Shadow & Act Filmmaker Diary Series w/ Matthew Cherry, #16: Deliverables - Master Tapes
Photo Credit: S & A

Shadow & Act Filmmaker Diary Series w/ Matthew Cherry, #16: Deliverables - Master Tapes


Continuing where we left off with the series, after several months on the film festival circuit, and working to attract the right distributor to the film, the series returns, with a trifecta of very informative posts on deliverables (a very involved part of the distribution process that many of you filmmakers will probably have to deal with at some point), spread out over the next 2 weeks (starting with this one), leading up to the film's officially theatrical opening on FridayOctober 26thin Los Angeles, at the Rave Theaters in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw plaza.

And if it does well during that first week run in LA, we will gradually expand into other cities. So it's important that LA-based readers come out and see the film opening weekend, on October 26.

Audiences can also set up and demand screenings of The Last Fall in their respective cities by using 

And without further ado, here's the first of 3 new diary entires.


I wanted to take the time to share some of my experiences as a independent filmmaker in regards to film deliverables. For those of you who may be unaware, film deliverables are the items that need to be turned in to your distribution company when your film is picked up for distribution. Some of these items include, still pictures, actor contracts, the actual physical film in HD CAM form and many other things. There are some things that we were fully aware of going into this process and some things we were completely oblivious too and I thought it might be helpful if I shared my knowledge of this process with you guys, as we literally just finished with it a few weeks back, so that you don’t have to endure some of the mistakes and issues that we encountered during the process.

As an independent filmmaker I believe everyone’s ultimate goal is to get their film picked up for distribution. When I wrote the move last March I did so as an outsider to the business. I didn’t go to film school, we didn't seek out partnership from the many support programs for indie filmmakers (IFP, Sundance, Film Independent, etc.), and we had little to no experience. It was literally us taking an idea from conception to completition with the hopes that showcasing it in the film festival circuit would lead to a distribution company being interested in  acquiring the rights to the film. We were lucky enough to be one of few urban films to be picked up for distribution on the festival circuit this past year and I am here to share some bullet points of different things you need to be aware of when turning your film into your distribution company. I am going to speak on this in three separate posts and will break them up in MASTER DELIVERABLES, CREATIVE DELIVERABLES and LEGAL DELIVERABLES. The first post will be about the master deliverables.


MASTER TAPES – When turning your film into your distribution company you will find that you will have to turn in a master tape version of your film. We had to turn in three master tapes. Our HD Video Master, a NTSC Digi- Beta Cam down conversion and a full length NTSC Digi-Beta Pan & Scan tape. Our tapes had to be accompanied by a full QC report (Quality Control), had to have the stereo audio on tracks 1&2, the M&E mix on tracks 3&4 and it also had to have pop-on English closed captions. The costs of getting these tapes done obviously can range in price but typically will cost you anywhere from 2-5 thousand dollars depending on the post house you use. The Pan and Scan tape is the most costly master tap to provide because they charge on an hourly rate and depending on how much work that has to be done. The definition of Pan and scan is" a method of adjusting widescreen film images so that they can be shown within the proportions of a standard definition 4:3 aspect ratio television screen, often cropping off the sides of the original widescreen image to focus on the composition's most important aspects."  To lay down a tape to HD Cam it typically will cost you around a thousand dollars. To lay down a tape to digi-beta it can run you around $700. The Pan and Scan tape can hit you for a few thousand depending on how you framed your movie for the 4:3 aspect ratio. Ultimately it ended up costing us around $4,000 to get our Master Tapes created 

*Note you should definitely get a clone copy of your tape created as well for your own records.*

QUALITY CONTROL (QC) – When turning in your master tapes your distribution company is going to ask you to turn in a full QC report along with the film. This was the most frustrating part of the process for us. You could have your final sound mix done, picture locked, color correction set and then you take it to get QC’d and your report shows something wrong and then you have to go back and pay somebody to fix the problems and then pay to get everything re: QC’d. On your QC reports they will rank the issues in your film on a scale of 1-3. 1's are small problems that they want you to be aware of that you don’t necessarily have to fix. 2's are bigger problems but again you can fix at your own discretion, 3's are fails and you have to fix them or you won’t pass Quality Control. We had to do two passes of QC as we had some sound and picture issues we had to fix in our first go around but by the grace of God we passed the second time.  The company you use should QC your master tape first before QCing the other tapes (Down Converted Digit-Beta and Pan & Scan) The bigger companies that can QC your tapes are Fotokem and Deluxe but I highly suggest you either deal with them or a smaller company that does it all (sound mix, color correction, etc.) We used a small company Kappa Studios and they were great. We were able to fix our sound mix, QC the tapes and get our masters done.  Pricing will vary but when everytime we got a tape QC’s it cost us $300. We didn’t pass the first time but did the second and they then QC’d all three tapes so it ran us roughly $1,200. 

*Note* Even after you pass QC on your end and turn in the tapes to your distribution company they will pay to get it QC'd on there end as well. Don't be surprised if new issues come up and you have to redo your sound mix or they spot a digital skip in the picture from how the tape was layed down.

CLOSED CAPTIONING: Going into this, I honestly thought that this was something either the television network our film was licensed to or the distribution company would provide but I was wrong. Getting your film closed captioned is a costly and time consuming process but we were lucky to find a great black owned indie friendly company Precision Creative Service ( and they gave us a great rate. The things that you typically have to turn in are, an English combined continuity and spotting list (CCSL) along with .cap, .scc. and .txt files. We also had to provide a dropped frame version of all these files for the down converted digi-beta tape. The cost to get a 90 minute film closed captioned can range from 2k-5K. Our costs around 3K.

SOUND FILES & MIX: Here is where we had some of our biggest issues and failed the first time in our QC report. I cannot stress enough how important it is to gave a great on set sound mixer and an even better post production sound mixer. It will save you a lot of headache in the long run. We had to provide 5.1 multi channel surrond sound audio synched to match the full length video master. We also had to provide our Dialogue, Music and Effects tracks on separate tracks. Here is where having a great foley artist comes into play.  M&E is music and effects. DM&E is Dialogue Music and Effects. We also had to provide our DM&E audio stems on a separate disc. This cost varies depending on how on point your sound mix already was and if you have to go back and change some things like we had to then your costs can add up. I can’t really quote what our price was because every situation will be different but look to spend from 2k-5k on your fix and getting your stems created.

In conclusion, the costs to get your Master Tapes created can range from as low as 5 thousand dollars (depending on your hook ups and connections) up to 15 or 20 thousand dollars (if you have a lot of issues to fix and you use some of the bigger companies).  The costs for us to create our Master tapes ultimately came out to around $12,000.  Next Friday I will speak on the creative deliverables that filmmakers have to turn in (Still Images, Key Art, Credit Block, etc.)

I hope that this post was helpful for all the filmmakers out there and please make sure to check out our film THE LAST FALL that stars Lance Gross and Nicole Beharie which opens theatrically in Los Angeles starting October 26th at the Rave Cinemas 15 in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

-Matthew A. Cherry

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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