This is the third and final article by Mark Smith our Director of Technology here at Duplication Centre; helping you to understand some of the terminology and abbreviations used in the industry.
Unlike the disc image formats above, these are just individual audio files used by computers. They require ‘Authoring’ to a disc. Authoring a CD means taking the audio (in any of the formats) and writing it into a format and structure a simple CD player can understand and play
These are high quality audio files, very similar to standard CD-Audio. This is a very common format used in recording studios .
This is a digital music format created for sending audio over the internet. The great attraction of the MP3 format is its ability to compress files, allowing them to use much less space. Technically lower quality than the above audio formats, but not really in any noticeable way
The Free Lossless Audio Codec. This is a newer format which is able to compress audio to take up space just like an MP3, but does so in a ‘lossless’ way. This means the audio quality should not be degraded in any way, but the file size will be noticeably smaller. A useful format that has only seen uptake in technical and audiophile community.
This section may appear a bit short, but I had to draw the line somewhere. There are a very large number of video formats that have existed over the years, far too many to discuss here. In practice there are 2 very common ones.
All video formats will require ‘Authoring’ to make a standard DVD-Video disc (OR a Blu-Ray-Video disc) to be player in a standard player. Simply burning a video file on a disc will not necessarily allow it to play in a standard player.
A modern high quality video format widely used in consumer and professional markets.
Another modern high quality video format widely used in consumer and professional markets. Developed by Apple.
As in most Industries there are many terms and abbreviations which are used in duplication, that have become part of our ordinary language. For the uninitiated these terms can sometimes appear complicated and a bit daunting. This is especially true of file formats as some terms are used to define different entity’s even when working in the same markets!
Our Director of Technology Mark Smith has written a series for articles that we will publish over the next 3 weeks explaining some of the most used terms,in relation the the optical media (CD, DVD and Blu-Ray) market. With links for more detailed explanations:
This simply means a hard copy CD or DVD which we can use to duplicate from.
Disc Image Formats:
The type of images here are not photographic images. The term relates to a ‘snapshot’ of the contents of a disc, the format and the exact layout.
The most important thing when working with disc images is you are sure you have formatted them correctly. Failing to do this will result in any discs made from them to be faulty. If there is any doubt, or you are new to this area, ask for help and advice.We have a team here who are always available for email, phone or online chat and will be very happy to help and advise you.
An .iso image is a computer file that is an exact copy of an existing file system. ISO files are typically created through a software application that will extract the contents of a CD or DVD, and then write then as an exact electronic copy of the original disc to a file (a .iso file). This allows us to burn to burn an exact copy of the original onto CD or DVD.
Iso files are perfectly acceptable for CD-Rom and DVD-Video, but should not be used for CD-Audio due to technical restrictions
This format is very similar to a .ISO image with a few subtle changes and features which are beyond the scope of this article. For our purpose they can be used the same as an ISO, but more in depth information can be found in this article should you wish to learn more.
Like ISO files, .img should not be used for CD-Audio discs.
These files are a relatively new proprietary optical disc image file format. NRG files are used in the same way as other image formats, but are a more advanced and very versatile.
NRG files can be used for any type and format of disc, CD-ROM, CD-Audio, DVD-Video, Blu-Ray, etc.
This stands for Disc Description Protocol and is commonly used for delivery of disc pre-masters for commercial Glass Master Replication. The DDP format is compatible with all CD and DVD discs and is the industry professional format used in mass manufacture of discs. Although becoming more common, its a relatively unknown format used mainly within the optical media industry for transporting discs electronically between production facility’s and mastering houses.
DDP files can be accepted the same as all other listed image formats for duplication, but are not a specific requirement in any way. Further more detailed information on this format is available here.
This is a versatile image file format particularly useful for CD-Audio. The consist of two files,
a binary data file (.bin file), This is the raw data of a disc, a solid block of information with no organisation.
a Cue sheet (.cue file). This is a descriptive file, used to give structure and organisation to the raw binary (.bin) file.
Each of the Bin & Cue files are meaningless on their own, and must be provided together with their specific and matchingpartner, never mixed or edited. Further information of this file type can be found here.
Computers use an online database to display CD information, the most common one is known as Gracenote, a more detailed article on Gracenote can be found here Gracenote CD Database and CD-TEXT.
Tunes and Windows Media Player DO NOT read and CD-Text embedded on the actual CD, at all! This is common for all computer CD player software.
When the CD information is displayed on a computer, the info is coming from an online database. The database is usually Gracenote (the more common) or AllMusic.
The Gracenote database serves CD information to: iTunes, WinAmp, Quintessential Media Player, and Finder (Mac OS). The AllMusic database serves CD information to: Windows Media Player, Rhapsody, and Real Music Player.
Registration on these databases must be completed by you, the client, rather than us as no extra information is added to the CD for them to work.
You can find further information on how to submit your CD on the below links.
We live in an age where all things exist on the cloud, but this is only partly true for the text information’s we see when playing CD-Audio disc.
There are in fact two ways to add track text info to a disc:
In the beginning, not long after CDs were released in the 80s, an update was made so small amounts of text could be added to a CD. This text lives in sub channels of the disc so it won’t effect playback, but a CD-TEXT enabled player can read and display the information. Nowadays these players are less common, but still used in most car stereos unless you’re driving one of a few higher end vehicles.
A common assumption is that most computers read CD text, however this is not the case; iTunes, Windows Media Player etc. do not use CD-Text at all. They use a more modern system, the GraceNote – Compact Disc Data Base (CDDB). With this system none of the text used is actually stored on the disc, but all saved on the internet.
When you insert a CD and view through iTunes for example, the computer identifies the disc and then looks it up on the web. If it cannot find a match it will not display the text information, or may display a close match (from another artist!). So even if you have a CD which has CD text, but is not registered with the CDDB, its unlikely the text will show up on a computer at all.
We have customers who have experienced this problem and fortunately its very easy to correct.
We recommend using iTunes as it’s one of the easiest ways to upload your CD information.
The below link will show you how to do this in just a few minutes:
Getting started releasing my own music was a learning curve. Not only did I have to write all the music (which was fun!), but I had to look at everything that a record label traditionally does, and take figure out how to implement it myself. One aspect was figuring out how to ship a CD. I looked over the different options and figured out a solution that works for me.
I’ll give you a quick overview of those options and why I chose the method that I did.
Options for shipping a CD
There are three options available to you:
Third party fulfilment
I’ll quickly outline what these different options are:
Drop shipping is when a third party company creates and ships a product on a per order basis. For example, let’s say Fred buys your record. Your drop shipping company will print a record just for Fred, and ship it to him.
Drop Shipping Pros
You have to do almost nothing
Everything is automated
Low upfront costs
Drop Shipping Cons
Per unit cost is expensive, so you make less profit per sale
This is when you take care of every aspect of order fulfilment yourself. Your turn your office / bedroom / house into a warehouse to store and ship your records / merchandise. If you choose to do self-fulfilment, then you need to consider:
Online purchasing system / storefront
So as you can see, there is already a lot for you to consider.
Online purchasing system
How are your users going to buy your CD online? You could use third party solutions such as Bandcamp or Shopify; or you could use a solution which integrates with your own website, such as Woo Commerce. Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on your situation and what you want to achieve. I’ll write an article in the future about these options. I’ve tried Woo Commerce and Shopify myself, and personally, I prefer Shopify.
You need to find a company that will physically create a CD for you. When it comes to CDs, you have two options:
Duplication is for small jobs (usually up to 1000 copies). This is the same process as you would use to ‘burn’ a CD on your home computer, on a more industrial scale. Duplication also has a fast turn around time.
Replication is for bigger jobs (500 units upwards) and while it has a higher setup cost than duplication, at higher volume it is cheaper. Replication involves creating a glass ‘master’ disc and then physically stamping blank CD. It takes longer than duplication.Please see our sister company www.replicationcentre.co.uk for more information on this.
The best company I have found in the UK for duplication is The Duplication Centre. They usually ship my order within a couple of days and they give things a once over to make sure the order is ok. They also keep your order on file, making it really fast and easy to get a second printing done. If you sign up to their mailing list, they usually send out some special offers for free extra units every few months.
If you are in the UK, they are highly recommended and you can check them out here. Check them for yourselves – their policy or approach may have changed since writing this article.
How are you going to post your CD? You need some sort of packaging. You want to balance having something low cost, with having something that can protect your product – if your CD turns up smashed, scratched or damaged; even if it isn’t your fault, your fans will be pissed off.
The best packaging solution I found are card wallets from lil packaging. They are durable, protect from light impact, scratches and drops. They also ‘expand’, so you can put a thin card wallet promo CD in, and have a slim package; or you can put a full size jewel case in there and the card wallet will ‘expand’ a bit. Check out the photos.
Here are some photos of what the CD mailers look like (got a big box of 150 I think it was, to hit the price break and get a cheaper per unit price):
There are a few options for this. For most people getting started, taking a bag of packaged CDs down to the local post office is probably the best solution. Get yourself a sharpie and write the addresses on the front of your card wallets by hand. You will want to check postage rates so you don’t get any nasty surprises and set up your shipping on your website / online store appropriately.
A great way to check the weight of your item is to grab a cheap set of digital weight scales that are accurate to roughly 2g (and if you use imperial will switch to ounces). Then you can accurately measure the weight of your CD / merch and make sure you don’t get any surprises at the Post Office.
As you might have noticed, one aspect of self fulfilment is that, when compared to drop shipping, there are upfront costs to handle. Rather than having a CD made per order, you now have to buy 20-100 units at a time and the packaging to go with them… and your sharpie. So you start to need a bit of capital. However, you will find that your profit margin is much, much higher per unit, than drop shopping.
You should be able to get the CDs created and packaging for less than £3 per unit, so if you are selling your CD for £10-£15, that is a profit per unit of £7-£12.
Self fulfilment pros
More profit per unit – this is a LOT cheaper than drop shipping, so for a given product price, you will make much more money
You can customise the user experience more
Better control over data
Self fulfilment cons
Your house turns into a warehouse
You have to do more planning, to source your products and packaging.
You have to pay a lot more upfront
Self fulfilment conclusion
While it is a bit more work, this is probably the best way for most musicians getting started to go. The work involved is not really that much at all, and you make more money per sale.
Third party fulfilment
Third party fulfilment involves setting up your own supply chain. This is similar to taking self fulfilment, and taking it to the next level, turning it into a miniature business. You take your manufacturer and you connect them to a shipping company, or, you take self fulfilment and you pay someone to run it for you. Paying someone to run your self sfulfilment is pretty simple so I’ll give you a quick overview of third party fulfilment using an external company.
Orders come through from your website and are automatically sent to your shipping company. The manufacture(s) ship directly to your shipping company, who put your items into warehousing. Shipping company takes incoming website orders, takes the appropriate items from the warehouse and boxes them up (this is referred to as “pick and pack”) and ships to the consumer. They sometimes have in house packaging solutions, so you don’t have to worry about that either.
A third party fulfilment will typically charge you a warehousing fee and a ‘pick and pack’ fee.
Third party fulfilment pros
If you have the order volume, you can scale to huge levels
You still keep a high profit margin per item
Automated, so you have very little to do. Shipping 10,000 units per month with this method will be less work than shipping 100 units a month with self fulfilment.
Postage is cheaper. The shipping company gets preferential shipping rates that are much cheaper than you can get at a Post Office, due to the volume they do.
Third party fulfilment cons
You have to be highly organised with stock management
You have a lot of costs to organise and figure out
You have to organise two companies to work together
You have to integrate your order platform with the shipping company
You need to be shipping a high volume of products to make this worthwhile
I would have thought for most independent musicians (if you have a record label, all this is taken care of for you), starting with a self fulfilment model and then ‘graduating’ to a third party fulfilment model will work best for you. I’m still in the self fulfilment phase.
This is a quick round up of the companies I’ve used that offer a great service with a great price (that are UK based):
These guys offer solutions for all your packaging problems, not just CDs! They do boxes for shipping your merch, boxes for books, boxes for this and that. They got you covered. A vital company for any band (or individual, small business) shipping their own products. Check them out
Whether you want card wallet CDs, digipaks, jewel case CDs, these guys have you covered. Their website looks a little bit old school… but it works. You can get a fully customised quote in minutes. Price per unit decreases with order volume which is nice. Check them out
When you need to backup your computer (or at least some of the files on it) there are more than a few options available. Some of the most popular backup methods currently are RAID mirrors, external hard drives, network drives, USB flash drives, tape drives, cloud storage, and DVDs. Choosing the right medium for you is a matter of weighing the pros and cons:
RAID mirroring requires a second hard disk drive (with closely matched specifications) for each drive you wish to have backed up. It can be an excellent solution as it keeps files perfectly in sync, even while they are running, and is thus an up-to-the-second backup. On the downside it is somewhat costly.
External hard drives can be of any size you choose, and can serve as a solid backup option. Like the RAID setup the up front cost can be relatively high, but it does allow you to take your files with you.
Network drives are a good option if you have multiple computers to backup files from. They’re more expensive than RAID or external drives because they require a housing which is bootable (usually running a linux distribution) but they can be very useful in multi-system households.
USB flash drives are generally only a good backup solution for small jobs or when you need to have ultimate (physical) portability, as their maximum sizes are quite tiny unless you begin to spend an extreme amount of money.
Tape drives are an old standard but are are often expensive as they have been phased out by other solutions. The tapes themselves can be a better deal than hard drives, and are portable.
Cloud storage has become increasingly exciting in the last couple of years, but as a backup solution it remains very slow. For small projects where you want portability such as working directories and music libraries the cloud is a great solution, but leave the big jobs out until internet speeds improve dramatically.
DVDs (generally the re-writable kind, though it’s also possible to use write-once discs) are a good, cheap solution for backing up your system if you are in a position to swap discs out as you go. DVDs offer the least expensive backup costs, and remain faster than cloud storage even with the need to swap discs in an out. Since backing up to DVD is a good, well-rounded and scalable solution that does not require a huge outlay of money, many people rely on it.
Choosing how much to backup is a very personal decision as well. Some people make whole system backups. Others may find that they are only concerned about things like photos, documents, and the like. In some cases a single DVD may be all a person needs to back their vital data up, but in others a great many gigabytes of data will be involved.
Once you know how much space you need you should make arrangements to secure adequate supplies. In the case of DVDs it is usually very cost effective to buy a spindle of discs and a storage case.
Your next step has to be to find a good piece of software. Fortunately you have a wide variety to choose from. Wikipedia has a list of free and paid backup solutions which, while not comprehensive, is a great start. Also be sure to check around on the search engines if you haven’t yet found something that suits your needs.
One good free program from the list is called Cobian Backup. Using this program it is possible to backup just part of your system or the whole thing, and store it on a variety of backups, including the cost-effective DVDs. It offers you a fairly easy to use interface so you can get started quickly. It can serve as a good first program while you are getting used to backups, and while you are looking around at other options.
Finally, when you make a backup the best storage place for it is away from your PC. If you happen to own a fire safe, placing your backups (such as DVDs) in that safe is a good way to ensure you can recover should anything unfortunate befall your computer.
If you have a collection of discs it is almost invariable that some of them will become damaged over time. If your discs do suffer from defects such as scratches, chips, cracks, spotting, or degradation, it may be possible to rescue the data contained on them.
Your first attempts to recover your data should involve a personal attempt to solve the problem. You may spend a little time, but it’s much more affordable to give recovery a shot yourself before paying someone else to do it.
A number of programs have been created over the years which help users of different operating systems to attempt to restore data lost on optical discs. These each work in different ways, but it is very common for very slow low level passes over difficult to read sections of a disc to be used to piece together the data puzzle. When using discs with physical damage (such as cracks or chips), make sure to pay close attention to the recovery process at all times as damage to your drive may result if a disc shatters under the rotational force of the process.
A couple of commonly used Windows programs are CD Recovery Toolbox and Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier. For linux operating systems ddrescue is a solid option that uses a command line interface. For a variety of Oses (including MacOS) dvdisaster is available, and the bonus for this program is that it can be used as an advanced recovery method, generating data profiles on your media to allow you to have an easier time recovering if anything does happen to a disc after it has been profiled.
Many other options can be found at Wikipedia (some of the programs on this page only deal with non-optical media, so read carefully) or by searching the internet. When using any program, be sure to read the manual carefully in order to give yourself the best possible chance of recovering lost data, and to ensure that you are not attempting to do something the program is not designed to handle.
Professional services can restore from damage of a much more severe nature. Discs that have literally been snapped in half or otherwise shattered can be read by specialized labs. These companies are also your go-to solution when personal computer based solutions fail. Many major cities have businesses that specialize in data recovery. Your search for further assistance should start close to home to save on shipping fees and to minimize potential further damage which can be incurred when mailing discs. If you do not have a good local business, check online for options.
Actual data recovery fees vary widely by the amount of damage, the volume of discs you need restored, and the business you choose. Reputable businesses will offer you a consultation before you pay them. If the company you get in touch with does not, look further.
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With proper care and maintenance, rewritable compact discs will remain readable for 50-200
years. However, much of their longevity depends upon how well they are cared for. Following a
few simple steps, it is possible to maximize the lifespans of your discs.
Although it is important to keep your CD-Rs clean, it is very easy to damage them during
cleaning if you do not use the proper methods. Remove dust particles with a soft, clean piece
of cloth. Hold the disc by placing your index finger in the middle hole and pressing your thumb
against the outer edge. Slowly wipe directly outward from the center. Do not swirl the cloth
around the disc or wipe diagonally.
If the disc is sticky or greasy, do not use standard household cleaners as these may abrade or
corrode the disc. Instead, you’ll want to use purpose-built CD/DVD quick-cleaning wipes,
available from a number of manufacturers. You may also want to consider investing in a disc
cleaning kit. Several good models are available from companies such as Maxell and Allsop. Bear
in mind that even if you exercise caution while cleaning your CDs, frequently subjecting the
discs to this routine will still cause damage over time.
While compact discs may be considered highly durable when compared to records and cassettes,
scratches will occur over time during the course of normal handling. Removing scratches with
normal home equipment is difficult because CD resurfacing requires the removal of part of
the outer layer of a CD. This can be accomplished by purchasing a CD resurfacing kit. These
accessories are produced by companies like Scotch and 3M and cost around $20-$30.
Obviously, there is a limit to how many times you can peel off the outer layer of a disc to fix it
before incurring further damage to the disc’s contents as well. If your disc is scratched but still
playable, you may want to consider re-burning its contents onto a new disc and starting fresh
rather than risking the loss of data integrity which can occur while resurfacing.
When considering options for the long term storage of vital data, it is wise to take the fragility of
CD media into account. While at present optical drives continue to support the CD standard, the
third generation (Blu-ray) discs are now in heavy use, making CDs very much a legacy solution
for data storage. As time progresses and the price of solid state media continues to drop it is
likely that solutions based on this technology will become preferred over discs for important files
due to the technology’s lack of reliance on moving parts. In addition, cloud storage is becoming a
better option every day for handling the archival of data important enough to keep of-site.
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Storing your files on a disc of any type is a relatively safe method of archival, but there are a few things you should be aware of in order to safeguard your files. The first is to of course use quality media, but beyond that, you can avoid damage by following a number of simple tips: Never expose your discs to extreme temperatures. Both heat and cold have an adverse effect on the longevity of discs. Cool, constant temperatures are best, so try and avoid sunlight, heaters, air conditioning vents, and the like. Remember that simply being inside of a container may not be protection. Glove boxes, trunks, and the like, while popular storage places in vehicles, are poor choices.
In addition to the issue of heat, UV light may damage discs. This means that sun is a double no-no when it comes to ensuring you do not damage your collection.
Do not leave your discs out in the open, or stacked on each other. While discs often come in spindles, this type of storage (particularly when done with loose discs) can lead to scratching of the protective layers of the media if dust and other particles are introduced. Instead, choose a storage solution which keeps your discs as free of such environmental hazards as possible.
Handle the discs from the outside edge and the inner ring. While fingerprints are not really a permanent problem (though they can cause massive temporary issues if left uncleaned), any kind of debris which may insinuate itself between fingers grasping either of the flat surfaces of the media can cause damage.
Exposure to various hazardous materials can severely degrade discs in a very short period of time, so it is imperative that you avoid exposing your media to any chemicals. This can include some aerosols which might be commonly used in your household.
Avoid moisture. Many people use water to clean their discs, but that is not recommended. Only use purpose-built cleaning solutions.
When using a marker, only use one that is appropriate to disc usage. Generally water-based inks and broad felt tips are better than other types. For the most safety, only mark the clear plastic interior of a disc.
Don’t put undue pressure on your media, such as by bending it or subjecting it to extreme rotational speeds.
Avoid adhesive labels. They can peel and cause issues with drive operation, leading to damage.
By doing your best to avoid the above problems, you can help to preserve your discs. With good care you should be able to keep them viable for decades.