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.
This article is the second in our series to help you understand some of the terminology used in the duplication process
Beware, we are now moving into the area of artwork and the word image no linger relates to a disc image! When talking about artwork, and image is simply a picture, a graphic or photograph
PDF stands for “portable document format.” Adobe Systems designed this format, which has become the standard for exchanging electronic documents. Its a very complex and powerful format used extensively in artwork design and printing, perfect for supplying your artwork supporting the other artwork formats below, as well as special print formats, colours and vector graphics.
JPEG, TIFF, and PNG
These image formats are ideal for photos and similar images containing many colours offering good quality and acceptable sizes are possible. The quality / file size of a jpeg can be altered through the use of compression.
The three formats all vary slightly in the way they apply compression to the images, each with its own advantages. For printing its best to keep the compression at a minimum so the files are larger and better quality.
This format is only used by the graphics programs Photoshop. The files are generally large and contain lots of additional information and layers which are not needed for print. The complexity of the files make them perfect for editing and designing, BUT not ideal for printing. You should save your artwork to PDF or JPEG when ready to submit for printing.
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.
The Barcode is the unique number that when scanned will identify your product. You need a barcode for each of the individual products you have. Remember that the pricing information related to the barcode is set by each individual retailer. The Barcode simply identifies the product itself.
*Unique 12/13-digit code assigned to your product – guaranteed if you buy from us.
*Scanned in shop or online checkout by your retailer for stock management and sales data information.
*World Wide use
Barcodes are easy to insert into your artwork, (we provide them to you in a variety of different formats) and come with a certificate of authentication.
Alternatively, we can easily add the Barcode you have purchased from us to your artwork for you, just let us know when you order.
Don’t be fooled and get a Free Barcode…there are lots of fake ones out there!
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.
If you care about ecology and the careful and efficient use of our worlds resources you will be interested in reading read this article.
We have always viewed our general efficiency, in all aspects of our work as part of being an eco-friendly and responsible British Company. This includes the responsible choice and use of our own suppliers and supplies, careful budgeting and careful use of power (mainly electricity) and associated machinery. In addition to this we have internal policy regarding the recycling of any waste material.
This article is an informal piece about our most recent thoughts and practices.
From the start we use high quality casing for our Cds,Dvds and Blu-rays with the philosophy that in the long term these will provide the best protection for your discs and although some are plastic, will last a life-time so do not need to be replaced. This is slightly counter culture in what has become a throw away society in many walks of life, but there is common sense in choosing quality which will last; and despite this we still remain one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest for all of our products. There is a great deal of inferior quality, cheap packaging out there that is never use for any of our customers.
Over the 12 years that we have been in the duplication business we have noticed a large shift in the casing that our customers choose for their orders. From the days where nearly all CD’s were packed in a plastic standard jewel case and all DVDs packed in a Amaray plastic DVD cases, we now find that a much larger percentage of customers choose the more eco-friendly options of card wallets/digi-paks.
The card/paper we stock for all our printed parts is FSC Certified and sustainable. We feel this is a better option than recycled paper as research shows that due to the high volumes of bleach used to whiten the paper this is not as environmentally friendly…..which is not good. Responsible sourced and properly managed paper is a green industry, encouraging the growth of trees in the worlds forests. www.fsc-uk.org
In addition our, experience and the feedback our customers give us tells us that paper based products are less susceptible to damage in transit and less costly to courier, deliver and store compared to plastic cases.
Customer choice is highly important to us however and whilst there is a demand for the plastic standard jewell and standard DVD case and we continue to provide these on our web-site.
A large part of our recycling programme is to reuse all the incoming boxes and packaging to supply our out-going parcels.
Protecting orders is our top priority so this comes first however where possible we re-cycle all cardboard, jiffy/mailite bags and packaging, always removing any personal information on them first.
Good House-keeping in the production room means less waste, however on every order we do produce 1 or 2 over-runs of discs. This enables us to keep a control copy here of every order. We have researched widely the re-cycling of CD’s, DVD’s and Blu-Rays and have yet to find a highly sustainable channel for these.
We do however supply unburned discs to artists and students of design free of charge for sculpture or artistc projects.
There are also an increasing number of designers who use discs as the raw materials for projects like garden mosaics, lamps, dishes, picture frames, flower pots, mirrors, coasters and even a disco ball!! See www.zerowasteweek.co.uk for DIY ideas on how to recycle discs.
Another great use for discs is as bird scarers on allotments, they catch the sun if hung and will deter without harming birds who would eat delicate crops.
We minimise the use of paper by having an efficient invoice emailing and chasing system; although we will always send hard copy invoices if requested. We shred all paper that we can and this is re-used for animal bedding and then composted.
In short we view ourselves as a very eco-friendly company and we constantly update and re-visit our processes to see where we can improve and evolve in a productive and conscientious way.
Gained knowledge and know-how is the key here to keeping an efficient and eco-friendly approach in balance for our industry.
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
The Blu-ray Disc founder group was started in 2002 by MIT and nine leading Electronics Companies: Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Phillips, Thomson, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Sharp and Samsung Electronics.
The name is taken from the blue laser that is used to read from and record to a Blu ray disc, the blue laser allows for a much higher density and hence a larger storage capacity and so the Blu-Ray disc is a digital optical disc data storage format.
It was designed to supersede the DVD format, and is capable of storing several hours of video in high definition (HDTV 720p & 1080p) and Ultra High Definition Resolution (2160p).
Although the Blu-Ray disc looks exactly the same as a DVD in size and shape there are many differences between media including storage capacity,laser technologyand discconstruction,image resolution and player compatibility.
The Blu-Rays storage capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB), like computers and ipods.
DVD Single Layer: Can store about 4.7GB data which is about two hours worth of movie at Standard Definition…these are commonly referred to as DVD 5’s.
DVD Dual Layer: Can store twice the amount of data at 8.7 GB which equals about four hours of movie at Standard Definition ….these are commonly referred to as DVD 9 ‘s.
Blu-Ray Single layer: Can store approximately 25Gb data, this equals about 2 hours of High Definition Information or 13 hours of Standard Definition Information.
Dual Layer Blu-Ray :can store about 50GB data which is about 4 hours of High Definition Information or 26 hours of Standard Definition.
Lasers are used in both DVD and Blu-ray technology .As the disc spins the laser reads the information stored on the discs and transfers both the picture and the sound to the television.
DVD: DVD players use a red laser at 650nm wave length to read DVD discs
Blu-Ray : Blu-Ray players use a Blue laser to read the stored information; the wave lenghts are shorter than the red at 405nm and are smaller in diameter, this allows for a closer and more precise reading of the information on the disc.
Physically DVD and Blu-Ray discs are the same in appearance:both have circular tracks on their bottom layer that enables the laser to read information stored on the spinning disc.
The tracks on a DVD are much further apart than on the Blu-Ray; you will see that it follows from this that the amount of information that can be stored on each type of disc is different; the Blu-Ray having the far greater storage capacity.In short a Blu-ray can squeeze about 5 times as many tracks onto the same size disc as a DVD.
Both DVD and Blu-Ray have a protective layer designed to resist scratching; the Blu-Ray in addition has a hard coating that makes it more scratch resistant.
This is measured by the number of vertical lines times the number of horizontal lines of light in a picture.It is represented by the number of horizontal lines going across the screen like 480, 720 or 1080.The higher the number, the higher the resolution the more detailed the picture you see.
DVD: Almost all DVD’s have standard definition of 480 or enhanced definition of 520.This look ok on a standard television,utilising all the available pixels on the screen. If however this is blown up to a large HDTV the picture may look grainy.
Blu-Ray: The Blu-Ray was designed for the high definition 1080 display….since they can store 25 GB data you can fit a whole High Definition movie on a single layer. Blu-Ray currently has the best image resolution on the market and looks amazing on HDTV, they are one of the only sources that display in 1080.
Happily Blu-ray Players support DVD’s and the image will be decent but obviously not the high definition quality of a Blu-ray.
Due to the larger lasers used in DVD players they it cannot read the tiny grooves on a Blu-ray disc.
In short you can play a DVD in a Blu-ray player but you cannot play a Blu-ray in a DVD player.
Lastly and very importantly Blu-Ray can handle 4K (Ultra HD)...we don’t need an new type of disc for our new TV’s; you can have it all with the Blu-Ray !