Back in May I wrote a post questioning the value of physical media when digital media is so accessible. In the last few months, I’ve experienced a few things that might answer the question.
Movies. I’ve spent the last 2 years working on a film called The Art of Flight. I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog. As an action sports documentary, AoF is unique in it’s release model. It doesn’t take a Theatrical > Rental > DVD Purchase route like a typical Hollywood film. The DVD, Blu-Ray and iTunes download all became available the day after the movie’s premiere in New York. It then went on a worldwide tour where the film is shown in a different city about every other night. It doesn’t get a traditional theatrical release and isn’t available for rent. So the way most people see this movie is through downloads or DVD/Blu-Ray.
The action sports audience is one of the most tech savvy. Which means a high percentage of downloads, and a high percentage of piracy. At $30/copy we have to give people a reason to want to buy the movie instead of pirating it. The prices for iTunes are $8 for the SD version and $10 for 720p. As much as we like people buying the downloads, we also want to give them a reason to purchase a physical copy. How?
So we decided to do 4 things:
One: Bonus Material. This is something that we’ve been doing for awhile with the action sports movies I’ve worked on. We load the DVD/Blu-Ray with lots of extras. Hollywood movies do this too. They will create rental discs that are bare bones and then save the extras for their for sale discs. As a Netflix/Redbox consumer, I don’t like this model, but I understand why it’s done.
Two: We bundled the Blu-Ray and DVD in a single package. We didn’t want people to have to purchase the movie twice if they have a DVD player now and get a Blu-Ray player later. This is the OPPOSITE of what Hollywood does. They will do anything to sell you the same content a few times over. We kept the purchase price the same as if we were just doing a single disc, and eat the few bucks it costs us to bundle them together. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on this, so I’m glad we did it.
Three: Dolby TrueHD. We partnered up with Dolby and created a 7.1 mix of the movie at Skywalker Sound outside San Francisco. The mix is really incredible and has one of the most active surround-scapes I’ve ever heard. Many movies shy away from putting too much information in the surround channels, but we took full advantage. Due to technical constraints, you can only get the 7.1 mix on the Blu-Ray (it’s too much data for DVD or iTunes movies to handle). This is another reason why we bundled the DVD and Blu-Ray together.
Four: A Book. This was the big revelation for me. Brain Farm’s previous movie, That’s It That’s All, was available as a limited edition DVD that included a 40 page booklet of photos from the making of the movie. It was well received, so we decided to go one step further and created a 200+ page coffee table book for The Art of Flight. The print quality of this book is amazing and took my breath away the first time I saw it. While I was home on vacation I showed the book to friends and family and they were blown away. The book also includes Blu-Ray and DVD copies of the movie. For me, the book was great because I can give this really cool thing to my friends and family, that they can then show off to their friends and family. What’s Eric been up to, you ask? Here’s his latest movie!
The takeaway: By doing these 4 things, we created a huge value for the physical product. By settling for just a download or pirating the movie, the consumer only gets a fraction of the experience. I predict that future sales of physical media will fall, but those products will become more valuable as producers try to create incentives to purchase, as we did.
As an additional note, I was really disappointed with the quality of the 720p download from iTunes. We put a lot of effort into the visual quality of this film, and a lot of that was lost in the compression. Not too much we can do about that though as it’s just the nature of the format. To get the visual and aural experience that we intended, the Blu-Ray really is the only way to go. If you can make it to one of the tour stops, even better. All tour stops are using Dolby Cinema servers, the same that are used commercial digital theaters.
Photos. My sister-in-law has been bitten by the photography bug. Hard. Every few weeks I’ll get an email from Snapfish to see her latest photos. She’s big into photo albums and scrapbooking. She and my mom created really cool scrapbooks of our trip to Germany a few years ago. But, she stopped printing her photos long ago. Instead, she now does seasonal or event photobooks through Snapfish. Similar services are available through iPhoto, Adoramapix and many others. While I was home, she showed me the one she did for this summer. It was a really cool layout and much more polished than a typical photo album. I think she said it was $20. She leaves the latest photobook out on display in their home so visitors can flip through. These photobooks serve 2 purposes. 1, they reduce the number of photos to the few best ones, which makes the experience better for the reader, and 2, it’s still something physical you can hold, and not a photo slideshow on the internet. There’s still a lot of value in having something physical.
So I’m not sure if this answers the question for me, but it definitely leaves me with some things to think about.
For more information on The Art of Flight: www.artofflightmovie.com
If you’d like to purchase The Art of Flight or check out the book, click here
Check out Brain Farm Digital Cinema: www.brainfarmcinema.com