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DVD Production Branches Out

DVDs are maturing into a media distribution standard By John Virata

During the last year, professional DVD production has matured to a point where the format is fast becoming a standard for digital media distribution in a wide range of markets. The technology has permeated almost all aspects of creative society, from independent filmmakers distributing their art, to corporate media and advertising agency professionals working to put the latest company information for distribution via DVD, to book publishers providing value-added content to the written word. DVD production and the tools used to create DVDs have also matured to the point that they are becoming easier and more sophisticated at the same time. The issues of compatibility are diminishing as older-style DVD players reach the end of their useful lives, and the software and hardware vendors work to make their products more compatible with wider audiences.

The DVD format is a great medium for communicating, especially visually communicating with sound and video because of the file sizes that the format supports. This gives the creators of visual content a huge space in which to showcase their ideas, and at the same time, maintaining the integral quality of their message. Whether it's an advertising campaign for the latest high-end European luxo-car or the latest training techniques for educational subjects, the possibilities are virtually endless because the format handles so much data.

As with any other creative tools, DVD production tools experienced some growing pains as they made their ascent to the top of the creative media mountain. Compatibility issues, feature-less software, format wars, and the ever present realm of questionable media made the DVD a love it/hate it platform for creating content, let alone distributing content. These issues, which were prevalent in the early years, have been somewhat mitigated, partly by the software vendors who worked to make their applications more robust and bulletproof, and partly by the hardware manufacturers, who worked to tune their hardware for better output, speed, and reliability. These aspects of technology, coupled with better quality media, faster and more error free recording media, and software features that give DVD authoring professionals wide-ranging output choices, have helped propel DVD production to the forefront. If you want to get your message to the widest possible audience without diluting its quality, DVD seems to be the way to go.

In this NAB 2004 DVD production article, we interview several creative media executives who work with the DVD medium everyday, as well as several vendors of DVD creation tools:

-- Matthew Dessner, creative director at Kinetic, a New York City-based visual design house that creates content for the advertising (Bell South, Crest toothpaste, Heineken, General Mills), broadcast, music video, and corporate communities;
-- Mitchell Rubinstein, executive vice president of DVD at Creative Domain, a Los Angeles-based facility that creates film and video motion graphics, trailers and print campaigns for Hollywood films, and DVD menu designs and programming for Hollywood DVDs, including such DVD titles as Ice Age, The Cat in the Hat, and The Hot Chick;
-- Travis White, product marketing manager at Ulead Systems, provider of Ulead DVD Workshop and Media Studio Pro editing software; 
-- Giles Baker, senior product marketing manager for Adobe Systems' Encore DVD authoring software;
-- Robert DeMoulin, marketing manager for branded storage products in Sony Electronics' IT Products Division.

While their answers are just a snapshot of what is happening in the market, some of their views may surprise you.

Matthew Dessner
Creative Director

DMN: What is it about the DVD format that makes it such a useful medium for communicating?

MD: First and foremost, DVD provides quick and easy navigation when multiple versions of a commercial or other content are needed to be viewed from one source. It goes without saying that the image quality and digital sound far exceeds anything a 3/4-inch tape could provide.  Recently we have even explored and may implement, through DVD scripting, the ability to password protect a DVD. This way pitches or certain other sensitive material can only be viewed by those with the password. This added security is something clients seem to be taking more of interest in. It is the most flexible medium available, in terms of user options.

DMN: What limitations do you see to the DVD medium as a message of communication?

MD: Incompatibility still pokes its ugly head from time to time. An older player may still be laying around someone's office and will choke on some DVD-R general media. In addition, burn times are something to consider when you have a client waiting for their commercial to be dubbed to DVD. Its not as fast as just laying off to tape obviously. 

DMN: How has the professional DVD production market evolved over the last 12 months?

MD: As a visual design house, our DVD production is primarily for client approval of broadcast design, animation and 3d. The software used to make DVDs for this purpose has become more robust in its ability to compress more efficiently and author with little limitation. The price of media continues to decline, it is simply much cheaper to make a DVD than even a year ago. With more advertising agencies embracing DVD, its quickly becoming the preferred choice to view commercial content.

DMN: What are some of the advances in the last year you have witnessed with regard to DVD production?

MD: Faster DVD recorders are definitely up there on a level of big improvement.  4x record speeds are not uncommon and more importantly, the media that supports that speed has come down in price. Again, the authoring tools have also improved and that has made a big difference for some. Apples DVD Studio Pro 2 is more intuitive for someone that is accustomed to dealing with a timeline based application most of the day. That does help with the learning curve for editors. Many of the design applications that we use in house seem to be more DVD friendly. Apple's QuickTime Pro and its ability to playback and compress MPEG-2 streams has also been updated which makes handling MPEG-2 media a bit easier.

DMN: What markets are really embracing the DVD format?

MD: DVD seems to be just about everywhere.  As a design boutique we choose DVD to showcase our work because it remains the most loyal, in terms of quality,  to the original source footage.  One point of interests is that DVD is also a great format to back up data to.  At any time we can take our whole design project and simply burn it to DVD as data, which is a nice convenience to have all your elements on one piece of media.  Its easy to restore!.

DMN: True. All the assets of a particular project can be easily located and restored. How were your assets previously backed up? Have other boutiques such as yours also chosen to embrace the DVD format? Are there still those who choose to go a more traditional route?

MD: In the past backing up large media and data files required a format that could accommodate the space required.  Formats have changed for the better. Early on we had SyQuest disks to Jazz cartridges to DLT. The aforementioned was slow , very very slow to record to and to restore from. Not to mention the cost was fairly high. DVD has provided a more economical way to store data. Each post house has unique needs for storage, and without a doubt some are choosing DVD for a data archive solution.  While others are probably well invested in other older formats and remain loyal to them.

DMN: Are you seeing new markets for DVD production tools that you didn't expect?

MD: We are always looking for new markets to apply our technology-based business to. DVD offers production tools that are valuable to any company that is involved in sales. DVD is the perfect medium for the end user to quickly view what he or she is interested in. If the viewer is interested in your service or product but cant quickly find what he or she is looking for, you may lose that potential client. I think the new markets are the non traditional media oriented businesses, such as real estate, and healthcare, just to name a few.

DMN: How are corporations embracing DVD authoring tools in their marketing and communications departments?

MD: Corporations have similar needs to Ad agencies in that they usually have multiple streams of  information that needs to be presented all in one place.  DVD provides them the ability to present  complex, multi level information broken down all on one piece of media. Recently having been involved with a corporation that needed to explain the different sections of its health plan to the entire company, DVD provided the user a choice to go to the ?chapter that s/he directly had a question about. Other corporations that are more directly involved with promotional events are using DVD as the medium that help sets the tone of the event. DVD players are being connected to projectors and digital eye candy appears on walls, screens and stretched fabrics. All to create a mood, reinforce branding, or send a message. DVD has become the ?go to media for this type of application.

DMN: What are some of the challenges that DVD production professionals are facing with regard to the technology?

MD: Technology is always a moving target when viewed as an investment. The investment needs to turn a profit fairly quickly for it to be worth its weight in the workflow. DVD still seems to be evolving, with  blue ray lasers and the ability for discs to hold up to 27 gigs of data around the corner, one has to wonder about today's investment in authoring equipment. HDTV to DVD are really the next big thing and Kinetic is watching closely to see what presents itself and the next market leader.

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Related Keywords:DVD, production, authoring, filmmakers, training, educational, format, Compatibility, Mitchell Rubinstein, Giles Baker, Travis White, Matthew Dessner,


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