Sunday, July 03, 2011

DVD Burners with Copy Protection & Printing Secrets

Most video production professionals, or amateurs for that matter, have an opinion regarding the positive/negative aspects of investing in and using a DVD burner tower that provides for copy protection. The number one response I usually hear is that it won’t do any good and is a waste of money because “anybody” can break copy protection. Well, the real answers are true, and not true!

What I do hear from many professionals who deal in a hundred or more (or less) real time DVD duplication and delivery per event productions is that it pays off. Many who produce multiple-day or daylong competition events such as regional- and state-level band, cheerleading, track & field and similar scholastic events are unanimous. They say that in spite of the ability of virtually anyone with a little confidence & technical prowess being able to break copy protection codes, it keeps the “honest” people honest.

The multiple sales category would include dance recitals, martial arts reviews and demonstrations, youth sports game videos, school and community drama and/or choral performances, band reviews and more. This would be any event where you work once with the anticipation of selling many.

There will always be consumers, young and old alike, who will attempt to break the copy protection of a commercially produced DVD or the limited-run duplications offered by independent professional video services providers. On the other hand, while the percentage of these folks is small and the overall effect on your sales of copies of productions is not always huge, it can have a significant effect on your bottom line (profits) over time.

This is more than a personal opinion
Again, when asked, a number of professionals have said that the additional $200 or so increase in the cost of a tower DVD duplicator with hardware or software (more on THAT difference later) is “well worth” the investment. They tell me the difference in total sales of any given multiple orders DVD production MORE than makes up for the original duplicator investment. All confirmed a noticeable increase in total orders received per event.

Why? Because, on average, the above-mentioned exceptions notwithstanding, honest people are, well, honest. If it proves more challenging to simply make a copy of your production on a branded silver blank with hand-written titles using a blank DVD marker (and not always a DVD marker ... there ARE markers they shouldn’t use as they can and will effect playback) or purchasing your reasonably-priced professionally packaged duplications, they’ll opt for buying from you!

I lied to some of my past clients.

During a “test” period some while back I started putting a small “This DVD is copy protected” notice on some of my productions. When asked by my clients if they could make their own copies, I would say: “Sure, if you can figure out how to break the copy protection.” Yes, my orders increased significantly during the “test period” once or twice by as much as 30 percent. Then some kid took up my challenge and discovered there was no copy protection and called me on it. I stopped testing.

is that they “get around” the issue simply by making their copies ultra-cheap ... I’m talking about $10 or less, printed, packaged and using commercial or custom color inserts. Or, in the case of single sales events such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other celebratory events, simply giving away a number of copies, avoiding the issue of pirating altogether. Ostensibly this also generates “good will” some claim.

They also claim to have “factored in” the cost of this. Question: how do you “factor in” these costs when most of you have not factored in all the other relative costs of doing business? There are insurance premiums, pens, pencils, paper, meals, rent (even if you operate out of house) and the other variables that virtually NEVER see their values subtracted from the bottom lines of independents’ P&L sheets.

I beg to differ. Good will, repeat and renewable business, return clients and referrals are generated by quality production, reasonable turnaround times, reasonable but fair pricing and professional decorum. Rarely does good will, and never does loss of profits by giving product away, generate healthy business levels. Loyalty is not earned nor received by giving product away. Loyalty, unfortunately, is also not something upon which most of us can depend ... sad to say.

These approaches, my friends, do not constitute good or profitable business practices, and they dilute the value of the product and our industry. Like it or not, that is a verifiable fact. Whatever happened to the marketing adage “never give away something you can sell”?

There are real costs you must cover to survive
At best, depending on the grade and quality of the media used, the variety of price levels from various resources, ink, your time and all the other cost factors, you’ll spend somewhere between a couple of dollars and possibly a whole lot more, for the blank, the case, the insert, the ink if you design/print your own, and the wear and tear of your equipment. I don’t know what your time is worth, but I have to make something when I’m working.

Or maybe you also invested hundreds of dollars (often $1K or more) on an automated burn-and-print device, saving time, but still with ink, materials and wear-and-tear costs. Somewhere, somehow, you need to recoup your expenses. Selling below your actual costs, including labor, equipment investment, replacement and other variables, or giving the product away WILL NOT generate profits.

To be continued ...
In Part 2 I will talk about my personal research into various model DVD duplicating towers offering copy protection. I will share pricing information and point out the differences in software- and hardware-based protection and why I will pull the trigger on one over the other.

I will also offer some real life experiences in the world of duplication regarding speed of dubbing, whether to use the hard drive or a direct-from-master-DVD duplication, and whether to print first or burn first.

I will share information from others who have found ways around some of the print or burn first issues and what my personal experience has been both ways even using their approaches.

And I will provide links to the various companies and resources for any readers interested in moving into DVD duplication either of their own productions or the home productions of their clients from other services. I do not plan, however, to share or divulge information regarding how to break copy protection code of personal or commercial productions. That information is readily available for those who wish to engage in pirating.

For now remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2011 Earl Chessher

Friday, July 01, 2011

If You’re Not Working It’s Because You Don’t Want To!

Anyone with a decent camera and a few essential, basic pieces of equipment, and a general understanding of how to use them to create video, and isn’t working, doesn’t WANT to!

It’s summertime folks! I know many of you want to go out and play, put the boat in the water, prepare the skis and jet-skis, maybe do some golf, surf if you're close to waves, party, barbecue, toss flying sports disks, attend car shows, county fairs and other community events. It’s human nature to want to enjoy the moment, have fun and live a carefree life, but hey, most of us also have bills to pay ...
... unless somebody gifted you with that boat, those skis or the dune buggy you ramp over the local dunes.

There are actually ways to do both: enjoy life and make money, and I’ve casually referred to it as guerrilla marketing. Take your equipment with you when you attend these events, functions or go to public places to soak up some summer sun. With today’s lightweight rigs and portability, there’s few places where you can’t take advantage of opportunities.

Here’s a short list, but I just bet most of you could add another two or five ideas of your own:
• Car shows
• Volley ball tournaments
• Bike (bicycle) club tours, competition, runs short and long
• Bike (motorcycle) club ... see above
• Kite flying competitions
• Hot air balloon excursions
• Surfing competitions
• Skiing competitions
• Youth baseball
• Youth Soccer
• Equestrian (horses ;-) events
• Parades
• Fourth of July fireworks exhibitions
• Skateboard events ... competition or impromptu (there’s some great boarders out there who love acquiring GREAT video shots of themselves)
• Golfing events (get in good with course management and you’ve picked up awesome ops)
• Open public exhibitions & activities
• Martial arts demonstrations
• Those live band performances at malls and pavilions everywhere (ask first)

It takes a will to work and some gumption to approach some of these, but I’ve shot something to do with pretty much all these categories over the years. Some will require a bit more finesse while others are wide open to walking on and cranking up the equipment.

Avoid turf wars with other guerrilla marketing video strategists. Sometimes I’ve actually been able to work alongside a competitor, one shooting primarily for one soccer team, me the other. There’s usually always compromise. The coaches, most vocal parent on the sidelines or the guy who pretends to know what he’s doing with that palmcorder waving around in the air are good people to connect with.

By the way, picked up more than 20 orders from yesterday’s car show, and will likely get more through the mail or via e-mail. This brings to mind another strategy that a lot of companies already do but that is going to eventually be important to all of us who shoot a lot of events:

Developing a website where people can order backyear event DVDs from a website catalog or listing. Easy, virtually free, money for a work once, sell many approach to marketing. My article on doing JUST THAT coming soon to E.C. Come, E.C. Go.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher 2011