Client issue with DVD
I've posted a similar question on the FCP forum, but I thought I could really use some help in dealing with my client.
I created a widescreen DVD that was shot on a Sony Ex1 Camera The client complained about the DVD being pixelated badly when it was played in their trade show booth on a 50" plasma screen.
It looked fine (for Sd video) on my 46" Samsung LCDTV and on various other LCDTVs.
I went to the AV company who rented the client the Plasma Screen and DVD player, played the same DVD and as they said the video looked like crap. It looked like a low rez YouTube video! I was shocked! All of my text including lower thirds where blocky and ghosting, barely legible. The AV company then played some of their Test DVDs and they looked okay. Very confusing. I will tell you that first they used composite connections then switched it to component cables, both using a standard DVD player
Well yesterday, I took my DVD to Circuit city and played it on their 50" plasma screen hooked up to a blue ray player, and it looked fine (for SD Video) No pixelation, all text looked fine! What a relief!
Obviously the problem lies with the AV company's set-up. My question is how would you explain this to the client who works closely with the AV company? I'm sure the AV company spent the better part of the trade show pointing fingers at me. They showed the client their test DVDs which looked okay.
I'm sure the client will ask me why the other test DVDs look good on their plasma. I really don't have a answer. How would you deal with this issue? How should I explain this without falling into the pointing the finger at the AV company issue? Thanks so much and happy new year to all.
The first thing I would do to troubleshoot would be to get the stats on the AV company's test disks to see what they were and how they were encoded, and compare them to what you're burning. All this should happen without any sturm and drang, no finger-pointing, just a trouble-shooting mission. Though if things are as you say I suspect the Av company messed you over and is playing dumb now. They might not have known it though, so don't get into blame games you can't prove yet. Because at this point it looks like you both share the blame, you for not checking this out earlier, and them for not trying harder to troubleshoot it.
In hindsight, you or the project's producer might have called the AV company to get this standards info, and sent test disks over to try out on their system before show time. OTOH, one should expect a standard DVD to play the same everywhere, unless otherwise specified, without needing any special handling. Now that level of pre-production hand-holding I'm talking about is not always possible, especially if you are not the producer in charge and the show is at a distance from the place you're working. Like two states over. This is where religious adherence to broadcast standards protects you. If everything is NTSC/FCC/SMPTE legal, you're never to blame.
You played it at Circuit City on a blu-ray player, which upconverts SD to fake an HD look... that's probably not a fair comparison, unless the AV company also used an identical BD capable player. You said your product was SD, so the proper test is on an SD machine. I am going to assume your video levels were checked against a scope and waveform monitor during production, at least the virtual ones in FCP, before the product went out, and the DVD was rendered at the proper screen resolution. Your software should retain the last settings you used, so write them down for comparison purposes. I also check against a glass CRT monitor, not just an LCD for final QC, because the CRT points out problems LCD's can't.
Bring your own SD DVD player to the AV company and hook it up to the same screen for a test using various cables. If it looks great, try it next with their DVD player, hopefully the same one they used, and compare. This will still not be definitive since settings on the screen may have been changed since the event. If you can get the model number for the set, download a PDF of the manual and go thru it for a clue about the various settings and hookups. If I had to guess, and took you at your word that it plays fine at Circuit City or wherever, I'd guess the monitor had been set up wrong, it probably is usually set for HD viewing in some way that distorts a normal SD signal... But like I said, the fault has to be shared since it should be part of your job to check these things out with testing.
Other possibilities: You didn't catch a wrong setting when rendering, because final cut is able to play back so many different things well, and you didn't notice because you didn't test it over several different players. I always test important DVD's on at least three consumer/prosumer players and a PC and a mac. Then again, I'm a paranoid about these things. It helped me a few weeks ago when a client kept telling me part of a DVD I'd made wasn't working on their computer. I knew it did, because of the multi-platform testing I'd done, and eventually they admitted it was a user problem on their end, and we solved it. Used to have similar problems with stereo/2-track audio videotapes watched by clients that had their VCR or TV audio channels set wrong. They complained audio was missing or had bad levels. In those cases, I had to often go over and re-wire their system properly, or walk them thru settings on their remotes, to prove it to them the tapes were really fine and their setup was hosed. For the ones that were repeat offenders, we just made all their stuff mono and never had further troubles:-)
Also, not every AV rental company is equally skilled and equipped, and it could well be that the operator that day messed up, used settings from a previous job that were not proper, and the evidence got lost by the time you could look into it.
You may well never know the whole truth. However, as I said, if your product meets all broadcast standards, you can point to that as cover with some assurance the problem is not on your end. Best you can do now is troubleshoot and look to the future.
Thanks for your detailed response. There are a few things you said I wanted to clarify. In hindsight, sure I could have called them to get their standards, but I did let the AV Company know that I was providing a wide screen SD DVD video. I suggested they use a DVD player that up converts. I did this in writing. Between you and I, they didn't use an up-converting DVD player, and I'm not into finger pointing myself so I wouldn't mention this to the client.
I've produced shows for conventions and trade shows, and have never run into a problem before.
I also tested my DVD on several DVD players and screens. It NEVER looked like it did on the AV company's Plasma. Of course I checked my levels on waveforms and vector scopes. I've also checked my DVD on a crappy old DVD recorder hooked to an LCD and it played fine.
As to what's part of my job, I feel that my job is to produce a good product, not to oversee the AV company's set up of their monitor. I gave my client about 25 extra hours of editing free of charge because I knew they had budget limitations. The deadline for the project was extremely tight, and I didn't have the time to run back and forth to the AV company, about an hour away from my office.
Watching and checking the video on my home 46" LCDTV showed that indeed the picture quality was fine. I also played it on my 30 inch Cinema display and on a CRT monitor hooked to a standard DVD player. All looked good.
When I went to the AV company they didn't have the test DVD they used at the trade show, they played others including a Disney animated DVD and boat racing DVD (which looks like the type of DVD you see in booths at NAB for demonstration purposes..
I would agree with you that the monitor probably had been set up wrong, it probably is usually set for HD viewing in some way that distorts a normal SD signal. That's my only explanation.
My question still is what do I say to my client?
One hour away across town? I'm betting the next time you'll take the 2 hours to go check the setup, and bill it.
All you can tell the client is you made it right, and have proof it is right from your end, but you can't prove a negative, there's no way without replicating the exact setup to know ultimately who's fault it was at the trade show. I would like to think that I would have given them my cel and have them call me the second anything went wrong, if they were in the same town as me, and I would have driven over like Gene Hackman with my own player, and a spare disk, and seen it and tried some changes in the setup. They would have seen me standing by my product and that may be worth something in an argument of "he said/she said". But what I see here is that the projection people didn't talk to you right away, and you didn't talk to them before the show. Each aprty probably trusted the client to manage this job, and the client probably expected one or both of you to handle it. There was a valley where responsibilities didn't overlap properly.
If you want them to use you again, you're going to have to get a mutual commitment to a higher level of overall responsibility, morover, better defined responsibility, and they need to pay you more for that as well. There is no good or magic answer to this bad situation. I think that's what I take away from the incident, that there was a gap in who "owned" the success of the overall project, end-to-end. One point of contact for everything.
I have had plenty of times in my life where I've killed myself to put out a perfect product on time and on budget and handed it off to the next person or persons in the chain, only to have a failure somewhere once it was out of my hands. Very frustrating. If you don't want that to happen, the thing I see to do is get overall control of the project and cover everything end-to-end, all the way to delivery: then you only have yourself to blame and nobody else.
I tend to prefer that: take all the responsibility, take all the blame as well as the kudos. I can't always get it though, some projects are just too big and you NEED to partner with others to succeed. Then your interpersonal skills matter as much as your techincal ones.
Hi Mark, perhaps you're misunderstanding me. Although the AV company is an hour away they didn't receive the DVD from the client until they were on site at the trade show in another state. Since I had checked my DVD on multiple set-ups and all looked fine, why would I travel to the AV company to check their set-up?
There was no room for additional billing for my time, as I already agreed to a final price with the client, and I ate about 25 hours of additional editing to keep the client happy.
Maybe I'm just dumb, but I don't see how it's my issue if the Plasma Screen doesn't play the video correctly. As I stated earlier the AV company was using a Standard DVD player hooked up via a composite cable.
What are you supposed to do when you send out multiple DVDs to multiple clients? Travel to each and every office and check their set-up to avoid complaints? That's not realistic. I don't mean to be arguing with you Mark, I also don't mean to appear defensive so please forgive me as I respect your opinion.
As I said before, I've produced hundreds of convention and trade show videos that are edited and completed at the last minute and sent fedex to the client on site at a hotel in another state. That's the nature of the business. I can't fly out there and check the video on site, but I can go through all the checks and tests I do locally. There is NEVER one person with sole ownership on projects like this unless the same company shooting and editing the video is staging the event or providing the playback equipment.
Thanks for your suggestions Mark.
Bottom line is that if they put in a test DVD and it worked fine, then it's something about your DVD. If the setup was whack, their test DVDs would've also looked bad.
It's probably pretty subtle, but there must be some difference between what you had and what they had. If nothing else, you'll need that info figured out at least when you talk with your client.
You're right, unfortunately no matter what happens, the Producer is always at fault (and almost always catches the blame from the client).
Thus my "brand of disc" used with an "incompatible player" theory. Usually when this happens, the discs are simply not recognized by the stand alone player. (And it still does happen today because some hotels/rental companies will not update their DVD players until they die).
One way to know for sure is to make a copy of the "suspect DVD" onto a couple of entirely different brand of media.
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC
If you do this, I'd burn an identical program on a couple of other brands of media (Sony, Maxell, etc.). I've had issues with some older standalone players having problems playing certain brands of media.
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC
My experience with convention center AV companies ranges from button pushers who don't know how to troubleshoot to world class know-how, usually somewhere in the middle. There are a few pretty big AV rental companies who are known for not maintaining their gear nor training their operators. I have had a few run-ins with these groups. I distinctly recall a few projectionists who referred to any tape format, from U-Matic to mini DV as "Beta tapes."
Luckily all of my clients have switched to reliable vendors.
There is no way to anticipate the un-anticipatable.
I too will vouch that trade-show videos are usually done at the last minute, often I hand-deliver these to the booths. On one occasion someone came to find me to say they could not play the video. I went over to the booth and saw that they were trying to play the DVD through a computer by double-clicking the VOB files. This could work, however I told them to use windows media player, and it worked fine. Again, knowing the capabilities of who you are dealing with helps.
1. you say you shot using the EX1, did you shoot SD? Or was this originated and edited in HD, then downconverted to a standard definition, wide-screen DVD?
2. Do you know the native pixel resolution of the 50" plasma TV used by the A/V company?
Some Plasma TV's use 1366 x 768, some use 1024 x 768, and some use true HD pixel resolutions of 1920x1080. There may be other pixel resolutions, but those are the three that I found amoung the 25 or so models offerred on B&H Photo'w website
If the DVD was a standard definition widescreen DVD and the 50" plasma used had a native resolution of 1920x1080, that's some serious up-rezzing going on to convert it to fill the screen.
But that said, I've seen this done dozens of times and the video usually looks a little soft, but otherwise fine. Just slight pixelation, and surely no ghosting as you mention. It looks the same as an SD TV signal from cable.
My bet is that it has something to do with field interpolation and progressive frame issues. Many Plasma TV's and DVD players have settings for how to display video in terms of frames and fields. If this is set wrong, it COULD cause an issue. Another area to examine would be 3:2 pulldown settings. If this is set wrong, it could cause an issue.
But that said...usually the default factory settings on both DVD players and Plasm TV's make it nearly impossible to screw up how they playback DVD's. But if you get to messing with them and don't know what you're doing or don't know the specs of the video on the DVD, I've seen it occasionally cause a problem.
But I agree with you.... you cannot be responsible for ensuring a DVD plays back correctly when you've tested it on multiple DVD/TV setups prior to delivery and use in another state.
We give clients written instructions for how to ensure reliable, high-quality playback of the DVD's we provide them and we ALWAYS tell them verbally and in writing to test it well in advance of their show, presentation etc. We give them our cell phone numbers to troubleshoot in case the AV people can't figure it out.
Yet on more than one occasion, we've had similar scenarios. In EVERY case, it was operator error on the part of the people that setup and operated the DVD/TV combination. Usually they were too arrogant to call us for assistance.
What we do after the fact is take the questionable DVD and sit down and test it to figure out what went wrong. That way, we can tell our client..."here's what happened and why." We try not to get into blaming people, but most clients figure out where the error occurred simply from an explanation. We also get the problem DVD and SHOW the client (either at their place or ours), that the DVD does in fact play correctly on many other combinations of DVD/LCD, Plasmas etc.
There are occasions where testing and figuring out the issue isn't possible because we don't have access to the exact equipment. In this case, we again show the client that the DVD plays fine on multiple combinations.
I think that's about all you can do from the client standpoint. And if you figure out what the issue was, be sure to WRITE IT DOWN so that you can note the possiblity on the next DVD project you do.
Magnetic Image, Inc.
This got me thinking...
Why isn't there a standard label format that can help alert the playback folks as to what a DVD contains?
Seems to me it would be pretty helpful.
I fiddled around with the idea and in 5 minutes knocked this off.
I'm positive it's incomplete and leaves out a lot, but wouldn't SOMETHING like this make life a whole lot easier for all of us?
Chris, the video was shot edited in HD then downconverted to SD wide screen DVD.
I do not know the native resolution of the 50" Samsung Plasma they used. Can you tell me more about the 3:2 pulldown issues? Is that something done in compressor? Or is that something done on the Plasma screen? Like I said it plays nicely on my LCDTVs and also on a Plasma screen with an upconverting DVD player.
I've read the responses thus far, and though the technical advice seems sound, the "business" advice is not as clear.
When you want to keep a client, and another professional (whom the client trusts) has thrown you under the bus, what is the best response?
I've heard a lawyer say that if mud is thrown at you and you try to brush it off, you only make yourself look worse. But if you wait, the mud dries, and you can just flick it off.
My advice would be to tell the client that it is very important to you to understand exactly what went wrong, and you'd appreciate the cooperation of the AV company to investigate what happened. It isn't a question of fault -- it's a matter of finding out how to make something work.
I have not read every line of this long thread, but I would like to address the question "what should Greg do?".
Greg should do everthing in his power to "right" this situation, and to find out what is going on - ESPECIALLY if it is not his fault. Having the AV company 1 hour away from his place is no excuse. I live in Orlando, Florida, and I do work in Tampa and St. Pete (90 minutes away), and Miami (4 hours away). And I have certainly been in situations where these clients have occationally called and say "hey, the thing you just did for us isn't working anymore". And you know what I do - I GO THERE. Thats right, I have driven for 4 HOURS TO MIAMI cursing every mile of the way, just to make sure that it is not my fault, and that I dont' ruin my reputation - or to correct a stupid mistake that I have made.
Certainly, the AV company may be at fault. I have certainly been in this situation. I have had clients send tapes to local TV stations, where their tapes are rejected. I go to the client to see what is wrong, and if there is nothing wrong, I go to the TV station TO CONFRONT THEM. Now, you went to see your DVD, and it looked bad on their equipment. You should have gone back with YOUR DVD PLAYER to test it on their 50" monitor. You should have run to a local WalMart, etc. near them, and bought a new $39 DVD player, and tested it AT THE AV company, to show that both your DVD player, and the NEW ONE from WalMart was ok, but their player was "screwed up". And maybe it would have been your fault. But at least you would have known.
Anyone on these forums that orders equipment from any of the manufacturers you see advertised here (Sony, AJA, Blackmagic, Cal Digit, G-Tech, etc) expects to have WORKING EQUIPMENT delivered to them. But sometimes it arrives broken. These companies surely say "this guy is a moron, we test all the equipment before it ships to any new customer" - but things DO GO WRONG, and it is the responsibilty of these manufacturers to make sure that the customer has working equipment.
With that in mind, it is your responsibility to provide a working DVD to your customer, and if it's the AV companies fault (because they are the morons) - then it is your responsibiity to show both your client, the AV company, and yourself, that THEY are in the wrong, and that your stuff works perfectly.
Followup with my clients is commonplace.
I agree with Bob's approach. DVD should be a done thing but there always seems to be gremlin near at hand. For conferences and live public presentations we always use tape for playout. If the client is going off somewhere and waiting for the last minute DVD to arrive by courier we always give them a player that we know works with our DVD production workflow. We also use the quality control of testing on 3 different DVD players plus Mac and PC machines to check compatibility. I cannot understand why the client did not shout loudly at the time. I would though definitely demonstrate the DVD working correctly on other equipment to clear your reputation.
Bob is right here again. Here's a quick experience we recently had.
We usually have an upconverting DVD player in the conference room feeding a 32 inch Dell HD LCD TV. When the DVD player finally died we substituted in an older industrial Denon player that is a solid player, but not an upconverter. Event he component outputs to the LCD were pretty crunchy and revealed lots of noise. Composite was nearly unwatchable. We got a new upconverting player and send the HDMI out to the monitor and DVDs look much better.
It is possible that the AV company used a non upconverting player and using composite outputs...YUCK!
One more thought...if I had known that the plasma screen on site was going to be a 50 inch model, and as long as I was posting in HD anyway, I would have used Toast 9 to burn a simple Blu-Ray disc and provided a brand spanking new Blu-Ray player to the client to hook up to the monitor. Or I would have inquired to see if the AV company had Blu-Ray players. Your video would have looked great.
One last thing...can I assume that the DVD was authored as anamorphic widescreen video? 50 inches is a lot of upscaling to do, and different DVD players handle it better than others. Without an upconverting DVD player you can't expect much.
I agree...to a point. We've done DVD's for trade shows in Las Vegas, Orlando, etc. But we're in Indiana...1000 miles away from both places. In those cases it's impossible to go to the site and fix the problem. As I said in an earlier post, we give clients explicit instructions for reliable configuration and playback, tell them to test it well in advance, and tell them to call our cell numbers anytime day or night.
But we've had occasions where the AV companies simply declare that they have bad DVDs (we give clients two copies of everything), and they refuse to do anything to try to correct it...even after the client calls us in a panic. We've had instances where the AV company talks to us and refuses to admit there's something wrong with the setup.
In each of these cases the problem was some setting either on the TV monitor or the DVD player....things like having the widescreen settings set incorrectly, having the black level set incorrectly on the DVD player, and our favorite, an AV company playing the DVD from a computer hooked up via VGA to the plasma monitor. They had the software DVD player "zoomed in" on the computer so everything was pixelated and blurry.
But you're right that you HAVE to figure out the problem, communicate it to your client, and figure out ways to avoid in the future.
But I'll give you an example of a similar situation that's nearly impossible to fix. We do a ton of encoding for the web and we've gotten very good at it. We provide ready to use web video (typically flash), hand it off to either web designers or the on demand video companies, and they consistently screw it up. We call them and literally walk them through step by step how to get it to work, (with instructions often IDENTICAL to the web streaming companies own instructions on their websites)...and the streaming companies and the web designers STILL screw it up. We've called the clients and offerred to get their video posted and working for the same fee they're being charged by the streaming company or their web designers. They consistently decline the offer! We've even offerred to do it for free for one very large client because they do so much other work with us. They STILL declined...saying they'd rather leave it in the hands of the "web" people.
This defies logic! We're offerring to solve a clients' ongoing problem for the same fee as they're paying now, and they say "no." So in this case, the client continues to "wonder" if we know what we're doing, even though we've sat them down in our facility and shown them the 3 minutes worth of steps to uploading, then shown them the video working beautifully as it's stored on the streaming companies server.
The streaming company tells them our videos aren't encoded properly. So we set up a trial account with the streaming company and then loaded the videos through their service and again played them for the client. Yet the client STILL believes there's something wrong with the videos. So we then tracked down the person that actually loaded the videos for them to the streaming server (an IT guy in their company). Turns out, he's skipping the step of adding a SWF player, which you MUST do in order for the videos to play properly from this service. We inform the client of the problem, but the IT guy tells the marketing people you DON'T need a SWF player, and that we don't know what we're talking about.
So here's a case of us sitting the client down, showing them the steps to get something to work, not once, but twice, and proving that it works. Yet...they're still skeptical of what we're doing.
The moral to the story is you have to do everything possible to make it right for the client....with the key words being..."everything possible."
Magnetic Image, Inc.
I agree you need to do anything and everything you can.
I'm a video producer primarily, so I see my job as to shoot the stuff properly in the first place.
But when clients have wanted material delivered for the web, my solution is a deliverable that consists of the following.
A hard drive that contains:
The original NTSC DV clips, if they're "full frame" and NOT for compositing.
The original NTSC DV clips of each web snippit shot against greenscreen if they ARE for compositing.
NTSC DV clips of each web snippit in full DV rez composited with the client supplied backgrounds.
Compressed files to their specs as to raster size, CODEC and frame rate in FLV format.
Compressed files to their specs as to raster size, CODEC and frame rate in SWF format.
Hopefully, they can just use the swf files and that's it.
But if they're a Flash version behind, they can typically take the FLV files, update them in Flash to whatever new version/codec they like, and re-render the swf files.
Or if there's something more complex going on, they can go back to the DV clips and do their own damn encoding if that's what it takes to get the job done.
The client communications is that I supply their WEB people with not JUST the work they've ordered, but ALL the work files they might need to re-encode or fix anything.
Usually, that moves the problem from my shop to theirs.
But I agree, it's getting nothing but harder to keep up with universal output formats, codecs and encoding schemes in a world where there's 100 decisions in every encoding job that can make something incompatible for the one delivery system it HAS to work on.
I too can relate these experiences:
1. I offer the client a DV res AVI or a FLV file in their preferred format. Rather, they ask for a WMV file from which they make their own FLV. Looks horrible. I even told them it looks horrible. Again, this is an IT guy who wants to do it his way. Not a lot you can do.
2. I offer the client the above, they ask for a DVD so they can "rip" the video for their website.
3. Last year we did a 16:9 DV project to DVD for use on a hotel tv system. I prayed that the hotel DVD player was setup correctly to format the 16:9 video correctly - it was correct but I did not know this until I checked into the hotel room.
These threads are great because they confirm that these issues are common, if not the norm.
The video was shot and edited in HD, why now show it in HD?
Get a Apple TV and load the video on it and loan or rent it to your client (include a HDMI cable with it). All you have to do is encode the video for the apple TV and load it on there.
I have had good success converting 1080i60 into the highest quality that the Apple TV will play 720p24 (the Apple TV will only play 720p video if it is 24fps)
Now keep in mind that the Apple TV cannot loop a video, so if they need the video to repeat then you will need to create a video file that contains the same video several times so they can let it play for a while before staring it over.
The only time I have seen an Apple TV put out bad video is if the file was encoded poorly, or if the TV does a poor job of scaling the image.
Plus most other people at this trade show will probably be playing SD DVDs onto a HD display, if your client is showing actual HD video their product will stand out that much more.
There are no "technical solutions" to your "artistic problems".
Don't let technology get in the way of your creativity!
I wasn't going to add anything more, said it all before now. But we're in danger of getting irrelevant here for Greg when we start to get too exotic in the recommendations. When the client orders a DVD, by jimbo, that's what you better deliver. Not to say you can't offer the added value of additional copies on various media and platforms, heck, I've done that myself a time or two. And at $30 retail for a cheap player, it may make sense to ship one out with the dub now and then where you can't be there in person to shepherd the project the last mile. But just don't tell the guy to make one very different thing when the deliverable is another.
I ran an SD dvd on my FCP system friday to check it, and the viewer blew the picture up to fill my cinemadisplay. Looked probably as bad as Greg's clients said his did at the show. Very blocky. Re-setting the DVD controls to "actual size" made the pic smaller but very clear and sharp.
My final word (maybe) in my view is, yeah, you have to go back to the client and, for free, do whatever it takes to track down the problem and hopefully, restore your honor. Chances are good the AV guys screwed up but you may not be able to prove it conclusively. But even if the troubleshooting/ fact-finding mission shows the error was in your authoring, you need to be up-front about it, take your lumps, and then look forward, show you have a plan that will prevent this from ever happening again.
Quick old corporate joke:
Exec for IBM commits the company to a $3million dollar project that totally fails. He gets a notice to come see the Big Guy first thing in the morning. Guy figure's he's not going to see that office for very long at all, but the Big Boss just keeps asking detailed questions about the process, what was learned, what could or should have been done differently. Finally, the boss says:
"That will be all".
(Troubled exec): "...B-but, um.... I don't.."
(exec): "I thought... well, aren't you going to fire me now?"
(Boss): "FIRE you!?!?! I just spent three million bucks to TRAIN you! Go earn it back!!!
When I faced an arcane situation (ultra-widescreen), I created a graphic which showed the intended boundaries of the frame with arrows and bounding boxes.
You could create a "resolution graphic" with text or lines which, the label states, should be legible. This may have to be on a separate DVD, if the client wants to pop the final product in and have it play without menus.
At least that way the AV team could have both a reference and perhaps more motivation to make the DVD look right. It's all too easy to blame someone besides yourself. An official-looking test pattern/graphic might persuade them to try just a little harder next time.
see this blog post of mine - I had to do a DVD loop using all SD 4:3 material and one HD 16:9 video - thus I was committed to 16:9 SD - and I knew this owuld play on widescreen monitors and the hotel tv system. Lowest common denominator.
I am an AV technician at a 5 star resort. (I add the 5 star comment because we deal with clients who are paying for, and expecting, nothing but the absolute best in equipment, treatment, and technical knowledge. And they, as the client, can NEVER possibly ever be wrong...about anything.) We get dozens, if not hundreds of clients every year that show up with DVDs produced by someone not in-house. Most times they have never tested the DVD ahead of time. There definitely is a "certain media don't work with certain players" effect, but we as an AV company have multiple brands on hand just in case. We get thrown under the bus by the clients, the hotel staff, and the DVD producers. We take it, apologize for the inconvenience, and bust our asses to get it fixed before the meeting starts. It is absolutely unacceptable for us to blame anyone else. However, if they never tested the DVD ahead of time, and won't call the producer to get encoding information, there's only so much as a 3rd party AV company that we can do.
That being said, hindsight is 20/20 and you can't tell the client they messed up. Has the client seen the DVD work on a different monitor? Perhaps let them see that your disc does actually work and just keep them informed as to your progress in working with the AV company to find the cause of the trouble. If they see your disc working on a comparable set up, they may ease off a bit and at least spread the blame around. If the AV company is, shall we say, less than helpful, relay that (respectfully, not whining) to the client. If they see you're trying to get to the bottom of the problem, they'll at least appreciate that you do care things didn't work properly and will make sure that it never happens again.
Clients who want $100,000 production on a $1,000 budget tend to be severely disappointed. Sounds like the budget wasn't there for you to consider needing to coordinate with a different AV company and do production management of their event. All 3 parties in this case messed up. Do what you can to maintain a good relationship with the client, but understand there are some very underhanded AV companies out there that will screw things up, fix it after the event, then claim there was nothing wrong in the first place.
The timing couldn't have been better. Just yesterday I had a client come to the resort with 2 DVDs produced by a NY production co. Of course the producers had finished it, delivered it, and were not present or available to contact during the event (we're in SC by the way.) The client had tested the DVDs multiple times, on several DVD players. Came to the resort, we fired them up, and the DVDs played fine...for a while. Turns out for some reason with those 2 particular DVDs, (there were others on different media brands encoded by different companies that had no problems), our seamless switcher/converter didn't like the video feed. The preview monitor showed the image fine, but nothing came off the projectors. The DVD played fine off a laptop and everyone was happy.
I've given the presenters my cell number and told them if the producers would like to contact me so I can describe the situation, I'd be glad to. Can't blame them, except for only leaving 1 second of black at the beginning, none at the end, and having it auto-loop, but I'd like to find out from them what the encoding technique was.
This was a situation where there's no known explanation yet, and I can't accept blame as the other DVDs were fine, and they can't accept blame as it plays on all DVD players, but they couldn't have known what switcher we were using.
Always have a backup plan.
Rob's last point was worth the price of reading this whole thread. If the DVD is not supposed to loop in a booth, for instance, then black at the start and end to allow a player to sit on pause. or even just play without the dumb player screen saver is vital for playback flexibilty.
This had never occurred to me until I saw a client start a DVD, pause it, and then hold a card over the lens of the projector waiting for the right time to start the clip.