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DVD-EXTRA STUDIO - An Interview with Clynton Hunt
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posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: ZOOtech
date posted: 12:00 AM Mon Apr 18th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Mon Apr 18th, 2005

ZOOtech is primarily known for it's innovations in the field of interactive DVD.  Their product - DVD-EXTRA STUDIO - has won numerous awards in the United Kingdom and has turned their focus to the United States.  To sum up what DVD-EXTRA STUDIO is, allow me to turn to their press release:
DVD-EXTRA STUDIO is an innovative DVD-Video development system that enables DVD authors, and multimedia developers to create DVDs with new levels of complexity and interactivity easily and cost effectively.
Intrigued by this concept, and the hope of more ZOOtech innovations, I had a chance to talk to Clynton Hunt, Vice President of Business Development for ZOOtech, Inc., and also sitting in with us was Kathleen Buczko, partner at NMC Partners, LLC.  Mr. Hunt's background in the business is extensive, boasting 15 years of management and business development experience in licensing.  ZOOtech's US track record spans a little over 8 months now.  Even in that short amount of time ZOOtech and DVD-EXTRA STUDIO have been turning some heads in the development community.  So what, exactly, can DVD-EXTRA STUDIO do?  And will you be seeing more of it?  Read on to find out.

GamesFirst!: How does DVD-EXTRA STUDIO improve on the standard DVD format?  What does this mean for the consumer, for the developer?

Clynton Hunt:  Standard definition DVD-Video can support interactivity however standard authoring tools are not designed to leverage this functionality. They focus almost entirely on linear authoring (i.e. video playback).  DVD-EXTRA STUDIO opens up an enormous market for developers and publishers by offering a development system that not only supports randomization of media generation, as you see in many of today's DVD board game titles, but also allows for interactivity that in many ways closely resembles CD-ROM interactivity.  This opens up a platform for interactive gameplay that utilizes a format (DVD-Video) that has greater consumer penetration than any other on the market.

GF!:  I know some DVD based games like Scene It? - The DVD Movie Game created by Dave Long and Craig Kinzer.  Have you investigated the prospects of teaming up with these already existing products and maybe, in the future, improving on them with the technology of DVD-EXTRA STUDIO?

CH:  We have very good relationships with the likes of Mattel and Fisher Price and Hasbro, and various others, and I can't specifically say what our plans are for the future, but?Kathleen's probably going to tell me?[laughs] I don't want to name names?[laughs]

Kathleen Buczko: I'm trying to be diligent and not interrupting while you're talking, but part of the reason why we wanted to talk to you is to give a baseline of what DVD-EXTRA STUDIO can do and why it is different. Very much related to your first question in the interview - and how that does improve the gameplay and the interactivity for consumers obviously, but because of the unique aspects of the product, it makes developers and content owners like Hasboro, Mattel, etcetera, it makes it easier for them to produce those highly interactive DVDs.  And so why we want to give you this background information is so that when those announcements are made in the next few months [products in the works] you'll have all the background you'll need on the technology and we can just focus on those titles.

GF!:  [makes grunts signifying understanding]

CH:  Well, what the origin of the technology was when ZOO Digital Publishing plc., which is the parent company of ZOOtech, British game publisher, they licensed Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in the UK - which is, remains probably the highest rated television game show today in the market.  I know it's somewhat declined in the US, but it's a very, very popular show in the UK. 

GF!: Do you think that in the future that might be possible to make more complicated games with interactive DVD? A DVD player with a video card?  Do you think it might turn into a home console platform itself? Re-birth of NUON?

CH:  I'm not the technology guy but (laughs)?in the future?I would say even with next generation, which we are very actively working on, people are trying to make the DVD player more intelligent so it's possible that in the future for they might challenge forming a storage [hard drive]  Playing games now the only way you can go back to your progress they give you a code and you'd go back and pick up where you left off. 

GF!:  When DVD-EXTRA STUDIO won the Innovation Award? and the Overall Winner? at the Sheffield Business Awards, the press stated the judges were impressed by ZOOtech's exploitation of opportunities that DVD-EXTRA brings to non-traditional DVD-Video markets?; what do they mean by ˜exploitation of opportunities' and what opportunities have yet to be exploited in the DVD format?

CH:  I didn't know exactly what they meant by that, but I think that the aim of the company has been working on not only the games but on the hardware market.  We allow for methods?production of multi-layered movies we're into the corporate market so we have the products that utilize that technology, training, and learning the language, advertising?so I think that's probably where they were going with that. That we've been able to utilize the efficient technology and the available technology into [an] early [result]. 

There are so many implications of the technology that it is difficult to know where to focus.  I have my experience with the publishing world, so obviously we're very winding toward game publishing and children's publishing, that's alright for the company.

GF!:  DVD-EXTRA STUDIO seems bent on making itself known in every household, whether through educational software or games.  So far, mainly in the UK. How do you see the company's success in the States?

CH:  We're?our focus within the development community the publishing community, we'll try and help the new development brands read our consumer records as well, we are a technology company after all, I think that the success we've had in the UK had been achieved because of the products that utilize the technology?some very high selling products such as the Millionaire [Who Wants to Be a Millionaire??] which sold, for your information, sold 250 thousand units last Christmas.  So definitely in the UK alone that is a best-seller.  I think that what we can't mention specific titles, since they haven't been publicly announced, but there are some very big exposures [products] coming out in the next few months that will raise the profile of DVD-EXTRA at ZOOtech and that category [of products] as a whole.  There are some very big names that are behind some of the products from the projects utilizing DVD-EXTRA STUDIO; so I think that once they see what is possible on interactive DVD their expectations [will be] raised so that they don't think of top interactive DVD, or DVD games as trivia games and then the profile of the company, the profile as a whole, will be raised significantly in the US.

Kathleen Buczko: Just to give you some background on the timing, the first public exhibition of DVD-EXTRA STUDIO was last year at NAB (National Association of Broadcasting Conference) but the product didn't ship until June, so we're really talking about a track record here, in the US, of about 7 months.  So that's really what impressed the Sheffield Judges was that in such a short amount of time the company really had come so quickly to the forefront - not only in the UK - but covered an enormous amount of ground in just 6 months in the US.

GF!:  I guess your answers defuse my next question about what products you currently have in the works since you can't really say anything?

KB:  Yeah, I don't know what I can tell you but we'll be sure that you find out as soon as we can let you know. There's always that Catch 22 situation when you're talking to intel about what products are coming out they can tell you that we obviously have real partners because they're real brand names that you recognize so they intend to make sure that this is a fairly substantial portion of their overall next going-forward.

GF!:  Right.  What has DVD-EXTRA STUDIO done to enhance game design and development? 

CH:  Many games that are now possible using DVD-EXTRA STUDIO were either impossible or impractical using other traditional DVD-Video authoring systems.  As everything on DVD-Video must be pre-rendered, all assets and possible permutations of gameplay must be produced prior to release of product. Consider a blackjack table.  On DVD-Video all possible hands, including iterations (dealing of one card, then second, plus dealers) must be generated as independent assets.  Once produced they must be linked to all possible combinations and outcomes.  Add standard betting, functionality such as double-down, and more, and the assets required number in the hundreds of thousands.  DVD-EXTRA STUDIO automates the asset generation and navigation processes, reducing production time on projects that may take 2 years to 25% or less. Projects that simply would not have been contemplated are now possible.

GF!:  Is there a demographic audience DVD-EXTRA products are geared toward?

CH:  The audience for interactive DVD/DVD Games is very diverse. Family and social gaming, such as board games and card games, are one obvious application.  However the versatility of DVD-EXTRA STUDIO means that products that require complexity interactivity and navigation, such as children's games, children's education or adventure games, such as in the MYST genre, are now possible on DVD-Video.  This is a huge step forward from first generation DVD Games which were limited to the quiz/trivia categories due to the limitations of the tools being used to author them.  The platform is quite literally relevant for every member of the household.

GamesFirst!:  I think that's all I have.  Thank you very much.  Thanks for all your time.

Kathleen Buczko: No, thank you.

Clynton Hunt: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk, we appreciate it.