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How to Develop Your Own Educational DVD

Many fitness professionals entertain the idea of developing their own DVD programs. You may have many amazing talents to share, so what better way to promote them than on camera? As the creators of 10 fitness videos, we have learned the ins and outs of making a DVD from start to finish.

Creating a fitness DVD is a great way to generate additional income, both from sales of the DVD and from opportunities that arise because you have one. A quality DVD can boost your credibility in the industry, which can lead to paid offers to write articles, present at conferences and run workshops. That leads to name recognition—and to the companies that sell products and want well-known people to promote them. However, making a DVD is an expensive, time-consuming project that requires thoughtful planning at each step of the process. Following each step closely is the key to success.

Step 1: Prepare a Production Plan

Your DVD production plan should spell out the following:

  • Type: Will your video be a workout, educational or instructional program?
  • Audience: Is it for industry professionals or the general public?
  • Equipment: What kind, how much and where will you get it?
  • Extras: Will you need models/exercisers, music (and licenses), background items or props?
  • Duration: How long do you want the program to be (30 minutes, for example)?

Next you need to decide what you want the product to look like and plan accordingly. Points to consider:

  • If there is a lot of speaking, you will need a script.
  • If it’s a workout video, you’ll have to select exercises, choreography and music (and licenses, if necessary).
  • You should develop your introduction/conclusion and the content for other DVD chapters (such as an exercise library).
  • If your program needs graphics or voiceovers, prepare for those as well.
  • Decide whether you prefer a one- or a two-camera production. (Two cameras are better if your program has lots of close-ups.)

Step 2: Find a Production Company

Ask friends or colleagues who have made DVDs for referrals, or contact local production companies and ask if they have fitness video experience.

When you have found two or three production companies you like, ask them for cost estimates. 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. Complicated camera work, heavy graphic-design work or special computer effects drive the cost even higher.

Bear in mind: The production cost of a DVD program does not include reproduction costs (i.e., what you pay for copies for resale or distribution). On average, it will cost $2–$4 per packaged DVD (500 copies at $4/copy = $2,000, for example). Reproduction costs must be factored into your budget.

Once you have selected a production company, draw up a contract that specifies services the company will provide, total costs and time frames. The contract should also cover copyright (you should retain all copyright), reproduction costs and rights, distribution rights, retail pricing and wholesale pricing. To protect your rights, seek the advice of a qualified legal professional 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 lots to do in a limited time. You must be extremely organized or have someone on set (like a production assistant) to ensure filming runs smoothly. Confirm that you have all necessary props and equipment, the script or cue cards, a call sheet for your models (listing when they are supposed to be there and their contact numbers) and a scene schedule for your camera person.

Next, do a brief run-through of the program. Set up the filming area and double-check timing, lighting, camera angle and movements. 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 so you can have extra footage available 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 reshoot.

Step 4: Edit the Material

After filming is complete, your production company will give you a copy of all the usable footage (stamped with time codes) to review. You will have to tell the video editor the specific takes, shots and camera angles to use in the DVD. (It’s your program, so it’s your responsibility to ensure the desired content is included in a coherent format.)

The video editor will weave your designated content into a first draft for you to review and provide feedback. Double-check all titles and spelling and make sure the audio and visual portions are in sync. Some production companies may limit the number of revisions after the first draft, so carefully watch the first draft for anything that needs further editing, and clearly communicate changes to your video editor.

You also have to provide direction on the DVD packaging. The packaging process varies with every production company, but you should be prepared to provide a basic idea for the cover design and accompanying text.

When the editing is complete and you have approved the program and packaging, you can order copies and go 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 studio or website is the most profitable option, but unless you have an enormous marketing list, you are going to need help.

Seek out distributors in the industry (such as IDEA, Power Systems, Perform Better, PTontheNET) 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 be less than if you sold the DVDs on your own, distributors make your products available on a scale large enough to turn a profit.

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