We set about the difficult task of authoring a Blu-ray version of our latest film Death Grip, which you can buy on our website. They’ve been selling much faster than the DVDs because Blu-ray rocks, and I’m happy as hell we did it. I often get questions from filmmakers asking how the process went, so this very pragmatic blog post is about what to expect when replicating a small order of Blu-rays. Because it’s nowhere near as easy as replicating DVDs.

If you’re a veteran at making DVDs, move down to the Blu-ray section by clicking here.

Being of the do-it-all mentality, I always like to edit our films and put them onto DVD for direct-to-consumer (DTC) distribution. When making a DVD, you go through an “authoring” process where you take your edited product and drop it into an authoring program (DVDit, Encore, DVD Studio, etc.), where you make menus, playlists, Easter eggs, and all that fun stuff. The authoring system then takes your DVD “program” and translates it into a standard format that every DVD player can understand. Despite the occasional glitch popping up, I’m amazed that, given the diversity of DVD players on the market, these authoring systems basically have a 100% success rate at making compatible discs. If you work in software, you understand how improbable this is.

You have two options for distributing your freshly authored DVD.

  1. Burn or duplicate your own DVDs, print your own labels and sleeves, buy your own boxes, and shrinkwrap them in cellophane (or tin foil, that could be kind of charming too). They’ll be purple underneath, some of the labels will be crooked, you’ll experience compatibility issues with older players, and you’ll spend hundreds of hours. For small batches, this is a good choice.
  2. Send a DVD or an ISO (a file of the DVD) to a factory where they replicate your order onto a silver disc, print the label onto the top of that disc, and do all the packaging for you and even shrinkwrap the thing, all for roughly $0.99 a piece. If you want to make more than 100 DVDs, this is the way to go, though most replicating facilities won’t print fewer than 1000 units.

If you sell your DVDs for $10/pop, that’s a hefty profit. For anyone hoping to sell their film to more than 100 people, I recommend option 2. It’s easy, and there are companies everywhere that will do it for you.

What about piracy protection? No problem. Replication plants offer CSS (Content Scramble System) for a small fee, which is usually bundled with the overall cost. All CSS keys are encrypted exactly the same, so the replication plant has no hurdles to jump through. This has its disadvantages, obviously, since CSS is easy to crack and was cracked within 2 years of its creation. Turns out the US Gov. wouldn’t let its authors encrypt with more than 40 bits. If you have an odd fascination with stuff like this the way I do, you can read more here. It’s a sad, but hardly surprising, example of government being far behind the curve of innovation.

When making Death Grip, I assumed making a Blu-ray disc (BD) would be the same process. Run the authoring software, burn a disc, deliver to a replication facility and get a thousand made.

The authoring part was the same as making a DVD. More options are available, since Blu-Ray machines have a standard operating system that can do more complex processes than DVD players. Moving menus, picture-in-picture, etc. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole since our timeline basically gave me 24 hours to author the entire disc, so I just authored the same menu structure as our DVD, burned a BD out, and it worked on the first try. Great. Now just deliver it to the replication plant and we’re done.

Not so fast… there are two new acronyms to worry about. One is called BDCMF (the file format), the other is called AACS (the encryption standard).

Here’s what you don’t know about replicating your BD: you can’t send the BD to a replication facility and have them replicate 1000 of them. They require it in a format called BDCMF, which is basically the Blu-ray disc in a folder, except formatted uniquely. You put that folder on a hard drive and send it to them. Odds are, your authoring software doesn’t export your BD to BDCMF. Encore CS5.5 and CS6 and DVD Studio will not do it. These and most authoring programs simply don’t have the licensing rights to export this proprietary file structure made by Sony, which is required by the licensed replicators that can only read this proprietary file structure. In fact, I’ve found only three programs can do it:

  • Rivergate makes one called BluStreak Tracer. It’s $600. The programmer emailed me after buying it to ask if I had any questions about how to use it. Good customer service. It’s also fast, and you just import your ISO, click “make BDCMF” and let it go. It worked for me on the first try.
  • Sony has a program called DoStudio Indie. Cute huh? It’s $3,000. That’s the entire budget of Immortal.
  • There’s a third option that’s $1000, but I won’t even bother with a link. Just get Rivergate.

The other hurdle is AACS, Advanced Access Content System. Unlike CSS, every BD disc has a unique encryption key supplied by the AACS Licensing Distributor. You pay a fee for it, and you can’t replicate a Blu-ray without an AACS key. (DVDs may be similar with regards to CSS, but the hurdle is far smaller.) This is a bureaucratic step, so you’ll need to budget another couple days so this can be done. Your BD replicating facility deals with it all and wraps it into the cost of the replication. Sony, BD players, and studios came up with this hurdle because of piracy concerns. Blame whoever you want, the fact is this is the reason AACS Keys are now a necessary step toward getting your BDs made.

There’s one more issue to consider: the number of Blu-ray replication facilities is extremely small. We had a hard time finding one, and they could only do single-layer BDs (maxing out at around 2 hours of content). Perhaps in higher quantities they would’ve done dual-layer, but not for us. They even required the sleeve printing be done at an external facility. Due to all the costs of going HD and making a BD, major studios and distributors are the only ones utilizing these replication facilities, and the standard Blu-ray replication job is on the order of 50,000 units. Ours was 1,000 units, so you can imagine the excitement of the sales rep when she had to walk me through every step I’ve just outlined.

It’s simply not worth replication plants’ effort to do your crummy order of 1,000 Blu-rays, unless you do it perfectly and require no further attention after sending them your hard drive. We went through hours of troubleshooting, multiple overnight FedEx deliveries, and a lot of wasted authoring time because the information simply wasn’t out there.

Even in making 1000 BDs, we’re still considered very small fish, and we don’t know jack because nobody’s really done this stuff yet. Hopefully this helps you.

Fugu Talk saw our preview at Comic-Con 2012:

There was one Donny Yuen film, some awful stuff that ranged from fun to unwatchable, and a really impressive indie effort from The Stunt People that reminded me of the old Jackie Chan films, both in terms of action and physical humor. I liked the clips so much that I searched out their booth on the exhibit floor (turns out they were adjacent to Troma) to buy the DVD, which has a lot of interesting and inspiring special feature bits on the history of The Stunt People and the development of Death Grip (the star/writer spent six years on the script!)

Martial Arts Movie Junkie Kelly Miller:

The fights are fast and intense. I absolutely loved some of the longer takes and little stunts that were sprinkled in. What make the fights truly shine, though, are the situations that are created. Each fight has its own personality and feel, and it’s apparent that a lot of thought went into these. One of my favorite fights is one that takes the term “toilet humor” to a whole new level. If you like fights, you won’t be disappointed.

UMUSTBEBORED – DEATH GRIP: A must watch for kung-fu movie lovers!

The fights are phenomenal.  Eric Jacobus not only stars but also directs DEATH GRIP.  He and his Stunt People crew understand how to perfectly shoot and execute a fighting scene.  These guys have it down to a science.  There are no wires or fast edits mixed with excessive shaky cam.  We see everything in sometimes long continuous takes.  The fights are fast and they leave a lasting impact.  You can tell what is happening.  … They are way better than the fights you would see in a Bourne film or any other big budgeted mainstream film.

Sound good? Buy the DVD or Blu-Ray (both are all-region!) today. Domestic orders ship almost daily, and international orders (we ship everywhere) ship twice a week. All funds go straight back to us to pay for making the film. This way, we can get started on our next projects that are currently underway.

DEATH GRIP: A must watch for kung-fu movie lovers!

We’ll be taking orders for the Death Grip DVD, Blu Ray, and T-Shirt on July 1, 2012 at The Stunt People Store.

Death Grip Blu-Ray – $20.00 (disc has more special features than advertised, info here)

    

Death Grip DVD – $15.00 (disc has more special features than advertised, info here)

       

Death Grip “Knife” Shirt – $15.00

 

As a bonus, we’re also adding a new Stunt People shirt to the store. Back by popular demand, we’ve re-printed the “Our Pain Is Your Pleasure” shirt. We only have 72 of them, so get yours quick before they sell out.

Stunt People “Our Pain Is Your Pleasure” T-Shirt – $15.00

  

CA sales tax and shipping will be charged during checkout. Happy shopping!

This weekend I spent about 48 hours finishing up the Death Grip behind-the-scenes featurette The Life of Death Grip, which clocked in at 75 minutes. I also finished authoring the DVD and the Blu Ray masters and shipped them off to Signature Media this morning. If all goes as planned, we’ll have 2000 DVDs and 1000 Blu Rays to sell at our June 30th Theatrical Premiere. We’ll also have shirts. And if you’re in California, please come to the premiere. You’ll like this film, I promise.

I made the cover art after I finished the BD and DVD masters, so I ended up squeezing more onto the discs than it actually says on the artwork itself! So here’s an updated list of special features:

Blu-Ray: Even though the printing company will only burn a single-layer Blu Ray disc, which limited us to about 2 hours of videos, this version still has its share of special features and I loaded it to the brim, utilizing almost all of the disc. All special features are in 1080p HD.

  • Full film in 1080p HD
  • Commentary with me and producer/co-star Rebecca Ahn
  • The Compound – a 13-minute short action film, from which we cut the old teaser for our IndieGOGO campaign to raise funds early on
  • A deleted fight with Johnny Yong Bosch, which was part of our IndieGOGO campaign
  • A deleted fight with Yun, which was reshot in favor of a longer fight
  • Bullet Time
  • Outtake Reel – 14 minutes of outtakes
  • Paper Pushers short film
  • 2 small Easter eggs

DVD: This one’s a dual-layer disc, meaning it holds twice as much information as a regular DVD, but like any DVD it’s in standard resolution instead of the ultra-crisp 1080p you get in the Blu-Ray version. I used 5mbps VBR 2-pass encoding, and the film codec we shot on has a lot of bit depth, so it still looks damned good. I loaded this disc to the brim and had almost no space to spare from the 8.5 gigabytes available.

  • The Life of Death Grip – This will be the reason people might choose the DVD over or in addition to the Blu Ray. It’s a 75-minute behind the scenes look at all aspects ofDeath Grip, from casting Johnny Yong Bosch to budgeting, location scouting, and tons of making-of footage for the fight scenes in the film. Includes interviews with Johnny and two more industry pros, J. J. Perry and Shahar Sorek.
  • The Compound (same as above)
  • Outtakes (same as above)
  • The Art of Throwing – All the throwing outtakes from the film
  • Commentary with me and Rebecca (same as above)
  • Deleted fight with Johnny (same as above)
  • Deleted fight with Yun (same as above)
  • Deleted scene at a sushi restaurant
  • Deleted scene with Mark
  • Deleted segment of the end fight, which made Kenny out to be a little too ruthless
  • Deleted segment of the care home, which gives away too much of the film
  • Alternate car scene, which was funnier than we wanted at that point in the movie
  • Paper Pushers
  • Bullet-Time
  • Easter egg

Now we wait for the printers to get the shrink-wrapped units to us while we make the soundtrack CD for the donors, print Death Grip shirts, print new retro SP shirts (the “Our Pain Is Your Pleasure” ones), and attempt to get 800 people to our premiere.

The DVDs and BDs will be for sale at The Stunt People Store on or around July 1st.

Color: 98% – Finish on Friday.
Sound: 95% – Finish next week.
Music: Done.

Behind the scenes featurette: 40%. Finish by June 13th. This is taking the bulk of my time right now.
DVD and BD authoring: 10% (art only). Finish by June 15th.
Commentary: 0%, but will only take a total of 4 hours. I’d like to do a more technical track with Rebecca while Drew is in town, and the track with my mom should be done in 10 days or so. I promise it will be hilarious.
Other special features: 90%. Just need to tweak the outtakes and export some deleted scenes. Original compound scene should be a nice feature, since it’s a big action scene that’s completely different from the final version. Plus there’s the extra fight with Johnny Yong Bosch that’s not in the final film.

There’s a chance the Blu-Ray version will have fewer features since it’s going to be single-layer, with the upside being it’ll have a gorgeous print of Death Grip. I’ll favor image quality over special features for that version. If you’re a special features junkie, the dual-layer DVD will be a good option. Or you can buy both!

I’ve been knee-deep in editing the Death Grip making-of video. Like the Tour of Contour video, I opted for talking heads-style interviews with cutaways to behind-the-scenes video and film footage.

While shooting Death Grip I had at least one extra video camera on hand, one that was easy to use. We used a Flip Video camera, Flip HD, whoever’s DSLR we had that day, even crappy cell phone cameras. Some days Alex Ng would do very intense behind-the-scenes shooting, but when he wasn’t there I would just entrust someone with the extra camera to shoot stuff. We’ve done all the talking heads interviews, including one with J.J. Perry, so what I’ve got is something like 40 hours of footage. So I’m basically editing another feature-length film!

The first edit is going to be long, probably on the order of 3 hours in length, and I’ll pare it down to an hour or so. Then I’ll do some pop-up-video-style titles, overlay tons of behind the scenes and film footage, and package the thing up in time to get the DVD and BD authored, sent to press, and ready to sell by the June 30th premiere. The next month is going to be insane. Maybe I’ll take an actual vacation after that.

Here are a couple BTS videos I exported last night while taking a break from editing. That’s right, I consider exporting and uploading videos a “break”.

Painting the “Lair”, Benny Hill-style.

A stuntman is always a stuntman, even in his sleep.