The Difficulty of Making 1,000 Death Grip Blu-Rays

A few months ago, we set about the difficult task of authoring a Blu-ray version of Death Grip, which you can now buy on our website. We wanted to have them ready in time for our theatrical premiere in June, and definitely by the time we exhibited at Comic-Con in July.
But we didn’t realize how difficult this task would actually be, or how close we’d be cutting it as a result.

A lot of folks have been asking us about the process, so we thought we’d blog about what to expect when replicating a small order of Blu-rays. Because it’s nowhere near as easy as you’d expect, given what it’s like to replicate DVDs.

When making a DVD, you go through an “authoring” process where you take your edited product and drop it into an authoring program (DVDit, Encore, DVD Studio, etc.), where you make menus, playlists, Easter eggs, and all that fun stuff. The authoring system then takes your DVD “program” and translates it into a standard format that every DVD player can understand. Despite the occasional glitch popping up, it’s amazing that, given the diversity of DVD players on the market, these authoring systems basically have a 100% success rate at making compatible discs. If you work in software, you understand how improbable this is.

You then have two options for distributing your freshly authored DVD. Either you burn or duplicate your own DVDs, buy the sleeves and package them yourself – or – you can send a DVD or an ISO (a file of the DVD) to a factory where they replicate your order onto discs and do all the packaging & shrink wrapping for you, all for roughly $0.99 a piece.

Now the mistake we made on Death Grip was assuming that making a Blu-ray disc (BD) would be the same process. Run the authoring software, burn a disc, deliver to a replication facility and get a thousand made. The authoring part seemed much the same as making a DVD. So we just authored the same menu structure as our DVD, burned a BD out, and it worked on the first try. Great. Now just deliver it to the replication plant and we’re done, right?

Wrong.

Here’s what you don’t know about replicating your BD: you can’t just send that burned BD to a replication facility. They actually require it in a specialized format called BDCMF. So you have to put your Blu-ray disc in a folder with that format, and then send that folder to them on a hard drive. And what’s more, your authoring software probably doesn’t export to this BDCMF format. Encore CS5.5 and CS6 and DVD Studio will not do it. As it turns out, Sony owns the licensing rights to export this proprietary file structure and hasn’t granted it to most authoring programs. So you really only have 3 choices to export your BDCMF file: Rivergate’s BluStreak Tracer for $600, Sony ‘s DoStudio Indie at $3,000, or a third option that’s $1000, but I won’t even bother with a link. Just get Rivergate.

Then there’s the other hurdle of AACS, or Advanced Access Content System. Unlike CSS, every BD disc has a unique encryption key supplied by the AACS Licensing Distributor. You have to pay a fee for it, and you can’t replicate a Blu-ray without an AACS key. (DVDs may be similar with regards to CSS, but the hurdle is far smaller.) This is a bureaucratic step, so you’ll need to budget another couple days so this can be done. Your BD replicating facility deals with it all and wraps it into the cost of the replication. Sony, BD players, and studios came up with this hurdle because of piracy concerns. Blame whoever you want, the fact is this is the reason AACS Keys are now a necessary extra step toward getting your BDs made.

OK so you’ve got all that down, and you’re ready to go through these hurdles with a BD replicator. Good for you!

Now you get to face yet another obstacle – finding a replicator. The number of Blu-ray replication facilities is extremely small, so we had a hard time finding one. And once we did, we found out they would only do single-layer BDs (maxing out at around 2 hours of content), and also required us to get the sleeves printed at an external facility. You see, since the costs of going HD and making a BD are so high, the majority of orders these replicators get are from major studios and distributors, and in quantities of 50,000+ units. Ours was only 1,000 units, so you can imagine how excited and motivated our sales rep was about walking us through every step mentioned above.

It’s simply not worth a replication plant’s effort to do your crummy order of 1,000 Blu-rays, unless you do it perfectly and require no further attention after sending them your hard drive. We went through hours of troubleshooting, multiple overnight FedEx deliveries, and a lot of wasted authoring time because the information simply wasn’t out there or well communicated to us.

Even in making 1,000 BDs, we’re still considered very small fish, and barely knew what we were doing because nobody’s really done this stuff yet. So hopefully our experience can prove a valuable lesson for you, in case you ever decide to take on the BD beast yourself someday.

 

 

Host Your Own Death Grip Screening

Following the success of our Death Grip premiere, we were recently honored with another, more intimate screening of Death Grip, hosted by our good friend and avid fan John Chisholm. Thanks John!

As more friends and fans express interest in hosting their own screenings, and as the remarkably favorable press keeps rolling in, we thought we’d send out a note of our own to encourage more of these events!

So if you have your own DVD or Blu Ray and wish to host a screening at your home or local theatre, please feel free to do so – and do let us know about it, in case we are free and able to come join you as well!

If you don’t have your own DVD or Blu Ray yet, you can purchase your copy at our online store, and THEN use it to host your own intimate screening!

And if you are on the fence, let us leave you with another recent glowing review from Curt McCarter on Death Grip‘s IMDb:

After a grueling six years since the release of their last proper feature film, San Francisco-based amateur action pioneers The Stunt People return with a vengeance in Death Grip, a sophisticated action- thriller that glimmers with professional polish and demonstrates the considerable progress the outfit has made in their mission to reclaim the art of the action film for a new generation of audiences jaded by the uninspired output of mainstream cinema.

Boasting impressive sets, a cast of capable dramatic actors and staggering technical prowess, Death Grip is a Stunt People production unlike any previously seen. Grim, suspenseful and superbly atmospheric, the group has at last found a vehicle that has enabled them to consolidate all their strongest attributes – unique storytelling, local flair, humor, concussive fight sequences and a distinguished filmmaking acumen that can only be the result of a devoted group of passionate aficionados investing countless hours to studying and honing their craft – into a cohesive cinematic package in which nothing feels derivative or out of place; you very well may see something you’ve never seen before in this film.

Each of Death Grip’s key players – Eric Jacobus, Nathan Hoskins, Rebecca Ahn, Johnny Yong Bosch, Alvin Hsing, Ray Carbonel and Chelsea Steffensen – fit their roles comfortably, and deliver engaging performances that provide the narrative’s fundamental substance. This is, at its core, a character study, and the events of the story are driven as much by the motives of each character as the necessity of indulging action-craving viewers. Death Grip succeeds where so many action films, independent or otherwise, fail: by placing its plot line at the center of its narrative focus and utilizing deftly-constructed action scenes as a device for heightening tension and elevating the stakes presented by the major complications, rather than as the primary spectacle, devoid of emotional gravity, through which characters become clumsy appendages. Everyone who fights does so for a reason, and, consequently, the foray’s participants are imbued with a sense of depth and credibility that make it easier for the audience to understand and get behind their actions.

And action is of course the arena in which The Stunt People shine the brightest. Forget the Coin of Judas, the group’s familiar brand of incredible martial artistry is what is really on display here. For the uncharacteristically sober tone, a blend of hyper-realistic violence and lavish stylization is employed, carried out with stunning athleticism and an impeccable amount of detail by Jacobus and the rest. Individual action scenes are like microcosmic narratives all their own folded into the larger fabric of the film, with special attributes that lend them novelty and distinction. One fight places Kenny in a darkened room with a blinded enemy, neutralizing the advantage of sight and forcing the combatants to rely on instinct and cunning to prevail; in a later scene, he is pitted against a knife-wielding henchman in what is, without exaggeration, one of the most intricately choreographed and nuanced encounters I’ve ever witnessed in film. For the grand finale, Jacobus has staged a climactic and devastatingly hard-hitting showdown between out-of-his-league Kenny and enigmatic cult leader Torch (veteran stunt actor Johnny Yong Bosch). All are exceptionally well-shot and executed, astonishing for a crew predominately comprised of DIY filmmakers and stunt performers with limited professional experience. By the conservative ninety minute mark, Death Grip is sure to satisfy the appetites of even the most voracious action fans, with lasting appeal for those grown accustomed to the latest bloated, all-filler offerings from larger, more commercial industries.

Though marketed as an action-thriller, Death Grip is in actuality an experiment designed to test whether a modest band of ambitious young talent is capable of producing, with no backing from professional agencies or studio developers, a cinematic product challenging the best that the corporate world of filmmaking has to offer, and whether such a venture would be received enthusiastically by a viewer base out of touch with what once earned the action genre a respected place among other forms of visual storytelling. The answer to both points is a resounding yes, bristling with fresh creative energy and emphatic as a punch in the teeth. Death Grip is proof-positive of the rewards of vision and hard work, and a glowing testament to the maturity of a team that still has vast potential to improve. A knockout.

Curt loved it – and if you do too, why not host your very own screening and help us spread the Death Grip love!

Comic-Con in Review & More Glowing Reviews

Now that we are back from San Diego, and have had a full week to catch up on sleep, we’ve had some time to reflect on our very successful Comic-Con exhibition. Death Grip received a very warm and enthusiastic welcome, and numerous fans (both new and old) walked away with their very own copy of the movie to take home.

 

Our sales were so good in fact, that we actually sold enough to pay back the costs of our booth, and come out of Comic-Con in the black for the first time in years!

And what’s more, we did so well that the glowing reviews have started to roll in again. And here’s what some of them are saying now:

Fugu Talk saw our preview at Comic-Con 2012:

There was one Donny Yuen film, some awful stuff that ranged from fun to unwatchable, and a really impressive indie effort from The Stunt People that reminded me of the old Jackie Chan films, both in terms of action and physical humor. I liked the clips so much that I searched out their booth on the exhibit floor (turns out they were adjacent to Troma) to buy the DVD, which has a lot of interesting and inspiring special feature bits on the history of The Stunt People and the development of Death Grip (the star/writer spent six years on the script!)

Kelly Miller of Martial Arts Movie Junkie says:

The fights are fast and intense. I absolutely loved some of the longer takes and little stunts that were sprinkled in. What make the fights truly shine, though, are the situations that are created. Each fight has its own personality and feel, and it’s apparent that a lot of thought went into these. One of my favorite fights is one that takes the term “toilet humor” to a whole new level. If you like fights, you won’t be disappointed.

UMUSTBEBORED also raves about DEATH GRIP: A must watch for kung-fu movie lovers!

The fights are phenomenal.  Eric Jacobus not only stars but also directs DEATH GRIP.  He and his Stunt People crew understand how to perfectly shoot and execute a fighting scene.  These guys have it down to a science.  There are no wires or fast edits mixed with excessive shaky cam.  We see everything in sometimes long continuous takes.  The fights are fast and they leave a lasting impact.  You can tell what is happening.  … They are way better than the fights you would see in a Bourne film or any other big budgeted mainstream film.

Sound good? Buy the DVD or Blu-Ray (both are all-region!) today. Domestic orders ship almost daily, and international orders (we ship everywhere) ship twice a week.

All funds go straight back to us to pay for making the film. This way, we can get started on our next projects that are currently underway.

Thank you for enjoying Death Grip!

Comic-Con loves Death Grip!

Today marked the end of Day 2 (not including Wed Preview Night) here at Comic-Con 2012, and already Death Grip has been making quite an impression!

First on Thursday night (yesterday), Ric Meyers honored our beloved Death Grip and Eric Jacobus on his annual Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza panel with a solid chunk of sneak preview time. We showed off 3 classic scenes from the movie, and the crowd went wild!

Then to sweeten the deal, our booth traffic increased exponentially today with folks coming up to buy the DVD after seeing it on the panel last night! We doubled our sales from yesterday, and then some!

Next up is our full film screening for Death Grip tomorrow (Sat) night at 5pm in the Marriott Marina Ballroom D. So if you’re around at the Con, come by and enjoy our movie on the big screen. We’re expecting a really solid turnout, which will hopefully lead to even more DVD sales on Sunday.

But beyond all the great publicity and merchandise sales, we’ve also been fortunate to rub elbows with some amazing celebs and icons at our Booth #4015 (where we’ve been showing off our shiny new booth setup)

including James Lew

Darren Shahlavi

Reuben Langdon

and Rob Van Dam

 

… not to mention our booth neighbor, Troma founder and mastermind Lloyd Kaufman!

It’s been a whirlwind of a Comic-Con this year… and it’s not over yet!

So stay tuned for more updates and recap as we finish off the last 2 days of the Con strong!

Death Grip goes to Comic-Con

This week marks the 9th year that The Stunt People will be exhibiting at the Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, CA.

It all kicks off tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 6pm for Preview Night, and then continues all day Thursday through Sunday for 4 days of bizarre costumes, exclusive releases, star-studded panels, and wall to wall attendees rushing to catch all the latest and greatest in the world of comics, animation and live action entertainment.

And we’ll be right there in the thick of it, featuring Death Grip at our annual Stunt People booth #4015. So if you are coming to Comic-Con this year, come on by our booth to say hi and buy your copy of the Death Grip DVD or Blu Ray. We’ll also have the movie poster on sale, which you can get signed by the cast right at the booth!

What’s more, our very own “independent action film idol” Eric Jacobus is going to be featured on Ric Meyers’ annual (and 15th year running) panel Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza on Thursday night at 7:30pm in Room 6A of the Convention Center. There, Eric will be showing off some of our exclusive Death Grip footage and talking more about the magic behind the production.

Then on Saturday of the Con (the 14th), we will also be screening Death Grip in the Marriott Hotel – Marina Ballroom D at 5pm. So come join us there as well, and you’ll get to see the full film PLUS be treated to a quick Q&A with our cast!

So don’t miss both chances to see Eric & team featured in Comic-Con’s select schedule lineup, as well as all Con day long at our Booth #4015 in the Convention Center Exhibit Hall!

See you there, in your super duper costume-wear!

Death Grip Reviews Rolling In – Get your DVD and Write One Too!

Death Grip is now on sale at The Stunt People Store, and we already have four favorable reviews published! Check out what people are saying:

Alex-in-Wonderland says:

This latest offering from Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People is nothing short of amazing, and the groundwork laid by their previous films is finally bearing fruit. Eric has grown and matured as a filmmaker, writer, and actor, and the entire production is first rate. Excellent cinematography and a complimentary musical score mask the film’s impressively lean $100k budget, and you can tell that all of the money is on the screen. Nearly everything is shot in camera in real time, which adds an extra sense of authenticity to the production. The acting is surprisingly good, and bolstered by a script that allows for character development through body language and minimal exposition. And being that the cast is made up almost entirely of stunt people, body language is what they excel at. The fight scenes in the film are excellently realized and hard hitting, evoking the look and feel of classic Hong Kong action cinema. Shot in chronological order one angle at a time, the rhythm and cadence are perfect and the give-and-take progression creates an excellent sense of dramatic tension. The speed, precision, and complexity of the knife fight between Eric and Alvin Hsing is so intense that you almost wish it were slowed down a bit so you could see more of the individual moves. The final showdown between Eric and Johnny Yong Bosch is also extremely satisfying for those who appreciate the skill and craft of thoughtful fight choreography and editing.

Jackie Chan’s “Heart Of Dragon” (1985) immediately comes to mind when watching the film, but it wisely stays away from the melodrama and overwrought sentimentality that weighed that movie down. While the story maintains an appropriately sober and serious tone throughout, brief moments of humor help to alleviate the tension here and there, including a wonderfully realized showdown involving an auto-flush toilet. What’s brilliant about this sequence is that it’s not treated as a gag, but rather an unusual (and absurd) situation that requires a unique solution (another nod to Chan’s genius). The minimalistic dialog does an excellent job of establishing the characters, keeping them self consistent, and maintaining a good pace, but at the expense of not fleshing out the larger world. You leave the film wanting to know more, which I suppose is ultimately a very good thing. Especially in American films, which nearly always tend to divulge too much information. … Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy and appreciate the cinematic flair of 1980′s action cinema.

Dan’s Movie Report says:

Leave it to Eric Jacobus and his fantastic Stunt People crew to come up with a highly original film concept, the theft of a magical coin with a biblical connection, and wrap it around the backdrop of some of the finest fight sequences ever recorded.

… [A]ll of the actors are rather intense and obviously Eric took time with the actors and himself to get the facial and body actions to belay their respective characters’ emotions.

The plot is rather complex for a lower budget film, and requires careful attention from the viewer, there are religious and demonic undertones, but by the end of the film things become quite clear. Follow the coin, and see where it goes!

I hate when reviewers spoil the plot of films, and the events occur in Death Grip, should not be revealed, but I will reveal the action. Eric and his crew have made an epic action film, the fights are stunning, well lit and expertly filmed.

KeAbtium reports:

I was almost immediately pulled into the story.  The film opens with a serious scene with Kenny (Eric Jacobus) about to get his brother Mark out of a mental institution.  Nathan Hoskins plays the roll of Mark and was nothing short of amazing.  They both tell a story with their facial expressions and simple, not over the top dialogue.  Which I feel can be a fatal flaw in low budget films with untrained actors.

There is immediate character investment with Mark and Kenny and their relationship and there is a desire to learn what happened to them to bring them to this point in time.  Along with a great score which reached into your heart during the serious moments and made you laugh at the jokes, it seems like they had re-written the book on action movies with a good story.

The film continued to amaze with great locations, extremely well choreographed fight scenes, heart stopping action and several well timed laughs.

The end fight with Johnny Yong Bosch and Eric Jacobus was memorable, but more importantly it kept you on the edge of your seat.  It was fast, well thought out and well shot.  It is what we have come to expect from The Stunt People, yet so much more.  I wanted to include, that what you seen on screen for all of their fight scenes isn’t sped up or cut and reassembled.  It’s shot in sequence at speed with a single camera which is very impressive.

Lastly, Fictonia raves:

Holy crap, there is so much I can say here.  The fighting was intense and exciting, and genuinely felt real.

The cinematography was beautiful and the picture was sharp and clear, with fantastic use of color and lighting.

The sets and environments were interesting and it was fun and satisfying watching them get destroyed over the course of the many fights.

The story was engaging, and easily bounced around between being funny, touching, dramatic, and exciting.

The acting.  Holy crap, the acting.  I never thought I would say this about a Stunt People movie, but the acting was fantastic.  Nathan Hoskins in particular had an amazing performance as Mark, the main character’s developmentally disabled brother.  With only a few minor exceptions, the entire cast did a fantastic job bringing their characters to life.

… It feels like a long time since I’ve had this much fun watching a movie.  Death Grip was genuine entertainment from start to finish, and one I will be watching over and over.  It’s exciting, it’s brutal, it’s dramatic, and it’s really, really funny. But most of all, it’s an engaging story with characters you actually care about, which is something you don’t often get to say about an action movie.  The DVD and Blu Ray are on sale now in their store, and you should go buy it.  Seriously.  Right now. Go.

Plus,

Scott Brown of the Shortz! Film Fest also comments:

If you are into martial arts action flicks, this one should be on your list of “must sees” Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People have reached a new pinnacle that all other independent action flicks will now be forced to live up to.

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of people ask us, “What can we do to help your film?”

Well the best thing you can do is buy Death Grip (Blu Ray also available) and write your own review on a blog or whatever other online publishing tool you prefer. If you write for a print magazine or a major website, contact us for a reviewer’s screener copy.

You can also review and rate it on our Death Grip IMDb page. We’d link it directly, but apparently if a bunch of reviews come in from the same initial link, the IMDb review aggregator won’t count those. So please just go to IMDb.com and search for “Death Grip”, and then let us know what you think of it!

Thanks everyone for the glowing reviews so far. These kinds of things really help us push forward and jump into making the next one!

Death Grip Theatrical Premiere Wrap-Up & Thank Yous

We just had our premiere for Death Grip on Saturday, June 30th, 2012, and it was a night we will never forget!

Two years of solid labor suddenly morphed into something real and alive. The audience reaction was incredible. They got every joke (and a bunch of others, which I didn’t expect), screamed at the gore, and cheered after every fight scene. They ate up the DVDs and shirts, people said they wanted to invest, and we’re expecting a bunch of reviews to flow in soon.

Thank to you to everyone who came out to the Bal Theatre for the event and supported the release of Death Grip!

But more importantly, we want to say Thank You to all those generous and dedicated people who helped make Death Grip happen:

Cast – The overwhelming response was that while the action still beat everyone’s expectations, the acting was the ultimate surprise. The most frequent comment we received was, “I came in expecting just some action movie, but it was like a real movie.” The cast did an incredible job at taking Death Grip far and above the usual schlocky action film genre and into a new ballpark. Johnny, Nathan, Chelsea, Shaun, Amberly, LaChe, Cynthia, and Sean, I wish you could have made it for the show, but due to conflicts and complications, the audience definitely missed seeing you all.

Crew – The audience was convinced that Death Grip was made for a few million dollars. This is largely thanks to the efforts of our amazing crew that squeezed every bit of production value out of our budget possible, thanks to their superb grasp of the art form. Drew Daniels (DP), Brett Perry (composer), Brad Wagner (sound recordist), Phil Gorn (sales agent), Justine Jacob (legal), and Matteo Grilli (sound designer and mixer), we missed having you all there.

Donors – The overwhelming support of our donors helped us meet our budgetary needs and showed us that there’s still plenty of hope for the independent genre film. Thank you all. We’ll be sending out donor packages this week, with a short delay for those who requested the Blu Ray upgrade.

 

Investors – To the executive producers who truly believed the independent action film could hold its own in the market and prove a profitable investment, we hope (and expect) to make it worth your while in spades, setting a precedent with Death Grip.

Family – Our families gave us extra support when we needed it the most. From financial help to location services, the Jacobus, DeGregorio, and Ahn families were invaluable to the production.

 

Fans – To readers of this blog, members of The Stunt People Forum who have pushed Eric & team since day one, the Facebook community, our Press contacts, and all the other forums and blogs out there putting the word out, we couldn’t make a splash without your support. Many of you came from a long distance to see the show and it as a pleasure to see you all!

Friends – To all the good people who lent support whenever it was needed, from handing out fliers to pushing us on social networks to just bringing people to the show, we thank you!

 

Local BusinessesFlips N Flops Gymnastics, Tiger Claw, Arthur Freyer Lighting, Jonah Hendrickson, Petaluma Historical Museum, The Seasteading Institute, Ongaro & Sons, Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church, Yusan Sushi, Arizmendi Bakery, Historic Bal Theatre, and Victory Warehouse were all instrumental in the making of this film. We feel an even stronger sense of community after your help, so thank you for making the Bay Area the perfect location for Death Grip.

Thanks to all of you, Death Grip is sure to make an impact. Now let’s see some reviews :D