Film distribution is changing. While theatrical and DVD were once major marketplaces, video on demand is now the norm. And if you are making a film, odds are good that digital distribution will be a big part of your release strategy. So you need to get up to speed about encoding.
All VOD platforms want to provide the best viewer experience for the end consumer. So in order to get your film into popular platforms, your video, audio and artwork will need to undergo a very comprehensive quality control and delivery process, usually performed by a professional VOD encoding house. If this is confusing, think of an encoding house in ways akin to how you once thought about a film lab – It is a company that specializes in getting your movie to it’s highest quality.
So the standard for getting your movie to pass quality control begins today. Or in other words, prepping your film for distribution begins with your production value. You must produce your film in the highest quality format that you can. Then when you hit the edit suite, you must make sure that you adhere to delivery specs from day one!
What You Need To Know About VOD Encoding
To access many popular platforms, you will need to work with a distributor or an aggregator. Most distributors and aggregators work with VOD encoding houses. One of the first things these companies send you is a comprehensive deliverable guide. So if you are taking time to plan your production in advance, it is a good idea to search the internet for current delivery specs.
(In addition to publishing this site, I work full time at Distribber. Please feel free to reach out for a current deliverable guide.)
Once you have all your deliverables, keep in mind that VOD encoding is a very slow process. Encoding houses want to maintain a good relationship with the end platforms, so they are likely to scrutinize each frame of your movie for compliance. And once the initial encoding is complete, the house may then perform several quality control audits to make sure your film passes.
If even one frame of your film does not conform to specification, then the encoding house will likely attempt to fix the issue in-house. Once again, this is a manual process. So it can be very time consuming and I dare say frustrating to both the filmmaker and the aggregator. In a best case scenario, my suggestion is to manage your expectations. Allow at least three months between the time all your files are submitted to the encoding house to go-live. But also keep in mind that if you hit a major hiccup, the process can be delayed even longer.
Setting Your VOD Delivery Expectations
Assuming your movie passes QC and goes live in your preferred marketplace – This placement does not guarantee success. A lot of filmmakers rely way too much on their film being “discovered” from within the various platforms. Keep in mind there are a gazillion other film out there competing for eyeballs. Movie studios spend millions of dollars promoting their movies. Yet for some reason, many indie filmmakers believe they do not need marketing strategy. Lunacy.
Hint: You need a marketing strategy that drives targeted traffic to your movie!
I know this is new to many filmmakers and probably a lot less exciting than creating blood, filming a car chase scene or leaping a tall building. But knowing a thing or two about aggregation and encoding may save you time in the long run. And planning for the unexpected is only going to help you plan an effective release strategy.