Now that the much-awaited International Film festival 2012 has begun in the city, all focus is on the film screening which needs to be just perfect – clearly formatted, properly subtitled and glitch-free – for a great viewing experience. The Film Print Checking Unit does just that and its work continues even after the festival ends.

A film print is checked at least thrice during the festival – prior to the first screening, after the screening, and before sending back to the respective countries. With 198 films scheduled for screening, the unit will work round the clock to ensure smooth screening.

Eighty of the 198 films are screened using the Digital Cinema Package (DCP). In this type of screening, the films are stored in a special file format which can be compressed, encoded and encrypted. The DCP uses a special secret number called the Key Delivery Message, which has to be fed into the computer controlling the projector. However, it poses the challenge that if the secret number goes wrong or the time setting changes, the computer will not accept the film.

“Many films that arrive from various countries are to be identified according to their format. We have to make sure that we receive them in perfect condition and report damage, if any,” said V. Baskaran, head of the Film Print Checking Unit. A team of five technicians from Gemini Labs, Chennai, makes sure the work is done to perfection for each screening.

The reels that arrive from far off countries are checked and sent to the checking table where they are classified according to the type of gauge (either 16 mm or 35 mm). The format of the film – normal, scope and wide screen – is also decided. If the whole festival has to go according to the proper schedule, one has to make sure of the duration of each film. Thus, each print is also examined for the duration by the team.

Not all theatres are well-equipped with multiple sound systems. The prints are verified for the type of sound system, which can be mono, Dolby A, Dolby SR or Digital (DTS). Based on the classification, respective theatres are selected for screening each movie.

Much time goes into finding the name of film in English, because the names are sometimes hidden in the first few reels. Checking whether the subtitles are in correct order for each film is also time consuming, said a technician.

“After each screening, the reels are transported from one theatre to another. We have to ensure that they are in perfect condition before and after every screening. These reels have to travel to another film festival in another country, just like the previous team made sure they are available for us in perfect condition,” added Gopi Krishnan, chief in-charge of the unit.

Keywords: IFFK 2012