Movie distribution is changing. While theatrical and DVD are still viable marketplaces, video on demand is considered the wild west. It is the future. So if you are making a movie right now, odds are good that some form of VOD is going to reign supreme in your distribution strategy.
What You Need To Know About Encoding
All VOD platforms aim to provide the best viewer experience. As a result, in order to access popular platforms your movie will need to undergo a very comprehensive encoding process, usually performed by a professional encoding house. If this is confusing, think of an encoding house in ways akin to how you may think of 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 movie 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!
Find The Current Delivery Specs
To access many popular platforms, you will need to work with an aggregator. Most aggregators work with an encoding house… And one of the first things they send you is a comprehensive spec sheet. Keep in mind that this information changes frequently, so if you are taking time to plan your production in advance – It might be a good idea to search the internet for aggreagors and encoding houses. Then reach out and request a spec sheet.
The thing to keep in mind is – Encoding is a slow process. Because encoding houses want to maintain a good relationship with the platforms, they are likely to scrutinize each frame of your movie for compliance. Doing this is both an electronic and manual process. Once the initial encoding is complete, the house may then perform several audits to make sure your movie passes their internal quality control, prior to being delivered to the preferred platform.
Setting Filmmaking Expectations
If even one frame does not conform to specification, then the encoders 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 aggreagator. In a best case scenario, my suggestion is to manage your expectations. Allow at least three months between the time your movie is submitted to the encoding house and your go-live date. But also keep in mind that if you hit a hiccup, the process can be delayed by months and months.
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 movies being “discovered” from within the various platforms. And in this thinking they fail to acknowledge that there are gazillions of other movies 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 aggregaton 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.