Institute for Screen Industries Research

Production challenges: global markets, local practices project

The Chinese film industry in the last decade has witnessed an increasing flow of on- and off-screen talent from abroad as film producers reach out to highly skilled companies and individuals outside China. 

This project seeks to identify the benefits and challenges of an increasingly multinational production environment and outline this environment’s implications for entertainment and technology companies.  It aims to highlight the successful practices of international production and post-production outfits that involved in film and TV professionals from different backgrounds, particularly those trained in the U.S. and China, and furthermore to develop a model of cross-cultural work practice in global screen industries.  

The project looks particular closely at the release in China of two 2010 films with Dolby involvement: the US (Disney) release Tron: Legacy and the China/Hong Kong co-production Let the Bullets Fly

Project Overview

Overview of the project
The project focuses on Dolby Laboratories as a prime example of a leading US company with an established relationship with Chinese filmmakers. In particular, the figure of the ‘Dolby Consultant’ appears to have played a key role in ensuring the correct deployment of Dolby technologies in film production, facilitating the adoption of US-led standards in other regional and national production contexts and filmmaking practices;

The project looks particular closely at the release in China of two 2010 films with Dolby involvement: the US (Disney) release Tron: Legacy and the China/Hong Kong co-production Let the Bullets Fly. The case of Tron: Legacy indicates how an effects-driven 3D release depends on local Chinese techniques – in particular, Dolby Consultants- for its high profile domestic premiere and subsequent exhibition. Let the bullets fly, on the other hand, shows Chinese producers consciously working to match production values and work practices of global and particularly Hollywood producers; 

In addition to Dolby’s involvement, the film also showcases digital-effects work from Beijing-based Crystal CG, a company specializing in digital production and post-production for film, advertising and trade content. With a separate office in London, Crystal also produces CGI content for the 2012 London Olympics. 


Key findings include:
  • As china’s film industry continues its rapid expansion, industry personnel increasingly defined themselves professionally not only in terms of local knowledge and expertise but in terms of their ability to ‘adopt and adapt’ international technologies and aesthetic benchmarks. Professional figures like the Dolby Consultants are central to this crucial process as they work to maintain international technical standards while helping the company develop a sensitivity to local client needs;
  • As more US-Chinese collaborations and co-productions emerge, recognition of the particular characteristics of the Chinese industry and its production personnel is essential for companies seeking access to its fast-growing market and industry. This is particularly important to avoid frictions that could easily generate negative publicity and potentially damaging box office prospects;
  • Companies seeking to work in and with the Chinese industry and its personnel must be proactive in understanding political and industrial activities that strongly impact domestic production and exhibition.

China’s market remains hugely promising for international producers. Hollywood releases accounted for five of the top 10 releases in china in 2010 and six of the top in 2011. With the impending relaxation of longstanding import quotas, China offers exceptional opportunities for producers outside china to attract large audiences for whom film going does not yet represent an everyday activity.

  • Exceptional opportunities exist for international producers seeking to foster relationships with media-savvy local consumers.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Project conclusions and recommendations


Producers, post-production service providers, and other companies involved in international screen industries establish clear, shared goals for production and technical practice;
Companies should develop both formal and informal opportunities for working out and sharing best practices to learn from different production contexts and cultural differences. Dolby’s biannual meetings of its Consultants serve as a good example. Dolby Consultants work in post-production on thousands of films released globally each year, and also maintain standards for theatrical premieres and on-going film exhibition. Dolby’s meetings, held in different international locations each time, fulfil multiple goals:
  • Confirm present industry standards worldwide so Consultants are aware of technical baselines and innovations;
  • Provide formal and in formal forums for discussion of specific work experiences and good practice;
  • Encourage sharing of local knowledge about film producers’ and exhibitors’ preferences, expectations and challenges; and in total,
  • Synthesis the cultural; and professional experiences of Dolby’s global workforce.
Companies should develop, sustain and enhance communication practices to reach clients in different work contexts. These practices should demonstrate awareness of different industry standards governing workflow practices, production schedules and relations between workers at different levels of production. For example, workers trained in US industry contexts should recognize the demands and consequences of China’s production system. Chinese industry workers exposed to other production environments such as Europe’s or the US’s remark on the far greater time allotted for production and post-production tasks. Thus, Chinese technicians’ rapid work pace can be understood not as a lower professional standard, but a strategic response to a heavy professional workload. Awareness of industry personnel’s varying work environments can lead to both greater efficiency and elevated professional standards for all involved.  


Project Leader


Gallagher, Mark

Institute for Screen Industries Research

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD