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Disc Producers’ Work Grows

10 Jul, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

According to data from The DVD Release Report, 2009 is on its way to being the fourth straight year of decline for total DVD releases, and data from Futuresource Consulting shows total DVD units released at retail down 10% this year from 2008.

With the slowdown in DVD, you’d think the producers of bonus content would be worried.

But thanks to an uptick in the number of Blu-ray Discs being released, the number of companies releasing them and the added work involved with Blu-ray, they’re working harder than ever. Paul Scott, EVP of Sony DADC, said at the recent Entertainment Supply Chain Academy conference that Blu-ray Disc sales are expected to be up 212% this year.

“The workload is unbelievable,” said Paulette Pantoja, CEO and founder of BluFocus, a Blu-ray production and quality control company. “The ramp-up is especially huge this summer because it’s not just the top tier-titles any more.”

Last year, the customers were mainly the major studios, she said.

“This year, non-studios like the smaller ones are jumping on the Blu-ray wagon,” she said. “So, they are going through the learning process of what the studios went through when Blu-ray first went into production.”

Independent producer Van Ling said that because studios are having to create added content for DVD, Blu-ray and the Internet, content producers aren’t all that affected by the slowdown in DVD.

“From a content-creation standpoint, the decline of DVD hasn’t changed things much at all,” he said. “People and studios still want the content. It’s just a matter of what formats they want them delivered in and how they plan to use them.”

Matt Kennedy, CEO and founder of 1K Studios, said the demand for Blu-ray bonuses is different than it was for DVD, and demand is up because of higher household Blu-ray player penetration.

“The demand for creative presentations and added value features has become more focused and more intense,” he said. “What you have happening is you’ve got all this money going out of DVD, while everyone’s searching for the features that will propel people to Blu-ray Disc.”

However, independent producer Michael Pellerin of Pellerin Multimedia said those wanting Blu-ray features need to understand that it takes more than it did for DVD.

“When DVD started it was the domain of specialty, individual producers, someone who had a passion for it,” said Pellerin, who worked on bonuses for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and King Kong. “But it's become, more often than not, a medium of standardized packaged goods. And that's a very difficult environment to try and pioneer in.”

Ling agreed, saying that the higher demand is offset by the feeling among some content owners that Blu-ray can be done on the same timeline and for the same price as DVD.

“Studios have gotten used to paying less money for DVD product, and they’re trying to translate that over to Blu-ray,” Pellerin said. “By its nature, because we are building prototypes in a new medium, Blu-ray needs more capital investment up front to develop new ideas, if it is going to achieve its potential, not only for this medium, but also for the future of digital distribution.”

In terms of quality control, a DVD takes a few hours. Making sure a Blu-ray goes out the door without major hiccups can take upwards of 100 hours. Blu-ray is less a video format than it is a software format, they noted.

“We see this increase continuing as more and more BD Live features are introduced,” BluFocus’ Pantoja said. “As with any new format, new technology requires more intense testing to ensure that everything is working properly. Blu-ray has the capability of using BD Java and this in turn allows for more innovative ideas to come to life.”

Many studios are getting most of their work done at major production facilities, such as Digital Deluxe Studios and New Wave Entertainment, Pellerin said, and doing so may run a risk with Blu-ray bonuses that didn’t exist with DVD.

“DVD content, for the most part, has become very generic,” Pellerin said. “Blu-ray isn’t cut-and-paste, rubberstamped product. All other sorts of opportunities have popped up. Blu-ray is the potential gateway to extend the lives of home video units because it starts to break away from the physical media and gets into the [electronic delivery], which is the future.”

Ling said that new ideas for Blu-ray bonuses, especially for BD Live, may be stifled if studios worry too much about quantity of discs getting out the door.

“I firmly believe that the only way Blu-ray is going to succeed is if we take advantage of its unique strengths and capabilities beyond just the presentation quality,” he said. “We have to try new things with it, both utilizing BD Live connectivity and creating compelling on-disc experiences. The studios and the consumers will need to take a leap of faith.”

Kennedy said that the coding for Blu-ray bonuses has become established, “whereas last year and the year before, people were still looking for feedback on what works, this year is more involved and creative.”

“If you wanted to do a trivia on a disc, you had to do it from scratch,” he explained. “Now that code is out there. The investment has already been made.”

But while e-commerce offerings, in-movie information, social networking and video chats are a nice start, the best bonuses for Blu-ray haven’t been discovered yet, producers said.

“We’ve only scratched the surface with what Blu-ray can do, but it has to be in the right hands,” Pantoja said. “From a creative standpoint, we’re still in a DVD mindset. It’s not thinking outside the box; it’s creating a whole new box.” 

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