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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



IFFI 50: A.K. Bir, chairing IFFI’s Technical Committee for over 12 years

IFFI 50: A.K. Bir, chairing IFFI’s Technical Committee for over 12 years

To enjoy a film in the way the maker meant it to be enjoyed is a blessing. We, who are attending the 50th International Film Festival of India, Panaji, Goa, know how important it is to enjoy a film in the right ambience. A small error, and the joy could be ruined. To make sure no such thing happens, IFFI has a Technical Committee in place, headed by A.K. Bir, himself a renowned cinematographer, screen-writer and film-director, and an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India.

“Digital technology has made it possible to adapt technique to both shooting and projection, but it is a laborious and painstaking process to make a film watching-experience a sensory, as well as aesthetic event. When a film is seen in the right ambience, with a live feeling, the way the maker wanted you to see it and hear it, a serious film-viewing exercise, it will then be liked by the viewers,” he told this writer.

Bir added, “The screen is the source of illumination in a cinema-hall, and there are standards set for the type of screen and luminance that are accepted around the world, by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). Colours and shades should be faithfully reproduced. Certain conditions have to be met, in which light is projected on the screen. These are tested by a Spectrometer. Red Blue Green (RGB, the three basic colours of digital cinema) of the light condition levels are measured, and then, if necessary, the projector is tuned, to meet the requirements, like contrast levels, brightness, etc.”

With advances in technology, and to go one-up on the competition, camera manufacturers offer 4K, 6K and 8K resolution models. These cameras capture more information than the basic 2K cameras, but all that information has to be blended at the post-production stage, because all projection is currently in 2K. “A film shot is 4K/6K/8K might be richer in content, and the makers can be more selective in choosing relevant information, but how much of that can fit in with the 2K copy is the question,” Bir informed.

Another aspect to consider is the aspect ratio, the length to breadth ratio of the image. Film-makers today can experiment with aspect ratio like never before. What is at the core, though, is the frame design. Earlier, the standard was the 35 mm print, where the aspect ratio was 3:2. Today, all possible aspect ratios can be used in digital cinematography, and faithfully reproduced on digital projectors.

Coming to magnification, Bir elaborated, “Different regions have different magnification standards—America has its own, Europe its own—but logically, content decides magnification. Spectacular films require large, huge screens, as the basic purpose is to compete with the small screen of the television set. So, the bigger the better. We even have a 360° immersive experience, where the viewer can turn round and round to catch the full picture. But if a film deals with rhythm and lyrics, poetry and language, such huge screens may not be suitable.”

Talking about real challenges at IFFI 50, he does not find anything out of the routine. “Last year, we had some films in 3D, so that was a challenge. With audiences showing increased disinterest in 3D, the trend towards 3D film-making has drastically slowed down, and there is no 3D film in IFFI this year. All films will be shown in 2K. Of course, one has to remember that the main venue at IFFI, Kala Academy, was not made for film screenings. It is a performing arts venue which has been adapted for film screenings. With that constraint, we are doing the best possible we can. INOX, the other venue, however, is a regular cinema theatre, therefore it provides the structural set-up too, besides the technical needs. A single point concentration that cinema demands may not be perfectly possible in an auditorium like the Kala Academy.”

Asked to name some state-of-the-art projection systems in use these days, he cited, “Christie and Barco.”

Chairing the Technical Committee of IFFI for a mind-boggling 12 years already (this is his 13th IFFI in this capacity), 71 year-old Apurba Kishore Bir, who has made in the past, made the award-winning films Adi Mimansa, Layanya Preeti and Baaja, still manages to make feature films when not on IFFI duty, his latest being Antardhwani (Inner Voice), which was in the competition section of the Guwahati Film Festival this year and was screened at Cannes.

“It’s not in IFFI?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, half smilingly.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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