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Panel Tackles Future of Extras on DVD Format

22 Jul, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner


DVD extras, once considered the icing on the movie cake, have turned DVD into a full-scale buffet that entices both filmmakers and consumers, and creates a separate product with its own, longer life, a panel of DVD experts agreed during the July 16 “DVD Extras” session at Home Entertainment 2002.

“It is merging. DVD has changed home entertainment,” Fox SVP of marketing Peter Staddon said. “With DVD you actually change the experience and you can use the materials to enhance the experience. It's not just bubble gum for the eyes anymore. It's a Friday night experience like going to a movie.”

Home video has long been the lion's share of a film's earning power, but the increase in DVD features and popularity is spurring studios to spend more on promoting them, the panelists agreed.

“We're actually promoting the discs more than we did the movies themselves,” Artisan president of sales and marketing Jeff Fink said.

That trend is likely to continue, especially as filmmakers who once considered the extras a toy are more anxious to get on board.

“Three years ago you couldn't get anyone to do anything,” Staddon said. “Now you have the second and third assistant director and the best boy offering.”

Filmmakers, DVD producers and audiences are getting more sophisticated about extras and interactivity. Independent DVD producer Alita Holly said she learned a lot about producing interactive features doing a stint in Web development.

“With rare exception, for most titles if you can use the film as the spine or as the center of a wheel and have the content come off as spokes from that wheel, with just about any title you can come up with some really compelling stuff,” she said. “It's important to have as many roads to reaching the material as possible.”

“The Internet opens up a whole world if you can have your disc as a filter that will search out relevant stuff,” Staddon said. But he noted it's important to make navigation easy enough for users. Easter Eggs are a fun challenge the first time but eventually discourage viewers, he noted.

“There is a 30-minute segment that deconstructs the sound on Independence Day but hardly anybody's seen it,” he said, “What's the point of putting it on the disc if nobody sees it?”

In fact, in developing the Infinifilm line, New Line Home Entertainment did consumer research and discovered consumers are still learning about the format, said New Line VP of content development Michael Mulvihill.

“Many DVD homes did not know that special features were available on the disc. They weren't using it,” he said. “What we did to develop the brand was to call them out more.”

Studios are expanding extras to reach a variety of audiences, such as the child-friendly “monster world” and the “human world” features on Buena Vista Home Entertainment's pending Monsters, Inc. disc or features geared for history buffs as distinguished from film buffs on Pearl Harbor, VP of brand marketing Gordon Ho said.

“There's two audiences we're trying to deliver on the Director's Set,” he said. “One audience is the filmmaking group, the other is the historians. What we have for the history buffs is the timeline from the 1850s to this event. For the film buffs, the half-hour attack sequence is shown from four angles.

“It allows you to get into the scenes, into the shots,” he said.

The next step for extras is for DVD creators to look at all the options the format makes possible and push that envelope, Holly said. Comparing DVD's development to films, she commented, “One of the reasons Citizen Kane is really cool is that Orson Welles sat down with the camera people and said, ‘What can we do here that I can't do on radio?’


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