Here's Part 2 of our Kickstarter review for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries DVDs. If you missed it, check out Part 1 for a rundown of the project goals and the final budget.
Some backers have been asking a lot of questions about what exactly was happening at Pemberley Digital while the DVDs were being made. For those who are interested, this update will explain why the Kickstarter project took more than a year and half a dozen missed deadlines to be completed.
This will be long and detailed, so grab some tea (or perhaps your favorite alcoholic beverage) and get comfy.
Who made the DVDs?
The discs themselves were authored and manufactured by Disc Makers at their facility in New Jersey. DFTBA had worked with them before to produce Hannah Hart's DVD set, and they had a solid track record.
All of the files for the DVDs were created by Pemberley Digital at the Deca offices in Santa Monica. At the time, the in-house staff included Bernie Su, a full-time administrative assistant, a part-time DVD producer, Deca's video editor, and a summer intern. On top of the Kickstarter project, the team were busy wrapping up "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," producing "Welcome to Sanditon" and preparing for "Emma Approved."
The DVD producer was Brit Weisman, who worked with Felicia Day's team at Geek & Sundry and was recommended by them. She was in charge of producing all the Kickstarter content, including special features, the Collins & Collins videos and the Darcy and Collins voicemail messages. She interviewed the actors and writers for the featurettes, edited many of the video files, and worked directly with the manufacturers.
What caused the delays?
Some of it had to do with logistics. The original high-resolution files for episodes 1-49 were lost, so Pemberley had to rebuild those episodes from scratch. (This is why some of the DVD episodes have different scene takes than the YouTube videos.) It also took more time than usual to figure out how the DVDs should be organized, because the technology is not ideal for LBD's interactive, multi-channel format.
But for the most part, the DVDs took forever to finish because Pemberley Digital were trying not to burn through the Kickstarter fund.
"When you promise a bonus for the cast and crew, which they absolutely deserve, no matter how you operate you are morally obligated to protect that money as much as possible," says Bernie. "So instead of hiring an editor to bang through this and get it out of the way, Brit had to do it by herself and get the interns to help."
Soon after Pemberley decided to add special features, it became clear they wouldn't make the July deadline. Brit had plenty of experience with web series, but this was her first time producing an entire DVD boxed set. It took her longer than it would an experienced full-time editor, and there were complications she didn't anticipate. "It's like you're walking on a path and there's a lot of rocks you're stubbing your toe on," she says. "Nothing was boat-sinking, but it pushed everything back."
Brit was also jumping at opportunities to add extra features for the fans. "If we're making it," she reasoned, "let's make it good." For instance, the original plan was to interview ten of the cast and crew for the featurettes, but she pushed that out to 20, bringing in more actors as well as the writing team. It meant missing the deadline, but she felt it would be worth the wait.
By far, the biggest delay came from the ill-fated international subtitles.
A lot of supporters were eagerly requesting subtitles in foreign languages, but adding such a feature to DVDs is very expensive. As a compromise, Hank and Bernie asked for volunteers to translate the scripts across seven languages for 160 individual videos.
The volunteers did a great job, but the files arrived in different formats and had to be reconfigured. Once they were ready, they were sent to the manufacturers to be added to the episodes. Sometimes the files didn't work, but Brit received very little feedback on what the manufacturers actually needed, so she had to use trial and error to fix the problem. She worked hard and had some help from the summer intern, but progress was frustratingly slow.
Late in the summer, new funding came in from Deca, LBD advertising and the Secret Diary book deal. The summer internship ended, but Bernie brought in two new interns who threw themselves into subtitles work and plowed through it. By the end of August, the files were finished and with the manufacturers.
Weeks went by, then a month, and there was no news from the manufacturers or any indication that there was a problem. Then in October, out of the blue, the company told Brit that none of the subtitles were usable. They would only accept one long file per channel per language, not individual episode files as Pemberley had been doing all summer. The manufacturers offered to hire a professional subtitles company, but that would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
For a few frantic weeks, Brit simply refused to give up. "I wanted it to work, and I'd put so much time into it. I was like, 'Bernie, give me another week, I can figure this out.'" But there were thousands of files to organize, and by the time they had been pieced together, the subtitles were out of sync with the audio. Brit and the interns had to go through all the episodes and adjust the word placement and time codes by hand, working with foreign languages they didn't know how to read.
Meanwhile, Brit was getting messages from DFTBA every couple of days asking for news. "I already felt terrible because I could see the fans tweeting stuff like 'Where is our shit!' and I was like 'I'm so sorry, I don't want it to take this long either!'"
By November, Pemberley realized they had to scrap the entire subtitles project, a waste of at least three months. They salvaged the international files for the YouTube videos and paid a company to write English-only subtitles in a last-ditch effort to finish the DVDs before Christmas.
Needless to say, that deadline didn't happen either.
The final round of delays came from reviewing the disc proofs, which started to arrive at the end of 2013. By now the Pemberley team were exhausted, and mistakes were becoming more frequent and harder to catch.
Almost inevitably, there were glitches and errors with some of the episode files and even the professionally-written subtitles, which Brit had to fix herself. Then the files had to be re-exported, a process that took three to four hours each, and put on a hard drive to be mailed to New Jersey so a new set of proofs could be made up and sent back. Each delivery would take three to five days – often longer due to delays from the manufacturers – and Pemberley couldn't have the next batch of proofs to review until the current one was finished.
Brit was practically living at the Deca offices during this period. "Sometimes I'd come in during the afternoon and stay overnight to export something so I could mail it out in the morning." She was reviewing proofs on Christmas Eve, and kept working straight through the holiday season. It was early March by the time the manufacturers cleared everything.
For all her painstaking efforts, one significant error slipped through Brit's fingers: Q&A Episodes 1 and 2 are swapped in the final product. "When you look at something long enough, especially nine or ten hours of footage, it sort of all blurs together. There are people on the screen, and the sound coming out of their mouths matches their mouths and the words on the screen. And I watched it straight through, twice. So that's my fault."
The boxed sets arrived at the DFTBA warehouse in April 2014, more than a year after the Kickstarter campaign launched. From then on the project was out of Pemberley's hands and they could only wait for news to pass on to their (now incredibly frustrated) supporters. And with 7,000 perk packages for DFTBA to ship out, it was another month before most people had received them.
If you've stayed with us this far, 1) hi! and 2) stay tuned for our final update, in which we talk about some of the lessons we've learned the hard way.
Hank and Bernie