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Archive for September, 2010

Is a book the secret to a best-selling DVD?

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Could a book really make a CD sell better?

It may seem like a contradicting thing to say that books and DVDs go well together considering that each seems to encourage separate aspects of the human.  While DVD are visually and aurally stimulating, packing with quick information that takes no effort to take in but which can quickly hook you in emotionally and psychologically, a book is a slow-burning, highly informative volume which focusses a little less on the powers of empathy and far more in employing the resources of the imagination.

However, recent studies have shown that these two such contrasting products are mutually beneficial when placed upon the market in a package.  In fact, these packages have even developed their own niche – the ‘kit’ market’.  Often, these ‘kits’ are one off and best-sellers, for instance the book/DVD combination on Barak Obama, Barak Obama – Words That Inspired A Nation:  Essential Speeches 2002 to the Inauguration.  But recently there has also been a whole host of kits brought out annually, often related to bands or magazines.

The book on Barak Obama was in danger of falling into the highly intellectualised, dry realm of academia but the accompanying DVD brought it to life and expanded the consumer market considerably.  As Brian Brodeur, one of the key figures in the book’s video-editing process, says, “The DVD and package made all the difference…  I don’t think a book of speeches is going to do those kinds of numbers.  The value-add of the DVD is what put it over the top.”  And it’s true; rather then selling a few copies to a small market of consumers with very scholarly attitudes, the DVD allowed the book to appeal to the average Joe.  The kit sold 7,500 copies in its first two months of sale alone!

So, a DVD can obviously help a book to sell, but is the reverse true:  When approaching DVD duplication services, should we also approach a publishing company alongside to create a book for our DVD?

The evidence suggests that the market is open and eager for more such kits, the multimedia content appealing to a greater audience and adding value above the value of the product alone.  This has been seen with several more DVD-based kits.  For a start, the back-copy DVDs of Rolling Stone and Playboy magazine.  Each company approached Bondi Digital Publishing in New York, hoping to create a DVD of all the issues of their magazines since beginning of print.  For Playboy, this went all the way back to 1953, while for Rolling Stone a more modest 1967.  Still, both jobs were massive undertakings, with each page of each edition of the magazine needing to be scanned and digitalised.

It was posited that a book of the company’s respective histories should be published in conjunction with these DVDs, forming a kit, and there is no doubt that this decision on the DVD duplication services part added to the overall value of the product, combining two new and interesting collector’s items in one kit.  As David Anthony, Bondai Digital’s president, recalls, “It began as a DVD-ROm only software product, but then we realised that adding a book would give us more retail reach.”  The Playboy DVD kit also came with a re-print of the first edition of the magazine ever sold.  These kits have, according to David Anthony, ‘met sales expectations’, which were high in the first place!

More unusual formats, for instance Esteban’s famous guitar lesson DVD/ book kits, are becoming available as well.  Esteban’s kits are rumoured to sell more copies per year then the guitars the two giants of the instrument world, Fender and Gibson, sell per annum – combined!  He must be a very happy man, as must his DVD duplication services be!

So, what are the issues with these top-selling kits?  Well, to start the packaging can be a nightmare to conceptualise.  What do you do with a DVD that needs to look like a book in a bookstore and a book that needs to look like a DVD on the shelves of HMV?  But, as more and more kits come onto the market, more ideas are coming through and it is becoming ever-easier to piece together a product which looks classy and original.

The other problem many DVD duplication services encounter in the process of creating these products, is that the publishing and DVD duplicating worlds know very little about one another.  This makes collaborating tricky, but can be incredibly successful, each business learning a bit about the other, and each one complimenting the other with the services they provide.  The difficulties come when sourcing data for the product:  During the Obama kit’s production, Barnes and Noble are said to have sourced some very poor quality film of the president’s speeches, which had to be re-sourced and acquired all over again!
However, this problem too has been fading with time, as each industry learns more about the other they are better able to collaborate and come out with some very stylish kits.  As Brodeur says, “I think one of the reasons we’ve been putting together some great kits is because we now know more about what the other [industry] does.”

So, with issues in the production process which are constantly becoming less of a problem and a wide market eager to consume your product, why not consider making a kit next time you approach DVD duplication services?  The profits are higher than the input by far and you would be helping a new and exciting variation on products get up and running!

How are BD-ROMs manufactured?

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Brand new BD technology means a brand new disc manufacturing techniques

From a consumer’s point of view, it can often appear that products simply appear on the shelves in our shops.  But the reality is that everything that we buy is made somewhere in a more or less complicated process.  For Blu-ray disc manufacturing, this process is long and tricky and must be done by state of the art machines.  On the surface the BD factory is mystery – so let’s satisfy our curiosity and take an in depth look at how these discs are made.

All BDs start life as a collection of tiny, clear granules of the plastic polycarbonate.  These granules arrive at the factory in trucks and are stored in silos, waiting for the process of Blu-ray disc manufacturing to begin.  They are then siphoned into pipes, which take them through the factory to ‘hopper’s which measure out a certain number of granules and melt them down, sending them to the moulding machine.

The moulding machine then compresses the liquified polycarbonate into a disc.  The mould for the machine is created from a glass master copy of the first layer of data data to be stored on the BD so not only does this machine create the basic shape of the disc, but it also punches the first layer of data into it.  The data takes the form of ‘bumps’ or positive and negative indentations on the surface of the disc, which will later be covered for protection, and then read by the ‘blue’ BD laser.

Moved by a robotic arm, the disc is now ready for the next stage in Blu-ray manufacturing.  The disc is then coated in a layer of silver.  This layer is miniscule – only 90 angstroms thick (and an angstrom is only 100 millionths of a centimetre!)  The layer is created by a process called sputtering.  In this case, ‘sputtering’ involves hundreds of thousands of atoms of silver being bombarded.  The particles of metal are ‘energised’ or made magnetic so that they will stick to the surface they are applied to.  In Sony Blue-ray disc manufacturing plant, their sputtering machine has a magnetic field so strong that it affects pacemakers that are brought nearby!

The disc is then coated in a layer of special UV resin, which is hardened by being exposed to a special kind of light.  Then, a second layer of data is added if needed and the disc is given another UV resin coating and a final protective layer.

But this is not then end of the Blu-ray disc manufacturing process:  Half the energy goes into making sure the product is reliable.  The discs are machine-checked for any sign of scratching or bubbling between the layers before being scanned and checked for playback integrity.
And what would a disc be without its artwork?  The discs then have to be loaded onto spools to go to the printing machines, which vary in technique according to the factory.  Finally, the BDs find their way to the assembly line where they are clothed in their cases, with any inserts and covers the designer has chosen.

So that is how Blu-ray discs are manufactured!  They don’t just magically appear, but are sent through a complex and highly scientific process before arriving on the shelves or our stores!

BD Live – Alive or Dead?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

BD Live - how alive is it?

The world of technology is constantly attempting to develop, and the world of disc manufacturing is no different.  After the war between the HD formats (a battle decidedly won by Blu-Ray discs over HD DVD), manufacturers began to press the concept of BD-Live.

But what is BD-Live?  Well, despite its new buzzword status, it is actually quite difficult to pin any industry officials down on what in fact ‘BD-Live’ entails.  The best summing up can be that it is Blu-Ray discs connected to the internet for extra features.  It requires back-end technologies which allow the disc to access high quality content from the internet.  This content was originally intended to be apps such as being able to chat to friends during a film, being able to access websites of products featured in a film and to even buy those products on the spot, from the comfort of your own couch.

Let’s pass over what this means for the ensuing increased laziness of mankind and focus instead on what the technology has so far been used for.  Mainly, it is used as a promotional tool for the studios behind the film, giving links to the studio’s website through the Blu-Ray disc.  However, usually these websites do not allow any further access to the internet, keeping the user in that companies ‘playground’.  Many of these websites lack original, entertaining data and do not keep the user enthralled.  Aside from access to these sites, BD-Live has also so far been used for material such as one gets as extra features on DVD.

And yet the potential for BD-Live is so much greater than this:  It could, in the long run, grant full web access, allow HD downloadable videos, have killer apps and constantly updated new information about the film.  It has even been suggested that, for instance, if you were to buy a disc about a band, you could insert the disc and see some of their gigs live on the nights that they played.  The sheer amount of work and resources that would have to go into an app like this aside, it would be a great capability to have on a Blu-ray disc.  Add to this the potential BD-Live has for communication – internet chat, text messaging and phone calls – and you have yourself an amazing application.

So why have the industry been so slow to start fulfilling this potential?  Firstly, there are several unanswered questions about how exactly BD-Live will work cross-continent:  How exactly will people be able to communicate around the world with the regional coding Blu-ray discs have been programmed with?  And, with different BD-Live (that is basically internet-capable) players having different programming and capacities, there is no guarantee that all consumers will be able to access the same amount of data.  Currently, the difference in downloading time can vary from one player downloading one set of data in ten seconds, to another downloading the same set in ten minutes!  Creating programs that only a small percent of the market will be able to use does not seem to provide enough impetus to develop the technology further.

From a film-makers point of view, as industry’s Van Ling pointed out, having someone be encouraged to talk through a film that you have made is, frankly, insulting, so the communication side of BD-Live is being stunted from the film-maker’s quarter.

To add to all these problems, many consumers are baffled as to why they need BD-Live when their computers and mobile-phones can serve the same purposes with less fuss and cost.  BD-Live needs to develop something new and different which cannot be found simply on the web or through your phone or computer, only on a Blu-ray disc.

What it is important to remember, however, is that these are all simply teething problems:  BD-Live is new and no new technology arrives on the market problem-free.  All this technology needs is consumer support and eventually the programming will improve.  Let’s face it, if it eventually fulfills its potential, it will be worth supporting!

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