Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Editing HD On a Budget: Cost of Entry

Posted by Trixter on March 3, 2009


Blu-Ray Disc (BD) is expensive to produce.  As previously ranted by a good friend of mine, the minimum cost to produce a BD is a whopping $4600 — $3000 for some licensing cost that goes who-knows-where, and $1600 for a sanity-defying mandatory AACS encryption procedure.  And this is before you press a single disc.  (If you’re wondering why content producers were rooting for HD-DVD to win the format war, it’s partially because of licensing fees like this, plus lower manufacturing costs.  The cost of entry was much lower compared to BD.)  Needless to say, we have to be very careful how we produce MindCandy 3, because these licensing costs automatically take a giant chunk out of the resources we have available.

And what are those resources?  I’ll describe our budget thusly:  Dan and myself put up the initial capital in 2000, with the hope that we would at least make it back, as well as some extra that would fund a second volume.  That second volume would sell, which would make just enough for the third volume, etc.  The goal from the beginning was to try to have the project generate the money it needed to keep going for as many volumes as possible.  When we found ourselves with a little extra, we donated it to scene.org, or sponsored some demoparties.  When we found ourselves a little short, we did everything we could to keep costs down.  This is no different than the reasons why people organize demoparties, really;  for example, Scamp wants Breakpoint to be successful enough so that, instead of losing 10,000 euros, he can break even and put on another party next year.  The goal is equilibrium.  For the first two volumes, we achieved it.   Now, with BD having such a giant up-front cost, that equilibrium is in jeopardy and forces us to look at alternative ways of producing volume 3 so that we don’t run out of money before it’s ready!

There are many places where money goes in the production of any end-user product, but they tend to fall into the following buckets:

  1. Development
  2. Pre-Production
  3. Production
  4. Post-Production
  5. Distribution

Luckily for us, some of these buckets have no cost other than our personal time.  Development and Pre-Production are all organizing and research, which we do for free because we like doing it.  Thanks to the demoscene community, Production also has no cost as long as we get permission from the authors.  Post-Production involves a hardware and software cost (storing, editing, mastering, and authoring the footage onto media), and Distribution is a setup fee, a per-item manufacturing cost, and shipping costs.  (We also budget for the free copies we set aside to everyone who authorized their demo to be included, provided commentary, donated time or materials, or helped us out in some other way.)

The Distribution cost, thanks to the ass-tastic licensing I mentioned previously, is relatively fixed.  The Post-Production costs, however, are not, and this is where demoscene sensibility comes into play:  How can we make the best of what we’ve got?  What can we pull off, given the limited resources available to us?  It’s time to make a demo — using budgets!  A budgetro, if you will.

In a later post, I’ll start diving into the gritty details of how we’re able to edit HD footage at less than 1/100th the cost of how production companies normally edit HD footage.  Stay tuned.

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12 Responses to “Editing HD On a Budget: Cost of Entry”

  1. grey said

    Paid downloads? Seemed to work well for NIN of late. Though I’d go straight to torrent; whoever was/is running nin.com has no clue about how to use CDN’s – the actual paid downloads were -abysmally- delivered.

  2. Trixter said

    We thought about that, but realistically, nobody is going to pay for content that is already free.

    The only value-add we can bring to the table is a compilation of work, so that’s what the MindCandy series has been traditionally.

  3. tibes said

    +1 paid downloads

  4. Matt Hite said

    Late night infomercial +1

  5. Anon said

    Jim, I previously worked for a BDA company and wanted to address your comments about mandatory AACS. The content producers (studios) did not push for this, the AACS member companies did. The studios pay the AACS fees for the discs and the money goes to IBM, Toshiba, etc. If you look at the history, the AACS companies were originally Intel, IBM, Toshiba, and Warner Brothers. All these companies were heavy supporters of HD-DVD. In order to be sure they’d have some control and revenue if Blu-ray won, they pushed for AACS to be mandatory in Blu-ray.

  6. Trixter said

    Thanks for the clarification!

    AACS aside, I still think HD-DVD would have had a lower cost of entry, simply because it was easier to manufacture (I was led to believe that only a marginal change to existing DVD mastering equipment was necessary).

    Oh well, it’s all academic at this point. I do wish there was a 1080p @ 60 standard, since the displays and media can handle it.

  7. rabit said

    MindCandy on Blu-Ray! I’d be all over that!

    While not an real solution, you can still produce DVD5/DVD9 discs with Blu-Ray content and it is supposed to work on most players, no AACS required. This also surprisingly includes “homebrew” BD-J which could allow for more fluid demoscene-style menus.

  8. Trixter said

    Rabit: Awesome — now a cheap/free package to author/test BD-J is all we need. Which sucks, because they don’t exist — wait, they do: https://hdcookbook.dev.java.net/

    Still, this is our first BD project, and developing something like that would be a full-time job, and I already have one. Still, we’re trying to figure out what we can implement given the time we have.

  9. zpinzane said

    I love the focus of this article, and can’t wait to see you get into the finance/budget hacking of this project!

    Also, I’m totally stealing the word “Budgetro” for an Eggdrop nick… or something!

  10. Trixter said

    Actually, I spoke too soon — there probably won’t be another article like this, because the more I work with HD footage, the more I’m not satisfied, and we’re going to end up buying a decent modern machine to do the editing/rendering.

    You see, I had come up with a lot of tricks to play back HD footage on modest hardware, but that was all with VirtualDub. Adobe CS4, on the other hand, does not like those techniques and promptly chews up kernel threads and locks up if I attempt them. Since we’re going with CS4, we need to upgrade the machine. So all my tricks are moot. Dangit!

  11. Trixter, why not releasing it in dvd as the former two? I wouldn’t want to contribute with the STEALING that is $3600 to LICENSE and ENCRYPT a disk (which will be decrypted and sent to torrents anyway). I think DVD format is fine.

    Any chance with the Chinese HD format?

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