Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FUTURE PROSPECTS: The Role of ICT in Digital Cinema


The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Though the effect of the information and communications technology on Philippine cinema in general is essential and evident, there are still prospects to be explored. For instance, like the Singapore Film Commission website which contains vital information such as a list of all the films released in the country-state for the past several years, it also includes information on the gross earnings of each film, cinema attendance per year, number of cinema screens and seating capacity. The website does not simply function as a website of the state institution; it also functions as a database for Singapore film releases. The Film Development Council of the Philippines website still needs to work on its database on Philippine cinema. The Internet Movie Database website is a central site (it claims to be the world’s biggest movie database) but sadly contains only a few entries about Filipino filmmakers such as Cris Pablo, Khavn De la Cruz, John Torres, Lav Diaz, Aureus Solito, Raya Martin, Brillante Mendoza, and Jeffrey Jeturian. A similar website will be useful to the digital film community. There are attempts to create a database for Philippine cinema with efforts from the U.P. Film Institute but it seems that the site has not been updated recently.

Filipino film classics can be transferred to the digital format and the database on Philippine cinema can contain excerpts of the digitized film classics such as Octavio Silos’ Tunay na Ina (1939), one of the oldest existing Filipino film and Manuel Conde’s Ibong Adarna (1941), the first with colored sequence. These excerpts can be very helpful to teachers and students of film.

It would also be beneficial to independent digital filmmakers to create a website where their films can be sold online. It may include a catalog of digital films in the Philippines complete with production notes. As of today, there is no internet store that sells digital films from the Philippines. An interested buyer would not have any idea where to buy the works of John Torres, Lav Diaz or Raya Martin. Most of the digital filmmakers now are just using the Do-It-Yourself or DIY approach, making DVD or VCD copies of their films and selling them to friends, bookstores, conferences, tiangges or film screenings. They can pull their resources together to set up a central website to sell the DVDs and VCDs of their films. They can follow the example of Objectifs Films , a Singapore-based organization, which features a catalog of around 40 digital short films from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Objectifs acts as a distributor of Southeast Asian short films and utilizes the internet as its display area. Digital films can also be downloaded from the internet for a fee but this requires a cable or DSL connection, and both are not yet prevalent in the Philippines.

Film criticism and writing in the Philippines can get a much-needed boost if a website that contains compilations of excerpts and links to film criticism and film reviews can be created much like the websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic . Both websites contain a compilation of film reviews by well-known critics all over the world and acts as a database of film reviews.

Thought ICT has had a great impact in the distribution and circulation of digital cinema in the Philippines, there are several issues such as piracy, censorship and technological infrastructure. The proliferation of download sites such as Limewire and other P2P (person to person) file-sharing programs, digital films can easily be downloaded without the permission of the filmmakers. Filmmakers can avoid this by using Youtube since it does not allow downloading. They can also disable the right click functions in their websites or use Macromedia Flash. There are also digital filmmakers who allow the distribution of their films without copyright or with reasonable copyright. The issue of censorship is also surfaces since as of today the internet is not under any censorship body. Digital films distributed on the internet are not under the jurisdiction of the MTRCB. Another issue is the readiness of the technological infrastructure in the Philippines that can support a wide distribution of digital films. Most internet users still use dial-up which is very slow when downloading films. Only when cable or DSL connection becomes a standard does distributing films on the internet can become a norm.

Film distribution and circulation can also benefit with the potential integration of the internet, cable TV and mobile phones. Filmmakers can produce content which can be distributed in all the three major ICTs.

These issues and prospects will hopefully provide more avenues for the distribution and circulation of digital cinema in the Philippines and ensure the role of digital cinema in social and cultural transformation.

Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.

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