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:
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.