I used to produce all my own DVDs. I rarely had to do them, and doing runs myself seemed the best value for money. I could do them inexpensively and (to be honest) compared to local duplication providers what I made were of vastly better quality. I was fussy over media, I only bought the highest quality plastic cases, and spent a lot of time and money perfecting the quality of the labels and inserts, and testing the quality of printable surfaces, etc.
But I’ve moved on. Less and less are DVDs a massive part of providing footage to clients or for distribution. Some of my work still absolutely requires it however so the burners and printers all stay where they are, collecting dust and preparing for their infrequent use. High quality media can no longer be purchased locally and need to be purchased online in expensive bulk lots which are far more than I may use in a lifetime. The providers of the DVD cases I used to use now only offer cheaper, lower quality covers which feel and look crummy. Printing the inserts has become extortionately expensive.
I spent a while looking for duplicators in my country and found most (if not all) were unwilling to do small runs like I would need. Plus I’m becoming increasingly disappointed I can’t give my clients HD versions of the video I produce for them and I refuse to invest in Blu-Ray as I have still never once been asked to provide one to any client. Usually I provide a second disk these days with a h.264 digital copy stored on it, though that increases my costs and production time. Downloads are possible but would require space, bandwidth and still doesn’t solve the issue of needing to supply a lot of archival hard copies.
I’ve since started asking my clients about a new distribution method which could solve a lot of my woes – printed USB storage. Most modern TVs, DVD and Blu Ray players and game consoles will play .mp4s off a USB mass storage device, and I thought that credit card-sized flash drives could solve my problems. Hypothetically, they would offer:
- enough surface area for a high quality printed sticker with artwork
- a printed backside with my business details on it
- enough storage for a HD feature and special features
- SD version for compatibility
- Should play on almost any TV, Blu Ray player, set top box, etc with a USB port
- Digital copies that can be easily removed for use with phones and media players
The expense for me is higher, as the cost is double what it costs me to make a DVD. But I figure what they cost will pale compared with the actual cost of the time I spend manufacturing disks. Plus, for the few jobs where I recoup money selling on disks to cast/crew members it would reduce the amount of junk leftover DVDs that sit around taking up space at my house as any that are created and go unsold can easily be reused.
My goal is to conduct some experiments over the next two months to test compatibility with a wide range of televisions and media players to ensure minimal issues for the end user. DVD remains common because of the convenience to the end user and the ubiquity of players, and I could easily continue offering extremely small run DVDs for specific requests, whilst offering the USB flash drive as the primary distribution method. I feel it is a medium more valuable to the end user, as well as being smaller and, should they take the fancy, reusable as a simple flash media device.