Behind the scenes: Steelbook Blu-ray

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The Danish company Scanavo, the official reseller of the SteelBook® brand (creator of the metal cases highly sought after by collectors), kindly shared its production secrets with us and reviewed its most memorable creations as well as the surprising innovations due over the next few years.

“I travel every week, with usually one trip to Paris every month.” It goes without saying that the dynamic and multilingual Oana Sgambato, who is in charge of the Steelbook video market (without a capital “B” for the object), is a very busy woman. In between two meetings with major labels, she kindly agreed to an interview in a restaurant a stone’s throw from the Opéra Bastille, before jetting off to another European destination, as she is responsible for Belgium, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and part of Germany.

In 2016, Scanavo invited its clients to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It is not known if the cake was made of metal…

In addition to its unwavering commitment to physical media, Scanavo shares another similarity with Les Années Laser: the Danish company, whose headquarters are located in the suburbs of Copenhagen, was founded in 1991, the year in which Les Années Laser magazine was launched. Like our magazine, Scanavo has followed all of the developments in the market: DVD, Blu-ray, and more recently, Ultra HD Blu-ray. However, the first Steelbook concerned the video game sector; the brand wanted to create buzz around major titles by releasing metallic editions. Killzone for PlayStation 2 was the first to receive a Steelbook edition in late 2004. Since then, many metal cases have followed, attracting an ever larger and ever loyal community of collectors from around the world, to the point where we decided to create a dedicated section in our magazine. “For a long time, Europe was the leading market,” our interviewee affirmed. “Then the market in the United States expanded, followed by the Asian market with Australia at the forefront. Currently, Steelbooks are in high demand in France, Great Britain and Germany. For its part, Great Britain has put emphasis on communication and is undertaking a large number of projects.” Hence the “Zavvi reflex”, named after the English brand that provides a host of exclusive products every month (as does the Czech company Filmarena, another expert in communication), which is actually all smoke and mirrors because “although the British market appears to be more abundant to consumers, it isn’t really the case.”

The Zavvi website, a genuine Aladdin’s cave of Steelbook cases.

The steelbook.com site therefore strives, whenever possible, to reference French, Italian and Spanish editions so that new releases for each region are more visible. In a similar vein, Scanavo is always looking to create partnerships between editors and retailers.

Since last year, the American retailer Walmart has provided entire shelves of Steelbooks in its stores.

Designing a Steelbook Blu-ray

A Steelbook is made of metal and plastic and is identifiable by its three distinct parts (front, spine, back) that are bound together by a plastic interior on which the Steelbook logo is discreetly embossed. Depending on its design, each box can accommodate two, three or four discs… or even six, in the case of the TV series Game of Thrones, which required a specially designed case. Unsurprisingly, the cost for the editor takes into account the number of discs, as well as the range of colors (white is considered a color) as the case is initially metal-colored. Different gradation effects, including transparency, are available, and there are many printing options that can be applied: embossing (3D effect), debossing (depressed effect), matte or gloss varnish, or even zero-varnish for the European market (partial varnish applied to the recent Bohemian Rhapsody Steelbook).

Each option adds to the cost for the editor, but makes all the difference for the collector. “We’ve noticed that they prefer when there is an added extra, and sales reflect this because it is a unique product.” In practice, when is a project decided? “Ideally, we wait until the movie is already in theaters, but it isn’t always easy. The standard production time is four weeks, with a week of work on the artwork beforehand because we may need to talk with the editor, and the latter needs to have the Steelbook in stock a month before the release. In other words, a decision needs to be made while the movie is in theaters, sometimes even before it is first released.”

The Spartacus Steelbook, due for release in the UK on April 15 as a retailer exclusive, has a superb image of the gladiator inside.

Oana acknowledges the risk incurred by the publisher, who can increase the quantity of Steelbooks ordered, but cannot reduce it. Both major and independent companies are welcome, but Scanavo always ensures that its client owns the rights to the program when approached by a new editor. Naturally, this step is omitted when trust has been established between the two parties.

The Steelbook edition of the excellent French movie The Emperor of Paris will be released on April 19.

On site in Copenhagen, there is someone to supervise the project from A to Z who is in direct contact with the client and with production, while a team of graphic designers is hard at work (often with an advisory role) to provide an end result in accordance with the initial request. “For us, the most important thing is satisfying the client” our interviewee stated sincerely.

Some collector editions of major titles for Nintendo’s Switch console have the particularity of being thinner and more rectangular.

And in the future?

“Faced with the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime, publishers are striving to release more products with added value,” enthuses Oana Sgambato, who states that the digital sector is her number one competitor, and not the companies in the same market (see the presentation of the different market forces in Les Années Laser n°219). She believes that the question is almost philosophical: does the consumer genuinely want to own the movie? The Danish company is continuing to innovate in every domain. Firstly, they are accompanying editors in the shift towards digital formats: “We’re working on a digital format Steelbook in the form of a small 10x10cm square case containing a code, a card or a USB flash drive. A kind of compromise between physical and digital.”

A new Steelbook concept that provides a gateway to digital formats has been released in the United States.

En While the concept has yet to arrive in Europe, it has been released in the United States via several retailers and we must admit, we were very impressed by the copy of John Wick we were able to see up close. Scanavo also intends to invest even more in physical media, by hoping that UHD takes greater interest in what they are doing (“Ideally, a Steelbook should be available for the most high-end format”), by encouraging editors to create genuine collector editions that include at the very least a Steelbook and various goodies, and also by continuing to experiment with this format.

A glow-in-the-dark Steelbook for Terminator 2!

In Europe, the first glow-in-the-dark Steelbook was released in the Czech Republic (a Filmarena exclusive) for Terminator 2, and other exciting projects that we have been asked to keep under wraps are being explored… Editors are also coming up with lots of new ideas, with the concept of a single case containing two Steelbooks and two artworks of the same movie to provide more variety (another Filmarena exclusive, this time for Shaun of the Dead), for example, or the lavish edition of The Revenant with a Steelbook and book inside a genuine leather slipcase.

This Steelbook edition of The Revenant includes a genuine leather slipcase.

But Europe’s most popular collection comes from the collaboration with the Mondo Gallery, which was launched on December 2, 2014 with Drive (number 00). Since then, each Steelbook added to the collection has been eagerly awaited by collectors of beautiful objects. Each design consists of specially created artwork. A rise in demand has been observed over the past few months: simultaneously, Warner released seven in Italy and Disney released eight in Great Britain. “We must continue to build on this momentum. I think we could go even further and suggest Steelbooks that are signed by the artists.” Currently, there are nearly 40 titles available and more (also top secret) are being developed. Good news: France’s first “Mondo x Steelbook” is set to be released on April 24 via Paramount for the horror classic Pet Sematary and it is stated to be a Blu-ray/UHD combo no less. An international edition that could possibly lead to several others, even if Disney France has stated that it isn’t planning to create a French version of the Mondo Steelbooks released in the UK and has pointed out that there is “already a Classic Steelbooks collection” [Editor’s note: a retailer exclusive]. Scanavo, who has now been around for over a quarter of a century, intends to continue surprising us…

France’s first Mondo x Steelbook has finally been announced.

Auteur :

Gersende Bollut

Les années Laser N°262 – Avril 2019


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