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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:20 PM   #1
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Special Interest DVD where to start?

I am trying to create a business production special interest (if that's the right term) DVDs that cater for enthusiasts for aviation, shipping, rail etc. I have most of the gear I need now but I am at a loss as to HOW to start off.

For my first project I think I might do something with shipping ie an overview of ships in various ports. Note I won't necessarily be filming INSIDE the actual ports as I imagine it's hard to get access with all the health and safety.

Please note that I am based in the UK and to start out would be filming in the UK and Europe. Probably Rotterdam for this shipping.

***The first major question is that I don't know what footage I would be allowed to put on the DVD and sell. Is it simple a case of if I am on public land it's ok?

***The second point is how do I go about making the DVDs once the footage is edited? Is it best to get them done professionally or buy a duplicator and do it at home? For this first attempt I am not looking at large runs (maybe 100-200?) because I'm really not sure how they would sell and I don't have the capitol to have 1000s tied up in stock.

***The third point is how do I got about actually selling them? I am thinking that maybe building a website and selling them from home is maybe the way to go for now? How does it work with distributors etc with these kinds of DVDs?

Any help of this would be very much appreciated. I just can't seem to find any books or websites over here in the UK that talk about this side of things.

Andy S
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Old May 28th, 2011, 05:17 PM   #2
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Re: Special Interest DVD where to start?

Hi Andy,
Firstly, here is an excellent book on making documentaries, it's really thorough:

http://www.amazon.com/Making-Documentary-Films-Videos-Documentaries/dp/080508181X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1306618134&sr=1-1

Here are some random thoughts which may be helpful, feel free to disagree.

First question as always: who will my audience be? ie Market Research. Clearly define who will be watching your creations and think about them at all times as you move forward. What do they really enjoy watching? Ask this question of your target audience. The answers may surprise you, but will give you clear direction. Are people excited when you share the idea? Speak to experts in this field. Listen for the real meaning to their answers. Is there really a market for what you want to do? You will be spending lot of time doing this and could just as easily do something that has a greater chance of financial success. Be careful how you spend your time.

Your project is documentary film making, which is telling a story with video. It could be 3 x 10 minute sections, each with it's captivating opening, middle educational & interesting part and satisfying ending. That will be less intimidating to create. All 3 should be the same subject matter for 1 x 30 minute DVD.

Start with 1 x 10 minute section as a standalone "movie". The experience you gain will make the next one faster and easier. You may need 10 times the footage, build that in a logical sequence. You may not have shot it in the same sequence. Overshoot, you will still be scraping the barrel when editing. Do not try to use the same clip twice or slow it down to make it longer unless there is real purpose in telling the story by slowing it down.

Capture audio as you go along. Sometimes shoot for audio only, if the audio sounds useful but the video does not. Complete the project so you have an edited short doc on DVD that you can actually play on your TV. That's the real confidence builder.

Another good way is to write down roughly what you want the story to be. Then write up a shot list. Go out and get the shot list, but be open to letting the story take you in different paths. Most of all make it fun and something you want to do again.

Find interesting people to interview and build your story and footage around that. Without a storyline it's just a bunch of clips strung together that will not have the same meaning or success for you. Focus really intensely on one idea and delve into it. This will be better than spreading wide and trying to be all things to all people.

Aviation for example, could start with footage of the latest jet. Go back 10 years, what did they look like then? Go back another 10 years. How were they then? And further back. This could make an enjoyable viewing experience even for a non aviation buff.

I'm sure there are more experienced documentary film makers that will have better and more complete suggestions, but those are a few of my thoughts.

Best of good fortune with your project and ideas,

Regards,
Doug.

Last edited by Doug Bailey; May 28th, 2011 at 05:34 PM. Reason: Spelling
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Old May 30th, 2011, 01:21 PM   #3
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Re: Special Interest DVD where to start?

As well as the good advice above..........If you want to make it really interesting I'd suggest a direct communication with the companies involved to obtain proper access. (You might offer them some footage for their own use, of their equipment at work, or whatever, as a sweetener). Basically, really interesting material shows something that the amateurs outside the fence cant get. You need an in somehow in order to make your stuff visually stand out and be a compelling buy.

ps - get a hard hat, get a high viz jacket, get personal insurance, and liability insurance, and if there is a H&S course for ports, docks and harbours you might get on that too - ALL of this helps convince the 'gatekeepers' that you are not a liability.

When I've done (stills) work for some of my clients in remote areas I have had to carry a sat phone and check in every two hours, obey their H&S policy which includes having bug face nets, sun protection etc

The hardest part of all this type of work is the long tedious process of arranging permissions. It can be done though - with patience and a lot of letter writing I was able to arrange access to the RN Bomb Disposal Team for an unexploded ordinance clearance in a coastal bombing range, which included access to big guns firing live rounds, explosives prep for clearance and out on a RIB with divers to detonate unexploded shellls, and finally full access to their home base within a nuclear submarine facility.

If you have a CLEAR idea of exactly what you want to do, and WHY, and are patient, polite and professional you can generally achieve quite a lot.

Last edited by John MacPherson; May 30th, 2011 at 01:34 PM. Reason: additional advice
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Old May 30th, 2011, 05:58 PM   #4
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Re: Special Interest DVD where to start?

Thank to both of you for your replies.

Doug I'm not really going for the documentary style for this one. I am more looking at this sort of thing justplanes.com (or similar with shipping or rail) which is only really interesting to enthusiasts but that is the market I am aiming for.

John To get the kind of access you talk about would be idea but to be honest I would have no idea how to go about getting it. Is it just a case of sending an email/letter explaining what you are trying to do and what you require? I assume that once they find out your are going to be selling the footage then they get less willing to let you in?
For the aviation I have a friend/contact who shoots the sort of DVDs I posted the link to who has given me lots of help for technique but I am on my own from there. I am thinking I could try emailing a few smaller airlines/bush flying companies and seeing if they would let me film on a few of their flights and then sell the DVD. The thing is I can't see them being too keep because I am making money off the DVD and they get nothing. Also I would try airlines outside of the UK as access here and in the US is next to impossible after the age of terrorists. My friend also suggests trying Germany, Scandinavia and suchlike.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 11:33 PM   #5
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Re: Special Interest DVD where to start?

Maybe you have this covered:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Solaini View Post
***The first major question is that I don't know what footage I would be allowed to put on the DVD and sell. Is it simple a case of if I am on public land it's ok?
You'll still be shooting buildings, ships, people, etc. If you are making money out of it, you need release forms. Otherwise you're shooting yourself in the foot.

Quote:
***The second point is how do I go about making the DVDs once the footage is edited? Is it best to get them done professionally or buy a duplicator and do it at home? For this first attempt I am not looking at large runs (maybe 100-200?) because I'm really not sure how they would sell and I don't have the capitol to have 1000s tied up in stock.
Use your in-built DVD writer for your first run. Keep using that until your sales improve. An internal DVD player/writer is the cheapest to replace.

A professional facility is always better and cheaper in the long run. DVD replication (via a master) has better readability and longevity than DVD duplication. However, replication for lower volumes is not financially feasible.

Quote:
***The third point is how do I got about actually selling them? I am thinking that maybe building a website and selling them from home is maybe the way to go for now? How does it work with distributors etc with these kinds of DVDs?

Any help of this would be very much appreciated. I just can't seem to find any books or websites over here in the UK that talk about this side of things.

Andy S
There are no formulas, unfortunately. The distribution model works differently in my country, but one thing I can suggest is: Try to land a distribution deal prior to making any large investments. Which means: try to make low-budget samples and then shop them around. Don't put in your best ideas yet, but your work must show 'promise'.

You have to meet distributors (look on the back of similar DVDs for names and addresses), talk to chains (very difficult) and try to meet other filmmakers whose products are on the shelves already.

The last option is to self-distribute. A service such as createspace.com will duplicate and sell your DVD for free, while keeping a commission. Your stuff will be available on Amazon for download and streaming as well. This is the cheapest route, but you'll still have to spend money on marketing to your target audience or how'll they know?

The problem for you is: Since you are producing DVDs on a large range of subjects, your market is tough to tap into. If possible, stick to one market first and make that successful. Then move on to the next one, and so on.

Try to find a business partner who can also help you in distribution. E.g., if you are shooting something for aviation, try to tie up with a school or store that will help you with logistics + give you a display area for your DVDs. The only way to explore opportunities is to talk to as many people as you can. You have to come up with a win-win plan, or the other party won't be interested.

Hope this helps.
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Old May 31st, 2011, 01:23 AM   #6
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Re: Special Interest DVD where to start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Solaini View Post
Thank to both of you for your replies.

John To get the kind of access you talk about would be idea but to be honest I would have no idea how to go about getting it. Is it just a case of sending an email/letter explaining what you are trying to do and what you require? I assume that once they find out your are going to be selling the footage then they get less willing to let you in?
For the aviation I have a friend/contact who shoots the sort of DVDs I posted the link to who has given me lots of help for technique but I am on my own from there. I am thinking I could try emailing a few smaller airlines/bush flying companies and seeing if they would let me film on a few of their flights and then sell the DVD. The thing is I can't see them being too keep because I am making money off the DVD and they get nothing. Also I would try airlines outside of the UK as access here and in the US is next to impossible after the age of terrorists. My friend also suggests trying Germany, Scandinavia and suchlike.
Access - start with the Press Office for your target location. They have a professional interest in whats portrayed about the company/location/activity.

Selling - not necessarily a problem, More of a problem is HOW you portray the work they do. They DONT get 'nothing' or assisiting you. Its basically free publicity for them so they need to be reassured that it will be good publicity.

Terrorists - despite all that stuff companies still like to show that they do business as usual - the problem you have is that showing too much sensitive stuff is not a good thing from a company perspective, as it might help terrorists and their company's competitors. SO you need to do your homework carefully and voluntarily restrict your ambitions so they dont have to do it for you.
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Old July 30th, 2011, 11:43 PM   #7
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Re: Special Interest DVD where to start?

Andy, I hope this isn't too hard a viewpoint because you're obviously enthusiastic but it seems to me that you're confusing two very different roles, on the one hand you're the producer/director/writer/editor and on the other you're the commissioning editor.

Neither job is easy; doing both is more than doubly difficult because the demands of each often conflict eg the editor is concerned with frame by frame detail; the commissioning editor with overall direction and tenor.

Others have already pointed out the practical difficulties of access/permission etc. I wonder if it wouldn't be more practical for you to lower your sights a little and start with a subject that's less demanding eg the history of your local bus company, the changing use over the centuries of an old building local to you.

There is a market for this, albeit smaller than those you envisage. Just look at the hundreds of books of old photographs which cover almost every borough in the land. Those pictures were not shot with the modern book in mind, in fact often you wonder why on earth some Victorian snapper decided to photograph the High Street at all. And how often do you see photographers/video people shooting the material that will be wanted 150 years from now?

Finally, there is an over-riding reason for going the glass master route of DVD production - it's free of the -R/+R consideration and is much less likely to be affected by old DVD players.

I think you're embarking on an interesting and worthwhile part of the market and whilst I'd recommend a smaller scale start than you envisage, I wish you great luck.
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Old October 13th, 2011, 07:17 PM   #8
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Re: Special Interest DVD where to start?

Dear Andy,

My tip would be to always think of the B2B market, in additional to consumer.

How can you sell your DVDs to business or education? You could do slightly different versions for B2B and B2C.

The problem these days is consumers expect video for free, so I would invest your time and money very carefully....
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