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How 'big data' is changing your movie-viewing experience

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Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:36 am, Sat Jul 26, 2014.

(BPT) - What do personalized movie-kiosk offerings, marketing campaigns and Godzilla all have in common? The obvious answer is “the movie industry,” but another equally important common element ties all three together: they’re all the product of big data.

“Simply put, big data refers to huge volumes of data that’s manipulated, correlated with other big data sets, and then analyzed to provide unique insights,” says Ron Kasabian, vice president and general manager of Big Data Solutions at Intel. “While the concept may seem very technical and cerebral, big data has a huge impact on many aspects of everyday life – including our enjoyment of movies.”

In 2013, the total box office in the U.S. was $10.9 billion, and more than two-thirds of the population attended a movie at least once, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Big data is affecting Americans’ movie-going experience in many ways, from helping predict what films will be box office hits and how best to market them, to assisting in the creation of the amazing imagery of special effects giants like Godzilla or the Transformers.

Helping a film find its audience

Modern films reach global audiences and their marketing campaigns must target a diverse range of viewers who are constantly connected and very active in social media. The old way of doing business was to have sample audiences prescreen a film and use their responses to predict the movie’s potential for success or failure. Today consumer data such as Twitter and Facebook activity can now be analyzed to allow a studio to track online searches for keywords specific to the film and views of trailers before the movie opens, and base success predictions on that data. This type of data also allows studios to adjust their marketing plans instantly while consumers benefit from getting information on movies that are more specific to their interests and tastes.

Big data also helps studios tap into social media, analyze responses and shape their social media marketing around feedback. Easy-to-access feedback from resources like Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media outlets helps marketers tailor their campaigns for specific groups and geographic regions. Opening weekend is often the make-or-break event for a film, so knowing what viewers are saying on social media can help studios better gauge response and tweak their resulting marketing efforts. This in turn helps increase the chances of success by ensuring that the right consumers are aware of and interested in the film.

Studios and networks are even using big data and analytics to promote movies after their release for the small screen. When you receive movie suggestions in an online subscription service like Netflix, those recommendations are based on the analysis of massive amounts of consumer viewing data, which allows the company to provide a more tailored experience and get the right movies directly into your hands.

“Big data and analytics is evolving into the primary tool for studios to decide what to market, how to market it and who to market to,” says Kasabian. “With the explosion of data from social media and the ‘second screen’ effect – smartphones and tablets – studios now have countless new ways to look at their relationship with consumers.”

Changing how movies look

The movie industry has gone digital, and many box-office hits must make sense of huge volumes of data produced to create and tell their stories.

Computer-generated imagery and special effects have amazed audiences since their first big appearance in “Tron” in 1982. From those very early days – when the technology could not combine computer animation and live actors in a single scene – CGI has evolved dramatically. Multiple cameras and computer artists generate massive volumes of data, which must then be crunched to create those incredible special effects.

For example, the latest “Godzilla” movie has received raves for its special effects. In fact, it took six months just to create the texture of Godzilla’s scales, which by themselves include more than 500,000 polygons – this huge amount of data was then put through a 3D modeling process on super high-powered computers that resulted in one amazing monster. Effects that would have previously been impossible to create can now be accomplished through a combination of big data, high performance computing technology and talented designers.

“Big data is putting the same computing power used by NASA engineers and online retailers like eBay to work for consumer-oriented tasks, like movie development and marketing,” Kasabian says. “The film industry is evolving into a model of what our world will look like as art and technology merge to create something new and exciting.”

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