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Microsoft awards HDi grant to filmmaker

The $100,000 grant lets one of last year's Sundance documentary prize winners incorporate the new technology into an HD DVD release with interactive features.

PARK CITY, Utah--Jason Kohn, director of last year's prize-winning Sundance documentary Manda Bala, shot his every frame to be seen on the big screen, but now realizes "most people are going to experience it in DVD."

Given the latter, he said he was excited to have been awarded a new grant from Microsoft, announced here Sunday night, that will allow him to create a disc using the software giant's HDi technology. HDi enables him to complement the movie with interactive and Web-enabled features such as viewer polls, song downloads, or picture-in-picture commentary and character biographies.

"We never would have been able to afford this," he said at a press conference at the Microsoft House, a Sundance Film Festival venue created to show off the company's digital media technologies.

"It fills a weird little niche that I didn't even know existed," he added, noting that in documentary filmmaking in particular, you often have lots of extra footage, which HDi can help showcase.

The grant, worth about $100,000, also includes support for production of the finished product on HD DVD.

HDi is Microsoft's implementation of the interactive layer in the HD DVD format, the company said in a statement. It takes advantage of mandatory features in every HD DVD player, including a secondary video decoder and an Internet connection.

The HDi grant, awarded in conjunction with the Sundance Institute, follows Microsoft's other efforts to support independent films, the company said. Another example is the 1,000 HD DVD Indies Project, which gives indie filmmakers free access to HD DVD authoring and on-demand replication. Microsoft is also offering digital rentals of festival short films on its Xbox 360 platform.