Many fitness professionals entertain the idea of developing their own DVD programs. Why shouldn’t you? You may have many amazing talents to share, so what better way to promote them than on camera? As the creators, writers, producers and directors of seven educational DVDs aimed at fitness professionals, and two for the general public, we have had the opportunity to learn the many ins and outs of making a program from start to finish.

We have found that creating a fitness DVD is a great way to generate additional income, not only from DVD sales, but from the new opportunities that can open up as a result of having one. A quality DVD production can instantly boost your credibility within the industry, which can lead to paid offers to write articles, present at conferences and run workshops. This increased industry exposure leads to name recognition—and to the companies that sell products and want well-known people to promote them. However, making a DVD is also a time-consuming venture that requires a lot of planning. There are several stages in the process. Follow each one closely in order to ensure that your
final result is a successful one.

Step 1: Prepare a Production Plan

If you have ever considered making your own DVD, then you should have a general idea about what you want to do. The first step in bringing that idea to life is to develop a production plan. Here is a sample of the information your plan should include:

  • what type of video you want to
    create—a workout, educational or
    instructional program
  • who your audience will be—industry professionals or the general public
  • what type of equipment you’ll need, how much you’ll need and where you’ll get it
  • what “extras” you’ll need, such as models/exercisers, music (and licenses), background items or props
  • how long you want the program to be (e.g., 30 minutes)

Once you’ve determined the basic “bones” of the program, you’ll need to decide what you want the overall product to look like and plan accordingly. Some elements you may need to consider are listed below:

  • If there is a lot of speaking in your program, you will need to write a script or outline to keep you on track.
  • A workout video will require selecting what exercises to include, necessary choreography and background music.
  • You should develop your introduction/conclusion and the content for other DVD chapters (such as an exercise library).
  • If your program will contain features such as graphics or voice-over segments, you should prepare those as well.
  • Finally, you should decide whether you prefer a one- or a two-camera production. (Two cameras are recommended if your program contains lots of close-up material.)

Step 2: Find a
Production Company

Once you have created a production plan for your DVD program, locate a production company that can deliver all the components you require. Ask friends or colleagues who have made DVDs for referrals, or contact production companies in your area and ask if they have experience with athletic- or fitness-related programs.

When you have found two or three production companies you like, ask them to provide you with an estimated production cost based on your needs/requirements. Generally speaking, making a fitness DVD is a substantial investment. Most reputable production companies will charge $12,000–$18,000 for a straightforward production that involves filming,
editing and packaging your program. If you require complicated camera work, heavy graphic-design work or special computer effects, the cost can be even higher. It is also important to know that the cost of making a DVD program (referred to as production costs) does not include the cost of obtaining copies for resale or distribution (referred to as reproduction costs). On average, it will cost $2–$4 per packaged DVD copy once production is completed (e.g., 500 copies at $4/copy = $2,000). Therefore, you should factor reproduction costs into your overall project budget.

If the initial production costs are slightly out of your range, you could ask the production company about the possibility of reducing the production fees and increasing the reproduction fees. For example, if the production estimate comes back at $15,000 for the program and $2 per copy for reproduction, you might see if the company would be willing to produce the DVD for $10,000 and retain exclusive reproduction rights at $5 per copy for the life of the DVD. Alternatively, you could ask about the option of purchasing the production master copy outright so that you can manage reproduction costs and schedules on your own.

Once you have selected a production company, sign a contract with them. The contract should cover services to be provided by the company, at what cost and during what time frames. It should also cover information about copyright (you should retain copyright to all your
material), reproduction costs and rights, distribution rights, retail pricing and wholesale pricing (if your production company is going to be one of your distributors). In order to ensure that your rights as a contracting party are protected, it is highly advisable to seek the advice of a qualified legal professional in your area before signing anything. When a contract has been signed, book your shoot date and get ready for “action.”

Step 3: Prepare to Shoot

On the shoot day you will have many tasks to accomplish in a limited amount of time. Therefore, you must be extremely organized or have someone on set with you (e.g., your production assistant) to ensure filming runs efficiently and smoothly. Confirm that you have with you all necessary props and equipment, the script or cue cards, a call sheet for your models (listing the time they are supposed to be there and their contact numbers for updates/emergencies) and a scene schedule for your camera person.

When you are sure everything is on site, do a brief run-through of the program.
Set up the filming area as you want it and double-check timing, lighting, camera
angle(s) and movements to make certain that everything is acceptable for the actual shoot. A run-through will also help you “warm up” to the camera so you don’t
appear too nervous or stiff when filming begins. Do a few takes of each segment of the program (particularly if you mess up something) so you can have extra footage available, if required, for the editing stage.
Get all the shots you need or want on the day of the shoot because it may not be possible to organize everyone for a re-shoot later.

Step 4: Edit the Material

At some point after filming is complete, your production company will provide you with a copy of all the usable footage (stamped with time codes) for you to
review. You will have to watch the footage and inform the video editor what takes, shots and camera angles to use in the DVD. (Remember that it’s your program; therefore, it’s your responsibility to ensure the desired content is included in a logical and coherent format.)

The video editor will “weave” all of the designated content into a first draft of the program. You will subsequently review the draft and provide feedback on the edited program. If you are using graphics or images in your program (e.g., names of exercises), double-check all titles and spelling and make sure the audio and visual portions of the program are in sync (e.g., graphics appear when they should). Some production companies may limit the number of revisions after the first draft to one or two, so carefully watch the first draft for anything that needs further editing and clearly communicate changes to your video editor.

You will also be required to provide direction and feedback regarding the DVD packaging. The creation process for packaging materials (DVD covers, disk labels, inserts, etc.) varies with every production company, but at the very least you should be prepared to provide a basic idea for the cover design and accompanying text.

When the editing process is complete, and you have given your final approval for both the program and packaging, you can place an order for copies and proceed to the next stage—selling your new product!

Step 5: Distribute the DVD

Now that you have your DVD, you’ll want to get it out to your intended audience and start making money. Selling it through your own studio or website is the most profitable option, but unless you have an enormous marketing list you are going to want some help.

Your best bet would be to seek out distributors in the industry (e.g., IDEA, Power Systems, Perform Better, PTonthe-
NET) who have catalogs or websites that already sell products in your genre. Typically, the distributor will buy DVDs for resale from you at 50% of their retail value. For example, if your DVD is priced at $24.99, a distributor would pay you $12.49 per copy. If each DVD reproduction costs you $4 per copy, then you would gross $8.49 per sale. If your total production cost was $12,000, then you would need to sell approximately 1,400 DVDs at $8.49 to break even. Although your profit margin will not be as great as if you sold the DVDs on your own, distributors enable your products to be available on a scale large enough to turn a profit.