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Questions With Central Park Media
By Chris Beveridge
October 04, 1998
I would like to once again extend my thanks for your time in answering these burning questions of the faithful anime fan.
This format has brought about somewhat of a new breed of fan, if the emails I get are any evidence. Many are becoming quite knowledgeable about the ins and outs of DVD mastering, production and almost every other aspect of it, as opposed to the old days of just popping in a VHS tape and watching it. The age of the hyper-critical fan is upon us!
While not trying to make this go too far into the same thing as Playboy's "20 Questions", if you'd like to provide a small bio, I'll post that as well.
I co-founded Central Park Media in April, 1990, to be a "boutique media publisher" focusing on areas of specialized interest, such as Japanese animation, in all media forms: theatrical films, TV programming, video, computer software, comics, etc. We launched our first anime in 1991, and have been at it ever since. My interest in anime stems from my experiences living and working in Japan, which began in 1966 when I first visited Japan as a high school kid, and have extended over 30 years since then (including a college degree in Japanese Studies, language studies in Tokyo for a year, two years work experience in Tokyo for a Japanese company, 10 years work experience in the US for the same Japanese company, and another 9 years or so of working with Japan in my role at CPM.1) Let's go right for what's considered very important in the video business: Day and date. Can we expect to see this in the near future, or at all?
We are already seeing it from some non-anime mainstream suppliers. You'll see it from CPM sooner or later; we hope to have several such simultaneous releases in 1999. However, logistics, licensor approvals, different production lead times, etc., all prevent an immediate shiftover to "day and date" on a short-term basis. Definitely our long-term goal, however.2) Subtitles. There's been a lot of discussion about this on the forum, in that they tend to be hard to read, with none of them having any black outline or shadowing, causing them to be lost in several scenes. This isn't unique to CPM, but CPM also has more product out, so it's more visible. Is there a change in the future for this?
Hmm. Haven't heard any problems about our subtitle legibility for a long time. Are you talking about our VHS fonts (We use yellow fonts, for legibility), or our DVD fonts (limited by the DVD hardware specs). I suggest you have your readers send email on specific problems (including the program title and specific format!) to: firstname.lastname@example.org. He'll forward them to our production people, so we can analyze the situation better.
This would be with the DVD fonts. I'm sure that, now knowing where to send comments, you'll see a few more about it. there's a lengthy thread going on in our forum at the moment, and if you'd like, I'll put it in a digest and forward it to you.
Please do so! We are always interested in getting feedback from our fans.3) While many of us were disappointed about the issues with Slayers, many are wondering if the same problem exists for the Slayers Next series you've acquired.
Yup. Keep those petitions coming in, folks!4) While there were several questions about "will you do this show, or this show" from people, the overall theme of those questions came down to "Are movies & OVA's all we can expect for awhile, or are there any TV series that we can hope to see?"
We are hopeful that we will be able to begin some of our TV series in 1999, but we haven't finalized any specific release dates yet. Some of the series I'd most like to put out on DVD are Patlabor and Votoms, but we've only subbed these - what would your readers feel about DVD's which only have the subtitles, but not English language tracks?5) With the multiple languages and subtitles being a large draw for DVD, anime especially, does that mean that only shows which have had dubs completed for them are eligible for consideration?
At the moment, we are prioritizing those titles for which we have both dub and sub versions, in order to take advantage of the oppty to put both versions on one disc, and therefore end the "sub vs. dub" debates. Once we've completed releasing these titles, we'll have to make calls on releasing titles which may have only a dub or a sub version.6) The box sets. Record of Lodoss War is one of the most anticipated titles, especially for laserdisc fans who never got to get a domestic copy of this show. Are box sets something we can expect to see for longer series in the back catalog?
Yup.7) There've been some complaints about putting the liner notes on the reverse side of the covers. Will this be adjusted in the future to either be a separate paper insert or will we eventually see these on the discs themselves?
Haven't heard such complaints yet. What is the logic of the complaint (hard to pull out insert, wrinkles if you're not careful putting it back in, or what)? Your idea for either paper insert or text on disc is interesting. What would your readers prefer?
Most are going by what we see from the Hollywood studios, in that production notes and cast info are put in the disc as an actual supplement, as opposed to putting it in a separate card inside the case. I'd gamble that most people would prefer the liner notes to be on the disc, but will be setting up several new polls over the weekend to gauge interest.
We can see what the cost impact is to do more on-disc screens with this info. More importantly, though, in some cases, we will need licensor approvals to add this material, since it then becomes (in their minds!) an "interactive" version of the program. Some licensors have immense problems with this concept! 8) Having gotten several titles under your belt now in-house, have the problems that you may have encountered affected future title selections?
Biggest problem is coordinating the timing of the two versions, dub and sub. For whatever reason, they always seem to be a few frames out of sync. On the whole, though, our title selection has not been affected by any technical problems, only licensing rights, availability of both sub/dub versions, popularity, length of time we have to continue marketing, etc.9) On the more high-end side of things, will there be a chance of a 16:9 and/or 5.1 sound remaster for theatrical shows, such as Project A-Ko?
Any shows for which we have access to widescreen materials, we'll release as widescreen (like A-ko), under our trademarked "Mangarama" style. Remastering sound to 5.1 is a real problem, due to almost complete inability to obtain multi-track original recordings from licensors. We're hopeful that newer productions we are financing will result in 5.1 soundtracks for DVD, but nothing firm to speak of yet.10) One of the best box sets I have in my laserdisc collection is the Urotsukidoji box set. Will the Anime 18 label be represented on DVD? And would they fall under the same considerations as normal discs (such as dual language, etc)
We will be working with DVD Ltd and Nutech to release a number of our A-18 titles, such as Overfiend and LA Blue Girl, as well as releasing them ourselves. We certainly expect to get a lot of A18 titles onto DVD, although there are many duplicators who won't do adult titles at this time.11) What's the reasoning behind the much appreciated lack of region coding on all of the releases so far?
Our philosophy is that if a person buys a DVD, then he or she should be able to watch their DVD anywhere they want. Period. Therefore, the concept of a customer not being able to play their DVD just because they are in the "wrong" country does not compute with us.12) One question on many fans minds is, "How are we doing?" Are sales meeting expectations or is it costing an arm and a leg to keep it going? Many note that they have a very difficult time getting a hold of titles unless they preorder them, and even then they don't always get them.
I'm not sure what you mean. How are the fans doing? Great - it's their support that makes companies like us able to operate in the first place. There is no question that doing DVD's is expensive, and that we must meet minimum order levels to justify our investment. So far, it's looking like a reasonable business model.
Regarding getting a hold of titles: There are several problems here. One, is that many retailers do not want to hold large inventory of anime, since it takes capital to do so. This makes it hard for fans to find the titles. Two, rather than take the time to special order certain titles, many retailers simply lie, and say "not available," since this deflects criticism from the retailer to the supplier. In some cases, the retailer is merely innocently reflecting what he hears from his wholesaler, who is the real culprit. To solve this problem, we suggest that your readers order directly from our website, since everything we offer there is available for shipment in a reasonable period of time (www.centralparkmedia.com).
A lot of people are wondering if the anime titles are selling well enough to keep companies interested in making more, or whether we're falling under the radar of being good business sense. Having seen ADV's laserdisc policies, people are a bit worried of seeing the same happen to DVD.
I can't comment on the other anime companies, but we have already scheduled releases through to the end of 1999. Unless there is a major change in the expected direction of the DVD market, I believe that CPM will continue to offer more releases on DVD for quite some time into the future.13) This one is one of my favorites: "What made CPM decide to be the Warner Brother for anime DVD?" Surpassing even Pioneer in the level of commitment, CPM has earned high marks for being a strong support of this format. What brought about this thinking?
Ever since we got started, CPM has prided itself on being the first into new formats. We released the first anime CD-ROM in the US, for example. We released the first dual language anime DVD anywhere in the world (with Toshinden). We are aggressive marketers, and we believe in the benefits of the DVD format for anime (especially regarding the sub/dub issue), so we want to see it succeed. We're putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak, by trying to get as many DVD's out there as we can.14) One thing a lot of us have heard from the Disney group is that animation just doesn't hold up well with the DVD format. Are there that many differences between the anime and Disney style of animation that makes anime work on it?
I'm surprised to hear that comment from someone who ought to know better. Take a look at the anime on DVD so far - have you seen any problems "holding up" with the DVD format? I wonder if Disney is not actually trying to use this as an excuse to cover up the many rumors that they tried (and failed) to force the DVD hardware suppliers to guarantee tens of millions of dollars up front to Disney, in return for Disney allowing its programs onto this format. We hear they did a similar deal with DIVX, and received millions of dollars of upfront payments from DIVX in order to not release their animations on regular DVD, although we are not privy to any specific details of these rumors.15) There've been some comments on the slow and clunky feel of the main menus on almost all CPM discs. Will this be something that will be fixed?
Hmm, "slow and clunky feel," eh? Is this (a) a speed issue (access time to get either the menu or the desired next segment), or (b) an aesthetic issue (graphic look of menu itself), or (c) something else? The only complaint I've had about our own menu pages is that on the first ones, I couldn't tell what was being highlighted and what wasn't (turned out that the highlighted option appeared in a voice balloon on another part of the page, and I just didn't notice it!) Give us some examples of (a) our bad menu pages, and (b) "role model" menu pages from other DVD's we can examine and set benchmarks against.
Mostly the main pages, when moving from selection to selection, it's much slower than when doing it on the secondary ones. Titles like the Urusei Yatsura and Area 88 are good examples, since they're changing images on the main menu as you move along, which people are guessing make it slower.
I forwarded this to our production staff, to let them know.16) For theatrical movies, will we be seeing the original aspect ratio that they were filmed in? One thing I'd like to recommend is that if it's a theatrical movie, but filmed in a 1.33:1 ratio, that it should be mentioned somewhere.
We release exactly as we can receive materials from the licensors. I'll tell our production staff to provide more info re the details of any variances between our versions and the original versions, to the extent we are made aware of such differences.
A large portion of the questions naturally were "Where's Lodoss" and "when can we expect title X", so you've managed to squeak by with 16 questions, unless you're able to answer the bonus question of "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop?"
re Lodoss: Lodoss is coming, so keep your eyes open!
re Tootsie Pops: I never did have any patience, so instead of licking, I always bit into them right away to get to the center!
Once again, thank you for your time!
Thanks for your time and help on this - we're always interested in hearing from our fans, so we can focus better on the issues of importance to them.