled writing, direction and production. We believe in bringing stories that stay with our viewers for a longer time. Our content brings a dynamic blend of stories by some of the most celebrated writers as well as upcoming talent in the industry. Our recently announced joint-venture with veteran writer V Vijayendra Prasad is a step forward in collaborating with writers who are known for their stories and characters. Under this JV, we will jointly develop scripts, greenlight projects, produce & distribute films and web-series across Hindi, Telugu and Tamil languages.
Adaptation from best sellers are a current trend. Is Eros working on bringing books to screens?
Mythology, as a genre, is immensely popular in India. We have acquired the rights to adapt Indian author Ashwin Sanghi’s best-selling anthropological thriller ‘The Krishna Key’. We are looking at exploring theatrical as well as web originals with the written material, considering that there is a huge appetite for such content in both the formats. Apart from this, we are always searching for old or new written material, which we think could translate beautifully on screen. We are in the process of announcing some path-breaking acquisitions this year, and you will soon see Eros bringing some of the most popular stories to screen.
How do you see the potential for Indian films in China?
The audience in China is extremely receptive of Indian film content. Even though there are limitations in the number of foreign films being released, lately Indian films have performed exceptionally well. Of course, content is the key when you want to familiarise international audience with Indian films. This is one of the reasons why our film Bajrangi Bhaijaan worked well with the audience in China as the story has a universal connect. Also, we are collaborating with Kabir Khan once again for a travel drama with the working title – The Zookeeper, this would be the first of many films releasing from our portfolio.
For those interested in mathematics, there is a method of solving equations which involves the introduction of an external character often represented by the Greek letter Lamda. It helps solve the equation, in fact the equation cannot be solved without it. But once solved it can be removed. The solution stays. I will come back to Lamda later in this piece.
OTT is the new field for TV drama and independent film making. It has changed everything, scripts, budgets, quality of art, even the list of senior crew and actors prepared to work on the smaller formats.
The Ad break was the bane of home viewing. As an audience, we had come to believe that our pleasure and concentration was at the mercy of soap, shampoo, sweet black liquids, the list is endless. OTT removed the AD break.
The other possibly bigger bane of home viewing was the belief that while all human beings are born equal, (which is true), therefore they must consume entertainment identically, in fixed doses and at fixed times. This, even though their consumption patterns of food clothing, other necessities and luxuries was in their control their viewing pleasure was in the control of the GECs.
For me, there is a third bane. I must watch my favorite film accompanied by a poison decided by the cinema. Nope! No hope of a cocktail or glass of wine.
Netflix and Amazon changed that. All theories about consumption patterns, attention spans, viewing habits et al were thrown out of the window. What was additionally thrown out was the belief that just because you are watching it at home and on a smaller screen, the quality need not match up to the expectations of the cinema experience.
And, to be honest, what is cinema experience? In India the exhibitors treat independent cinema like they treat lepers. They give the small independents small screens and at the most inconvenient times. If you want to see an independent film it will necessarily be at the cinema’s convenience, not yours.
All that is changing. I have viewed more and better drama in the last two years than I have viewed in the last 20. Never a fan of ad breaks, I never saw films on TV and my lifestyle rarely permitted me to plan a film outing unless it was really “one of those big ones”. Today I look forward to my post dinner two (maybe three) hours of viewing across a range of content. Addictive web-series and films I couldn’t see. All accompanied by my choice of poison.
Also, what the OTTs have created is a giant online super store. The store has everything akin to a real superstore. Laid out for you specially. Popular offerings in the front, shelves full of normal fare and dead stock at the dusty back, but it is all there in case you want it and it’s there at the press of a button.
So, what does all this have to do with independent film? Is this not just enhanced TV? My belief is that it is not. Drama is drama, which is not to be confused with “Spectacle”. And the drama watching experience is not really reduced when consumed at home. “Going to the Pictures” is largely reserved for spectacle. Definitely true of India. If it has a star, if it has mythology, if it is BIG, see it in a cinema. That’s what Indian audiences are doing.
Now back to my Lamda theory
OTT has raised the bar for the viewer and everyone has to stretch up to it. And it has raised the bar for all viewers, so even the ”made for screen” independents have to deliver to higher expectations. India is gearing up to delivering quality. Sacred Games is not quite “Fauda” but it well ahead of anything that Indian TV has ever shown.
Even the so called “Spectacles” have to deliver a higher quality or writing and performance. It has changed completely the quality of writing, direction, photography and, consequently, the amount spent on production.
Now take away Lamda. Fortunately, while Netflix and Amazon have set the bar, they aren’t really relevant to India. Their numbers are sub one million in a 1.3 billion population. The real play will be amongst Hotstar, Sony Liv, Zee5 and the many new entrants. They will reinvent the product for the larger Indian audience.
Let us look at the challenges ahead. Technically we are fine. Creatively we have a bridge to cross. Indian Cinema has defined, even invented its own world. Our characters do not exist. They are larger than life. No one behaves, speaks, looks, dresses, walks or even lives like them. They are written as “invented” characters and our actors deliver them as written.
Scripted drama is different. Writers have to write real characters and situations and actors have to perform them as written. Directors have to understand the real world. All three classes of talent have to reorient themselves, even reinvent themselves. It can be done and hopefully will be done. Sacred Games was a step in the right direction.
This is going to be a new era for independent cinema – different, no doubt, but better and at a larger scale. It will create opportunities for talent that have so far been ignored.
Eros Now, the digital arm of Eros International Plc, is shifting gears to transform itself into India’s leading OTT player with a big presence in global markets. At the last count, as of June 2018, Eros Now has garnered 10.1 million worldwide paid subscribers and 113 million registered users across the mobile app, WAP and Web platforms.
Eros International, which has been in the business for four decades, has the richest Indian content libraries (over 11,000 films), and is taking a deep dive into creating “Originals” for its Eros Digital Platform. Led by RishikaLulla Singh, Eros Now has created a new digital ecosystem for content consumption in India.
“For over four decades Eros has been entertaining consumers with compelling content, both within India and abroad. With Eros Now serving as a leading OTT film content player, we are well positioned to dominate the global entertainment market by meeting the needs of users worldwide that are hungry for fresh ‘Originals’ and regional content. There is also going to be a consistent and strategic focus on the technology layer of this OTT brand. Besides, we have a prolific in-house technology teamand we are also slated to launch a coupleof industry first products in the next couple quarters,” says Rishika.
Eros Now is focused on bringing “all round entertainment” to consumers. As a part of this plan, one can expect to see the addition of new genres in Eros Now, like tie-ups to use existing famous characters; a broader focus on sports – similar to the company’s recent alliance with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in IPL 2018 and other opportunities to fulfil the ever-growing entertainment appetite of global consumers.
“The collaboration with RCB was a part of the company’s endeavour to build a truly digital video brand with Indian users and provide the best of entertainment the country has to offer. Our wide reach across leading worldwide brands, such as LG, Roku, Vodafone, Paytm, Gold’s Gym and many more have enabled us to reach this scale. We have existing partnership with brands across sectors like banks, lifestyle, FMCG etc,” Rishika adds.
India is seeing a surge in demand for broadband data, which is fuelling growth in the number of wireline broadband subscribers in India. BhartiAirtel, India’s largest telco, has more than two million broadband (DSL) customers today and is seeing a 5.5% year-on-year growth in its broadband customers.
The entry of Reliance JioInfocomm into the segment with its JioGigaFiber technology is set to further reduce broadband rates across the country, fuelling competition and further growth in subscriber base.
Speaking on how Eros Now is working with various telecom players and cable distribution channels to get more subscribers, the Eros Now CEO says: “Our dual strategy of direct-to-consumer offerings and distributing Eros Now through leading apps across telecom operators and OEMs continues to drive our exponential growth. Whether it’s a Jio product, Airtel or Vodafone, we’ve got fairly exhaustive relationships with the telcos in terms of having the Eros Now app available. We do a lot of BTL marketing with them. There are a lot of insights in viewership patterns that we’ve learnt from the large pole of the telco customers.”
Earlier this year, Eros Now renewed its platform integration partnership worth $250 million with Reliance Jio to enable Jio users access Eros Now content on their phones. The content would include full length movies, thematic curated playlists and functions such as multi-language subtitles for movies, music video playlists, regional language filters, video progression among other things.
Eros Now already has a strong hold on regional content. “With a population of over 1.3 billion, India has as many as 23 languages spoken across the country. In India and the Indian diaspora abroad, Indians have a huge appetite for entertainment and the demand for content in multiple languages is only growing,” says Rishika.
Hindi and regional films available on OTT platforms in India comprise 93% of the total division while only 7% are foreign language films. Out of the 93% of films, around 60% of films are in Hindi and the remaining portion comprises of films from various other regional languages.
“Eros Now has the largest market share of premium Indian OTT film content with over 70% of market share with digital rights to over 11,000 films, of which approximately 5,000 are owned in perpetuity. Our most active customers on Eros Now complete watching a film in two sessions and we are now the ‘most social OTT/entertainment brand in India’. Our library comprises content across 9 different languages. In fiscal 2018, the company’s slate of 24 films comprised 14 Hindi films, 1 Tamil/Telugu films and 9 regional films,” the Eros Now CE0 adds.
However, with the entry of global players like Amazon and Netflix who are willing to invest in localised content for India. Eros Now has a tough task at hand.
Rishika believes that since Eros Now has been in the movie business for long, they have understood content consumption patterns and the pulse of the Indian consumer. “We’re able to take that learning and build a customer brand ourselves. While nobody views it differently, we’re looking at technology to play a key role here. Our USP is film and entertainment and that is where we sit strongest in terms of our library volume. We have 11,000+ plus films on our platform which is about 60% to 70% market share,” she says.
Besides relying on its vast library, Eros Now also has other plans in place. Recently, it was announced that Eros International would invest $50 million on creating original shows, with 10 originals going live 2018, starting from second quarter.
“We recently launched our first worldwide direct-to-digital original film, MeriNimmo, in association with acclaimed director Aanand L Rai, to positive critical reception. From March 2017 to June 27, 2018, Eros Now had 33 exclusive digital premieres on the platform including Munna Michael, Mukkabaaz, BaarBaarDekho, Sarkar 3, amongst others. We also launched a short film named Toffee which was directed by TahiraKashyap and 25 August, directed by GautamParvi, starring RajatKapoor, ArjunMathur, Sayani Gupta, GauriBalaji,” informs Rishika.
Over the next year, Eros Now is planning to launch a slate of over 50 premieres planed for FY ’19 over Eros Now which will comprise feature films, made-for-digital original films and original episodic programs, all of which will be available exclusively on Eros Now to its paying subscribers.
“Three original series – Flip, Smoke and Side Hero, will be launched at the end of September 2018. We have built an in-house team of writers and are using advance technologies that offer a world-class consumer experience, along with exclusive and compelling content. We plan to launch high quality and versatile content; all our originals are given treatment like of a film. Our cinematic DNA of producing content to scale will continue to reflect in our original web series as well. This is going to a very exciting year, wait and watch,” says Rishika.
She believes that the millennial audience is drastically underserved, and more so the youth across Tier 2, 3 markets in the country which have limited to no exposure to qualitative entertainment that is relevant to them.
“On a side note our larger strategy is to stay at the top of the funnel with our peak programming and ensure we drive more reach and time spent. We will identify and develop that content consistency leading to a creating that viewer habit,” she says.
At a time when viewer attention span is diminishing and audiences are spoilt for choice, Eros Now makes it a point to analyse market trends regularly.
“We compile a lot of data, to test the potential of our content and how other shows are performing. Data is an intrinsic part of the decision making and we feed the meta (data) of our existing content and learn from viewership and time spent on our existing programming across our product. What we can do better, what our competitors have done well- we are constantly reviewing all of it. Our slate will release very soon, so that’s another process yet to begin,” the Eros Now CEO says.
Binge watching is highly beneficial to streaming platforms as it showcases significant affinity to the programming and highest time spent per user. But the challenge for OTT services is to deliver hit after hit to then deliver that kind of time spent.
“Eros Now is well positioned here with the large and popular movies being able to drive more organic viewer base to the platform than any other content type and our Originals and Originals Episodic Content being able to deliver that content consistency,” says Rishika.
The number of SVoD subscriptions in the US will climb from 132 million in 2017 to 208 million in 2023.
A latest Digital TV Research report estimates that 73.5% of TV households in the US, some 88.5 million homes, will subscribe to at least one SVOD platform by 2023 – up from 55% of TV homes at the end of 2017.
The report predicts that the average US subscription video-on-demand household will pay for 2.35 SVOD platforms by 2023, compared to 2.03 on average at the end of 2017.
Netflix is tipped to hold the top spot in terms of popularity with 67.3 million US subscribers in 2023, up from 52.8 million in 2017.
Amazon is expected to follow with 60.6 million subscribers (up from 45.0 million in 2017), then Hulu with 28.1 million (up from 16.5 million) and HBO Now with 7.9 million (up from 4.1 million).
“Our SVoD forecasts include homes watching Amazon Prime Video as part of their Amazon Prime subscription. We have included half the Amazon Prime fee as an SVOD subscription to Amazon Video homes, even though homes are not directly paying for Amazon Video,” said Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research.
He added: “Our SVoD subscriber forecasts are gross. Many homes pay for more than one SVOD service. We believe that this proportion will rise as more platforms establish themselves.”
India has been ranked 53 in the Netflix ISP Speed Index in July 2018, down by four spots. The monthly study is a measure of primetime Netflix performance on a particular ISP. While Philippines rose five spots to 49th, Malaysia dropped six spots to 27th.
Netflix ISP Speed Index, a monthly update on which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide the best primetime Netflix streaming experience, has rated India at 53rd place in July, down from four places when compared to June.
South Korea’s LG U+ saw the biggest speed jump on the index. Its speed gained by 0.37 Megabits per second (Mbps), bringing its average monthly speed to 3.23 Mbps, up from 2.86 Mbps in June.
Other notable speed gains include Spain’s Telefonica-Movistar gaining to an average monthly speed of 3.26 Mbps (from 2.93 Mbps last month), and Taiwan’s Taiwan Broadband gaining to an average monthly speed of 3.70 Mbps (up from 3.40 Mbps last month).
In the losses category, Biznet in Indonesia experienced a speed decrease of 0.30 Mbps, bringing its monthly average down to 2.99 Mbps (from 3.29 Mbps in June). Malaysia’s Telekom Malaysia Berhad saw speeds slow to a 3.24 Mbps monthly average (from 3.46 Mbps the month prior).
Moves in the country rankings this month include Philippines rising five spots to 49th, Malaysia dropping six spots to 27th and India falling four spots to 53rd.
The Netflix ISP Speed Index is a measure of primetime Netflix performance on a particular ISP and not a measure of overall performance for other services/data that may travel across the specific ISP network. Faster Netflix performance generally means better picture quality, quicker start times and fewer interruptions.