After seven years of collaboration on their RIAM initiative to support research and innovation in the audiovisual and multimedia field, the French National Centre for Cinematography (CNC) and French public sector financing organisation Bpifrance have published their 2011-2013 report on the innovative enterprises they have successfully assisted.
The digital revolution is currently having a far-reaching impact on the entertainment industry, including the audiovisual sector, which today finds itself at the focal point of artistic creation and technical advances. Accordingly CNC and Bpifrance entered into a partnership in 2001 to set up the RIAM network with a view to helping innovative French companies respond to the challenges and seize opportunities in the sector. The partners have created funding solutions for company research and development programmes in the fields of audiovisual production, processing, distribution and publishing, designed to help create innovative products and services. The funding provided covers a range of both internal and external expenses, including project design and definition, commercial and technical feasibility studies, innovation implementation, production of prototypes and scale models, filing and extending patents, preparation for mass market launch and the search for business partners. The recently-published report highlights in particular the importance accorded to market-led projects which respond to the general public’s changing habits and requirements in this sector.
Criteria based on user habits
The purpose of RIAM funding – which is open to both single-owner projects and collaborative projects that do not benefit from any link to state research laboratories – is to finance R&D projects and assist project feasibility studies. The latter are designed to identify specific technological, legal or business model obstacles that need to be overcome before a business plan can be successfully implemented. Meanwhile direct R&D aid is intended to encourage commercialisation of new products or services likely to make a big improvement to the internal production process. The report underlines the partners’ determination to be part of the process of fostering disruptive technology that will drive innovations in usages and services. In March 2013 RIAM launched a call for projects for development of innovative tools for the video on demand (VOD) market, given the growing popularity of this market approach to customers. In fact the number of projects in the VOD arena doubled between 2012 and 2013. In addition, in order to enhance its role and impact, the RIAM call for projects, which was originally available to companies with less than 2,000 employees, was this year thrown open to larger firms with over 2,000 staff. In the end, out of the 90 projects approved, close to 65%, representing 78% of funding, put forward major technological disruptions from which real practical innovations are now flowing. One example is OTT television distributor Tevolution, which distributes linear and non-linear TV services via a hybrid TNT/OTT box, either live or through publishers, distributors and network operators.
Four main objectives
Moreover, CNC and Bpifrance want their initiative to be seen as an international drive and aim to promote the development of a competitive French ecosystem in this sector at world level. The report states four objectives. The first is to offer players and what it calls ‘spectactors’ – i.e. highly active viewers – new experiences based on tablets and connected TV. An example here is Stupeflix Mobile, which provides a platform for automated video editing on the Internet.
The second aim is to achieve excellence in audiovisual products, adding value with cutting-edge technology. In this category, 3D video solutions company Stereolabs has developed AVP3D, an approach which enables film-makers to control 3D effects while shooting. Each of these projects, several of which are working in conjunction with state-owned research laboratories, is designed to perfect one link in the chain of production required to put together a piece of audiovisual work. The third objective is to update production chains for creating audiovisual works, focusing on practical productivity issues. In this bracket, Firefly Cinema has developed FireDay, a solution which provides automated management of rushes when shooting. The fourth goal is to help widen the geographical distribution of audiovisual works by promoting offerings. This aspect is mainly about developing digital platforms and tools to promote works to the general public, a key example being film production and distribution company Cinema Defacto, which received funding for its ‘Seventh Movie House’ cinema-on-demand platform.