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  • Making-of Documentaries on DVD:The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Special Editions
  • Craig Hight

"Making-of" documentaries, those films (and television programs) that pur- port to document the production of another text, have a long history dating from the beginnings of cinema itself (Arthur 39). They are an increasingly standard feature of feature film production, and there is no doubt that this documentary subgenre has developed the potential to offer distinctive and unique insights into the nature of contemporary filmmaking. This article discusses the "making-of" documentary (MOD) subgenre in the context of its increasing appearance on DVD cinematic releases. This discussion is intended to add to the growing body of literature focused on the reshaping of audiovisual media (in this case, the documentary genre) by computer-based media. The MOD has enjoyed a new life on DVD, becoming a standard feature particularly of the range of supplementary materials included within so-called special edition discs.

As a medium, DVD (digital video disc, or digital versatile disc) has been marked by a rapid rise from its origins as an alternative to the Laserdisc format. It is now established within the entertainment mainstream, increasingly marginalizing VHS video both in domestic rentals and as the standard for home video libraries. The medium dates essentially from December 1995, with the agreement between competing manufacturers of a format, but its mainstream dominance really began with the release of the million-selling Titanic in August 1999 and The Matrix in the following month. Each of these discs achieved sales that convinced studios as well as consumers of the future of the technology.1

The rapid adoption of DVD technology by consumers is closely associated with efforts by the home electronics industry to develop the market for home theater systems. Writing in 1998 in reference to domestic video, Klinger noted,

The attempts of home theater advocates to create a new film culture in the domestic sphere rest partially on selling their customers the distinctiveness of their machines and the experiences they can bring while touting the owner-operator's ability to master this universe of superior technology and sensation. This discourse accompanies the penetration of corporate enterprise and consumer culture into the home as it is refashioned into an entertainment zone. The public image of home theater that enters the domestic space is unambiguous in distinguishing it as a commodity that confers privilege, even nobility, upon its users. By characterizing home theater in relation to heightened sensory experience, media industries and consumer magazines attempt to create an aristocracy of culture in the much-maligned domestic zone with its "antiquated" television set and passive viewers.


This refashioning of the domestic sphere has accelerated with the mass production of digital media technologies, allowing the home theater "experience" to become increasing affordable for the average (Western) middle-class family. The success of these trends has come as a considerable surprise to the bulk of the filmmaking industry, with combined DVD and video sales now regularly outstripping theatrical box-office returns themselves. According to the Economist, "In 2003 Americans spent $22.5 billion on DVDs and videocassettes compared with $9.2 billion at the box office."2

DVD has come to serve as both a justification for investing in home theater technologies and a demonstration of the ultimate superiority of the domestic viewing experience. Within the home entertainment market the initial surge in interest in DVD was associated with marketing campaigns proclaiming the medium a technological (and hence aesthetic) advance over video. A more recent trend has been to exploit the expanded storage capacity of DVD formatted discs. Cinematic releases on DVD can include a far greater number of supplementary materials than comparable video releases. These materials offer specific "extra" functions for home consumers. Viewers may use [End Page 4] detailed background information on a film's production to educate themselves on the nature of contemporary filmmaking practices and add to their appreciation of the technological and artistic achievement of the filmmakers. The increased physical longevity of DVD discs compared to VHS tape also means that these materials can function as archives of a film's production practices (Burger 2).

When the four-disc special extended DVD...


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