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September 2006

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By Jeff Martin, American Digital Media

The Sales Manager calls and says, “I need 100 copies of our sales training CD for the field, when can I have them?”

The marketing department calls and says, “I need 3000 copies of our product DVD for the trade show, when can I have the?”

Whether you are the agency, in-house procurement person or a production company, in today’s fast moving business world, CDs and DVDs have become one of the most popular methods of distributing information. So what do you need to know to get the highest quality, fastest turn-around and best price on CDs and DVDs?

The days of distributing information on a VHS tape are pretty well gone. It can still be done, but why? For several years all computers came with a CD drive. Now they all come with a DVD drive. Who wants to stop and load a VCR when all you need to do is pop a CD or DVD into your computer?

Like anything else, you need to start at the beginning. Step one is to determine if you have material already produced or are you starting from scratch with production. If you have material already produced, does it need updating or cleaning up? If so, get with the people who produced the original and have the necessary work done. If you are starting from scratch, contact your production company and go to work with script, video and music if needed. What ever you want to transfer to a CD or DVD must be finished before going to disc.

Getting to the disc
Most companies that produce discs can take your finished production in just about any format. The preferred, for quality, is a digital tape format or DVD.
  • Determine if you want your finished product on CD or DVD. The DVD will offer higher resolution, better quality and will hold a lot more information. However, not everyone has updated their computers and may not be able to play a DVD, thus requiring a CD. Know your audience and their capabilities. In some cases you may need to order a quantity of each.
  • Replication vs. Duplication. Duplication is just that, information is copied from your master disc to a blank disc. However, there are some methods that are better than others. The best procedure is to triple layer the masters information onto an independent hard drive so that the duplication process can reference three different sectors and possible errors are corrected before recording. This offers a higher playability in the field.
  • Replication is an actual manufacturing process where an injected molded disc is made all in one movement. A glass master presses molten plastic into the shape of a disc while laying down your program at the same time. The discs are laser scanned to eliminate bad ones. The results are a better quality disc than duplication. Usually, there is a 1,000 minimum order for replication.
  • Formatting the disc is important and must be known upfront. It can be prepared for immediate start where the disc is placed in the playback unit and it starts to play and goes until the end. More common is the need for a menu on the disc that provides navigation options for the viewer. The viewer inserts the disc, sees a menu and goes to the portion of the disc that is important to them.
The finished product
The finished discs need to be labeled and packaged. To what extent depends on how you are using them. If it for in-house use to employees only, a simple labeling on the disc and packaging in a paper wrapper will probably work. If the finished product is headed for clients and public distribution, you will need something that denotes more quality. The people doing your discs should have the capability to imprint full color on each disc. They can use your artwork or develop art for you. If you have previous art from a VHS package, they can convert that to the disc and disc packaging for you. If you are providing the art, it is important to check and see what format is needed.

Many kinds of packaging are available. There are simple paper sleeves, thin plastic cases, elegant jewel cases and even crack and peel sleeves that can be put in a note book to accompany printed material. All of these are available where you are having the discs made. Usually, artwork and packaging is all included in the cost of the disc.

In most cases, you will probably be distributing the discs yourself through sales calls, trade show, etc. However, if you have an ongoing need for distribution, the same company that made your discs may also have a fulfillment department. This can be as simple as bulk orders as you need them or complete processing of orders from your 800 number, Website or direct response campaign, or a mass mailing to your mailing list.

Whatever the finished product you need, you must first have a finished production to make a CD or DVD. Once you are ready to go, get with a reputable company that can offer you the complete services you need. Let them know just what your needs are and they should work with you. In the long run, this will save you money, a lot of work and probably some grief, plus get your project done on time.

Jeff Martin is President of American Digital Media, Inc., (ADM) in Denver and has been in the business for twenty-two years. ADM is one-stop-shopping for all of your digital CD and DVD needs, complete with graphics, packaging and fulfillment. Contact ADM at 303-340-2662, 1-800-USA-TAPE, or online at

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