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the least expensive way to produce DVDs that i can think of

so you have a good movie, but do not have the $750/$1000 - $1250/$1500 (prices based on quotes from replicator/duplicator Nationwide's website, + shipping cost estimates + misc. expense $s) that it would take to create 1000 retail ready replicated DVDs?

but you still want to sell your movie on DVD to interested customers at screenings & through the web?

here is the least expensive way i can think of to create oh let's say 100 DVDs for sale:

(& before we get to that, let's address the whole replicated vs. duplicated issue: most pros recommend replicated, which is guaranteed to play in most players most of the time - w/ like only 1%* failure rate quoted by some pros. as opposed to a 5%* failure rate assigned to duplicated DVDs. however, i know 3 filmmakers who have sold 100s of duplicated DVDs, made at home, w/ very little to no playback failures reported by their customers. so i guess replicated is the way to go when you have the cash & for the long term, but in the short term, duplicated may do, up to you to decide & check out)

1. create the final version of the movie in your computer, don't worry about extras - have a nice menu page w/ an image from the flick & START MOVIE button
2. buy 100 DVD cases (i've seen them for as cheap as 1 cent per case on e-bay) - so let's say $15 for the 100 cases
3. buy some high quality blank DVDs - the ones i use for screeners are from apple, i think $35 for 25 blank DVDs - so for 100 let's say $150 - w/tax (note: it is very important that you use the highest quality blank DVDs around, will play in more players)
4. create a cover for the DVD that can be duplicated cheaply - maybe black text & drawings, symbols, etc. on bright color paper. you can create the master cover using ms word or works & your cut & paste skillz (analog, real world - like w/ scissors & glue/tape, if u do not know graphic design programs) for images if necessary. my local copy shop can copy 100 of those covers on 8.5"x10" paper (u can cut it down from there or u can get the copy place to cut it down to proper size) for around $13 (12 cents or less per copy & tax).
5. find an inexpensive but effective way to mark the title & copyright info on the face of the DVD. perhaps a stamp or maybe using a color marker that will not wash off? let's say $20 for whatever supplies you have to get.
6. burn/copy/duplicate your movie on to the 100 DVDs, 1 at a time of course. may take a couple of days.
7. assemble your 100 DVDs for sale (mark title & copyright info on DVD face, place DVD in case, slip cover into the case's sleeve, and u r done!). total cost in $s: $198 ($15 for 100 cases, $150 for 100 blank DVDs, $13 for 100 covers, $20 for DVD face marking tool/method). plus of course your unpaid (yet) dozens of hours of work.

don't worry too much about not having splashy extras & shiny packaging for your DVD. if your movie pleases your audience, they will not miss the extra stuff.

maybe you can sell each DVD for $10 - $15. if you succeed in selling all of them, you should have $1000 - $1500.

oh, hey, when you get that kind of $s, maybe you can get 1000 replicated, fully packaged/retail ready (w/ bar code for bigger retailers) DVDs made from a pro DVD replicating service? wow, check it out, pretty cool :)


1. * not sure about the failure rates of replicated DVDs cited above, after thinking about it i am inclined to guess that perhaps there are almost no failures with properly repicated DVDs. with duplicated DVDs, the story may be different, but even then it is probably far less than 5% these days. that said, replicating seems the safest way to go for large quantity retail purposes.

2. Disc Makers has a deal where you can get 100 duplicated DVDs for $274, in cases, with covers - might be a good low budget deal, just found out through their catalog.

- sujewa


John Harden said…
Hi Sujewa,
Good, detailed post. Great tip, finding cheap DVD cases on eBay... I'll have to try that. I've been getting my cases (and my blank DVD-Rs) at a place called, they usually have pretty good prices, though the last case of slimline Amarays I bought from them had to be aired out for a while as there was quite the petrochemical reek from them at first.

I've had great luck selling DVD-Rs of my short "La Vie d'un Chien" - I always bring about 20 copies to my festival screenings and mention I have them during Q & A. And I sell online as well. It's easy to set up a page on your website, and if you have a PayPal account, you can use their merchant tools to create a simple "Buy It" button that you can add to your page. You can see how my page is setup here.

One other tip: you can print art right onto your DVD-Rs with a printer like the Epson R200. It's a slow, finicky process. Patience is a virtue, but if you're DIY filmmaker you do what you have to.
The Sujewa said…
Hey John,

Thanks for the positive comment & helpful info. Yeah, getting PayPal is a good way to go for web sales. I checked out your website - simple & friendly, looks cool - I like that "cat eats script" image :)

- Sujewa
David Lowery said…
This is the same thing I did for my short film, Still. I ended up selling close to 100 copies (eight bucks each), which more than made up for the price.

But I'd recommend two things: make your cover look pretty, and if you have time, go ahead and put extra features on the disc. It really does make people more willing to buy it. Color copies aren't that expensive, especially in bulk, so don't be afraid to make a really nice looking cover design. And no one who bought my film had actually seen it before, but the promise of a commentary and behind-the-scenes doc really sealed the deal. When word of mouth started kicking in, it was as much for the extra features as it was for the film itself.

Of all the copies I sent out, I never got a report of any disc failures. I forget the brand of DVD I used, but I made sure to get non-branded DVDs, so that there wouldn't be any manufacturer's label on it.

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