We live in an interactive society where children want to be a part of the action, not just watching it. With Mediak's new photo-personalized DVDs, this dream becomes a reality. Founded in 2001 with CDs that placed a child's name into the music or story, Mediak expanded in 2008 into DVDs, which uses the child's name, but also incorporates visual images of the child into the video. "We started programming in 2009, and it took us about nine months to write the code for the program," says Charles Sublett, Mediak president. "So we tested the product at the Strawberry Festival in March 2010, and by bringing it out in a festival environment, we could see all of the bugs that people would be facing. From there, we reprogrammed for about three more months, before actually placing the product into the hands of dealers on June 1 of last year."
Each 30-minute video can be produced in about three minutes. The process begins by capturing the child's image; the ideal condition for the photograph is by using a chroma key, as the Mediak software automatically separates the background from the image if it is in front of a green or blue screen. However, the Mediak system is set up with a card reader, so pictures can also be obtained by taking a photo card out of a phone or camera, emailing them from iPhones and other cellular phones, or by scanning a photograph. In that case, because the backgrounds are not uniform, the dealer has to manually select the face of the child and place it into the video, using a Photoshop like process built into the technology.
Only one photograph is needed. As long as the child is looking straight ahead, the system does all the work from there. "It automatically positions the image into the movie, allowing retailers to do a demonstration for the customer," Sublett notes. "From the time you take a file from the customer and go to the computer with the file, to the time when you click a button and show them the video with the child's photograph, it takes about 30 seconds. After the demonstration takes place and they make the buying decision, you start the actual burn process, which takes two minutes and 53 seconds."
Mediak currently has 16 different personalized DVDs available, and began a worldwide distribution agreement with personal entertainment provider, PixFusion, in December 2010 to incorporate videos featuring Dora the Explorer into the personalized line. The company also has five videos with just the child's name incorporated into the video, and 36 audio titles. Sublett adds that the next step is making the videos more three-dimensional, and the company is currently working on the programming to accomplish that goal. While the number of videos available will remain the same for the time being, Mediak is working on expanding the available languages to include Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.
The website, updated early in 2011, features a sleek main landing page divided into three components; one for current dealers, one for prospective dealers, and one for retail customers. "The dealer website is the one we have been putting the most effort into recently, and we're still working on it as we speak," Sublett notes. "We keep building in more and more features in the dealer website that are support-related. For example, about two months ago we programmed a feature that allows the dealers to order reproduction credits online, so they have access to those credits 24/7."
"Becoming a dealer is quite simple," Sublett adds. "It's really nothing more than making the decision. They can either use a computer they already own and we will supply a one-terabyte external hard drive, extremely large because the files are big; or, we'll actually build a system for them. That is for those dealers who are dealing with high speeds, like in malls or at festivals. That's the best way to go, because the machine is made specifically to do exactly this." The next step is deciding if the dealer wants to specialize in a particular line. A Christian bookstore may only want the 17 Christian-based products, but not the rest of the line, while a photography store may only want the photo-personalized products, but not the CDs. "From there we begin to tailor what we are offering the prospective dealer, so we get it into a budget that will make sense to them, and that seems to work pretty well. We've got a little over 1,000 dealers right now, and we're in 27 countries."
Outside of the initial investment, which is highly variable and can run anywhere from $500 to $7,000, depending on what options the dealer selects, there is no annual fee, and the only additional cost is to buy the reproduction credits to produce the DVDs. A product sold for $20 usually costs around $5 in credits, depending on the unit sold. Branded products like Dora are slightly more expensive because the royalties are higher, but some products cost as little as $2 for each disc. In addition, the Mediak website features a graphics section where dealers can download artwork to promote the products. "If they want to get a six-foot banner printed, they can either buy it from us, or they can download the art from the support section of the website and have it printed locally, and we don't charge them for anything," Sublett explains. "That involves all the artwork for all of the promotional material that we have provided to the dealer at no charge."
After the initial investment, dealers are not required to do anything they do not want to. "We have dealers who bought the system eight or nine years ago who are still selling the original CDs, and still doing ok," Sublett says. "Then we have other dealers that want to keep up with the newest products. As we add more technically complex products, the computer system that produces it has to keep up as well, so right now we're providing I5 processors, top of the line, with a lot of RAM. Some dealers, the ones that really like to stay ahead, they'll send their computers back and we'll upgrade it for them, to get it prepared to handle the next level of product. And we don't charge for the labor. We just charge whatever it costs us for the part."
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