Conference on Cinema
organised by the European Parliament and the Italian Committee
of CICT - UNESCO (International Council for Film, Television, and Audiovisual
6th September 2002
on the occasion of 59. Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica
Cinema in the Digital Era:
which technologies for which cultures?
by Jens Rykaer – President of
Basically this an area that still calls for more questions than
Digitalisation will give film an even greater potential through the
electronic media. What happens with film and television, when television
becomes Internet and film will become video-on-demand? All areas which
we today regulate in different ways, because they have different functions,
Today we all know that films should be seen in a proper cinema, but
that they are also seen on tv and may be broadcasted on demand via cable
or satellite. Films also may be broadcasted by others apart from tv-stations.
The development of the broadband is in full swing and streaming video
compression-technology makes it possible to watch films via the internet
already. In this situation the content becomes more important than the
technology. It can be said that the digitalisation and the convergence
of the media open new perspectives for the film’s chain of value.
From the artistic creation, via the actual production, promotion to
distribution and consumption.
In a society of networks both the artist and the consumer/the audience
will be part of different networks, where communication and exchange
of knowledge will happen quickly and easily. The society of networks
will at the same time result in known technologies, services and markets
within communication, IT- and the media converging. This convergence
is characterised by the following aspects:
Same content on more platforms – when tv is shown on the internet,
e-mails can be received via digital TV, and books, newspapers and music
are published physically and on the net. Or when fiction/entertainment
are built up as collective concepts, where the same characters perform
in films, on TV, computer games, books etc. and are followed up by interactive
sites on the net.
Personalisation or creation of niches – when the consumer by
choosing subjects and running-order is able to individually tailor the
services and decide what is to be received and when to receive it.
Interactivity – when the consumer can influence and in some cases
add to the content.
Multifunctional terminals – for instance when you can talk, send
electronic messages and get information from the net via a cell phone.
Blurring of borders – when there is no longer a clear division
between for instance traditional broadcasts, Web-TV and other services
that contain moving images. Also it will be increasingly difficult to
decide who is the sender of a given content – the content could be a
contribution from an other ”receiver”.
What kind of significance will the digitalisation and the convergence
of media have for the film as artistic expression – and as business?
These questions can be dealt with by looking at the chain of values
of the film:
The chain of value is the following: The creation of content
– production – promotion – gatekeeping – consumption
The creation of content: The brainstorming phase,
the artistic creation of new original content. The drama and the visual
atmosphere from the writer and director. Here it is interesting to look
at what digital technology, the anarchy of the internet, interactivity
can contribute to the film as a medium of art.
Production: Films are produced through a huge and complicated
process with a lot of participation by creative and technical forces.
It is often put forward that the digitalisation has made this process
easier and cheaper – and for better or for worse – will lead to a democratisation
of the film-medium.
Promotion: Promotion is the function in the chain that
packages the film for its target group or community. With an increasing
number of windows and distribution-channels, how the film is promoted
will become a vital decision. Is it for cinemas or video/DVD, or for
the net as happened in the US with ”Blair Witch Project” ? Should it
be accompanied by games, homepages or other interlocking and converging
Gatekeeping: Is the spot in the chain that controls the
relation between the owner of the content and the consumer. That is
the producer and the audience. In the area of film the gatekeeper is
traditionally the cinema or the distributor. It can also be the TV-station
or the video-store. Digitalisation, and with it convergence, creates
new possibilities through pay per view and video on demand – and new
problems among others in relation to digital copying from the net. Not
a major problem so far with films, but with new compression-techniques
and standards it will become a problem as with the MP 3-problem with
Consumption: Films can be consumed in many ways.
As an audience in a cinema, as video/DVD, pay per view, video on demand,
through broadband or as ordinary TV-viewing, or as an internet-consumer
or different hybrid forms in between. The pattern of consumption will
be dominated rather by divergence than convergence, as the consumer
will be able to watch films in many more ways than before. Through terminals
such as pc’s, settopboxes for digital TV and new forms of video-projectors
and multimedia-boxes. The society of networks has exactly this significance,
that still more content – including the artistic – is launched through
the internet and is received where, when and through whatever ”machine”
the consumer prefers.
The first two links in the chain of value – content and production –
are about the artistic creation. The following questions are relevant:
* Can interactivity be used creatively?
* The use of the internet for the collection of ideas – does it work?
* New forms of expression with elements from games and music videos?
* The interactive story – what is it?
* The future interactive TV?
* Cheaper production – democratisation of the film medium? When everybody
can handle a digital camera and productions can be made cheaply, doing
the editing on your personal computer. Will the standard of quality
fall, because of the anarchy of the internet, into some kind of “home
video-standard” because it is so easy to publish on the net?
Promotion and marketing
Already today promoting and marketing have a huge importance for films
and are integrated in state-subsidies in many countries. Digitalisation
will introduce new tools within this area.
Will interactivity lead to the disappearance of the concept of an “audience”?
Traditionally the audience is a passive element, a viewer just ”watches”
a film. The interactive development within the net and multimedia can
lead to another role as a team player, and a film can be attached to,
for instance, a game, chat rooms, inter-quizzes and competitions and
e-business, where for instance there is a possibility to buy the hero’s
t-shirt. New opportunities for income and new perspectives for marketing
Films will have to adapt the ongoing tendencies towards individualisation
and segmentation of media consumption in relation to age and lifestyle.
The possibilities of choice for the individual will grow and there will
be the possibility of approaching ”the source directly”, that is the
producer, who will be closer to the final consumer surrounding the usual
channels of distribution. Together with the internet, SMS and other
mobile-services, films will enter changing combinations centred around
communities, meaning communities based on interests, that can be narrow
or broad, permanent or short-lived or trendy. Everybody has their own
universe with living images on demand and different communication services.
Distribution and consumption
* Digital cinemas
The digitalisation of the cinemas is at present at a stage of development.
Because of lack of a standard for digital projection everybody is on
hold. The technique is there – but a lot of questions are still not
Cultural political questions:
What will happen in relation to the concentration of the business and
in relation to the diversity of films on the market?
Will the e-cinema give better opportunities for the small independent
films – domestically and abroad?
Will it increase the curtain bombing of blockbusters?
Who’s to pay for the transition? (about 100,000 dollars per screen)
The business in relation to exhibitors
No more handling of heavy celluloid copies
Possible remote control of the film on the screen
Possibly fewer operators in the booth
No transport of films
Better flexibility in programming (choice of language, trailers and
New events on the screen: live sport, concerts, interactive video-conferences
A more stable picture on the screen (no breaks, scratches)
Maybe access to broader range of films
More income from commercials, as the cinema will be more competitive
The clients/The audience
Increase of image quality (scratches, breaks)
Increased offer of films/flexibility (several language versions the
Possible access to other events
Concentration of distributors
The symbolic loss of the 35mm celluloid (more psychological)
No copies of films and trailers meaning no stock, no transportation,
no destruction (huge economic benefits)
Will concentrate on the central areas (marketing and business with
Marketing tool: interactive press video conferences combined with pre-screenings
Possible access to more films (repertoire and classics)
Less laboratory costs with a 100% digitalisation
For the distributor nothing but advantages
The industry as a whole:
Neutral or a little better for the audience
Neutral or better for exhibition
Far better and much more effective for the distributor