In 2016, I published an article called Amazon’s new Video Direct allows indie access to sell & rent content via Amazon Prime. For those unfamiliar, Amazon Video Direct allows independent video producers to upload and earn royalties for sales or rentals via Amazon Prime. That first article is a prerequisite for this one, since I have now had the experience of actually publishing all of the required assets and have had a TV series approved for a client. In this article, I will not repeat all of the technical requirements. I will simply emphasize some of them and clarify some things that were surprising during the process of uploading them to be accepted (or not), where the resulting approved videos will be available (and where not).
Here is a link to my original article for the technical specs for the video files, required closed captions files, and still photo requirements, some of which are required and some are optional.
Video format uploaded
Per Amazon Video Direct’s current requirements, even though the series I uploaded was produced in 4K, I uploaded each episode in 1920×1080 ProRes 422 (HQ), since Amazon Video Direct does not currently accept 4K of any type (not 4K UHD or 4K DCI). During the upload process of any video file ending with the .mov extension] which is standard for a 1920×1080 ProRes 422 (HQ) file], you’ll see a mild warning on the Amazon web page about the allowed códecs with .mov extensions. Fortunately, the warning goes away after the file is uploaded completely and the robot realizes that it is indeed a proper ProRes 422 (HQ) file. The series in question happens to have a framerate of exactly 24 fps, which is acceptable for Amazon Video Direct, among many more framerates, as covered in my original article.
Closed captions uploaded
Since the series I am uploading has the original audio language in Castilian, Amazon Video Direct requires closed captions in both the original language (which Amazon calls “Spanish”) for the hard of hearing and in English for those who don’t understand the original language. In addition to being one of the acceptable formats I covered in the original article, it must also have matching timecode, which you must select in a pulldown menu when uploading the closed caption files. There is a second pulldown menu to select the language of the closed caption file.
In addition to required Castilian and English subtitles (for a source where the audio is in Castilian), there is also the option to upload them in German. Having them or not in German will affect the availability of the end product in certain regions, to be covered ahead in this article.
Still photos uploaded
In the above screenshot, you will see the logos which we had to recreate in English, since Amazon Video Direct required us to list the series with a name in English. On the far right, you’ll see the optional background, which is used to illustrate the series on the Amazon page. Some readers may recognize the Guatemalan flag in all three images above.
I uploaded all of the still photos requested by Amazon Video Direct, both the required and the optional ones, which included 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio still photos. Even though Amazon Video Direct had no objection to the slight letterbox in the uploaded video file (which the DP or editor must have decided to include for aesthetic reasons), Amazon Video direct did object to the exact same slight letterbox which appeared in the still photos. As a result, I had to recreate the still photos without the slight letterbox. Then they were accepted by Amazon Video Direct.
Allowed language of the title and descriptions/synopsis
Even though Amazon Video Direct indeed allows videos whose original language is not English (as in this case with my first experience), as of publication time of this article, Amazon Video Direct demands that the series title, episode titles and episode synopsis be supplied in English. We were surprised about that but of course translated each title (the series title and the episode titles) and synopsis to English. We requested our graphic designer to recreate the series logo into English too, since that was initially rejected since it was not in English.
It is particularly surprising to me that Amazon Video Direct does not offer alternate fields to enter the titles and descriptions in Castilian, considering the fact that Amazon.com in the United States indeed offers the website in either Castilian (which Amazon calls “Spanish”) or English. It would make sense to offer fields to enter them in the original (Castilian) language, for use for those who prefer to see Amazon.com in Castilian.
Amazon Video Direct takes much longer than you might expect to have videos approved. Delay your promotion until yours are approved. For example, you should allow at least six weeks for the first approval and then about two weeks for subsequent ones within a series.
Final availability of the videos
The final availability of the videos we uploaded are currently the United States and the United Kingdom. If we were to add closed captions in German for each episode, then they would be available in Germany too. There is an insinuation that the same could be the case if we were to add closed captions in Japanese (to be available in Japan). However, I don’t see Japanese in the pulldown menu when uploading closed caption files. where I do see Castilian (listed as “Spanish”), English and German, so the Japanese option may be still in Beta.
It is ironic that even though the original language of the series I have been uploading is Castilian (called “Spanish” by Amazon), the videos are not available in Spain or in any part of Latin America, unless the individual located in Latin America happens to have an Amazon account in the United States. (We verified this fact by sending the Amazon link to friends who live in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, México, Spain and Venezuela.) In this respect, Amazon Video Direct is very immature compared with Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Whenever authors (like myself or any of my author clients) upload books, the Amazon KDP interface asks us the territories we have rights. If we mark a book title as “worldwide”, then that book title will be available wherever Amazon sells. This means that our books are available via Amazon worldwide, including Latin America and Spain (in addition to being available for direct sale and through other bookstores, in many cases). I hope sometime soon, Amazon Video Direct will reach that level of maturity as Amazon KDP achieved many years ago.
Solutions for worldwide distribution, given the limited availability in Latin America, Spain and other territories
Despite its current immaturity regarding worldwide distribution, Amazon Video Direct fortunately does not demand exclusivity. Independent producers who distribute their videos via Amazon Video Direct are free to distribute their videos elsewhere. As a result, my client is planning to offer the series as a pay-per-view on the series’ own website at CrímenesVerdaderosSerie.com. Currently on that website, there is a direct link to see the series on Amazon, and a form I created for people who have difficulty accessing it from Amazon due to their geographical location or not having a US or UK account with Amazon. Soon, there will likely be the direct option of pay-per-view directly from that website, probably including 4K, as well as 1080p and 720p.
- Amazon’s new Video Direct allows indie access to sell & rent content via Amazon Prime (May 11, 2016)
- Online series CRÍMENES VERDADEROS planned to be on Amazon soon (November 15th, 2022)
- Review: Bunny Stream beats Vimeo Pro for 4 reasons-at least (December 23, 2022)
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