Interview with Shout! Factory Blu-ray/DVD Director, Brian Ward [Part One]
The Tokusatsu Network sat down with Shout! Factory Director of Blu-ray and DVD Production, Brian Ward, at Stan Lee’s Comikaze in the last weekend of October.
In Part One, Ward walked the Tokusatsu Network through the DVD authoring process for titles such as Gosei Sentai Dairanger, DVD cover decisions, and the process of subtitling.
The Tokusatsu Network: Just out of curiosity, did you work on the Ultra Q and Ultra Seven DVDs?
Brian Ward: Unfortunately, I didn’t. We had a producer who was in-house at the time named Cliff McMillan who is a huge fan of those series. I thought it would have been wrong of me to have taken it from him. But at the same time, I was a fan, growing up, of those series. And so I got to have the DVDs as a fan and just go, “Oh, this is great!” instead of making it a three month job.
TN: So, can you walk us through the process of authoring a DVD set, especially the Super Sentai sets?
Ward: In the case of Sentai, it was a little different. […] Basically, we get the masters from the license owner. In this case, it was Toei, by way of Saban. Toei sent them the masters and they sent them to us. Then, we had to go through and watch them all to make sure everything looked good and sounded good because sometimes we have to get replacements if something is not working. Luckily, everything was good.
And so I then give them to an authoring house—in this case, it is an authoring house in Eugene, Oregon. And we sent countless emails back and forth, where I tell them sort of what I want [the] menus to look like.
We kind of wanted to mimic the menus from Zyuranger. Make it all one series. Just make the entire series feel cohesive. So, they did a good job of doing that.
We got artwork from Toei [and] some photography from them. We take that photography to create the box art and things like that. That becomes tricky because there are so many people who know Super Sentai and they are huge Super Sentai fans. And we want to make them happy.
But at the same time, we are also trying to introduce Super Sentai to the collection of fans who have no idea that Power Rangers was ever even based on something. So, to put a bunch of costumed Rangers that we all know on the cover—it could be seen as confusing.
So, we wanted to make it clear that this isn’t Power Rangers. This is the show that inspired Power Rangers. That’s why our covers focus on them out of costume and the stills at the bottom will have the White Ranger fighting… and things like that.
And so, that goes through a process. And now, we’re settling into what looks to be, sort of, a series look. So, the next one, if we get a chance to do Kakuranger, will follow that same format.
And then we look around for bonus material. If there is something that exists and we can license it, we certainly try.
TN: Is that the reason why we got the [Power] Morphicon special features?
Ward: That was lucky in that Morphicon is in Pasadena [California] and we’re in Los Angeles. So it is very easy to just drive over there. We had a camera crew there anyway, and they had cast members. And it’s like, well, it’s a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, since Morphicon is only every other year, we didn’t have an opportunity to go looking for Dairanger. And we can’t necessarily go around from convention to convention across the country to find them, if they are even participating.
We had a bunch of people ask us if they could donate footage of Rangers from panels they had pre-recorded and things like that. It is certainly something that I wouldn’t mind looking into at some point. But, unfortunately, we still have to get their sign-off on the appearance. And we also have to get the convention to sign off. So it becomes tricky.
My hope is that future Sentai box sets will have bonus material. Because bonus material is my vice. I ended up getting this job by basically being a manager of a video store. A video and DVD store.
TN: Can I ask which one?
Ward: I was a manager at Suncoast Video.
TN: I miss Suncoast so much.
Ward: I was a manager at a Suncoast when I was on the East Coast. When I moved out here, I suddenly needed to find a job and I ended up getting a job at FYE. That was more music than video, but I was always at the video side.
When I got my job at Shout!, I was in the mail room and I kept making suggestions from like “You know? These menus should do this. It should be intuitive—and do this and this. And you should make them cool.” And then, the next thing I knew, they were like, “Look, just start producing the DVDs.”
So, I would always make it a rule that I would not buy DVDs if they didn’t have bonus material, unless there was just no chance that I would be able to get it any other way. I always want to make sure that there’s something on the discs. But unfortunately, with Dairanger, it’s so hard when it’s a Japanese series and they’re not available to me.
TN: It’s definitely an interesting balancing act. So, is producing/authoring the DVDs for Sentai different from producing them for Power Rangers?
Ward: Not really. With Power Rangers, once we know that we were going to do a complete series, then it became clear that we needed to make all of the menus look a certain way. We chose all of the headquarters locations and recreated those. And, it just became, basically, a process—sort of a factory. “Okay, now we’re working on this, now we’re working on this one, now we’re working on this one.”
With Sentai, it’s different because we don’t know if we can continue from one to the next. We’re hoping that the fans are there and that they make it clear that it is big enough. So we’re playing it a little loose, but ultimately the process is the same.
We’re still going through the masters, we’re still creating the menus, we’re still authoring it the same way. And then, we’ll go through a pretty extensive QC process. For this, unlike other shows, it’s all about subtitles, too, and the fact that translations can differ from one person who’s fluent to another who’s fluent. We’ve gotta find the happy medium.
TN: Do you have in-house translators for those subtitles?
Ward: We don’t. What we do is go to a company that specializes in subtitles in general. And they’ve got people who speak hundreds of languages. In this case, they go to their Japanese team and they say, “We need this translated.”
Usually for a show of about 50 episodes, it can take four or five weeks before we start seeing subtitles coming in. In this case, with Zyuranger, the subtitles weren’t wrong, but some people said that they were a little dry and that they were a bit too direct of translations. So, we’re like, “Okay. We’ll take that into account.”
We had our translator do the translations for Dairanger and then we looked at the translations. If they just seemed a little dry, we then tried to figure out how we could say the exact same thing and—not change the translation—but spice it up a little bit. Make it sound a little better, or a little more natural and we would make that change.
TN: So a little more focus on localization and things like that?
In Part Two, the Tokusatsu Network continues its interview with Brian Ward as he talks about fan feedback and and co-hosting his Batman: the Animated Series podcast, The Arkham Sessions with clinical psychologist, Dr. Andrea Letamendi.