Coppola's DVD Producer Preparing for HD7 Apr, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf
The role of the DVD producer has become increasingly integral in creating a bridge between the director and the fan. It stands to become even more important with the bulging capacity for extras high-def discs will offer.
For DVD producer Kim Aubry, that director is Francis Ford Coppola.
Aubry was the DVD producer for Coppola DVDs The Godfather DVD Collection, Apocalypse Now Redux, Rumble Fish, One From the Heart, The Conversation, Tucker: The Man and His Dream and The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, to name a few.
Aubry first met the director when he signed on to do sound work for Gardens of Stone in the late 1980s. He had been working in sound mixing and radio in San Francisco, the home of Coppola's American Zoetrope production company.
The two started talking. Coppola was interested in Aubry's radio background, and Aubry's been working for him ever since.
“Even then, [Coppola] had a lot of questions about high-definition and where it was going,” Aubry said. “We seemed to just hit it off talking about technology and the use of it in filmmaking.”
Last year, Aubry took the DVD-production arm of Coppola's American Zoetrope and turned it into the pure-play DVD production company ZAP Zoetrope Aubry Productions. There he works on film and soundtrack restoration, artistic design and bonus content productions.
For the past 15 months, Aubry and his team have been working on the upcoming special edition DVD release — Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier, a sort of “kitchen sink” version of an Apocalypse Now DVD.
It will include both the original and Redux versions of the film, as well as a wealth of new documentaries that dive deep into the editing, the sound, the music and other aspects of the film's production.
Aubry is filming some of the bonus features in high-def, for this and for another project, Bram Stoker's Dracula, which will also include a special “art student” viewing option.
“Whenever moments in the film appear that have interesting references to art, a button will appear,” he said. “They can select it, and the film will stop, and they'll see the storyboard or the painting the setting is based on.”
The impending world of high-def signals an exciting future, Aubry said, even just from a quality standpoint.
“To get a movie to show on a standard-definition TV, even on a good system and a great monitor, still means we are throwing away more than half the data, half the detail information,” he said.
It's early and expensive to be working in high-def, Aubry said. It can cost anywhere from 35% to 60% more, and the budgets for extras have not increased that much.
“But we're doing it because we want to learn how to do it,” he said. “We're kind of seeding the market — using HD transfers of the film to make the bonuses, shooting in HD. The bump up in quality is noticeable.”
There's a chance that high-definition discs will one day mirror or even be better than the theatrical viewing experience, especially for people in smaller communities where there are often less sophisticated movie theaters, Aubry said.
Of course, as a DVD producer, his mind goes to the possibilities for extra features.
“The possibilities of a 25GB or 30GB easy-to-manufacture disc is very interesting because we can have the film presented beautifully, and we can annotate interestingly,” he said.
A lot will depend, as it does now, on the enthusiasm of the distributor to budget special features, and exactly what is available.
Luckily for Aubry, Coppola is a pack-rat of the highest order, which generates plenty of content and ideas for DVD extras. A few years ago, Zoetrope hired a full-time archivist to manage the director's vast storage of memorabilia, notes and film.
Of course, that wasn't the case when Aubry was putting together The Godfather Collection for DVD; there was a lot of digging done to come up with vintage extras for that set.
His favorite item on the Godfather set was a dusty, old, torn-up audio-tape he found while rifling through Coppola's stash. He carefully restored the delicate tape and discovered a session Coppola had recorded in Italy, where he had flown to discuss The Godfather's now iconic score with composer Nino Rota.
Studios and directors have improved in preserving and chronicling films, even as consumers are increasingly more used to having these well-produced, bonus-laden discs on their shelves.
“If home video was still exclusively a rental business, obviously these enhancements would be less valuable, but now that things are priced to sell, it's a competitive market,” he said. “You have to look for reasons why people really want to keep it on the shelf.”