dvd vs. tape

Discuss products and their reviews in Genii.

Postby Bill Mullins » 09/14/01 07:38 PM

Is there any good reason that a magic DVD should cost $5 more than the the same program in tape format? Does anyone know enough about the production costs to say (or give informed speculation)? Is it simply a matter of VHS is old hat, DVD is new, so the market will bear more for a tape?

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Postby sleightly » 09/14/01 09:47 PM

There is a difference in price primarily because there are additional costs accrued in production. Development of interface, indexing/chaptering, video compression, & special features are all things which add to the price of a project going to DVD in addition to VHS (not to mention additional package design, etc.). Add to this the better picture/sound quality, no degradation over time and random access features (not to mention better protection from your PK work), make it well worth the extra $5.00...

I think there are still some features that are not being taken advantage of, and I think some manufacturers could put more info on less DVD's (with dual layer DVD's able to hold many more hours of video on one disc), but this is still very new technology for a very niche market...
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/15/01 02:14 AM

Originally posted by Andrew J. Pinard:
There is a difference in price primarily because there are additional costs accrued in production. Development of interface, indexing/chaptering, video compression, & special features are all things which add to the price of a project going to DVD in addition to VHS (not to mention additional package design, etc.).


Do these differences in "production" (I assume we are speaking of the process of developing the "software", be it digital bits or analog voltages, rather that the mass manufacturing of many discs or tapes),
amortized over the 1000's of copies made, come up to $5 per copy?? Some of the new DVD's don't have these added features; they are simply video re-released in DVD format. Can they justify added cost? Is it more expensive to add DVD enhancements to a tape which otherwise has mediocre production values, or to simply do a better job in producing a tape, as folks like Matthew Field have been requesting for a long time (more camera angles, re-shooting bad takes, etc.)?

The market will eventually decide if DVD is
"well worth the extra $5.00". But in the meantime, I remain suspicious that the biggest reason for the mark-up is the fact that DVDs have a certain cachet that tapes don't. I remember clearly when music CDs came out how the record lables promised that CD format albums would eventually be cheaper than vinyl once manufacturing capacity was built in America, because the unit production cost for a CD is cheaper than that for a vinyl album (and a vinyl album is pretty darn inexpensive to stamp). Well, it never happened. A new album in CD still costs ~$18 or so. An inflation adjusted price from the time of transition would be, what, $10 or so. Will the DVD revolution acclimatize the magic consumer to the $35 price? I bet L&L and A-1 hope so.

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[ September 15, 2001: Message edited by: bill mullins ]
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Postby sleightly » 09/15/01 09:24 AM

At this point, Magic Instuctional DVDs are not yet selling in the 1000s (or even being produced in near that quantity)... While I think you have a valid point about just transferring Analog Video to DVD with no additional work, I think you will find that at least with L&L (by far the main producer of DVDs) there has been--at the bare minimum--indexing of each individual segment performance/explanation. In many instances this equates to hundreds of index points per disc. Add to that the other production costs, and the small volume of sales, and someone has to bear the increased costs. L&L is certainly doing their part.

As for the price point issue: You are hitting *one* of the nails on the head. This does give producers an opportunity to increase their price point, but if you will consider that most videos have been priced at $30 for *years*, we can't begrudge an incremental change like this. Every retailer (except perhaps the computer industry) raise their prices in relation to increases in production costs over the years (and computer prices have gone down as their volume increased, passing the savings that larger production runs down to their customers).

To some extent, the producers have caused a certain problem for themselves by producing an ever-increasing quantity of product for a market that is not expanding as rapidly as the product line. As more and more tapes/DVDs are produced, they are selling less numbers of the individual titles, and are trying to make up for this reduction of volume by increasing their output. They should be producing less, higher quality output, rather than concentrating on volume.

At this point in time, there are so few producers of magic DVDs that there is almost no reason to take on the extra expenses in producing a parallel version of an existing product (albeit improved by the advances in random access, looping, and video quality).

One other aspect you haven't covered is comparative quality of the product. As much as I think they can improve, L&L has set a higher standard in video production with its attendant costs. They have not increased their prices just because their production costs have increased (until their recent production of DVDs). Yet, no one complains when A1 puts out a one camera shoot with no shooting script and sells it at the same price point.

As consumers, we drive the market with our pocket books. In the splintered and over inundated magic video market, we have an enormous number of choices when it comes to video, and we can assert a not-insignificant amount of control over the producers when we make our needs felt.

The people producing these videos are not doing it out of the good of their heart. They are trying to run businesses and support their families while providing us with something that until recently did not exist.

L&L is providing for a market that quite frankly doesn't fully exist yet. In doing so, it is encouraging development by other producers into what has already proven to be the future of the home video market. Our way of encouragment is to plunk down our financial support by purchasing the product.

I think we owe them something, and you should too.

If you don't like the increase, buy the $30 videos as long as they are still being released.

Or try to encourage 100,000 of your closest friends to buy Magic DVDs so we can all bring the price down together.

[ September 15, 2001: Message edited by: Andrew J. Pinard ]
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/15/01 03:25 PM

Andrew is absolutely correct about all of this. The market for magic DVDs is small, but growing quickly. One of the reasons it is starting to grow is because L&L Publishing is making DVDs available, thus giving magicians who are clinging to their VCRs and thinking about switching to DVDs for movie watching, that little extra added incentive to finally make the plunge.
Most videotapes sell below 1,000 copies. There is little reason to bother putting any money into any product that sells so few copies. The $35 price for magic DVD is a reasonable and fair one. My videotapes were all $35. I see no reason why EVERY manufacturer must price his tapes or DVDs the same as every other manufacturer.
Bill, I would stop griping over the extra few dollars and be glad SOMEONE (L&L) is at least making the effort to do this. I can see a hell of a lot more detail when watching one of L&L's DVDs than when watching a comparable tape.
Frankly, I believe L&L is losing money on the DVDs they're putting out at the moment! It's a long-term business plan and investment, one that may take years to pay off. They are to be commended for it.
The real issue is more complex: DVDs hold up to 3 hours of decently compressed video. They can hold more, but the quality suffers as the compression is increased. Why is L&L putting out all five Daryl tapes as five DVDs? Those same five tapes could easily fit on two DVDs. The reason is that you would not pay $50 for one DVD! Louis Falanga can't sell you the same information for different prices, regardless of what the different formats can hold! If your choice is to purchase a five tape set for $150, or two DVDs for $100, and the DVDs had the same amount of material as the tapes, what would you buy? Not many people are going to pay $50 for a DVD. This is a complex issue that is going to become more troublesome as time goes by. One good thing about DVDs is that they are easier to copy protect, so they will lesson the flow of easy to make bootleg tapes.
Of course, VCRs will disappear within ten years anyway.
All that stuff about dual layer DVDs costs LOTS more money--so don't think you're going to see anything like that in magic too soon.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/16/01 05:04 AM

Richard, I'm sorry I come across as "griping over the few extra dollars". Like many of us who pay L&L, A-1, Hermetic, Stagewright, and the Genii corp's bills, I am a hobbyist who reads/views/consumes a lot of magic product, without being a pro or even particularlly active as an amateur performer. I just like magic books and tapes.

As Jon R. and others have pointed out, there is a "glut" of stuff being shoveled out by those who produce magic. As I try to be an intelligent consumer, I question as much as I can in order to spend my dollars wisely. I not only question the content (which product is original? well-explained? clearly illustrated? engaging? entertaining?) but the format (book vs. notes vs. tape vs. magazine vs. DVD), and even pedestrian issues like price.

"Value" has come up already in this discussion, and I think it is such a subjective term that for one person to tell another that something is worth a few more dollars is almost meaningless -- I don't own a DVD player, so right now, DVDs are worthless to me, despite added features, clarity, and the fact that they take up less space than a tape (a factor which I am sure I will appreciate when I do make the digital leap).

It may be that L&L is doing DVD's as a "loss leader" or maybe taking a loss now to invest in the future -- but I seriously doubt it. With a market as small as you describe, I can't imagine that the publishers can afford to lose any of their existing profits. But I could be wrong.

Sometimes, I think, there is a tendency to criticize those who question the price of any magic product, as if to do so is disrespectful of the craft of magic, the creativity of magicians, the "value" of the secrets, etc. I ran into this a couple years ago on the Electronic Grymoire, when I pointed out that Daryl's 3 Fly 3 is $15, when Kenner's manuscript is less than $10, and other variants of the routine can also be had for substanially less (i.e., the July 1999 issue of Genii). Such criticism misses the point (and I don't take Andrew's or Richard's comments to be such criticism). The more magic is turned into a commodity or business or even an industry, the more appropriate it is to question the marketing and pricing strategies used by the publishers.

I haven't been in magic long enough to remember the days of $60 and higher tapes, but clearly that was too high a price point.
It may turn out that the price point for a DVD will settle out at $35. If so, there will be some that are bargains at that price, and some that are doomed to be remaindered. I look forward to the good ones.

Now, some specific comments:
Andrew: "we can't begrudge an incremental change like this"
Sure we can. And we should begrudge every dollar we spend. That's the only way to force publishers to put out good product -- by refusing to buy that which is bad, or overpriced.

Andrew: "As much as I think they can improve, L&L has set a higher standard in video production". Horse manure. The first half of that statement is so wrong. Almost every magic videotape I have seen is poorly scripted, underdirected, could use more takes and camera angles, and is severely lacking in post-production. When Harry Lorayne leaves out credits, then dammit, stop the camera, write them down, let him memorize them, and re-film that portion. Don't do a graphic at the end of the tape. L&L is better usually than A-1, but they certainly can improve. Dan Harlan just lectured here and said that he did nearly all of the performances in his new set in one take each. You simply can't do 6+ hours of video straight through without leaving tons of room for improvement. Yes, it will cost more -- maybe more than the market will bear -- but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that the average magic video in today's market has anything like the production values of even your local UHF TV station's newscast.

Andrew: "Yet, no one complains when A1 puts out a one camera shoot with no shooting script and sells it at the same price point." Well, we should. And I think Mike Close and Matthew Field have both recently commented on problems just like these on recent video reviews -- more power to them.

Richard: "One good thing about DVDs is that they are easier to copy protect, so they will lesson the flow of easy to make bootleg tapes." Except that it's just as easy to make a videotape copy of a DVD as it is to make a videotape copy of a videotape. And I can't imagine that the copy protection of DVDs is robust enough to survive very long -- too many hackers copying mass market DVDs.

Sorry to get on such a soapbox . . .

Bill Mullins

[ September 16, 2001: Message edited by: bill mullins ]

[ September 17, 2001: Message edited by: bill mullins ]
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Postby CHRIS » 09/19/01 07:06 PM

A few comments on DVDs. Copy-protection looks good in principle but I doubt it will hold for very long. I already found copy recipies online. Copying a 'protected' DVD will be very simple. Just simple 0s and 1s are stored which can be read with a laser. Why should there be any problem copying them? I have seen such futile approaches with floppies. They can scare away the novice. But they offer no real protection.

The price of the medium and the price for duplication is for a small run more expensive for a DVD than for a tape. I would think that this is the main reason for the additional $5 for DVDs.

Lybrary.com is considering DVDs for ebooks as well. Prices of raw materials are dropping fast.

Chris....www.lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.
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Postby John Signa » 09/24/01 01:05 AM

I don't mind paying a few dollars more for a DVD Video as I understand there are extra costs involved (including DVD licensing fees). However, the quality should be better than VHS.
After purchasing the David Regal DVD Video set I was disappointed to find the quality of the video to be sub-VHS. With 2.5 hours of video on each disc, the discs should have been dual-layered. Instead the video is overly-compressed to fit on a single-layered disc. Compared to the VHS tape, the DVD video quality was worse.
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