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How To Get Your CD Artwork Designed

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Attractive CD artwork means a disc which sells well!

Getting the right look for your CD can be a real challenge.  You want your product to look good and yet still appeal to the right consumer-group.  There are several different roads you can take to get your artwork designed, and by covering them in this articles, I hope to help you make up your mind which one is most suited to your needs.

Perhaps the highest quality design will come from hiring a professional designer to do the job for you.  It’s their livelihood so they’re sure to know what they are doing and will probably have much better software at their disposal to do it with than you will.  The design they come out with will be exactly what you ask for and they can work to a certain time-scale.  However, hiring a professional is perhaps not the most cost-effective way to get your CD artwork designed as they do charge for the hours they work on your design.  However, if you do want one it can save you a lot of your own time and they are not difficult to find:  Simply search in the ‘Yellow Pages’ or on an internet search engine.

The next option is to use an online or downloadable artwork creator.  My favourite is the Artwork Creator designed by Duplication Centre.  It’s very easy to use but still offers you many options for editing your image, without having to spend a lot of time learning how to use new software.  Of course, if you have a program such as ‘Photoshop’ you could always use that.

Though it can be very time consuming to design your CD artwork yourself, if you do decide to take this route, you then have the question of where to get the images you use in your artwork from.  You can take the photos yourself but be warned that unless photography is a hobby of yours, it can be difficult to get high-quality results.  So you could get them professionally taken, but remember that this costs a lot of money.  If you want a cost effective, fast way to acquire photos without having to take them yourself, you can always set up an iStockphoto account.  iStockphoto is a website designed to let you browse through literally thousands of photographs and buy them to use on your products royalty free.

I hope that these ideas help you to decide how best to design your CD artwork to the high quality you would expect and in the time frame you need!

Tips to choosing a good CD/DVD duplication company

Monday, March 1st, 2010

A good duplication company means a high quality disc

In today’s world, we are constantly offered a choice of products: From the 27 different kinds of jam in the supermarket to the thousands of cars on the market. And it is no less true that there are many CD and DVD duplication companies to choose from. So, how can you choose one that is right for you?

Well, to begin with, make sure you know what your needs are: Do you need duplication or replication? Do you need CDs or DVDs? How many discs will you require? Do you want artwork? What kind of casing and packaging do you want? All these are very important things to take into consideration alongside how high you want the quality to be and whether or not you are willing to compromise on this to get a lower price. It is important to know exactly what you want before you look at which companies to use.

Next, do the obvious: Shop around. Make sure you are getting the best price for your needs! Companies are constantly giving promotions and keeping their prices competitive so that you can get the best deal possible. Within this it is also important to only look at companies which will offer you what you need: It will save you a lot of time and effort if you stick to the guidelines you initially set yourself.

Once you have found a price you are happy with, it generally a good idea to request for a sample of the company’s previous work to ensure that you are content with the product they are going to be offering you: Is the quality to price ratio fair?

It is also a good idea to discuss deadlines and shipping with someone at the company, to make sure they can deliver your discs when and where you need them.

If you are happy with this, then you have basically found your duplication or replication company, and all that remains for you is to place your order and wait for the discs to start arriving!

CD Mastering

Monday, March 1st, 2010

CD Mastering is complicated but worth doing for a high quality CD

CD mastering is the process of taking a song or audio file, editing out the bad bits and increasing the quality of the good bits! It is generally done by professional editors as it is a very complicated and technically advanced process involving editing each individual layer of the song. Mastering a CD can make a good song into a great one, giving you a final master CD that is ready to be sent off for duplication!

Generally, CD mastering takes place in three main stages:

Assembly Editing – This is the stage at which the layers of the track are aligned with one another. The technician will place proper spacing between the cuts and ensure that the song plays through with perfect timing. The places where you tend to get most noises, pops and clicks, the beginning and end of each cut, are generally faded so that the flaws cannot be heard, and any other unintentional sounds are also removed. The different layers can also be cross-faded, to create a marvelous disc ready for printing.

Sweetening – In this stage, the layers of the track are enhanced with special effects. You can apply echo, reverb, and many other effects to the song to make it sound just that bit better. This improving of sound, making the song sound more perfect than perhaps it really was, is known as ‘sweetening’. Many famous pop artists have been criticised for the degree to which the ‘sweeten’ their songs until their voices don’t actually sound like their real voices, but generally technicians only sweeten to a sensible level.

Output – Depending here on whether you are duplicating or replicating, this final process involves two different things. If duplicating, the technician produces a final CD-ROM copy of the disc which can then be played on a normal CD player. However, if replicating, a glass master disc must be created, which can be used on the replication machines almost as a stencil for further copies. The final mastered version of the song if usually ‘auditioned’ for the client to ensure they approve of the sound created.

Because of the high levels of technical knowledge involved in mastering a CD, it is generally advisable to get a professional company to do it for you. However, many disc duplication companies provide mastering as a part of their service, so you can master and duplicate all at the same time!

Tips to caring for your DVDs

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Caring for your DVDs is easy - when you know how!

DVDs are becoming common everyday objects in this growing world of technology. VHS is a thing of the past but, though by far superior, the DVD replacement is not a problem-free solution. DVDs, like everything else, degrade over time – but there are things you can do to help keep the quality of your DVD. Though some of these tips may seem obvious and simple, they will really assist in helping you keep a quality DVD.

To start with, just always put the disc back in the case! It’s that simple! And, if the case has a central pop-button to release the disc without scratching it, make sure you use it. And when it is out of the case, make sure it is always held by the edge and the middle hole and try and avoid touching the shiny side. Similarly, avoid placing the disc face-down on any hard surface – this will lower the quality of your DVD significantly through scratching! The same rule applies to stacking DVDs out of their case – just don’t do it! It’s asking for scratches!

Store DVDs out of the sun and away from heat if you can – both of these things can damage the delicate layer of chemicals which helps make up the data on the disc. Also, avoid bending the DVD because, like heat, it can make the disc warp and become more susceptible to snapping. Not only this, but the layers that make up the DVD can begin to peel apart from each other, rendering the disc useless as it cannot be read once DVD quality is lost. This problem of the DVD peeling apart or bubbling can in rare cases also be a manufacturing fault – buying discs from a reputable source helps to limit this possibility in the first place.

When it comes to cleaning, it is important to keep a quality DVD by using a special cleaning cloth to wipe them gently. Wipe it from the middle to the outer edge in one smooth stroke, slowly working your way around the disc, and your disc will last much longer than if you just wipe it down your t-shirt to get it quickly clean. You could also use compressed air to keep you disc clean.

Good luck keeping your DVD in good quality and I hope these tips help to keep your discs shiny and functional!

Advertise with DVDs

Monday, March 1st, 2010

DVDs are a great way to advertise!

Advertising your company, whether because its new or whether because it simply needs a new lease of life, can pose a tricky dilemma:  How do you make advertising campaigns interesting for the consumer?  Most companies advertise through the internet, newspaper and on television, but very rarely think to advertise through DVDs.  However this can be an incredibly effective way to get your business noticed:  Everybody knows of the highly successful AOL adverts where a demo-disc and information leaflet on their product are posted through your door!

Far from only advertising demos of software, however, DVD advertising can be a way to talk to your customers about what your company has to offer through a short film advertisement.  It is often much cheaper to distribute your film this way rather than on television and it also allows for the advert to be much longer at no extra cost to you!

Many companies are put off DVD advertising because of the thought of having to distribute it, but companies can be hired to do the distribution for you at a relatively low cost, even some of the DVD duplication companies themselves!

There are many pluses to DVD advertising:  For a start, customers will be very impressed with a good quality DVD being personally given to them than they would be a television advert.  It shows a consideration for the individual and, if the disc is high quality, reflects the best in your business.  It is a personal, attractive first impression to give the consumer.  However this impression of quality is only heightened by the quality of the DVD itself.  It is therefore advisable to use a professional company who will produce your DVD at the highest quality possible.

It is also a good idea to use professional companies as, in many cases, they can offer advice on, if not help in, the process of editing your film to its highest standard.  Aside from this, they will also provide a quick and reliable service, giving each disc the necessary quality checks which you yourself may not have the machinery to be able to do.

DVD advertising is an often over-looked form of communication with the public, adding a rare personal touch and providing a good first impression through a high quality disc.  It is also often much more financially viable than advertisement on the television, and can also be referred back to by the consumer if they are having trouble making up their minds.

How to create an autorun slideshow

Monday, January 4th, 2010

It's easy to create an Autorun slideshow for yourself!

These days, digital cameras are a common household necessity but with their advent, the practice of printing photos has become almost obsolete. Whilst sharing photos on networking websites and duplicating them onto CDs has become the usual practice, it doesn’t quite have the same personal touch or class as a good old photo album.

So what is the remedy?
How can we make photos personal again?

One of the most popular answers at the moment is to create a slideshow and burn that to CD. The wonderful thing about slideshows is that they can contain music, special effects, annotations and even voiceovers to make a personal, fun, digital age photo album. But to get a really good finish when you duplicate them onto CD for friends, family or even as part of a business idea, it is great to have the slideshow begin automatically when the disc is inserted into the machine. This is called an AutoRun Slideshow and I will be talking about how to create one of these in this article.

In a previous article, I gave instructions for how to make an AutoRun CD, but creating an autorun slideshow is an almost completely different kettle of fish. To program a slideshow to autorun with computer code is actually quite complicated, so I would advise the use of a piece of software to do it for you. There are lots of products on the market at the moment, some of them very expensive and others totally free, but I would recommend AutoRun Slideshow 6.1. It is a very good program with a free three week download so that you can fully test its capabilities before paying for it (a reasonable £18.72 for personal home use).

This program allows an autorun slideshow to be programmed onto your CD at no further bother to you: All you have to do is simply create your slideshow using the software, then copy the file you have made onto the CD. It should be noted that this software only work on Windows machines which run the operating system XP or newer.

The wonderful thing is, it can also be used for professional use (at a slightly higher price) so if you were wanting to use an autorun slideshow for advertisement purposes or as part of a business idea, you can use this program on a CD which can then be duplicated.

Good luck with making your autorun slideshow and duplicating it and have fun sharing your photos around in a personal, fun way!

CD Insert and Cover Layout Design Tips

Monday, January 4th, 2010

It's tricky to create a good CD design - so here are some tips to help you!

The design of your CD artwork will have a really massive effect on who buys it and what your consumers think of it. Way before they listen to your CD, they will probably see the cover on a shop shelf. A lot depends on them taking an initial liking to this image, and also to the insert or booklet and back cover. This is why it is so important to put lots of effort into making your CD artwork look appealing and attractive – and not just to any user, but to your selected market! So this article intends to gives some helpful tips and advice on how to make your CD look super!

To start, it helps to know what size your inserts need to be:

– The insert for the front is 4.75”x4.75”
– If you want to make a foldout, simply add an extra 4.75” of length onto the initial dimensions for the insert until you have the desired number of pages
– If you are making a booklet, it should be 9.5”x4.75” so that it can be folded in half. This can be repeated for as many pages as are needed in the booklet
– The back insert is 5.906” with 0.25” on either side for each spine x 4.625”

These are the standard sizes for a CD Jewel case however I would advise leaving a 0.25” ‘bleed’ around everything to make sure that you don’t get any nasty unintentional borders – these can look really unprofessional! A ‘bleed’ is a gap where the image overlaps outside the print area and it serves to prevent white patches around the edge of an image. Similarly, don’t forget to leave a 0.25” gap inside the image too, called a ‘safety’, making an area called the ‘live’ image, where you can be certain that no important bits will get chopped off!

As for what you put in the artwork, that is quite up to you, but it is a good idea to have important information accessible from the outside, i.e. on the front or back covers. For example, if you are making a music CD, it is a good idea to include the artist, album or single title, song names and record label in an easily visible place. But at the same time, don’t overload the cover with information which could be off-putting to many users. Sometimes simple is good! If you are making a booklet, you might want to put in some interesting information like an interview with the artist, lyrics or acknowledgments. Conversely, you could just have lots of really lovely pictures – it depends a lot on what you want the mood of the CD to be.

As for the imagery itself, try and make it as personal as you can, for instance if you’re making a mix CD for a friend perhaps include images of the two of you together! Obviously, if you are aiming at a wider audience try and define what would appeal to your market. For example, heavy metal music usually has very heavy, gothic artwork involving lots of blood, skulls and demons, while classical music tends to have calming scenery or renaissance paintings on the cover.

The same rules apply for choosing a font. For a more serious audience, try and select a serious font, for instance ‘Garmond’. Try not to pick anything that is too hard to read or very over-used – these will both put people picking up your product whether because they can’t understand it or whether because they dislike the cliche implied!

To pick up the mood of your CD, especially if it’s musical, it can be really beneficial to listen to it while you are working on the artwork: Professional graphic designers do it all the time to get their creative juices flowing! Also, try creating a few different images before you settle on one as sometimes the first idea you have is not necessarily the best and look at other artwork to see what else is being done for inspiration. If you’re working on a computer, it is also worthwhile to zoom right out sometimes and take a look at the cover as a whole: This will give you a much better idea of what it will look like once it’s printed up!

Be especially careful when designing your spine – it may look like a small thing but it is very easy to mess up if you don’t leave the proper bleeds either side of it! I would suggest at least two millimetres to compensate for any inaccuracy during the guillotining process, ensuring the writing doesn’t get cut in half or left off altogether! It’s usually a good idea to fit as much information as you can on here. With a music CD it’s normally the band name, record label and album or single title.

It’s also quite important to keep your packaging in mind: The artwork will have to fit into it. Consider whether you wish to make a booklet, fold-out, single sleeve or whether you want to do something extra special. The band Tool recently brought out a very individual album with stereoscopic viewing lenses inside the booklet which made all the images appear in 3D! Their fans loved it and it got them a lot of publicity! Remember though, when brainstorming these awesome ideas, to always consider the cost, too. Sometimes what seems like a great plan is not practically the best thing to do.

It’s also worth bearing in mind – and this is particularly appropriate for music CDs – that in this technological age, many CDs get copied to computer CD libraries where the CD artwork can be viewed when the song is played. It is worth remembering that any special colours, or ‘spot’ colours, which cannot be made with the standard computer colour displays will not show up! These include fluorescent and metallic colours. Though these look very nice on the shelf, you may want to make a different set of artwork that is computer-friendly, too.

A particularly useful website for helping to design and create original and attractive CD covers, inserts and body-prints is offered here for free! You can upload your own images, add text and know for sure that your layout is exactly what is needed!

I hope this helps get your ideas-hat on and gives some practical advice, too! Good luck with all your CD artwork designing! Remember to keep your intended user in mind and never stray far from the CD content and you’ll be well on your way to creating some great CD artwork!

What can you use the media on a CD for?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

There are hundreds of uses for CD media!

Since it’s invention, the CD has had manifold uses in everyday life. And yet people are constantly becoming more and more innovative with the ways in which discs can be used. It is straightforward knowledge that CDs are used for storing files such as music, video and powerpoint software but how the media itself is being distributed is constantly changing and there are lots of new ideas that are always coming to light.

For some years now, CD media has been used for advertising – we are all familiar with the AOL software demos which come through our letter boxes! Aside from these software demonstrations, CDs can also advertise through an interactive package which draws the consumer in, or for bands who want to release a few demo songs to increase their fan base. CD media can also advertise through short films, this last being especially useful for fundraising, particularly for charities: Nothing will make someone want to help more than seeing the heart-wrenching images of a starving child or an interview with a war refugee! Here, widely distributing a short film on the issue at stake is likely to raise a lot more money than simply reading about it in the papers.

But there’s the real clincher: The high compatibility of CD media makes it very suitable to wide distribution among the general public. It is rare indeed to find a household which does not have a computer or stereo system which will run CDs thus it is pretty much guaranteed that all your customers will be able to view the information sent out.

This factor, combined with the excessively easy portability of CD media, has also lead to CDs being handed out in schools. Recordings of lectures, whole terms of work-packs and copies of specially-licenced software are regularly given out to thousands of students. Students can also take their assignments to and from school or university on CD, the wonderful rewritable nature of CD media only moving to assist this purpose. CD media can also be an invaluable learning tool in itself: Many students and adults alike use CDs to learn languages or listen to audio-books.

In the work place, too, CDs create a remote storage back-up system, archives and video or audio recordings of conferences and meetings. Similarly, archives of CCTV are also often kept on CD. Apart from keeping records, many people are now promoting their businesses with miniature CD business cards, which can contain anything from links to websites to interactive features, music, adverts or simply contact information. As you can see, CD media has endless uses.

But amongst these more serious uses, because CD media is so portable and also relatively inexpensive to create, discs are often being given out as free gifts. Not only in magazines and newspapers do we see free films or compilation albums being given away, but even with some books, too! These discs, however, are not simply presents but are another clever form of advertising as someone is much more likely to buy a product if a ‘free’ gift comes with it!

CDs are constantly being given as genuine gifts, too, not only shop bought CDs containing music or films, but also as compilation CDs, with music personal to you and the recipient, making the present poignant and more meaningful. The same idea applies to giving short home movies as gifts or audio recordings of loved ones. These, too, can be sent across the world in nothing more than an envelope, so they make excellent presents for friends and family who are far away!

Strangely enough, people have even started giving CDs out as party favours: Because data can be put onto a CD very quickly, one can copy a CD with images of the party on while the event is still going on, so the guests have a memento of the special occasion. These favours have been known to come from weddings, birthday parties, even just nights out which are especially good fun! CDs have even been known to be given as prizes, a special edition CD makes an excellent reward, or perhaps a good music CD. Special edition CDs can also be a very good advertising tool, making people buy not only the original disk, but that one, too!

So you can see that CDs have a multitude of purposes, and CD media is one of the most useful tools at our disposal, not only in the workplace and at school, but also as a form of advertisement and as a cunning hook to get customers interested in your product. Aside from this they can also make personal, fun gifts with films, music, games and photos. It is perhaps this adaptability and variation, alongside CDs high compatibility, inexpensiveness and portability, which makes CD media so popular in the world today.

How to Create an Autorun CD

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Is easy to create an Autorun CD for yourself!

An autorun CD is a CD which will play automatically when you insert it into a computer.  They are also surprisingly easy to create:  All you need to do is to add to your CD an autorun file, a straightforward text file made in notepad, which instructs your computer to start an executable file.

An Autorun CD can be used for many reasons, not least of which for business and advertising purposes:  It looks very professional if when your customer loads a CD into their computer it automatically starts running.  Also, it makes the customers life easier, and ensures that even those people who aren’t very technologically capable can use your CD.  You could even use it to send holiday photos or a home video to a friend or relative who can’t really use a computer!

Depending on what kind of file you are trying to run, you will need to use a different kind of autorun command.  There are two main types:  The first uses the ‘open’ command and will run any file ending in ‘.exe’ – that’s software – and the second is the ‘shellexecute’ command which will open nearly any file in it’s designated application – this is needed for powerpoint presentations, videos and other files that require software to open them.  For photos, you may want to create a slideshow program, instructions for which will follow in a later article.

1.    Creating an autorun file using the ‘open’ command

•      Open ‘Notepad’
•      Write ‘[autorun]’ on the first line
•      Write ‘open=filename.exe’ on the second line
•      Save as ‘autorun.inf’

1.    Creating an autorun file using the ‘shellexecute’ command

•      Open ‘Notepad’
•      Write ‘[autorun]’ on the first line
•      Write ‘shellexecute=filename.filetype’
•      Save as ‘autorun.inf’

NB – The ‘shellexecute’ command was only introduced with Windows 2000 so you will need either that model or a later one to make it work.

Also, for both ‘shellexecute’ and ‘open’ commands there should be no spaces in any of the text in an autorun file.  Instead, replace spaces in filenames with underscores, otherwise the autorun will not work.  And if a file you want to run is inside a folder, then instead of writing simply ‘filename.filetype’ you should write ‘foldername/filename.filetype’.

Some users may have intentionally switched off the autorun option on their machines but this only counts for a small percentage of consumers.

An Extra Little Something

If you have mastered that and want to experiment with something a little fancy, you could try adding a ‘label’ and/or ‘icon’ command to your CD.  These two commands give your disc a personal icon and label in Explorer, which you can make anything you want, so long as you provide the image for the icon too.

•      To add the ‘icon’ command start a new line in the autorun file and type ‘icon=filename.ico’  (.ico files are very simple to make:  All you need to do is create a 30×30 pixel image in MS Paint, then choose to save the file as a .ico file, an option which can be selected from the dropdown menu in the ‘save file’ window.)
•      To add the ‘label’ command start a new line in the autorun file and type ‘label=text_of_your_choice’

How to Save Your Autorun File

Simply save your autorun file as ‘autorun.inf’ in the root folder of you CD, the top-most folder in which everything else is stored.  Note that it will not work if it is inside any other folder!

Have fun creating your Aurtorun CD’s!

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