In all previous film festivals there used to be a crowd that religiously stuck to the Kairlai Theatre which was the permanent venue for Competition Section.

Not any more. Delegates and even jury members of the 16 International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) will have to scuttle between festival theatres to watch movies in the Competition Section.

Thanks to the ever developing field of digital cinema, instead of sorting theatres by film packages, festival organisers are now compelled to schedule screenings as per the film projection technology available in theatres.

Dealing with the logistics of digital film formats has been one of the biggest issues for the festival organisers this year. The wide range of digital film formats, from DigiBeta tapes, Blu-ray discs to the latest Digital Cinema Packaging (DCP) technology, also called for installation of advanced film projection equipment that are compatible to the various film formats.

"This is really a huge challenge for film festivals, not only here but across the country. Most of the foreign films, as well as many Indian films, are shot in different high definition digital formats. Processing them and getting high-end installation and projection equipment has been difficult for us,’’ said IFFK deputy director Bina Paul Venugopal.

The Kerala State Chalachitra Academy has hired two DigiBeta players for the festival which have been placed in Kariali Sree theatre complex and Sreekumar Theatre.

"The DigiBeta player is a very costly equipment and only two are available here, both of which we have hired. We will have to adjust with one DigiBeta player for both Kairali and Sree theatres. The films here have been schedule in such a way that there is no clash in screening films shot in DigiBeta format,’’ said a technical staff of the Academy.

"It is not just the video, the sound technology of most of the festival films are also much advanced. Many films have used Dolby Digital Sound, which is not available in any of the theatres,’’ he said.

Around eight films screened in the festival are formatted using DCP technology which uses the digital cinema encoding facility. In this technology, the film captured in a hard disk is encoded used a KDM (Key Delivery Message) code. Producers de-code the DCP packaged film by communicating the KDM code to the distributer or theatre owner at a pre-fixed time. The DCP format films are screened at the Sree Padmanabha Theatre where a 2 K resolution projection was installed recently.

"As long as the theatre is not ready to screen the film, the producers will not reveal the KDM code. This is basically done to deal with piracy. We were lucky to have the 2K resolution projectors at Padmanabha theatre, where they installed this facility right in time for the festival,’’ Ms Bina said.

Apart from digital films, the traditional reel films screened in the festival also come in different formats. While most of the archive films use 16 mm reel, newer films use 35 mm reel. ``Our 16 mm projectors were completely unused. Our projectionists had to toil a lot to retrieve and make them usable for the festival,’’ Ms Bina added.

Real Image and Qube are the digital cinema partners of the 16 IFFK.