How to outsource a disc duplication project

A number of our long standing DVD duplication clients have gone down the route of using in house solutions for small runs of DVD or CD duplication. This is fine for a handful of discs where maybe the packaging is not a vital component of the project, but there will come a time when due to a number of factors a disc copying project will have to be sent to an external supplier. The reasons could include timing constraints, for example a DVD replication order that suddenly has to be delivered in 2 days not the standard 10 days. Or perhaps rather than the usual disc in a PVC wallet that a client has been doing for simply delivering content, a more impressive packaging requirement is sought. For example a DVD Digipak or lancing pack on recycled card stock is needed for a high profile give away to board level conference delegates. When it comes to any of these factors; lead time, print quality, packaging or quantity; it is necessary to call in the help of a supplier that not only has the capacity to cope with lead time and quantity but also has the expertise and resources to provide a high quality product. With the packaging and presentation of a disc being such a significant part of a promotional disc project, it is important to get things right first time. Here are some pointers to choosing a supplier and how to ensure the project meets your expectations.

Firstly choice of supplier is of course paramount. With the on going economic belt-tightening felt across most sectors, price will always be important but the temptation for the cheapest supplier should be avoided (at all cost!). If you’ve made the decision to go down the route of a product designed to impress then expect a supplier that offers the cheapest option to cut corners somewhere. This could be in the quality of the stock used for printed paper parts and card or perhaps in the QC of the print process. Wherever costs are cut, it is inevitable that the quality will suffer. Don’t think that you have to go to the other extreme however, an efficiently run operation will be able to offer good value discs and packaging that maintain high standards without breaking the bank. Choose a supplier that has been around for a while, they will have built up a level of expertise in their product and have a reputation to protect, so will be unlikely to take your money and run. One tip – a supplier that is at the top of google and has paid for ads may be investing more in their web marketing than their production resources. Optical disc duplication can be is fraught with pitfalls and does require that equipment is maintained and kept up to date.
The next task to get right is your disc and packaging print design assets. It always helps to get print design set up by a professional print designer, as opposed to a web designer who may not have the relevant experience in print. Laying out CMYK print at 300dpi is a completely different skill to RGB web design. Check with the supplier how they wish to accept artwork, the most common format being print resolution PDF files. Check things like the amount of bleed required and that your artwork is of the correct dimensions and resolution. Fonts should always be outlined as this will ensure faithful reproduction of your text elements. With much of the print processes these days relying on automated ripping and printing without physical proofing, it’s essential that your artwork is 100% correct before sending it in.
Of course the master you are supplying for your disc replication or duplication run is also vitally important. For duplication, the simple rule is that a high quality playable copy of your disc on a recordable disc is all that is required. Don’t forget that a duplication facility will make identical copies of what you supply. For replication it’s a different story, if you are manufacturing audio CDs, make sure that you are not sending in a disc full of mp3 files that my play back well on your PC but are less likely to work on CD players. For all replicated disc projects the best choice for masters is always the relevant disc image for the format you are manufacturing. DDP for DVD and CD audio, and ISO for all data formats. And a word about DVD authoring, make sure that your authoring facility is experienced in supplying masters for replication. It’s very common these days to find corners are being cut for authoring and with some “pro-sumer” DVD authoring software, a master that may play fine as a DVDR will have errors on it that prevent it being replicated. These errors will be impossible to detect without glass mastering analysis software and will at the very least increase your lead times and at the worst make you miss your deadlines!

A lot of what this guide hopes to do is make the potential duplication client aware of their responsibilities and what they can do to make a project go smoothly. If a client has little or no experience in the technical and artwork requirements needed then it’s even more important to choose a supplier that can provide the guidance required.

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