When Star first burst onto Indian television screens in the early 1990s, it set new trends with an innovative programming mix for its different channels across Asia, channel branding and superior broadcast quality. It wasn't long before a host of other Indian channels followed.
"Star TV has always had a strong culture of incorporating promos and packaging into its content, right since 1994, and has set standards as far as quality is concerned," says Avijit Mitra, Creative Director, Star India. The channel packaging format for the Star TV Network is created at Star TV headquarters in Hong Kong, with a predominantly blue and white colour scheme for most channels like Star Plus and Star News, while for Star Gold the main colour used is gold.
Star Plus runs mainly episodic promotion and 'plot point' based promotion that keeps the audience clued in to what's happening in future episodes. Though most of the content on Star TV - soap operas like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi or Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, game shows or talk shows catering mainly to the middle class, when it comes to promos, it's no holds barred - the look of the promo is crucial.
"Promos and packaging have an 'aspiration value' attached to it," says Avijit. "They aren't just about informing the audience about a show. Promos need to hit you in the face."
At Star India's Broadcast Operations and Engineering division in Mumbai, a dedicated team of around 48 people work at creating promos and packaging for game shows like Kisme Kitna Hai Dum, Khulja Sim Sim and Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) on Star Plus. In addition, they also work on the packaging for content on Star Gold, Channel V, Star Plus UK and as well as Star TV production services unit.
"Star India's sophisticated broadcast facility-the first of it's kind in India-consists of a digital multi-camera set-up and eleven fiber-optic networked audio/video editing and finishing systems," says Paritosh Saha, Sr. Manager, Broadcast operations & Engineering.
Three editors work Smoke, a nonlinear editing and finishing system, to create and enhance the look of promos. The work ranges from basic colour correction to graphics to complex and heavy compositing. For most of the promos, shots are picked from existing footage and composited in Smoke.
Adds Avijit, who's worked with both Smoke and Discreet® Fire®, "The Smoke colour corrector is really good and the result is footage that has a soft and smooth look."
Smoke scores in helping Star TV achieve consistency in production quality. This is critical as Star TV outsources part of its promos and packaging. "The quality of footage produced externally varies a great deal," R. Balu, Vice President, Broadcast Operations and Engineering at Star TV. "Smoke helps us retain control over the quality of the promos that go on air."
When Star TV was looking at bringing its extremely popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) back on air in the form of a 16 episode rerun, Smoke is what Star TV used to create an entirely new look for the promos.
Star TV wanted to test audience response to Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) being aired again. Since most people were familiar with the how the show was conducted and the rules, this time around the promos focused on Amitabh Bachchan's personality as well as the largeness of the show.
Working on an extremely short deadline, the team recreated a small portion of the set and completed a shoot in 10 minutes with three cameras capturing footage of Amitabh Bachchan from different angles.
Basic color correction was applied to the footage. Background lights, 2D graphics and DV motion blurs were generated in Smoke. "For the second stage of color correction, we used the Smoke' s film scratches effect to get a 'film look' even though the footage was shot in DigiBeta," says Avijit.
Though the film Asoka starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor wasn't a success, the film was shot very well. The film released in the theatres was of a three-hour duration, the Star TV production team had over five hours of footage, which they had to repackage in to five episodes of one hour each. A series of around 10 to 12 teasers and promos were created all of which involved heavy compositing to bring out the vibrant colors and textures in the film.
"We made nine teasers of five seconds, a few ten second teasers and two 30-second promos. The packaging was recreated entirely with new title montages all created in Smoke," says Avijit. Avijit feels that though the content is similar on Hindi channels with the mix of soaps and shows, it's the promos and packaging that act as facilitators to drive TRPs higher.
He adds, "In media, everything is time driven and one doesn't really have the time for extensive shooting. Errors made in production and shooting can be easily rectified with Discreet systems. Whatever the quality of the show you can improve it in Smoke and make sure the promo looks dazzling."
Satish Patil, Graphics Supervisor, Star India considers the Smoke keyer to be one of the best. He adds, "Composites with precise results can be achieved in Mathobs along with different combinations of layers."
"The effects that can be generated in Smoke greatly enhance the quality of footage. sparks Plugs-ins like 2D Paint, 5D and Sapphire result in good output with a huge quality difference. Sapphire is extremely good with motion blurs, lens flares, clouds, zap effects and graining," says Satish.
Satish also finds the timeline in Smoke to be one of its best features that most editors find easy to use as far as archiving, organizing footage and editing while compositing is concerned. He adds: "With Smoke you can be sure about uncompromised quality of the footage delivered with no loss in saturation or luma. Smoke is so easy to understand that even non-technical staff or editors working on other systems can understand Smoke or learn to use it in about a week."
Since Star TV invested in Smoke, its utilization has risen from 35 per cent to 85 per cent. Around 180 promos a month, out of which 40 to 50 promos are of top rated shows, are edited in Smoke. Editors at Star TV take about 6 to 8 hours to complete a promo in Smoke.
"The cost of producing a promo on Smoke would depend from facility to facility," says Balu adding that Star TVs production costs are down 35 per cent of what they used to be apart from benefits of maintaining control on quality and quantity of promos.
"Smoke delivers really fast and output in terms of both time and quality is really fantastic," says Satish.