In this post I'll explain how I started creating videos on DVD, why DVD was a terrible option for me and my clients, and how I transitioned into producing files on flash drives.
Beginning with DVD
This is a promo picture we shot early on in this project. I'll start this off on a positive note. We initially envisioned creating custom paper DVD cases, in lieu of plastic jewel cases. My wife Nicole is a graphic designer who makes handcrafted wedding invitations (check out her website here), so we played around with some prototype designs. I always loved the label Nicole created for the DVD and it photographed well.
However, we never really settled on how we would package the DVD, and I was more focused on sharing the Eternal Roots message than with packaging. I figured it would work itself out later.
Upon producing my first DVD, I had instant misgivings about using this medium to produce videos. You have to create menu screens and chapter thumbnails. That's a lot of extra time and effort, in addition to creating the video itself. When you think you're done making the video, this extra work is unwelcome. The transcribed book I create is a totally separate time commitment in itself.
The video files are too large to fit on even the biggest DVD, so I had to chop up the video into two files to be burned onto two discs. We then had to print Disc 1 and Disc 2 DVD labels, and multiple discs complicated the packaging process. Even worse, DVDs take forever to burn. My computer whirs loudly like a lawnmower and vibrates while the disc is being written, and I feel like I'm overtaxing my computer if I used it for anything else during the burn. I shuddered to think that one of my recent clients requested three extra copies of the disc for their extended family. I would lose an entire day burning discs! Sometimes discs also turn out to be duds, and they won't play. This means I had to test each burned disc to ensure it worked. This seriously had me questioning the viability of this entire enterprise.
In summary, DVD creation entailed a ton of time and materials, and they were going to become a bottleneck for the entire process. These negatives are just on my end, as the creator.
DVDs are not optimal for the end user either. Most new computers are so thin and light that they do not come with optical drives, so they could only watch the videos in a DVD player connected to a television. Many people own a laptop, but not a television. DVDs are slow and cumbersome to use, and they are vulnerable to scratching and breaking. I would have people calling me to replace discs, and that means more burning for me!
So glad I'm done complaining - now on to a solution!
In early November 2016 I was an exhibitor at a continuing education event for the county bar association (pictured below). The event was for the local estate planning bar, and as an attorney myself, I need to educate this group about Eternal Roots.
I mingled with the other vendors at the event while the attorneys were inside the seminar. I shared my work with another exhibitor named Britta. She initially responded very positively to Eternal Roots, but she candidly said she would be unable to watch my videos because she doesn't own a DVD player, and her computer doesn't have an optical drive. I immediately realized DVDs were not viable for this project, and it only took a few moments to identify thumb or flash drives as the solution. Maybe I should have realized this months ago, but better late than never.
Flash drives are better for the user because they are small and compact, yet more durable than a DVD. They are easier to put in a purse or pocket, and are not prone to scratching or destruction. You pop them into any device that has a USB port, and you're watching the video instantly, without having to navigate menu screens. Even better, you can save the video file to your device, and can upload it to the web, such as YouTube, Facebook, or a website. You can't do that with a DVD.
Flash drives are also better for me because I'm freed from having to create menu screens and burning discs. The act of rendering the video file to .mp4 format takes a fraction of the time it takes to burn a disc. Then I just pop the drive into my USB port and copy the .mp4 file onto the drive. The whole process takes a couple minutes, and I'm spared the noise of disc burning.
I recently saw a catalog of a promotional company - one that puts your logo and name on virtually anything - and remembered that they had custom flash drives available. I figured something woodsy-earthy looking would fit with the vibe of my website, and found a cool model with a faux-bamboo finish. They only had storage up to 8 gigs, and that was way too small for my videos. My sales rep at the company said they couldn't go any higher, and I didn't see other wood options I liked, so I was off on a fresh search.
It didn't take long to find a new vendor that had these gorgeous drives that are cut like little wooden books. I got a quote for 50 units at 16 gigs, uploaded my logo, and this is the prototype they emailed me.
Done! This is it. I requested (and received) a first-time client discount, and the box of drives arrived about a week later. Here's a sexier looking photo of the real thing.
Now I always ensure that I have a flash drive on me because you never know when you'll have an opportunity to share your work with others. I always make a point of showing people these drives when I'm sharing my project, and the drives have made several appearances during podcast interviews. I scrubbed any mention of DVDs from my website and contract template.
The day the drives arrived I posted my first Facebook Live video. I had been phobic of that medium before this day, but my excitement at these drives overrode my fear of recording live. Here is the video I posted.
Since then my videos have increased in size as they increased in complexity. I started adding more photos and a musical montage intro. I started using chapter title screens to compensate for the lack of a DVD menu. The last video I produced was in excess of 19 gigs, so my 16 gig drives were suddenly obsolete. I re-upped on another order of the same drives at 32 gigs, so I have plenty of space (for now).
The moral of the story here is you need to stay humble and coachable, and be receptive to the input of others. I had to check my ego and be open to critical feedback. As a result, I upgraded the product my clients receive, and I can hand out the drives as promotional gifts. It's a win for everyone!
About the Blog
Here I write about the evolution of this project, the act of preserving life stories and personal development. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.