I was asked many times by my customers that corpulent companies such as the Makers et al are lowering their prices and how we are going to cope with such competition. My answer is simple: Quality!
When I say quality I mean quality in the sense of product and customer services.
For the product quality I think the 80/20 rule fits. To be fair, the quality from those corpulent companies is ok. If a 100 is perfect then they are at about 75 to 80. When there is no comparison a B- or B student at 75 ~ 80% is not too bad. Since I was an A student during my school era I am definitely not satisfied with a B. The extra 20% is what we are striving to attain here at New Cyberian. Customers who bought from us and the Makers et al immediately notice the subtle difference in quality. If the Makers et al are selling the Cadillac’s, we are selling the Rolls Royce’s; at the same or even lower prices.
As far as customer services, we always train our sales as sales engineers, not just a salesperson. Our sales need to be able to handle all the artwork issues with hands on Photoshop skills. The assembly line approach used by our corpulent competitions is error prone and cold. When customers call us we don’t need to pass the line around because our sales are well-equipped and are aware of every aspect of the steps.
Unlike corpulent companies which expend by buying companies, we build our company from the ground up. As an analogy, we got our Ph. D. by hard work studying, and someone can also get a Ph. D. by buying a diploma. Unfortunately flamboyant marketing brainwash used by the corpulent companies capture 80% of the market and leaving 20% of the market to smart shoppers who has the intelligence to cogitate. Now next time when you need to get your CD or DVD replication, who do you want to call?
For some reasons most of our customers always have very tight deadlines. I guess that has to do with the human nature that we tend to do things until the last minute. That’s why I always advise my clients to plan ahead. Not only that will prevent potential errors due to rushing, but also save a lot on shipping cost.
That said, just in case you are competing against time and even one day will make the “hit or miss” scenario, sending you content master via the Internet will be your only option. In our article “Using Disc Image for Disc Replication” we have outlined the details. This is a recap of the article.
- Use ImgBurn to create a disc image
- Reverse the disc image by burning a test copy and verify the disc is correct
- Zip up the disc image files in chunks of 200MB
- Upload the zip files to an FTP site.
I can’t emphasize more on #3, i.e. the zipping of the files. If you don’t zip the files there will be a very big chance that the image file will be corrupted. This is because of the ASCII and binary settings used by most FTP programs. Zipping the files also adds one more level of assurance. If your files cannot be unzipped then there must be something wrong with the uploading. Without this check-sum protection it will be hard to say whether the uploading-downloading is a one-to-one mapping.
Silkscreen and offset printing are the terms you will definitely encounter when you need to do a CD replication project. What is the difference?
The differences are the methods and the results. If you have done T-Shirt printing you probably know what silkscreen printing is. Essentially it uses a piece of screen with small holes for the ink to get through. Offset printing uses a roller (or plate) to transfer the color over to the object to be printed.
From your perspective the only think you should care is whether the graphic is vector or bitmaps. Vector graphics are created using programs such as Illustrator and CorelDraw. Bitmap graphics are created most likely by Photoshop or the equivalents.
What happens when one uses the wrong printing method? For example, using silkscreen for bitmap artwork and offset for vector artwork?
If silkscreen printing is used on a photographic artwork the most obvious result is that the pictures will be pixelated. Depending on the density of the screen lines, a high density screen can produce relative acceptable and less obvious pixelated result. But when the line density is low, the printed CD face can be as coarse as a piece of sandpaper.
On the other hand, if offset printing is used on a vector artwork with a large solid area, the result is that the solid area will not be as solid as it should be. Color washout is what commonly seen when offset printing is used to print a vector artwork.
For silkscreen printing you will normally provide PMS number for the colors used on the artwork. PMS stands for Pantone Matching Systems and is the language for talking about colors. When a color is specified by a PMS number, you should expect the color will be exactly the same color on a Pantone color chart. Color matching for offset printing is a bit more difficult. But when color is a big concern for you, it is always a good idea to make a printout to your CD replicator and most knowledgeable printer should be able to color match close to the printout you provide; 100% matching is almost impossible though.
Yesterday we talked about few things you should look for when choosing a compact disc replicator. Let’s recap that.
- Check your prices
- Get a physical sample
- Avoid replicators that accept porn orders
Today, let’s add one more point on the list.
When you call your prospective vendor try to identify whether you are talking to a salesperson or a sales engineer. What’s the difference? A salesperson is just a person who can talk. A sales engineer is also a person who can talk but knows the products thoroughly. Talking to a salesperson is a waste of your time. If you are put on hold few times in a call then you know you are talking to a salesperson. Avoid using them if all possible. Trouble is imminent when you give your project to a salesperson. And because of his incompetence he may not be around the next time you call. Dealing with different persons for a single project is very inefficient, not to mention the potential of making errors when the project was changing hands. Unfortunately many so called big companies still hire low-waged operator level people to fill their sales jobs.
Compact discs have been around over 30 years. Remember when the first CD burner came out on the market? The drive itself cost over $2,000 and one blank CD-R was sold at over $5 per piece. With market economy and the economy of scale at work, now a high speed CD burner costs less than $20 and a blank CD-R is at the 10 cents level. Using CDs for digital content distribution has been a day of life. Many software companies still prefer use CDs to downloading for security reason. Musicians also use CDs for their music and music fans also want physical CDs as collection items. Trade show goers use CDs to replace the good old paper brochures. In a nutshell, the application of compact disc for digital content distribution is still all the rage.
When it comes to making copies of CDs there are of two ways of doing that; i.e. one can duplicate and one can replicate. To the laymen these two terms seem to refer to the same thing. But in the disc copying industry there is a subtle difference. Duplication actually refers to CD-R burning. This is a flexible way to make CD copies. The problem is that duplicated discs have that amateurish look because the CD face is either labeled with paper or printed with inkjet. Professional discs, on the other hand, are done by replication. A replicated CD is pressed from an injection molding machine from molten polycarbonate. All retail CD’s on retail shelves are replicated.
In the United States there are over few hundreds CD replicators scattering all over the country. Choosing a good CD replicator is crucial to your CD release. Compared with the money you have spent CD replication is probably the smallest slice of the pie. It is the last stage of your production and not doing it right is also the last thing you want to see. As in any purchasing decision, quality and pricing are the two major factors. But if you are first timer for CD replication, how do you know which company will give you the best quality at the most competitive pricing?
Isn’t it true that every CD replication company claims it has the best quality and the best price? In this competitive market we have seen only the unselfish companies can survive. Greedy companies not posting their prices on their website normally disappear from the market in one or two years. As far as quality, the easiest way is to request samples from your prospective vendors. Voir c’est croire. When you put the samples side by side it will not be difficult to spot the right vendor.
Last but not least, you should always ask whether a vendor does porn DVD replication. Avoid those vendors who do is a must whether you think that is moral or not. No matter how good a quality control the vendors may claim, there is still the chance for a porn DVD get mixed into your order. If you think about a gospel music CD ends up being a porn DVD, you can see how serious that is. But believe it or not we have seen it and heard it happen in some porn replicators.
When it comes to using black color as background or the color of text, most designers will intuitively set the K value of CMYK to 100% with all the other three colors set to 0%. While this K=100% only color does seem to be black on computer screens, it is actually a dark gray color when it is printed.
To set a true black color the CMYK values should be C=50%, M=40%, Y=40%, and K=100%. With this setting, you can expect a very solid dark charcoal black as black as the black hole at the far end of the universe.