View Full Version : A Warning to Filmmakers - iTunes Distribution

Nick Soares
06-15-2014, 01:27 PM
Hello all, it's been a while. As many of you know, I have been very busy running Distribber and DiGi as well as a few other companies as we try to change the industry in the most transparent and positive way.

I wanted to take some time to briefly fill in all of you producers on a few points that may greatly help you when it comes to self-distribution.

As you know, the good old days of receiving 100K advances and getting your low-budget film into Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are over. But that's ok because there are tools out there now that allow you to become the distributor and keep 100% of your revenue, such as Distribber (http://www.distribber.com)

If you have received distribution in the past, then chances are you never had to code or Q/C your film because the distributor did that (and charged you 50K instead of the more appropriate 1K to 2K). But now that you want to distribute your film yourself, it's very important to educate yourself as to just how important it is to have great audio. I don't mean simply that we need to hear characters speaking clearly, but rather the quality of the audio. Check out this Q/C report from a film we are distributing:

You may scroll withing the PDF window.


This is a Q/C report for a film that sounded great with regular headphones or speakers, but that failed in multiple categories when put through iTunes' rigorous Q/C. Audio is 90% the reason a film will fail Q/C. I have had films come through Distribber with big names attached and broadcast quality Quicktime files, but a few audio ticks/pops will prevent this film from performing well on users' Apple TV's, iPads, TV's with iTunes available etc. I have personally been chewed out several times because a film that was broadcast on HBO has failed iTunes specs: this is simply because they have never had to deal with their high level of Q/C.

Why is iTunes so picky? The answer is both simple and reasonable: iTunes is owned by Apple, which is a hardware company and the files/films that play on their hardware need to be perfect. If a film has ticks/pops that can potentially affect the end-user - or worse, the hardware - then there will clearly be negative repercussions. So it DOES make sense and I want to give all of you planning on self-distribution a warning to get your audio set up correctly. And remember: this starts on set, not in post!

Before I end this, I wanted to give some tips on how to avoid ticks/pops:

#1 - (obviously) A good mic
#2 - Watch out for hard cuts - if you are splicing audio, be sure to overlap and use dissolves. Hard cut to hard cut can be the leading cause of these ticks/pops.

(I will add to the list later because its Father's Day and my wife is yelling at me!)

06-15-2014, 02:39 PM
Thanks for the knowledge. :)

Nick Soares
06-15-2014, 07:39 PM
Wow, I fixed some of the spelling. Mara I have made you a moderator so you can edit my terrible grammar!

06-16-2014, 05:03 AM
Done! Great piece btw - I especially like the specificity of your point re the difficulty in fixing hard cuts.

06-19-2014, 03:04 PM
Great insight nick much appreciated.

07-05-2014, 11:45 AM
Wow, I fixed some of the spelling. Mara I have made you a moderator so you can edit my terrible grammar!

I thought of this the other day Nick - my 10 year old nephew is super smart, but struggles with spelling. The woman who runs the school he attends told his mom (my sister) that spelling is totally overrated - she'd rather have a school full of multi-dimensional thinkers rather than good spellers.

Adam Spade
07-05-2014, 07:28 PM
Nice to see this report, Nick.

Sound is tough. I have been working with audio my entire life and I would hire a second pair of ears without question.

Mick Scarborough
07-08-2014, 10:43 AM
Sound is my worst fear. I know jack about sound and don't want to ruin an otherwise good film with rotten sound. Its kinda holding me back.

Nick Soares
07-08-2014, 11:10 AM
Not sure If I mentioned this in the original post, but all of the failed notes, you could not hear them even with good headphones.

Adam Spade
07-08-2014, 01:05 PM
Mick, you're a smart guy. I believe the beginning of film wisdom is to fear sound. :P

To everyone: If it's a feature, pay a good sound guy or be willing to dish out some shares. Audio is a craft and it's half of the film! Trying to do sound yourself is like trying to sabotaging your project. It's very risky. You WILL have problems.

It needs to be done in a DAW like Pro Tools or Nuendo. Not in a video editor or Adobe Audition. bleh. It takes experience, equipment, and there are rules. You would probably have less time in working and paying for a sound guy than trying to do sound yourself. And you will be able to make a better film with a sound specialist managing that half of it.

Sound is my worst fear. I know jack about sound and don't want to ruin an otherwise good film with rotten sound. Its kinda holding me back.

Adam Spade
07-08-2014, 01:12 PM
Nick, was it at cuts? Sometimes where the audio is clipped, it will pop during the cut and it is not really noticeable. Fading down quickly solves the problem. Just a thought.

07-08-2014, 07:59 PM
Why are a lot of distributors particular about pleasing itunes? Most people watch movies on TVs, and computers, and not iphones. Plus I think as long as you got costumers watching your movie who own a TV and DVD player, that's good enough. If you can't play it through an iphone, that's the iphone user's problem, cause movies should not be played through them. Oh well you got please distributors though.

Adam Spade
07-08-2014, 08:24 PM
Because iTunes can be installed on a computer and used to purchase movies. It is still #1 for digital music distribution, last I checked. There is APPLE TV now which is probably something like itunes in a box that connects to your TV.

07-08-2014, 09:13 PM
Yeah but movies were being made before itunes. I watched From Russia With Love on intunes, and it played fine. That was made before itunes existed, and they didn't have to please them. So if itunes is accepting movies before it's whole system itself was invented, then why are they so pickier about newer movies being made to suit them?

07-09-2014, 05:59 AM
Why? Because they're huge:

And what makes you think that From Russia With Love didn't have to meet their guidelines? The fact that a movie is old does not preclude its digital version from meeting iTunes' standards.

Adam Spade
07-09-2014, 07:18 AM
I think you should give this some more thought.

First off, just because it's old doesn't mean it doesn't have good sound. They also remaster old films to compete with new films. But it's really just "apparent volume" that we're talking about in that situation. Compression and EQ. The sound is actually good and often better before remastering.

Secondly, it's not the apparent volume that iTunes needs to be concerned about. It's their business. They are going to have tons of independent films that are going to have various sound issues and they need to keep that standard high to weed out the "less professional" sounding movies. They don't need to do that with Jaws. It's already proved itself. You're self made 86 minute feature though has not. So it'd better be a good quality production. It's nothing personal, but rather the best thing for business, and not just for iTunes but for everyone involved.