Hockwood Digital, a new post production studio in the heart of Dubai’s Jumeirah Lakes Towers, is about to disrupt the market in more ways than one. The studio’s founders Meghnathan Naidu and Abbas Sayed are living the dream: their strong working relationship is reminiscent of Bollywood’s Karan Arjun or the buddy pairing of Jai and Veeru from Sholay.
Hockwood Digital is set in swanky offices that have been purpose-built to offer post production service. The office encompasses every service required for filmmakers once shooting has drawn to a close — including a plush private theatre that’s befitting of royals.
Naidu and Sayed are proud of what they have set up, and rightly so. Only the best equipment has gone into their facility, most of which was handpicked by the duo after painstakingly visiting several vendors.
Naidu and Sayed come from Mumbai, the undisputed capital of the bustling Bollywood industry, and have worked in Dubai’s media scene for a decade. Sayed says: “We know almost every studio in the market. This puts us in a great position to know all their pain points and short comings. We have seen how tedious it can be for production houses to find a studios for each task. It made sense for us to get all services under one roof. Don’t forget the glamour and celebrity status that directors and actors command in our industry. Our facility needs to look and feel the part. That’s the reason we set up our offices in the manner we have.”
Naidu adds: “Every second lab that I created was based on a standard that was higher than the one in the past. This made us take stock of every problem and shortcoming. We wanted to cater to every requirement, and that’s why this facility has every single feature imaginable for a post-production studio.”
Hockwood gets most of its business from the Bollywood film industry, working with “every major Indian production house” that releases a healthy stream of content in the Gulf. The firm also works with a few local distributors that deal in local indie movies and Arabic productions.
Naidu reveals his passion for the industry with a glimpse into his professional journey. “I’ve been working in the digital [media] industry from when celluloid to digital transition had just begun. I’ve created several labs globally. Eventually, we thought it was the right time to get our own lab, and so we are here.”
“We have worked together in the same organisation and we had a formidable professional relationship and understanding, which dates back a decade now,” Abbas adds. “We contemplated on having our own lab with a few features that could incorporate the complete process for our clientele.”
The result is a one-of-kind facility in the Middle East that offers post production services. “Once the film is shot, we are able to colour grade, do the mastering, correct audio and sync it, provide subtitling, and oversee the quality control. The film is then cloned and delivered to the cinema from here,” Abbas notes.
A crucial function of a post-production studio is to deliver the film to different cinema houses once the mastering and cloning is complete. Hockwood is set to disrupt the industry with a new approach to delivery and transmission.
“In traditional workflows, multiple clones are created once the film is mastered,” Naidu says. “The cloned hard drives are then physically delivered to cinemas. Currently, we follow the same practice. We are in the process of changing to IP-based deliveries. The industry norm is to send physical hard drives within the UAE and to other GCC countries, a process followed by our competitors as well. International deliveries can incur customs delays and lengthy transit times. We are going to disrupt this practice with a new internet based solution.”
Hockwood Digital is in the process of installing servers at cinema locations. Once deployed, the cinemas will receive a final mastered copy of the film directly from Hockwood’s network delivery system. The entire process is controlled via the web and a dedicated mobile application has also been designed by the firm.
Distributors and programmers can choose a film and select the cinema of their choice to download the content. Real-time reports of content and KDM delivery is also available on smartphones to keep all stakeholders fully aware during the process.
The IP delivery system is expected to be rolled out in Dubai followed by the rest of the country, and eventually across the GCC. Prior to embracing the IP delivery system in all markets, Hockwood will deploy “hybrid cloning systems” in other parts of the GCC.
“At the moment, other companies are not up to speed to the hybrid process, let alone the cloud-based operation we will soon deploy,” Abbas notes.
Revealing more about the company’s international ambitions, Naidu and Abbas maintain a keen interest in Saudi Arabia. Abbas says: “We are serious about doing business in the Saudi media production scene. Distributors and stakeholders are keen about KSA, and the conversation always comes up. It’s a huge market, and with the change that’s been initiated, the amount of business there is beyond explanation. There is plenty of opportunity for everybody.
“We have heard that more than 1,000 cinemas will come up in the country within the next five years. In the meantime, exhibitors are happy with the six to seven cinemas that are currently operational. The amount of business what they are getting from there is equivalent to the cumulative business in the UAE.”
With the advent and subsequent boom of OTT platforms, there is a massive need for content in every market around the world. And Naidu sums up the vision of kickstarting operations at this moment in time.
“We felt this was the best time to start our operations and this office. In our first week after opening, we picked up work — it was for an Arabic film which is successfully running in cinemas. The Saudi market is coming up and growing exponentially, we are expecting a lot of local production companies to start their projects, and hoping for that to grow our business,” Naidu concludes.