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The Ultimate Guide to Delivering Your Wedding Films on USB

blm-wedding-branding-packaging-usb
 
By now you must’ve battled with the idea of offering USB drives to your wedding clients.
 
If you’re like us, in the past you spent mountains of time formatting your films for DVD, designing the menu, graphics, exporting, burning, printing artwork, etc. What a colossal waste of energy.
 
Today it’s easier than ever to deliver our product on a USB thumb drive. Photographers have been doing this for years. Luckily for them, they can easily fit an entire day’s worth of images onto a 4GB flash drive (assuming of course they aren’t camera raw). As wedding videographers, we’re faced with a slew of obstacles with this format.
 
They are…
 
1. Different drive formats
2. File size restrictions
3. Variety of file formats
 
This guide will take you through everything you need to know in order to adopt this delivery method, including how to do it, where to buy from, and your different packaging options. Let’s begin with the technology.
 
 
DRIVE FORMAT
 
Ground zero.
 
This question pops up a lot in the forums online, and rightfully so because it’s the first step in this whole process.
 
The obvious problem is that we don’t really know how our clients are going to view our final film. Will they try and plug into their SmartTV, computer, Microsoft Xbox… who knows?
 
For this very reason, it’s usually best to opt for the FAT32 file system. Here’s why:
 
FAT32 has been around for such a long time, that it’s natively supported by most devices and operating systems. This means that no matter what your end user is going to have, the USB drive should be read without any hiccups. The one major drawback of course is that you have a 4GB size limit for whatever file you need to copy over.
 
So even if you ordered 16GB USB drives, the maximum file size for any one video can only be 4GB.
 
Is this annoying? Of course it is. But there are workarounds.
 
For one thing, whatever NLE you’re using to edit gives you export settings that you can tweak before you export, giving you lots of freedom to adjust the file size. With our films, on the long end we’re usually at about 15 minutes or so, coming in at less than 1GB. No issues here.
 
Where you may run into a problem is with your raw footage, long cuts, or documentary style edits.
 
We suggest breaking up these videos into sections, so that you’ll have smaller, more manageable files to work with. Plus this way you’re not making your client have to fast forward through each part of the video if all they really want to see is their ceremony.
 
If you insist on keeping one long video as part of your deliverables, you have the option of trying exFAT as a file system. With exFAT, you aren’t limited in terms of how large your files can be. However, exFAT is still a newer format, and you run the risk of compatibility issues with technology in your clients’ homes.
 
So again, the safe bet is to format your drive as FAT32.
 
If you want to read up on more of the different types of file systems, more info can be found here:
 
http://www.howtogeek.com/73178/what-file-system-should-i-use-for-my-usb-drive/
 
 
MEDIAZILLA
 
Now’s the time to talk about Mediazilla.
 
In case you haven’t yet heard about this company, please read carefully because it’s been revolutionary in how our business functions.
 
Mediazilla streamlines the delivery process for your product. All you need to do is upload your videos to Mediazilla, create a simple menu in just a few short clicks, import videos into your project, and you’re done. Sharing can be done right from within their portal, with options to keep it private, stream in high-definition, etc.
 
mediazilla-example
 
Even more exciting, is the fact that you can now use their automation system to provide your wedding film in USB format, DVD, and most recently, Blu-ray.
 
What normally took us a couple hours to get this stuff ready to ship is now done in about 20 minutes.
 
mediazilla-export
 
For those of you bickering about the price, man up. It’s $50/mo.
 
Look at it like this…
 
If you’re shooting an average of 1 wedding per month, tack on an extra $50-$100 per package. Problem solved. After all, you’re delivering using a more professional presentation, why should you have to absorb that cost?
 
There’s another point I want to bring up that’s often looked over.
 
As we move deeper into the online / streaming consumption phase of the digital revolution… we as wedding videographers are delivering fewer and fewer physical items, and thus losing out on sales opportunities.
 
My question to you is… so what?
 
Are those $15, $25, even $50 DVD sales really doing that much for your business?
 
Consider this…
 
In the past you probably spent around 2-3 hours preparing a DVD or Blu-ray for delivery. Designing the menu, graphics, burning, printing, testing… that adds up to a lot of wasted time. This doesn’t even account for the time it takes your machine to render out those ancient MPEG-2 files!
 
So is it worth it?
 
I guess it depends on how you value your time. Would you rather spend 3 hours to make $25, or would you rather spend $50 to free up 3 hours that can be used towards more productive goals? I’m inclined to go with the latter, no question about it.
 
 
FILE FORMAT & EXPORT SETTINGS
 
Now that I’ve convinced you of Mediazilla’s superpowers, all you need to do to get started is upload your media.
 
According to their FAQ page, Mediazilla accepts MP4, AVI, & MOV file formats (and other common file types). The recommended upload codec is H.264 in MP4 format.
 
I won’t go step by step on how to create your menu and download your project in this post, but you can get all the relevant info you need by clicking here.
 
Our best experience with exports has been with the Vimeo HD preset (from within Adobe Premiere) as a starting point, with our target bitrate set to somewhere between 10-12 Mbps. You can see our exact export settings in the screen shot below. Just remember to keep in mind any other video(s) you might have to include on your USB, to account for how much additional space you’ll need.
 
Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 6.22.47 PM
 
 
DELIVERY
 
One area where a lot of videographers lack is PRESENTATION! We’ve seen so many bad DVD jewel cases, so much corny artwork, and overall just sloppy care in how the look and feel of the product is put together.
 
Aside from that, you need to think about the psychological viewpoint as well.
 
Once you start getting up there in price, and you’re booking $9k+ jobs, what do you think your client is going to say when all you hand over is a USB drive with a couple videos pasted in there? Or even worse, a simple Vimeo link?
 
Mediazilla has you covered with online AND offline delivery.
 
Not only does the online menu look and act fantastic, but they’ve brought that same experience to their USB menu system as well. This allows you to not only save tons of time, but you’re creating an amazing and fluid ecosystem for your clients to become immersed in as they navigate your product online, on the computer, and on the go.
 
If you want to really make an impact, we recommend a synchronized delivery for both the online and physical copy of their film.
 
I know it’s tempting to immediately post and share a new video once it’s hot off the press. Easy does it! It pays to wait. In our experience, it’s better to hold off until everything is ready for your client so that they aren’t receiving deliverables in bits and pieces. We’re guilty of this from time to time, first sending an online link and then following when the rest of their videos are finished.
 
So where do you pick up some custom USBs?
 
There’s plenty of places for you to go, and the one we’ve been using with no (so far) corrupted or problematic drives is Flashbay. Some other popular places are listed below, but definitely ask around and check for reviews before committing to a large order.
 
http://www.flashbay.com
http://www.photoflashdrive.com
http://www.premiumusb.com/
http://www.millerslab.com/usb-drives-boxes
http://www.pexagontech.com/Flash-Drives.html
 
 
PACKAGING
 
Now that you have this kick ass wedding film ready to showcase, how do you package it?
 
Photographers are notorious for having beautifully presented albums, discs, thank you cards, and other heirlooms as part of their packaging. Just go on Pinterest and search for “wedding photography packaging” and you’ll be sucked in for hours.
 
With a lot less to work with in terms of physical deliverables, what kind of options are we left with?
 
Below are a list of websites and resources that can get you started.
 
http://www.h-bphoto.com
http://www.ricestudiosupplies.com
http://www.woodenbanana.com
http://paperieboutique.com
http://www.millerslab.com
http://www.wildcatwholesale.com
 
As you’re shopping around for your packaging supplies, try and find materials that fit the branding of your business. For our look, we make use of plenty of white space, with our primary colors being white, grey, and orange. We wanted our packaging to give off a similar feel, so our films are delivered in an all white bag, gray wrapping paper, and similar materials for our DVDs and USB cases.
 
blm-wedding-branding-packaging-usb
 
Think about the kind of brand you want to be known as. What do you stand for? Who are you trying to attract?
 
If your specialty is rustic, whimsical, barn weddings, then your packaging should look a lot different than someone whose clientele lives in the city, with expensive and lavish tastes.
 
These sorts of details are subtle for sure, but they will have an impact and speak to the people who are shopping around looking at your services.
 
 
FINAL THOUGHTS
 
We get it, this is a scary time because of all the fast moving parts and rapidly changing technology. How much of it are you supposed to keep up with? I can assure you, the USB option is a must. Other brides are getting their films on them, they get them from their photographer, it’s a lot more commonplace than you think.
 
Do yourself a favor and ditch the archaic DVD delivery, it’s just not worth your time. True, Mediazilla HAS sped up the process significantly, but why bother? Most of our clients for this year and next don’t even own a DVD player. We know because we’ve surveyed every single one of them.
 
Take this necessary step to simplify your workflow, boost your status, and save you tons of time.
 
We’ve never looked back.
 
 
DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM THIS ARTICLE?
 
If you found the content in this article helpful to your business, please take a moment to share this with a friend, colleague, or other industry peer. The more people who we get on the USB bandwagon, the faster we can be done with the antiquated DVD format.
 
As always, thank you for your support!