Real Image wins patent for new digital technology

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Chennai | In OOH News | September 19, 2008
The technology provider will now offer cinemas and other digital cinema providers this OOH advertising technology

In a

big step forward, Real Image Media Technologies, a digital technology provider for the film, video and audio industries, has announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued it a patent (7,353,270 B2) for its media and advertisement distribution and tracking system.

The patented technology is a key part of Real Image's out of home digital advertising solutions marketed under the brand name, QMedia. It is already in use as QCine digital cinema advertising in nearly 300 movie theatres across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal. The technology is also available as QSign digital signage in more than a hundred screens at shopping malls in the national capital region (NCR) and in Jaipur.

The company's digital cinema division operates under the brand name, Qube Cinema.

The patent, filed for in 2001, covers the concept and technology of audiovisual playout devices installed at different places where media is downloaded from a central server and scheduled for playout as required. The Government of India had issued patent numbers 202969 and 202980 for this system earlier.

QMedia effectively uses this technology for the central control of advertising, with local control of feature films and other content, through its media and advertisement distribution tracking and operating system. In layman's terms, movies and advertisements can be simultaneously transmitted via satellite to a large network of screens. These are stored on a central server and can be played and scheduled as per the cinema hall and/ or the advertiser's needs.

Jayendra Panchapakesan, director and cofounder, Real Image, tells afaqs!, "Since the content moves via satellite, this eliminates all the logistical nightmares of sending ads physically to cinema halls and also ensures speedy content transfer."

He adds that this technology generates logs, which are sent to advertisers to track whether the ads have really been played at a particular cinema hall. "This revolutionary technology makes advertising more customised and accountable now," he says.

The technology also offers advertisers flexibility and control. MS Rajagopalan, vice-president, QMedia, says, "One can schedule ads by date and day and even by morning, matinee, evening or night shows."

(L-R) Senthil Kumar & Jayendra Panchpakesan
Thus, if a morning show in a cinema hall is a children's movie and the evening show is male oriented, Raymond's might choose to play its ad only during the evening show. As advertisers can also pick slots, Raymond's could choose to play its ad at the beginning of the movie. The system works much like an advertiser getting his choice of advertising space on the front page at a premium price.

Since it has been granted the patent for the technology developed by it, other digital cinema service providers will have to license the technology from Real Image in order to use it.

Senthil Kumar, director and cofounder, Real Image, says, "We work with different business models. Another digital cinema service provider can license the technology from us as a layer to its own offering; or a cinema hall can choose to go digital, where we invest and manage the entire process." In the latter case, Real Image will earn around Rs 400-500 per show per theatre.

Kumar shares that the cost of installing D-cinema technology (which is required to play Hollywood movies) is Rs 30-35 lakh, while the cost of installing E-cinema technology (needed to show Indian movies) costs Rs 10-12 lakh.

Digital cinema has given cinema advertising a much needed boost. Advertisers such as Nokia, Parle, Reliance, Tata, Dabur, Cadburys and Colgate have come on board with Real Image to advertise on digital cinema screens.

Rajagopalan shares an example, saying, "Colgate, which used to advertise in cinema halls many years ago, stopped advertising on the big screen because of lack of accountability. It has returned to advertising in cinema halls because of this technology, which allows tracking, along with superior quality sound and video."

While making people aware of this technology has been the main challenge, Real Image has met brand managers, media buying agencies, ad agencies, advertisers and other decision makers to discuss and share the potential offered by this medium.

Kumar says, "We've tried to make even ad agencies aware that with this technology, the sounds in an ad can be enhanced to give remixed sounds for cinema halls, rather than just mono sounds as heard on television."

Along with the 300 cinema halls using QMedia, five malls in the NCR and Jaipur use this technology for around 100 screens. These malls include the MGF Mega City Mall and the Metropolitan Mall in Gurgaon, the City Square Mall in Delhi, and the Metropolitan Malls in Jaipur and Saket.

The company is sure that in five-10 years, all cinema halls in India will be digital. For now, Qube has converted about 650 cinema halls in India to digital, while another 1,000 or so have been converted by other digital cinema service providers such as UFO Moviez. Qube aims to convert another 800 by the end of this year. In the US, around 4,000 cinemas have gone digital.

Established in 1986, Real Image was instrumental in bringing computer based digital non-linear editing to India with Avid Technology and for bringing digital cinema sound to India with DTS.

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