It's still in its early days, but we wondered if the new format has stimulated any demand for publishing and general distribution of titles on DVD-R. Or are issues of compatibility and reliability so far keeping DVD-R as a tool only for proofing and controlled-environment industrial applications? To find out, we spoke with DVD production professionals at seven authoring houses across the United States. Here's what they had to say:
Chris Ammen, director of technologies, Skyline Interactive, Palo Alto, California: Most of the DVD-R work I've done—other than proofing—has been two-to-five discs for specific platforms that were known to be compatible. I've only had a few clients that have published as many as 20 discs. With DVD-R costs coming down, I expect to get more requests. But even with the Authoring media I've always informed clients of the compatibility issues for projects going into distribution, and convinced them to go with replication. The only case I've heard of DVD-R publishing was someone interested in "just-in-time" manufacturing without carrying inventory. They were willing to go the DVD-R route and accept returns of product that will not play. Basically, the problem is with the 4.7GB media not playing on some players; the 3.95GB media does not have nearly the compatibility problem, but General media comes only in 4.7GB.
Terry Barnum, director of digital media, Digital OutPost, Carlsbad, California: We're not seeing General DVD-Rs used for limited runs. If our customers want less than a thousand discs, it's usually one-to-five, and they opt for Authoring media. I've seen some discussions about compatibility issues with General DVD-Rs and certain DVD players, but I'm sure this will get worked out as more individuals and small companies want to make short runs.
Craig J. Campbell, manager, IBT Media Group, Merriam, Kansas: In applications where we know or can recommend the playback device, we do burn either General Purpose or Authoring DVD-Rs. The majority are distributed on 3.95GB Authoring media for reliability and performance. We have far fewer playback issues with Authoring media than with GP. Based on my experience with Authoring media, I don't believe this reliability/performance issue will improve anytime soon. For mass distribution of even a few discs, we still recommend low-run DVD-5 replication to ensure program playback.
Matt Grady, DVD producer/production manager, Video Transfer Inc., Boston, Massachusetts: I don't have any clients that are distributing titles on DVD-Rs. We have burned large quantities of discs for companies to distribute internally to sales staff, but never to freely distribute. It's cost-effective to go to replication even with quantities of 25 or more.
Tom McCarthy, director, Henninger Interactive Media, Arlington, Virginia: It's still too soon to tell if General Purpose will have any impact. Our recommendation is still to use replicated discs whenever possible, due to problems associated with older-player playback compatibility, plus scratch and fingerprint problems. What we have seen is some dramatic drops in replication costs, though it's still hard to find facilities willing to do runs under 1000. At our DVD-R rates, the current break-even point for going with a replicated check-disc package is only about four or five discs.
James Moore, technical director/operations manager, Metropolis DVD, New York City: We really haven't seen DVD-R replacing replicated media. We've always done small DVD-R runs—30 or less—now and again for art and presentation projects, and our prices haven't dropped since DVD-R media became less than $20 about a year-and-a-half ago. What I have started to see is content owners considering doing their smaller, simpler projects in-house, as well as more people presenting their portfolios on homemade DVDs.
Sam Wagner, owner, Video I-D Teleproductions, Washington, Illinois: We had a piece of business for a medical insurance company where they wanted 65 discs, and they went with DVD-Rs and liked them. But we have not yet gone with the consumer-level DVD-Rs; we use only the more expensive Authoring discs. We did one for Caterpillar that was supposed to run only a month or so; it performed flawlessly for 15 months with multiple daily plays in a Pioneer 7200.