If you are looking to get your movie seen and selling on the popular VOD platforms like iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and some of the cable outlets, your movie must first go through a video encoding service. And since most filmmakers are new to the world of film distribution, here is an overview of how modern movie distribution works.
Unlike the old days, you no longer need a traditional middle-man (a company that takes ownership in your movie.) You can simply access many of the popular video on demand platforms yourself. However in order to become your own distributor a few things need to change.
New Film Distribution Terms (So you don’t sound like a moron.)
In order to not sound like a moron, add the words “source” and “asset” to your filmmaking vocabulary.
Source - This refers to your movie. Since file sizes are so big, your title will usually be delivered as an external hard drive or mega flash drive. As a result the video encoding service will often refer to your drives as the source. But to be clear, they are actually referring to the movie contained on the drive as the source.
Asset – In the context of VOD film distribution, your assets are anything outside of your source. This would include poster artwork, photo stills, video metadata, your trailer, subtitles and closed captions.
Initial Film Distribution Steps
Once you memorize your new filmmaking vocabulary and you pick the desired platforms for your movie, the VOD film distribution process can be broken into three steps:
- Work with a VOD aggregator who has relationships with your preferred platforms.
- Submit a source and assets that conform to the high standards set by the platforms.
- Your title must pass QC and be encoded so that is conforms to these standards.
Video on demand content and delivery standards are constantly improving. While this assures that the viewer will have an awesome viewing experience, this sure creates a lot of headaches for both the filmmaker and the video encoding service. Each platform will have different requirements.
Top Five VOD Delivery Requirements:
- Assuming your movie has been approved to appear on the platforms, both your source and assets (including your trailer) CANNOT contain any product tagging, logos, website references or URL’s, including film festival references.
- If closed captioning already exists for your movie, in any form (such as Broadcast and DVD) you must include closed captioning with your submission.
- Watch out for 4:1 Cadence – this happens when a frame rate is converted incorrectly. You will have four frames progressive and then one repeated frame. An common example is when you mess up a conversion from a 23.98 frame rate to 29.97.
- Additionally, get rid of ALL repeated frames. Seriously. If one frame is out of whack, your title may be rejected – which would really slow down the QC and encoding process.
- And this stuff is a big NO-NO (in no specific order) – Inconsistent frame sizes, a silly aspect ratio outside of delivery specs, screwed up audio, a Codec that doesn’t make sense, the pillarbox effect (black bars like letterboxing, but on the sides of the image), letterboxing (I know it looks cool. But it need to be corrected by you or the video encoding service) and more.
Again, I know some of this film distribution stuff is very new and can be overwhelming to filmmakers. But the good news is, most aggregators will provide you with detailed specs and delivery tips. But if you fail to follow the appropriate specs and hit a hiccup during QC and Encoding (even when working with a top rated video encoding service) – you may be in for a very long process.
While most good encoding houses will work hard to get your source up to spec. But this is a slow process. To save time, money and headaches, meet with your editor and make sure that your output file conforms 100% to the platform’s specs.
Then assuming you get your movie in the marketplace, the next step is figuring out how to see your movie.
One last thing: In full disclosure, I work for Distribber these days. So I am very biased about our services.