talking movies

Why Cannes is right: Netflix’s made-for-TV movies just aren’t the same as cinematic releases

The French festival had ruled this year that the streaming giant’s films could not be screened as part of the competition section.

Netflix is the future, Cannes is “stuck in the history of cinema”, according to Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. He was responding to the Cannes film festival ruling that movies without a cinematic release could not compete, effectively banning Netflix films.

Cannes previously allowed Netflix in 2017. Though there are undoubtedly subtle economic motives behind the ban, the debate between Netflix and the festival has been waged along aesthetic lines, and in this, Cannes’ position – as a film, and not television, festival – is perfectly justified.

Netflix original films, alongside the made-for-cinema films that Netflix distributes, are made to be seen on the television (or the current analogue of the television, the computer screen). As telemovies, they are aesthetically different from made for the cinema movies. This is not to suggest that telemovies are worse – they are just incomparable (which would make judging the festival a nightmare).

For example, something that is made for a TV-sized screen can afford to include a great deal more movement of both the camera and subject, a style virtually synonymous with made-for-TV productions like music videos. Although this style has had an influence on cinematic aesthetics in the late 20th and 21st centuries, it is still far less prominent in large-screen than small-screen productions. It thus makes perfect sense that made-for-Netflix movies would not be included in Cannes.

At the same time, Netflix, as a television production company, follows a radically different production model from the film production company. The mere fact that Netflix, for example, has a “chief content officer” says it all.

While cinema has always occupied a precarious position between art and entertainment – one of the fascinating things about it, as the French philosopher Alain Badiou argues in Cinema – television has always been firmly located on the entertainment end of the spectrum.

Its primary function was historically to stream ads into the viewer’s private domestic space, interrupted from time to time by the thing that TV programmers call “content.” Even though “narrowcasters” target a more specific audience through subscription and therefore don’t need to run ads, services like Netflix still emerged from television and televisual aesthetics, with the “content” produced to be seen via television screen.

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Okja.

The death of cinema?

Netflix does pose a major threat to other, more expensive and less convenient subscription services such as Foxtel. As a source of individual entertainment, Netflix (like home video) offers stimulation on demand. It’s cheap, easy, you can watch when you want, and there are no ads.

Sarandos is likely simply trying to spin his company’s way out of their embarrassment at being rejected by the prestigious festival. But his comments are no cause for alarm for the cinéphile. There’s not really any indication that people will stop going to the movies, that this is a thing of the past, or that Netflix poses any major threat to cinema. While in the US movie tickets sold have declined slightly over time (not including 2018), box office takings are still growing strongly. Moreover, US cinema ticket sales still dwarf global Netflix subscriptions.

The “death” of cinema has been prophesied four times since the onset of commercial cinema in the early-20th century. Three of these have proved toothless. Television, popularised in the 1950s, was the source of the first major panic, followed by home video in the 1980s and Internet streaming in the 2000s. The fourth, the video game, has replaced movies as the dominant audio-visual medium, but involves sufficiently different practices to pose no real long-term threat to the viability of cinema.

Commercial cinema (with Hollywood at the forefront) has responded to these threats by proferring (and advertising) new technologies and gimmicks (for example, surround sound and IMAX). At the same, films have tended towards bigger-budget, more diffuse and immersive spectacles best seen on the big screen.

It is no surprise that the popular periods of perhaps Hollywood’s most enduring gimmick, 3D, have coincided with the rise of television, home video, and Internet streaming. Similarly, the “family film”, popularised in the 1970s and 1980s – the Indiana Jones franchise and films like ET, for example – is unimaginable divorced from the context of the twin threats of television and home video.

At the same time, studios have opted for stories with broader appeal, that are definitely more anodyne in flavour than the cinema of years past. Gone, for example, is the violent studio B-movie, even as independent production companies have sprung up, replacing this gap with straight-to-video (or, now, Internet) films. The result is a polarised commercial cinema, with massive crowd-pleasers on the one side, and extremely minor, low-budget films on the other, firmly targeting the audience of a particular genre – such as horror.

Cinema’s survival comes down to the simple fact that people continue to delight in the participatory nature of collective events. Commercial cinema emerged from popular theatre as a form of mass entertainment. People have been enjoying collective entertainment for thousands of years, and cinema belongs to this continuum. As Antonin Artaud discussed in The Theatre of Cruelty , theatre – cinema’s foremost antecedent – emerges from religious ritual and the practices of magic dating back to human culture’s earliest years.

There seems to be something anthropologically appealing about watching spectacles in large groups; possibly, as French cultural theorist René Girard argues in works like Violence and the Sacred and The Scapegoat, all culture emerged out of collective ritual spectacles. The experience of cinema is more like a rock concert, or going to church, than watching television.

I would, in fact, suggest that as streaming services increase in popularity, and televisual content becomes more individualised, people will increasingly crave the collective big screen experience. If, however, Sarandos’ claim that the future is Netflix proves to be true then things are far stranger, in the 21st Century, than they seem.

Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Media Studies, University of Notre Dame Australia.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.