Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The UFO Moviez Scam
The Bombay police claim to have busted a gang of film pirates operating out of Karachi, who were being assisted by middle managers in post production studios. Among the people arrested is Rajesh Chaudhary, an assistant vice president at UFO Moviez.
I don't know whether Chaudhary is guilty or not, but I do know this: the entire UFO Moviez operation is a scam perpetrated by producers and multiplexes on cinema goers. It first came to my notice a couple of years ago while watching Jab We Met in Starcity, a standalone cinema near my home. The film looked peculiarly washed out, lacking depth and luminescence. An alphanumeric code that kept flashing in one corner of the frame told Jabeen and me that we were watching a digital projection rather than a proper print. Inquiry led me to the website of UFO Moviez, a firm that digitises films and uploads them to a satellite, from where they can be downloaded to servers in auditoriums across India. Striking a print is expensive, and so using this mode of distribution saves a lot of money. The downside is that UFO Moviez uses low-grade MPEG-4 technology which ruins any visual impact a film might have.
Originally, the purpose of UFO was to serve markets in the interiors that aren't covered in the opening weeks of a release because low ticket prices render sending new minted prints unremunerative. This was a sound idea. Prints are usually damaged by the time they reach such screens and projection facilities are rudimentary, so the loss of quality involved in being passed through the MPEG-4 grinder is barely felt.
Unfortunately, the greed of producers has made it standard operating procedure for UFO technology to be employed in the plushest multiplexes. Which means we shell out as much as 500 rupees per ticket on opening weekend to be treated to a pathetic projection, even though the take from just one show would easily cover the cost of a print.
That's Bollywood for you: always ass backwards. Shell out crores for the stars; more for top end cameras and cinematographers; more for the best post production facilities and cutting edge effects machines; more for lavish marketing; and then, in order to save a paltry sum on each print, destroy your technical team's efforts and cheat viewers who are being charged an extortionate entry price.