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Digital filmmaking: Trainees earn Rs 20,000 a month!
Rathish Babu
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February 27, 2007

Part I: Want to become a digital film maker?

The international entertainment industry is projected to touch a massive growth of US$ 1.8 trillion by 2015. Most of it is directed towards the Asian region, specifically India, which -- according to some recently published reports -- has the potential to grab an impressive amount of nearly US$ 200 billion!

India is the largest producer of films in the world. 934 films were produced in 2004 alone, with more than 3.1 billion admissions (those admitted to cinema halls). The industry's current worth is about US$ 1,256 million, which is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 18 per cent for the next five years.

At this juncture, career opportunities are booming in this industry. With more than 9,000 studios and production houses across India, educational institutions will have to bring about the revolution of technology input into the Indian industry by teaching digital filmmaking, to improve quality, cut costs by more than 40 per cent and increase the range of deliverable formats, unlike conventional film making which is time consuming and much more costly.

Advantages of digital filmmaking

The future requires content to be of digital format because of broadband and theatres obtaining digital servers/ projectors. Content has to be developed for the global market to earn more revenue and, naturally, this requires knowledge of digital technology and efficient production techniques in the digital format.

The future will be triggered by three media -- IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) broadband, radio and mobile. The formats for viewing and hearing are different, but the nature of content required is the same -- digital. The future leaders in the industry will be those who will have and control content in different formats for different devices.

An ideal digital filmmaking programme

It must delve deep into various aspects like:

a. Screenplay writing
b. Scripting
c. Fundamentals of lighting and camera techniques
d. Pre and post-production techniques including special effects and 3D animation
e. Budgeting
f. Set and costume design
g. Non-linear editing techniques
h. Corporate management
i. Production of ad films, documentaries, short films features
j. Camera
k. Lighting
l. Editing for picture and sound are other aspects of digital filmmaking.
m. Scheduling (project planning of each day's shooting for a film production)

Course work must lead to the creation of a portfolio as per industry standards. It must give students confidence in filmmaking right from concept to final production and help them master this technology.

Once adequate training is gained, a professional can start his own production house and make his own documentaries, music videos and short films. These projects can sold to television channels like Discovery, National Geographic Channel, Travel & Living as well as web sites. Even news channels now buy videos, documentaries and short films although, realistically speaking, this is not as easy as it sounds.

Most channels are reluctant to entertain cold calls in this department but, if you are an established name, you may be able to sell a film or programme to a channel. Most channels will have their own programming departments that generate software and/or will outsource programming by giving specific briefs or inviting program pitches from established independent producers or production houses.

Job options

A good option for fresh graduates of digital filmmaking is to begin by joining a production house or freelance with a producer on a project. This affords a lot of flexibility. Working for a smaller production house also increases the responsibilities a fresher might be entrusted with, thus providing more valuable experience. Entry-level jobs could be as researchers, production assistants or assistant producers.

These days, even government bodies assign individual filmmakers to make socially relevant and academic short films and documentaries for promotion of their activities and policies. The scope is huge, with high benefits. Government organisations like Public Service Broadcast Trust ( have been created only to promote filmmakers and assign documentary projects, and are handsomely funded.


A digital filmmaking professional can begin his career as an intern or trainee at a production house or under any individual filmmaker. A trainee can expect anything between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000, as a minimum salary.

However, the sky is the limit for a digital filmmaker in India today. An individual project could earn you several lakhs. Even big corporate houses ask filmmakers to create their corporate and promotional videos, for which they sometimes pay a minimum of Rs 3-5 lakh.


India offers a large number of institutions and schools for imparting training in digital filmmaking. Reputed institutions like FTII in Pune, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, and Jamia Milia Islamia University are known for their world class curriculum and training.

A search online can yield many more names. These institutes have begun training in the digital format, although not very significantly. A very hi-end specialised digital filmmaking course is being offered by SAE Technology all around the globe. This is an international college, headquartered in Australia, Byron Bay.

Part I: Want to become a digital film maker?

Tomorrow: Job prospects in the industry

-- The author is CEO, SAE India, a media education college with 49 centres in 22 countries. For more information, log on to

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