Replication / Duplication / Packaging
There are two principal methods of creating quantities of discs whether they be CD, DVD or Blu-ray.
- Replication - mass reproduction using a glass master. Quantity 500+ discs
- Duplication - reproduction by copying to recordable discs. Quantity 50+
We broker the replication to two factories in the EU, (there are no replication facilities left in the UK,) and duplicate at our own premises. It does not matter what the content of the disc is, we deal with audio, video and data equally.
One of the factories we use also replicates good old fashioned vinyl. We originally started using them because of their expertise in producing high quality card packaging needed for the discerning vinyl market. Vinyl is not cheap, and there is a waiting time of months, but we can provide this service for you.
See the table below for a comparison. Go FAQ for the multitude of answers.
Jewel cases are probably the most recognisable form of packaging for an audio CD. They are made of three pieces of plastic, with the tray that takes the CD being available as opaque grey/brown or clear. The clear version (as shown) is now the most popular, with the tray card that sits in the rear plastic being printed on both sides. The booklet that slots into the front can be anything from 2 to 32 pages, but we would recommend a minimum of 4 as the folded sheet has some spring to it and holds it in place better.
Although there is a move away from plastic packaging this is still the cheapest when replicating, partly owing to the fact that the packing process can be done by machine.
These have never been popular as there is lower perceived value while they are not much cheaper to produce than a Standard Jewel Case. Originally designed for the singles market which was coming from the perception of a 7" vinyl single being lesser than a 12" vinyl album, the fact that the disc is the same size regardless of how much music there is probably hasn't help promote it.
The card insert is known as a 'J' card and folds in such a way as to form a spine, so it is possible to see what the contents are when stacked with others on a shelf.
This, like the singles case, is made of two pieces of plastic. However, the front is designed to take the same size booklet as a Standard Jewel Case, and therefore you can have multiple pages. These are very popular with artists and corporate clients who are doing short runs of duplication. Shown here with a black tray, there is a frosted disc tray option.
The Slim Jewel case comes with two tray styles; either black or frosted. The frosted looks very stylish and is our suggested option.
Digipacks - Plastic Tray
These were the original card packaging with the compromise of a plastic tray. The plastic tray performs two functions, protecting the disc playing surface and providing support for the spine. If you can't see the spine when discs are packed on a shelf, they won't pick yours out to play.
The Digipack is made by gluing together a piece of card folded over. When there is a slot for the booklet the fold is along the bottom edge to give extra strength to the slot ends. With a pocket for the booklet (and when there is no booklet,) the fold is over the top edge which produces a nicer looking finish.
A Digipack can be made of more than 4 panels and to hold more than one disc.
A booklet can be added in several ways.
- Tunnel from the side, so booklet hidden.
- Gluing the back page of the booklet to an inner left hand panel.
- Horizontal slot in an inner panel. We don't recommend this as the ends of the slot are likely to tear with insertion and removal of the booklet.
- Diagonal slot or pocket. The diagonal slot is stronger than the horizontal, but we would recommend the pocket made out of an extra flap folded up from the bottom.
The Digipack is made by gluing together a piece of card folded over. When there is a slot for the booklet the fold is along the bottom edge to give extra strength to the slot ends. With the pocket the fold is over the top edge which produces a nicer looking finish.
Between the inside panels the inward facing card is cut with a slot to help the spine folds. This leaves a white strip. Most of the time you wouldn't notice, but if there is some continuous artwork or photograph then this spine can be printed as shown to very good effect.
The basic Digipack has 4 panels. This can be increased to 6 or 8. The position of the booklet can be moved around and likewise the disc tray, though convention has it that the booklet is to the left of the disc. The number of disc trays can be increased as well so there are a vast number of permutations for this packaging.
Digifiles - All Card
Although these have no plastic in the construction, and do generally look the best of the packaging, there are some disadvantages.
- The disc can be damaged if scuffed against the card, and the spine is generally quite narrow unless there are multiple panels.
- Assembly has to be done entirely by hand, which is more expensive than machine packing.
As long as the cutter tool is in stock, the price is costed only on the number of panels. The number of options for short number duplication is quite limited, unless you want to pay for a bespoke cutter tool.
The CD is usually in a tunnel, though it can be in a slot on the face of a panel. Likewise the booklet can be in a tunnel, slot or diagonal pocket. Insertion can be from the outer edge, inner spine, or both by having a tunnel open at both ends. If the inner spine only option is taken, then thumb cutouts can make extraction of the booklet or CD easier.
As you can see, there are a multitude of options, so if you have an idea , let us know and we'll see if there is a cutter available.
Here is an example of a 4 panel Digifile with the booklet and disc in tunnels. The booklet to the front and the disc to the rear.
This shows a 6 panel Digifile with two discs and a booklet. They are all in horizontal slots that have large thumb cut outs.
Card wallets are most familiar as magazine cover mounts, and they are the simplest printed packaging and cheapest to mail.
A variation on the card wallet is to add a single thickness flap. As well as holding the disc in the wallet it gives an extra two panels for artwork. This is sometimes known as a Lancing Pack.
The Amaray style case has become the most recognisable and widely used type of packaging for DVDs. It is light, shatterproof, and can be mailed without additional packaging. It is available in black or frosted. A paper wrap goes around the outside under a clear plastic protector, and inside there are clips to take a booklet. Most importantly, it has an ingenious locking mechanism which holds the disc clear of the case, preventing damage to the playing surface.
The standard case has a spine of 14mm, but there are versions with slimmer spines available. It can also come the same size as a CD Jewel case to take one or two discs.
This Amaray style case is in frosted colour and has a booklet held in by the clips on the front inner. You can also see the mechanism that holds the disc clear of the case, preventing damage to the playing surface.
An Amaray style case can take multiple discs, either with an additional tray as shown here, or with offset holding studs.
Plastic and card wallets are simple and cheapest to mail. A plastic wallet has the advantage that no paper/card print is required as the information can be on the front of the disc, which is visible.
An interesting alternative is a clam shell. So called because of it's shape. We did a promotion for Shell Oil using these!
|Process||Recordable disc Duplication||Pressed from glass master||Pressed from cut master|
|Minimum Order||50||500(poss 300)||300|
|Turnaround (approx) from everything signed off||5 working days||13 working days||5 - 6 months|
|Discs only turnaround (approx) from everything signed off||2 working days||10 working days||N/A|
|Disc Face Print||Thermal transfer||Direct CMYK Litho||Paper label - CMYK Litho|
|Audio/data source||DDP - Physical Disc - Data disc image||DDP - Data disc image||DDP (1 per side)|
|Strict Artwork Checks||No||Yes||Yes|
|Paper/Card print process||Digital||Litho||Litho|
We can take care of as much as you want from the point you finish your mixes (or video, or data,) to having product in your hand.
If you need a DDP master for replication, or a master for our own duplication services, then see our Music Mastering page for more information. We work alongside Prestset Bureau for artwork and graphic design.
If the product is for replication we arrange all details with the factory and lease with you to the point of delivery and final invoice. For duplication, we are printing and duplicating the discs on our premises, and paper/card printed parts are sourced from a local specialist company. We hand pack and despatch with trusted carriers.
If you are not using our mastering services then audio masters should be supplied as follows:
For Replication (glass mastering process) - DDP: Disc Description Protocol. (A folder with audio or video and instruction/data files.) This is the only recommended format for glass master input to produce CDs and DVDs by replication. We can accept a disc image (.img) for non audio material.
For Duplication (burning recordable disc process) - Physical disc or disc image (.img). It should have any sub code/text embedded. Written as Disc at Once and finalised so no further content can be added.
If you supply a disc image (.img) it can be sent across the internet as a single file. It should have any sub code/text embedded as nothing can be added. We burn a master physical disc from this or send the file onwards for manufacture.
- Physical disc: Should have any subcode/text embedded. Written as Disc at Once and finalised so no further content can be added.
- Disc Image: .img that can be sent across the internet as a single file. Should have any sub code/text embedded as nothing can be added. We burn a master physical disc from this or send onwards for manufacture.
- DDP:Disc Description Protocol. A folder with audio or video and instruction/data files. This is the recommended format for glass master input to produce CDs and DVDs by replication.
We look after audio so for many years we have worked in partnership with Prestset Bureau who look after artwork. They only usually get involved when the product is for replication as the specifications are very stringent. Generally we will offer a fixed fee regardless of how you supply artwork, (pictures and text or assembled on to a template,)and ask you to deal direct with them.
For duplication, we can often guide you through what you need to do ourselves, or assemble your artwork for a nominal fee.
Catalogue numbers, often found on the spine of a CD case, are not essential but very useful. For one thing, they help gather the print and CD parts together after their production in different parts of the factory. We suggest using initials and then a number which can then be incremented through your releases. So we would be TDAC001. Put the result into Google to check that you haven't chosen something very popular already. It will be a useful product search later. An alternative to the incrementing numbers is the month and year. This is a good way of looking like you have released a lot of product if you are a small record company, but doesn't work so neatly with the ISRC numbers. See ISRC drop down.
- Do Talk to us early. We have been producing CDs for years so can answer most questions and steer you in the right direction.
- Do tell us if you have a release date. Your discs are bespoke, not off the shelf. Manufacturing in particular is not an instant process and there is a queuing system through the factories.
- Do ask for our templates before creating artwork. Not all factories have the same print specifications.
- Do use the same catalogue number on all pieces of artwork including the disc on body artwork.
- Do check and proof read all artwork. Maybe get someone else to look over it as well.
- Don't assume that because you have let us have everything that we won't need to discuss anything further with you. We've had people go on holiday and the job had to be put on hold because they were unavailable.
This is where you will get the most information prsformusic.
If you own the copyright to all the material contained in the discs you want us to produce then there is no need to complete any forms or make any registrations. However, it may be in your best interests to be able to collect any royalties due to you. If you don't own the material, not just audio but images as well, then royalties need to be paid to the copyright holder. For an audio CD that is going to be released commercially there is an AP2 form to complete online. We have a pdf to guide you through. MCPS-userguide A simpler approach, if just selling a few hundred copies and falling into a specific type of user, is a limited licence. Certainly less complicated to fill in. If you do own your own songs it is worth registering them with the MCPS so that they can collect royalties on your behalf for recorded music. (See also ISRC) At the same time, if you perform your songs in public, the PRS is about royalties for live music. They conveniently have a page about both at how-copyright-works. If you have written the music you might want to consider registering for collection of your royalties as well.
Adding a barcode to product is only really necessary if you are going to be selling through retail outlets. If you think it will be worthwhile then a single barcode can be bought from barcode1.co.uk/.This is a one off payment.
The rather expensive alternative is to become a member of GS1 UK. There are annual membership fees and codes have to be bought in bulk.
An International Standard Recording Code or ISRC acts as a way of uniquely identifying music recordings.
To obtain ISRCs you only need to register yourself or company once. Here is where and how to do it ppluk. You then let us have the codes you have decided on for each of the tracks. It is usual to increment the numbers with the tracks on the disc. However, there are 5 numerals (the designation code). Some people just keep working through their songs each year adding one number after another. However, a neater way is to have your catalogue number (link to heading) as the first three digits and the track number as the last two. There is a maximum number of 99 tracks on a CD so you will only ever use two digits for this. Please note that a music video requires a separate designation code from the audio only track for which it was created.
If you have written the music you might want to consider registering for collection of your royalties as well. (See MCPS/COPYRIGHT)
Track titles, along with Album title and artiste names can be embedded in the metadata for CDs and file formats. The start and stop information for each track is known as PQ codes and is embedded in a similar way. The timings are usually quite clear, but if there are cross fades or it is a live album we often ask for guidance.
CD text is only read by some CD players and specialised computer programmes like the free VLC media player. WMP and iTunes get their track information by interrogating on line databases. As the most common is Gracenote Music Database, this is how to submit to them using the iTunes library that is freely available. Please note that it is essential that you use a CD that has been produced from the master and not one you burn yourself. The tracks are identified by length so if your start and end markers are in a slightly different place the production CDs won’t pick up the text information.
This pdf gives you instructions.
We are authorised to supply Apple Digital Masters as part of the Apple Digital Masters program, (formerly known as "Mastered for iTunes" or "MFiT").
What Our Clients Have To Say...
"Wicked job Dave, I have loaded in and sounds great."
"The Fat Cats Master sounds amazing, brilliant job as always."
"Just sent off the final file - many thanks, the clients are delighted. "we both think the sounds are perfect and add the extra dimension and character to it."
"By the way, the CD sounds absolutely awesome and the cover print has turned out beautifully accurate! Cheers"
"It's wonderful. You've done the most amazing job."
"Just wanted to drop a quick email to say the CDs are fantastic. Thank you!"
You Can Trust Us
The Digital Audio Co is a partnership owned by Dave and Sharon Aston. Although the company is run on Christian principles, we are happy to work with all faiths and none. We are often the last creative process in the chain, and understand the responsibility and trust that clients place in us.