RE: [Videolib] Seeking data

Steve Guy (
Thu, 10 Jul 2003 14:51:57 -0700

As the specialized distributor invoked in John Holland's "brain pick" I
thought I could perhaps offer some insight into our own particular take
on DVD. I'm not able to offer hard statistical analysis but I've been
examining the issue and gathering anecdotal opinions for over a year

1. It seems that DVD is inevitable but many of the schools we deal with
have a great deal invested in VHS decks across their campuses.
Conversion comes slowly so until a signifcant minority of you have DVD
only, VHS is a safer bet. There are many expenses involved in
packaging, warehousing and offering a video in 2 formats.

2. Until quite recently, mastering and duplication costs for DVD have
required large runs to be cost effective. A minimum run of 1000 copies
is still standard if you are starting from a glass master DVD. DVD-R
offers us some relief from this restriction as DVD's can be produced
directly from their BETA masters. The duplication costs are still
higher than VHS and there are still master set up fees involved but it
may make converting some titles to a no frills DVD format attainable.
The jury is still out on quality control with this system. Some people
tell me that the digitization can make the image worse than what you
would get on a VHS cassette and I've heard estimates of 5-10% failure
which could mean a lot of defective DVD's coming back to us.

3. Even with the relief mentioned above, some of our African titles will
sell less than 50 copies in a year. We offer them because we feel they
are important but could not afford to offer them in DVD. Many of our
older titles will, most likely, be discontinued instead of offered in
DVD if VHS is discontinued as a format.

4. Very often closed captioning comes as an after thought to many of our
producers. They forget to budget for it or because of deadline
constraints, neglect to do it. We have worked hard over the past few
years to increase the number of new acquisitions with closed captioning.
As I understand it, there is no SMPTE standard for closed captioning in
DVD. MP2 does not carry line
21. Simply digitizing a closed captioned master will not produce a DVD
with closed captioning. Certainly titles produced in DVD-R won't carry
it and very few of the labs I've talked with have really considered the
question of how best to carry closed-captioning onto a DVD glass master.

We will be experimenting with DVD by releasing 1 or 2 titles in DVD this
fall. If it is received popularly, we will most likely make more titles
available in DVD. We have to tread lightly as a non-profit because many
of our most valuable titles, might not recoup the cost of conversion to

Thank you.

Steve Guy
California Newsreel
500 Third Street #505
San Francisco, CA 94107
phone: 415-284-7800
fax: 415-284-7801

-----Original Message-----
From: John Holland []
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2003 7:43 AM
Subject: [Videolib] Seeking data

I need to do a collective brain pick, and ask if any of you have run
across an article or report on the status of non-feature ("educational")
films being issued on DVD. As I think we all know, there are hundreds of
films which we have had in our collections for years which have not been
issued in DVD, and the common belief is that they may never be issued as
such, due to such things as clearance costs, acquiring disc rights from
the producer, demand, etc. I haven't run across anything in print which
gives hard statistical fact that might sway some sceptical minds.

The video collection at Chicago Public Library's central library is
currently under mandate from the administration to weed approximately
half its educational VHS tapes - nearly 13,000 videos - and instructed
to replace them all with DVD, or just get rid of them. We have tried to
explain that many (most?) of these are not available on DVD, and due to
the factors mentioned above, may never be released as such. Obviously,
some companies like PBS Video are releasing their best sellers as such,
but it has already been mentioned on this list that "Eyes on the Prize"
is one essential title which may go out of print for reasons of
cost-prohibitive clearances. The larger, more commercial/high-profile
companies are not really the problem; it is the more specialized
publishers that are my concern. Will we ever be able to replace
California Newsreel titles on DVD, for example?

I am desperately trying to defend a heavily used collection that is
nowhere near being obsolete, so any documentation from outside sources
would be appreciated.

John Holland
Chicago Public Library
Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605

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