In the heat of a project — in between songwriting and the final mix — artists and producers put the delivery system for their work on the back burner. But as the final stop in the production chain, the decision of who's going to design and replicate the CD/DVD package can have considerable influence over the success of a project, and in always style-conscious New York City, the choices are expanding.
Play-It Productions (www.play-itproductions.net) is capitalizing on the city's creative and highly productive pulse. A CD/DVD duplication, replication and graphics house structured to accommodate the needs of bands burning a couple hundred of their demos, Fortune 500 companies and CD-ROM presentations or major labels rushing a single to the street, Play-It has seen projects of every stripe. According to company principal Tony Tyler, what can help the ultimate quality of an audio project is by planning media copying and design with the same level of care that goes into picking the recording studio.
“People should really be thinking about it from the inception,” Tyler notes. “Sometimes, people come to us when they've finished all of their recording and really have an idea of what they want but it's with the leftovers, so to speak. But you have to plan for every stage of a project.”
While the core of its services is CD/DVD-offering in-house duplication (burning small runs of premanufactured discs with a laser) and outsourced replication (pressing a larger run of discs from a glass master), the company gives content producers the ability to handle every aspect after the audio mix in one place. A new audio mastering suite, video compression, DVD authoring, CD-ROM programming, Web design, multimedia graphics department and rights and licensing advice are all part of a comprehensive approach. “I tell people to think of us as their production department,” she says. “If you're a big label, you have a production department that clears all your samples and takes care of copy-protection issue, but most people don't have that team. We're not just ones and zeros making little plastic discs, we're a resource.
“Where the business is changing is in finding more creative uses for these products. We talk to our customers about using the real estate of the CD not just for a 12-track record,” Tyler continues. “An enhanced CD with a video clip, a photo gallery and a launch to a Website is incredible bang for the buck.”
Online distribution is obviously taking a bite, and while the dropping price of blank media has allowed Tyler to pass the savings on to customers, it's also part of an ever-growing home-burning equation that has turned many customers into competitors. “We answer that by offering something different,” she concludes, “a reason not to do it at home or in-house. We need to do a good job of making ourselves invaluable.”
Brian Brodeur founded NYDVD to offer a product beyond standard DVD replication.
Photo: Andrew Lepley
A few blocks away at NYDVD (www.NewYorkdvd.com), the focus is squarely on the wonders of the digital versatile disc. “I've always gravitated toward the role of producer,” explains Brian Brodeur, NYDVD founder, on establishing his company back in 2001. “DVD has always been thought of as the truer multimedia format, and my skill set as a musician lends itself to developing creative products. The advent of DVD and its obvious embrace by the consumer is an important point, not only for the large institutional companies, but also producers like me.”
Brodeur's company, which is located within the large Manhattan Center Productions facility, focuses its services — DVD project management, encoding/authoring, static and motion menu design, and audio/video production — around two full-blown Sonic Solutions DVD Creator systems. “Those are desktop systems, but because of my background, I have them set up much like recording studios,” he says. “Manhattan Center is a perfect fit for us, with three complete Avid editing systems and two Neve VR recording rooms with surround capabilities. We are in a great position to provide DVD services to Manhattan Center.”
NYDVD can see how music in particular is relating to DVD. “There's basically two products out there that are serving the music industry: the concert product and the bonus/behind-the-scenes product,” Brodeur says. “Independent artists are going to start embracing DVD because of its enormous power as a promotional tool and ability to deliver a wide variety of content, including multichannel audio and multilanguage capabilities. We've developed some wonderful surround mixes for the Dave Weckl Band and Steve Gadd, where we actually mix the band around the listener as if you were the drummer. There's been no increase yet in DVD-A. That's a function of the format wars and the installed base of players.”
DVD facilities have their own challenges with production increasingly available to in-house and home users. “People can spend very little money and have functional DVD systems — it's only natural,” he continues. “We've begun shifting our business toward a service side, providing superior design and extensive quality control: making sure that discs are functionally compliant and error-free. NYDVD is not competing with the entry-level DVD producer who just hangs a shingle — we're collaborating with clients to create content specifically for DVD.”
One of the most experienced replicators in the New York City region is Disc Makers (www.discmakers.com), which has been in operation since starting out as The Ballen Record Company in 1946. Today, the company creates CDs and DVDs and delivers for its clients by doing everything — including the complicated replication process — under one massive roof in its Pennsauken, N.J., headquarters. “Our customer base is mostly indie artists, and we have a lot of recording studios that either send us the work or do it on behalf of their clients,” says Tony Van Veen, Disc Maker's VP of sales and marketing.
Able to manufacture up to 70,000 discs in 24 hours, Disc Makers has not seen its capacity go to waste, even with the music industry's recent troubles. “We see audio CD replication growing,” he reports. “There is a vibrant indie music market. Since we don't do any major-label work, we're not affected by the slump in retail sales by those releases.”
Working on a massive scale carries its own benefits and pitfalls. “The main advantage of this scale is the capability to do it all ourselves, have the quality and control the costs,” he says. “We don't lose two days shipping film to some firm in Wisconsin and ditto with the replicated discs. Musicians and filmmakers' projects tend to run behind schedule, so however late in the process, you can help them get to market faster and recoup their investment more quickly. The main problem we have is the perception that we're a large company, so any particular project we have is not on the radar. The fact is, we're set up to manage a small indie project.
“Replication is the final step of the production chain and then the hard work starts: getting product to market, promotions, distribution, airplay and selling. If you think the recording and replication processes are complex, wait until you have your disc in your hand and start to think, ‘Now what?’”
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