Independents could be forced out of DVD

The cost of DVD could drive independent producers out of the market according to Victoria Willis, head of DVD at French publishing company Editions Montparnasse.

With DVD touted as the replacement for VHS and the format increasingly filling space in UK high-street shops, everyone is keen to climb on the DVD bandwagon, but with production costs running at 10 times that of VHS, even before 'extras' such as interviews, subtitles and interactive content are added, fear is mounting that DVD could become a Hollywood only roadshow.

Speaking Monday at the first European DVD production conference in London, Willis expressed her concern, suggesting that independent producers could be squeezed out of the market by the bigger players. "Because it costs so much to produce I have this fear that we may only see the blockbusters on DVD... if DVD becomes the replacement for VHS that many predict it will, there may only be the big titles available," she said.

Independent producers have a lot to lose according to Willis. While VHS costs next to nothing to produce recouping costs on DVD is far harder. One answer is to sell titles across Europe but although the format is ideal for pan-European distribution -- easily incorporating subtitles and multilingual tracks -- there are practical problems over publishing rights.

The European DVD Union is aware of the problem and assured ZDNet that it is working on a solution. Mark Windy, head of new technologies at the Union said there are many blocks on the distribution of DVD, not least a distrust of pan-European distribution models. "People are feeling uncomfortable that one distributor could dominate and you could have a situation where the French are running the German market," he said. The Union is working on increasing co-operation between European publishers and distributors and is also calling for greater funding from the European Commission to help independent production houses create high quality DVD. Windy is realistic about the future. "Production costs will come down so smaller films can come out on DVD but Hollywood will always dominate."

Willis is hugely excited about the potential of DVD technology and hopeful that it will be exploited properly. "The technology could have a huge impact on movies, changing the way we watch films," she said. Editions Montparnasse interactive guide around the Louvre museum was one of the winners at the Production Europe Craft Awards (PECA) on Tuesday. Louvre the Visit picked up the Judges award for stretching the full potential of the DVD format.

Other winners included:

  • Best game -- Cuba le Voyage

  • Best interactive -- Godzilla

  • Best DVD video -- Lethal Weapon 4

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