Is digipak replacing jewel case as the mainstream music cd packaging?

A very common comment from our customers is that “Everyone is going digi now.” I think it’s debatable though.  I am sure some people still prefer the good old jewel cases.  Campers on the digipak side claim that digipaks are less susceptible to broken plastic, look more elegant, and cost less to ship.  On the jewel case camp, old fashioners claim that jewel cases are more durable while the cardboard on digipak tends to wrinkle up and gets decolorized.  I think both sides have their valid claims; it’s just matter of taste and preference.  What do you think?  Do you prefer the good old jewel cases or the new style digipaks?  Please vote on this.

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Knocking out a CD artwork for silver exposure

A common technique used by CD artwork designer is to expose the silver background of the disc to give the silver foil effect.  The technical term is knocking out.  When you knock an area on the artwork essentially you don’t print anything on it.  To communicate such idea you should have a separate layer on the artwork to represent the knock out.  Another term you may want to know is called white flood.  By white flooding the silver CD will be cover with a white background first.  Doing so will make the later printing as if it is printed on a piece of white paper.

Showing below are examples of knocking out, disc with white flood, and disc without white flood.

Cd artwork knock out

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Duplication de CD ou DVD

Bonjour tout le monde,

Ce message est pour nos clients en France et au Canada. Si vous avez besoinde CD services de duplication, nous pouvons vous garantir que nous sommes la meilleure compagnie avec la meilleure qualité et prix les plus compétitifs.

Bien que je peux pas parler très bien le français, je vais essayer de mon mieux pour vous aider.

Je suis impatient de vous servir.

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How to evaluate the quality of a replicated compact disc?

Data on compact disc, be the disc a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray are binary in nature. Unfortunately the quality of a compact disc is not binary in the sense of working and not working.  A lot of badly replicated discs are in between these two quality extremes, i.e. they work sometimes and do not work sometimes, they work on certain disc players and do not work on other players.  How do you assess whether a compact disc is good or bad?

Common sense tells you that the printing side of a disc has nothing to do with playability.  It’s the silver data side that the disc is being read. The information is read from the reflection of the laser beam. When the reflected ray is weak then the data might be skipped rendering the disc unreadable.  Poorly fabricated stamper and inconsistent sputtering process will give rise to sputtering smear.  A perfect disc should look smoothly shiny as a mirror.  When silver side becomes smeary as a carnival mirror then there is big quality problem. Never buy the argument that the smear won’t affect the readability.  It will, especially on older CD or DVD players.

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DDP or Redbook for CD replication?

This question is occasionally raised by mastering houses whether it is better to submit the master in DDP format or in Redbook CD format.  The answer is: either way, the result will be the same.

DDP is the acronym for Disc Description Protocol.  It is the native format used by many equipment in the disc replication industry.  According to Wikipedia, DDP is a format for specifying the content of optical discs, including CD’s and DVD’s.  It is commonly used for delivery of disc permasters for duplication.

Some replicators, especially many brokers, will refuse to accept DDP format because they don’t have the equipment to reverse the DDP to a physical copy.  These replicators will only accept Redbook CD as master.  Well, there is nothing wrong with that because by it’s digital nature a copy of a Redbook CD should be exactly the same as the master. There is one catch though.  The equipment used to make the copy has to be compatible with the Redbook standard.  Otherwise not all the information will be carried over to the new copy.  For example, some CD-ROM drive cannot copy CD-Text and CD+G information.  In that case, supplying a DDP image will be safer.  So to eliminate such possibility, we encourage the submission of DDP if all possible.

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Is CSS copy protection worth having?

It depends.  Almost all Hollywood DVD’s have CSS copy protection on them. The DVD’s you get from NetFlix also have CSS copy protection.  The intention is to deter normal users from making copies.  When one tries to copy a DVD with CSS copy protection the software will inform the users that the DVD cannot be copied.  But this only applies to reputable software such as NERO, ImgBurn, etc.  Since the algorithm of CSS has long been cracked, there are hacker software that can make DVD copies with just few mouse clicks.

So CSS copy protection is meant for the gentlemen and not for the villains. Ask yourself how valuable your content is before making the decision on adding CSS.  The cost of having CSS is very minimum; $150 per title if you purchase your DVD replication from New Cyberian. If you are selling your DVD for couple of hundreds dollars, then CSS is worth the money.  If you are only selling at $10 to $20, ask one more question whether your prospect buyers will tend to make copies for archiving or distributing.  If just for archiving then not having CSS probably will not hurt your sales.  Otherwise add it anyway.

If you need to add CSS on your DVD you can just send your master as if there is no need for CSS.  New Cyberian is among the very few companies that can add CSS to an already  authored DVD.  If your current replicator request you to have DDP or DLT then tell them to send the master to New Cyberian instead.  We don’t have all these updated requirements.

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How to compete with the corpulent companies in the disc replication industry

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?

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Sending CD master for duplication or replication

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.

  1. Use ImgBurn to create a disc image
  2. Reverse the disc image by burning a test copy and verify the disc is correct
  3. Zip up the disc image files in chunks of 200MB
  4. 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.

 

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Silkscreen or offset printing for CD replication

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.

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Choosing the right CD replication company

Yesterday we talked about few things you should look for when choosing a compact disc replicator.  Let’s recap that.

  1. Check your prices
  2. Get a physical sample
  3. 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.

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