Part II: All About The Making of a DVD-Audio Disc 
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Written by Mark Waldrep, Ph.D.   
Monday, 01 November 2004

AV Education on RHT

Part II: All About The Making of a DVD-Audio Disc

Written by Mark Waldrep, Ph.D.

Beyond The Music
As I mentioned in the previous installment, the DVD-Audio format is the only high-resolution, multi-channel consumer audio format that can contain media other than audio. That distinction is one of the primary reasons why AIX Records will never release an SACD. I’m a strong advocate of providing consumers with the richest multimedia experience available and have thought so from the outset of the DVD-Video format seven years ago. (Remember when DVD-Videos discs didn’t have any bonus features?) It’s true that the Internet can outperform optical disc media for sheer volume of media, but the quality of both the audio and video do not yet approach that of disc-based media. Just wait until large numbers of consumers get hooked on high-definition video – the gulf between the Internet and disc-based delivery may get even wider. Simply put, physical discs are currently the only media able to provide the highest-quality interactive experience, so we have chosen to produce discs, specifically, DVD-Audio/Video discs.

One of the primary factors in determining the depth of bonus materials that will be added to a DVD is whether the project originates from the record company’s archive or is completely new. Obviously, any older photographs or film footage used on a DVD-Audio/Video project have to be identified, licensed and digitized. We’ve done the graphic design for a number of Frank Sinatra titles on Rhino Records and I can tell you the process of getting photos can be daunting and expensive. As a small label that doesn’t have an archive, AIX Records produces all of the media that goes into our projects from scratch. This media can be extensive.

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that music fans who are only interested in listening to their favorite songs are using their iPods. The nature of the traditional record business is undergoing a radical shift away from packaged optical discs and towards the on-demand, downloaded world offered by the Internet. And why shouldn’t it? If the listening experience is all that counts, then consumers are right to file-swap and avoid going to the local Tower Records. So what sort of products should fill the racks at the local record retailer? Logic dictates these products should be those that cannot be easily downloaded and that present a compelling value-added proposition. This is where a full-featured DVD-Audio/Video disc comes into its own. Imagine the ideal music purchase: a disc filled with true high-resolution, multi-channel music (not upsampled, derived from analog or restored from a low-resolution original), full video of the sessions and/or live presentation, interviews, photo galleries, music lessons, songwriting tips, printable lead sheets, web connections, multiple camera angle master classes, discographies and rehearsal footage. A disc of this sort would be compatible with DVD and CD drives (via the newly-approved DualDisc technology). The total capacity of the disc might eclipse 20 gigabytes of data and require a couple of discs, at least until HD-DVD comes along. The packaging would be special as well. The consumer would be engaged on just about every level as the media delivers a truly multimedia experience rather than merely the tunes. This, I believe, is the future of the record business and beyond the CD.

Maybe the name for my company should be changed from AIX Records to something else. We are not a traditional record company. In fact, we’re a production company that has worked in multimedia for over 20 years and has now decided to produce a line of titles that represents the very best that we can do. Of course, the audio quality comes first and, to that end, we capture some of the best high-resolution tracks being produced anywhere. But the extras are a close second. People love to see the artists performing, speaking and interacting. Fans really do want to see the lives that their idols are leading and feel a part of the music-making. DVD-Audio/Video products have the potential to deliver the entire range of media types inexpensively and interactively.

During the sessions that we capture, there are at least five primary cameras focused on the musicians (usually one on a jib, moving from shot to shot), two handheld cameras for interviews and impromptu moments, lights and a complete 36-track high-resolution digital recording set-up. The post-production phase includes all of the usual audio production steps and the preparation of graphics, video and authoring. Fortunately, the tools to accomplish these tasks are affordable and powerful, thanks to programs like Apple’s Final Cut Pro HD and Adobe Photoshop/After Effects. It can take weeks, months or even more than a year to complete all of the steps that are required to produce a "feature-rich" DVD. The costs are substantial but products with high production values are necessary for the brick and mortar retail world. Pride of ownership is still a strong reason to create physical goods, rather than mere strings of 0s and 1s.

Traditional record labels will continue to record, mix, master and distribute music in the usual fashion. The addition of iTunes and other music subscription services opens up new distribution avenues, but doesn’t fundamentally alter the kind of production work that a record company does. Taking advantage of the expanded creative potential of the DVD-Audio/Video format means that companies will have to think beyond just the music and embrace a more comprehensive approach. It takes a lot more time and effort to deliver a compelling multimedia experience, but I believe it’s well worth it.

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