CHAPTER 1: THE
OPTICAL DISC REVOLUTION IS HERE
The entire history of personal computing and digital
communications has spanned not much more than twenty years – an incredibly short
period of time in which we have seen the basic medium of data exchange shift
dramatically many times over. From beginnings in the magnetic realm with the
diskette, messages may now be carried with the reflected light of an optical
disc. The shift to this new and powerful technology has been formidable and so
widespread that now some of the latest computers manufactured are not even
equipped with diskette drives. While this earlier technology is not yet
completely obsolete, the optical disk has been enthusiastically received, a fact
evidenced by the prevalence of CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives in most home computers
and by the unprecedented take-up rates of home DVD players.
As a medium for distributing or storing digital content, the
optical disc revolution brings with it more good news. There is an uninterrupted
chain of succession from the original Red Book audio disc to the most recent
multi-layer DVD-18 that stores 17.9 Gigabytes of data. The universal readability
means that the optical disc is simply not affected by the same platform
constraints that have hindered other media.
Beyond the ability to reach an audience through most computer
platforms worldwide, the optical disc is further advantaged by its versatility
in bridging consumer platforms such as audio CD players and DVD players.
Reaching a large audience with digital video is possible simply by burning or
replicating a disc in Video CD format or a DVD format for playback on most DVD
players. The optical disc retains its interactivity even without a computer, as
menus are simply navigated by audiences through their remote controls.
Even the standard shape of the disc is no longer constrains
its multifarious applications. CD-ROMs in different sizes and shapes such as the
trim CardDisc and the compact 80mm disc have gained enormous popularity creative
innovative business presentations and distributing eye-catching promotional
material. The idea of relying on old-fashioned and expensive four-colour
brochures becomes redundant when compelling disc presentations are possible that
include music, interactivity, links to corporate Web sites and short video
clips. A customer can be shown a product in three-dimensional clarity and in a
moment be connected to a Web page where they can buy that product online – all
within a matter of minutes.
The almost infinite range of material that adapts
well to CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs embraces the full spectrum of 21st century
communication: training courses, encyclopaedias, product catalogues, audio
books, marketing literature, scientific databases, financial data, video
documentaries, government regulatory statements, legal findings, games and
interactive entertainment. In this age of digital communications and
convergence, the optical disc has the ability to reach nearly every one and
provide multi-dimensional communication effectively and inexpensively.
The term CD-ROM stands for Compact Disc Read
Only Memory. DVD-ROM stands for Digital Versatile Disc Read Only Memory. Both
types of optical disc store data as a series of microscopic indentations (known
as ‘pits’) in the disc surface. The disc drive or player then reads these pits
as binary data by reflecting a laser beam off the spinning surface.
Data stored in binary form, composed of strings of ‘ones’ and
‘zeros’ can represent anything that can be stored digitally for computer use:
images, programs, sound or text. Data stored on a CD-ROM can’t be erased or
overwritten, making it excellent for archival storage.
Recordable CDs (CD-R) differ from replicated CDs in that
their pits are not actual indentations, but laser marks made by burning tiny
holes in the dye layer of the CD-R media.
CD recorders produce inexpensive CD-R one-offs (single copies
of a CD disc image), which can then be read back in a standard CD-ROM drive.
This ability to create CD one-offs has made CD recorders popular with
developers, business users, hobbyists and musicians. Many replication services
(including Xtreem Technology) accept properly mastered CD one-offs as source
material to begin the manufacturing process.
Other related storage technologies, such as CD-RW (the
rewriteable form of CD-ROM) and DVD-RAM create the equivalent to pits by heating
a crystalline layer, which becomes non-reflective where the laser strikes it.
Changing the intensity of the laser beam can return the surface to the
equivalent of a non-recorded state, allowing the media to be written up to 1,000
A CD-RW unit can produce discs that can be read back by the
CD-RW unit and some of the more modern MultiRead CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives that
can vary their internal laser to compensate for the different reflectivity of
the CD-RW discs. CD-ROM drives from 1997 and earlier often cannot read the discs
made by a CD-RW drive. These discs are not, however, suitable for use as masters
at most replications facilities. At best, you can transfer the files to other
media prior to using them to transfer files to your replicator, who would then
have to re-master a disc to use for replications. Some CD-RW units are
dual-purpose, allowing you to create a conventional CD-R one-off using the
appropriate media. Always use CD-R media in this type of drive if you want to
produce a master.
Certain techniques for writing to CD-R media, such as packet
writing, produce discs that are not suitable for masters. See chapter 4 for more information.
The data capacity of a compact disc varies slightly
depending on the selected format. Most CD-ROM formats handle approximately 650MD
of data. DVDs, depending on the format, can handle from 2.6GB to 17.9GB.
Replication coasts for DVDs vary according to the number of layers in the
All CD-ROM data storage
formats have evolved from the digital audio storage techniques used on the first
music compact discs. The original Red Book standard (for storing digital audio),
evolved into Yellow Book for storing computer data, White Book for storing
PhotoCD and video content, Green Book for storing CD-interactive content, Orange
Book for recordable CD, and so on. A number of closely related offshoots also
exist, but most of these have very limited use in the industry. In an effort to
hide the complexities of CD-ROM creation from the user, some of the newer
premastering tools don’t even mention the CD-ROM formats in terms of the colour
book. For example, a Red Book disc may simply be called an audio CD.
Alternatively, the format for storing MPEG-1 video will be called a Video CD,
rather than a White Book disc. Each premastering application may use its own
terminology for the formats.
The CD-ROM formats determine how data will be physically
organised on a disc. The characteristics that apply to different formats become
more important as you begin working with specialised content, such as
MPEG-encoded video or photographic images. For many applications, the Yellow
Book standard – also called a data CD-ROM – proves suitable for most types of
All CD-ROMs have a file structure, or logical organisation.
The file structure, consisting of the rules for file naming and directory
organisation, can be equivalent to the file structure used as part of an
operating system. For example, the Joliet file structure reproduces on CD-ROM
the same directory and file organisation used under all Microsoft Windows
versions from 1995 onward, allowing long filenames and liberal character use. To
DOS and early Windows users, the disc presents file names in a truncated
8+3-character format. In this manner, a Joliet-formatted CD-ROM provides much of
the universal readability of the ISO-9660 format (discussed in the next section)
with the additional benefit of longer file names for those systems that can read
them. CD-ROMS designed solely for use under the MacOS use the HFS structure,
complete with data forks and desktop icons. Native file structures of this type
are designed for playback on a single platform. For example, a Windows 2000/Me
user can’t insert a Macintosh HFS CD-ROM in their drive and access the content.
Hybrid CD-ROMs, however, employ techniques to allow Mac users to see files in
their familiar environment, Windows users to see what appears to be a standard
Windows desktop, and UNIX users to work in their customary setting. Several
approaches to creating hybrid discs are available – these techniques are
discussed later in the guide.
ISO-9660 is a file structure designed for
universal playback, regardless of the platform. ISO-9660 originated to minimise
the barriers between distributing data on CD-ROM by specifying universal
filename conventions and directory organisation. If a CD-ROM is created using
ISO-9660 guidelines, it can be played back on any CD-ROM drive, whether that
drive is connected to a UNIX, PC or Mac computer.
ISO-9660 has been expanded to include three levels. Level-1 is
the most restrictive, but it also offers the best assurance that files will be
readily accessible by all CD-ROM drives and operating systems. Filenames under
ISo-9660 can only contain 8 characters with a 3-character extension. Only
uppercase characters A to Z, the numerals 0 to 9 and the underscore character
are valid for filenames. Directories can only be nested 8 Levels deep on the
CD-ROM. Designing cross-platform CD-ROMs requires careful attention to filenames
and directories to ensure playback on the widest possible range of platforms.
ISO-9660 Level-2 and Level-3 are much less restrictive,
allowing additional characters, filename lengths and directory organisation. You
can generally premaster discs to Level-2 requirements and still reach a
considerable audience, but using Level-3 produces a file structure that is less
widely supported by CD-ROM drives on individual platforms. The trade-off is
between backwards compatibility with the largest number of systems and the
convenience and flexibility of a more modern, more readable file structure.
UDF: Universal File
ISO-9660 works well as a universal cross-platform
file structure for discs, but it also imposes certain constraints that make it
difficult to use for rewritable media and that complicate multiplatform
compatibility. The Universal Disc Format, UDF, was developed by the Optical
Storage Technology Association to provide a more flexible, more resilient
organisational system for disc storage that defines both the file system and
UDF has become the accepted standard for handling DVD files
and volumes and it is also used in CD-RW applications that employ packet-writing
techniques. Packet writing supports small incremental updates of a disc’s
contents while minimising the overhead associated with these changes. This
allows a disc to be written and read more like conventional forms of media, such
as a hard disc.
Note: When authoring and premastering DVDs and DVD-ROMs, use
UDF to create your file and volume organisation. When producing masters for
CD-ROM replication, avoid using packet writing or UDF when creating a one-off to
submit to the replicator. Packet written discs cannot be used as a source for
Types of DVDs
Beside the familiar DVD titles featuring movies that are
increasingly appearing in music outlets and rental stores, several other forms
of DVD exist, each with their own uses and unique advantages. The following
figure lists the five books that have been defined for DVD, Book A to E, and the
practical applications for each.
The basic form of the DVD is the DVD-ROM, universally playable
in the DVD-ROM in the DVD-ROM drives featured as standard equipment in many new
computers. Most DVD authoring programs let you produce the UDF file and volume
structure to master a DVD-ROM. DCD-Video discs, designed for playback in both
set-top DVD players, as well as computer DVD-ROM with the necessary decoding
circuitry, deliver crisp, clear digital video content and sound at a level
comparable with audio CDs. DVD-Video can hold anywhere from 4.7 GB (DVD-5,
single-sided, single layered) to 17.9 GB (DVD-18, double-sided, double-layered).
The DVD-Video standard also provides a degree of interactivity that can lead
viewers to different types of content and activate certain features, such as a
different language version of a movie or the director’s commentary on the movie
DVD-Audio, a still-evolving format, promises significantly
higher audio fidelity than CD, as well as 5.1 audio channel support, creating a
convincing illusion of being immersed in music and sound. DVD-R, the write-one
version of recordable DVDs, lets developers produce one-offs to test DVD titles
(both DVD-ROM and DVD-Video) and generate short runs of DVD discs. The
rewritable version of the standard, DVD-RAM, uses single- or dual-sided discs,
similar to CD-RW discs but with much higher data density, offering a medium that
is valuable for archiving and storage of up to 5.2GB of data.
DVD’s position as the fastest growing consumer technology in
history, as well as the rapidly expanding base of DVD-ROM drives and DVD
players, makes DVD an appealing alternative for digital content developers who
have outgrown the storage capacities of CD-ROM.
Designing for a Wide
Filenames and directory structure are crucial
components of a CD-ROM project, particularly if you are designing for a wide
audience. CD recorders and recording applications typically let you select the
CD-ROM data format and file structure as a part of the disc mastering process.
Most of these programs will alert you if files or directories selected for the
CD-ROM violate naming conventions of a particular format. Some of the modern
recording applications use a drag-and-drop approach to select files and
directories to be included in the disc contents. Typically, these types of
applications attempt to shield you from the complexities of the file structures
and formats. Unless you are producing a specialised CD-ROM, most of these
general-purpose applications do a nice job of simplifying the premastering
process. However, if you are creating a CD-ROM one-of to use a master for
replication, be very careful not to copy files to the CD-R using packet writing
(see ‘Choosing the Right Write Mode’), an incremental form of
recording that does not produce discs suitable for replications.
Interactive multimedia designers targeting their work to
DVD-ROM have a much less complicated task. Because DVD-ROM has a single defined
file and volume structure – that spans the full range of computer platforms –
authoring and premastering are simplified. The software tools for producing
DVD-Video titles have also become much easier to use and less expensive. Armed
with the latest generation of digital video camcorders, businesses and
developers can create surprisingly sophisticated films, documentaries, training
videos and similar content right on the desktop and then output to DVD-R or
Digital Linear Tape (DLT).
Types of DVD-Rs
There are two kinds of DVD-R: general use and
authoring-grade. Consequently, there are two types of DVD duplicators. Authoring
discs can only be burned in authoring DVD-R drives, and general use discs can
only be burned in general use DVD-R drives. Both discs will playback in any DVD
drive but only authoring-grade DVD-Rs are usable as replication masters. General
use DVD-Rs are excellent for proofs because they cost less than authoring
Whichever way your plans for your optical disc project get
developed, whether it be from quick sketches over a casual brainstorming session
or during a high-powered meeting in the executive conference room, your planning
will benefit if each of the following points is taken into account.
Identifying your audience is the most important
first step in developing your project. Even before the first sketches go down on
paper, you should know who your audience are and their prospective needs. The
design and the impact of your project needs to be carefully aligned with your
target audience – if you are producing a collection of technical papers in the
field of ornithology, for example, an effective title can be designed without
requiring full-motion video and abundant sound effects. If you’re creating an
educational CD-ROM to teach children about reptiles, you may want to deliver it
on DVD-ROM and include all of the multimedia elements available to you:
animation, sound effects, music, lots of video and so on.
Remember that simple is best – if your audience doesn’t
require all the multimedia bells and whistles, then they should be left out. For
example, a university might want to create a CD-ROM containing the course and
subject information as a resource for prospective students. This could be done
by simply converting the course guide to Adobe Acrobat™ portable document format
(.pdf) and placing these files on the disc. A more elaborate approach, including
video interviews with students, a slideshow with a musical backdrop and an
animated calendar could quickly become too expensive to produce. A project that
requires a significant amount of digital video content naturally works better on
DVD-ROM or DVD-Video than CD-ROM. If your audience is more likely to own DVD
players than DVD-ROM drives in their computers, then DVD-Video is the obvious
choice. Scale the complexity of a project to the expectations of your audience,
and don’t underestimate the importance of the anticipated playback equipment.
These initial stages don’t have to be complicated – often, the simplest path to
delivering your content is best.
The complexities involved with developing a CD-ROM
or DVD can sneak up on you! It can get at least as complicated as filming a
movie or producing a television show and even the simplest project will benefit
from careful planning. If you are working to a budget, you’ll need to thoroughly
assess the costs involved in a production, such as programming costs, data
conversion expenses, writing and editing, content development, graphics work,
animation and so on. Some of the work involved in these components can be easily
underestimated, so maintaining realistic understanding of the processes, time
and costs involved is vital. A cautious way to go about avoiding any budget
blow-outs is to make an educated guess as to the costs of each task and then add
an additional 25% to the figures to cover unanticipated expenses.
Content on a CD-ROM can differ slightly (or not so slightly)
when viewed with different equipment. Common sources of difficulty for
developers, for example, are the colour palette differences between Macintosh
and Windows machines. Video playback, too, can vary from machine to machine.
Skilled developers usually devise ways to accommodate the particular
characteristics of individual platforms and develop ways in which to minimise
playback issues. If your CD-ROM is planned for delivery on a variety of
platforms, you should make sure you have the necessary equipment for testing the
final production on each intended platform. In the case of a DVD-ROM or
DVD-Video title, testing should be done on a range of equipment, including
earlier generation devices that may not be as broadly compatible as current
Your audience needs to know what equipment
they need to have to access the content on your title. In both the product
packaging and the installation instructions it should be make clear what the
minimum user equipment configurations must be, such as:
- - Audio requirements (and required sound processing hardware)
- - Specialised video playback hardware, such as MPEG decoders
- - Monitor resolution
- - Specialised device drivers
- - Memory requirements
- - Minimum computer processor requirements
- - Operating system versions
Professional organisations such as the American Software and
Information Industry Association (www.siia.net) publish guidelines to assist
developers in meeting consumer concerns and resolving potential equipment
problems. Consider these guidelines and make it easy to access information about
hardware and software required for playback.
CD-ROM installations that tinkered with a
user’s computer configuration or installed large modules to hard disk without
asking were a major bane of early CD-ROM titles. Strive for the zero footprint
- - Install as little data to a user’s hard disk as possible
- - Notify the user of each requested configuration change
before making it
- - Keep a record of the system configuration and be prepared
to restore it if a CD-ROM title is uninstalled
- - Tread lightly on each user’s system
Not all CD-ROM titles can run without installing some elements
onto the hard disk, but you can come very close to this ideal with some
planning. Make sure that your CD-ROM uninstall routine cleans up after itself
and leaves the hard disk exactly as it was prior to installation. Modern
installer applications, such as Installshield Professional™ (www.installshield.com), include
built-in utilities that create an uninstall program to remove programs, drivers,
DLLs, registry entries and other remnants of any software installation.
Solo Vs Team Effort
Some optical disc titles will require the input of many
people while others in areas such as business, legal and government databases,
may only require a single person working on a desktop computer without any
outside assistance. The unique ability of the optical disc to store large
amounts of data and incorporate search engines to rapidly access that data makes
the medium extremely useful in delivering specific information to the user – on
demand. Examples of successful titles include:
- - CD-ROMs containing federal or state regulations searchable by keyword
- - Geographical survey maps of every region in the world
- - Medical or legal references
- - Business directories for specific industries, such as automotive parts
suppliers, welding equipment manufacturers or computer storage media sources
- - Nationwide telephone directory listings
- - Interactive catalogues for distributors and suppliers
- - Collections of specialised content, such as architectural symbols or
graphics used in specific fields of science, or fonts related to particular
fields where special symbols are required.
These are simple and functional uses for CD-ROM technology;
they may not attract the same kind of enthusiasm as flashy multimedia works,
however they are very successful areas of application and have been the most
consistent money makers since computer data has been stored on compact disc.
Many of these kinds of projects are easily transferable to DVD-ROM, which has
the added advantage of several extra gigabytes of storage space. Instead of
creating a nationwide telephone directory, for example, you might think in terms
of creating a telephone directory on a much larger region-wide scale.
Compared to their data-based solo counterparts, multimedia
projects require a much wider range of skills and talents. If all aspects of
production are taken into account, including the researching, scripting,
gathering of raw data, recording sounds, composing music, constructing and
capturing images, shooting and processing video, writing code, designing
interfaces and debugging productions, thousands of hours are consumed. The
person in the role of project leader must ensure that every team member
thoroughly understands his or her role and responsibility. Equally, the project
leader must stay ahead of things, designating specific tasks to specific team
members and ensuring that a mechanism has been established by which to monitor
the progress and completion of each of the key tasks.
Working from a
When the project is complex, with many
people working at once on different things, it is helpful to have a blueprint or
a ‘design document’. Having such a document right from the start will be an
important tool for coordinating the efforts of the team. This blueprint should
indicate how the title will look, provide a flow chart or story board to
demonstrate navigation through the contents, and include a list of the design
and programming objectives for the team.
Designing marketing materials in advance often helps solidify
the objectives included in the design document. The packaging of an optical
disc, if properly designed, pinpoints those aspects of the content that will be
of greatest interest to the target audience. A market evaluation of the
prospective customer can also focus the design objectives.
Large projects have a tendency to evolve and can shift
directions significantly as they develop and sometimes this will result in a
different outcome than was initially expected. It can help if all team members
have access to a centrally posted design document, where they can refer to it to
refocus on the original goals of the project. As the project goes ahead and key
tasks become completed, the working design document should be updated as
necessary to reflect the project development and changes in approach and
implementation. In the rush to complete a project this step can be overlooked,
however it can serve as a valuable tool in both the final evaluation of the
project and in the planning of future projects.
A well-designed and ‘user-friendly’ interface can
distinguish an exceptional CD-ROM from a more average title. All the hard work
that has gone into the content of the title is rendered useless if the interface
is difficult to navigate – a functional interface will not frustrate or confuse
your audience. In some cases the interface design will be limited by the range
of authoring tools, yet there are still a wide range of options for controlling
what the users see as they view the CD-ROM content.
Consider what interface designs your audience will be used to
when conceiving the navigation on your CD-ROM – there is little to gain by
making the user to learn a whole new set of navigation instructions. If your
audience are well versed in Windows and your CD-ROM contains a collection of
technical support tips, for example, you might want to consider authoring the
content as a Windows help system. Or if your audience consists of seasoned Web
users, building content from a collection of HTML files can sometimes be the
most effective interface. Users can then access the CD-ROM through their browser
without ever having to learn a new command. For a less computer-literate
audience who are more comfortable with the printed page, using Adobe Acrobat to
present printed source documents could be ideal, complete with a fully
hyperlinked table of contents and index.
If you are designing the entire CD-ROM or DVD-ROM interface
using an authoring tool such as Macromedia Director or Apple DVD Studio Pro,
you’ll be faced with a lot of options, so you need to have a clear plan in mind
before beginning your interface design. A useful work on the subject by american
author Jef Raskin, “The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing
Interactive Systems”, offers innovative ways to make your interface more usable.
Have a look around what’s out there in the CD-ROM
market to get a sense of what is available and what designers are using. Make
some notes about those titles that seem to work, noting what you find effective
about them. Download some software demos from publishers through their Web
sites. The Web provides an infinite store of ideas and inspiration that you can
adapt to your own project needs. As an interface designer, you need to be in
touch with design trends and aesthetic principles being used by other designers
and firms. A great reference book in this area is ‘The Web Design WOW! Book’ by
Jack Davis and Susan Merritt, which showcases the best examples of graphic
design used on working Web sites. Many of these principles can be adapted to
CD-ROM or DVD-ROM interface design.
You can maintain a cohesive design throughout a
project by having an illustrator create a storyboard. A storyboard acts as a
visual guide to the paths available to users and the navigational tools offered,
such as buttons, menu bars, and so on. This allows the project team to step into
the user’s shoes and visualise what paths a user might take and what it will all
There will be many other decisions to make about the design of
the interface, including colour, typography, style and text display. Keep in
mind your audience and the purpose your disc serves when designing these
elements – it may suit the project to be flamboyant in your design, or it may
A comprehensive storyboard will also help in the client
consultation process. Before the labour-intensive computer work begins, a well
planned storyboard will aid the communication process and ensure that everyone
involved knows exactly what the screen images and the events will be, and how
the music and audio are integrated.
If you’re producing an optical disc title for a client, it
can be helpful to generate in-progress versions along the way to enhance
communication and ensure the project is developing according to the client’s
expectations. Finding problems only when a project is nearing completion can be
frustrating and extremely expensive. Prototypes need not be elaborate; simply
demonstrating the user interface and major navigation features of a title to
gain a green light from the title’s sponsors or funding agencies is all it takes
to avoid problems further down the line.
Produce prototypes early and often to keep your title
development on course, and to confirm the direction of a project to those
interested parties observing progress.
After the storyboard design process has been completed,
and it has been given the go ahead by all those involved, you should have a
clear idea of what content the project requires. Creating an asset list is a
great way to keep a track of all the components required. At this stage, the
project tasks should be as follows:
- - Writing textual content for the title
- - Shooting photographs or video
- - Recording audio
- - Acquiring any copyrighted content that requires releases
- - Constructing graphics and animation
You’ll get the best results by using professionals for
important parts of the title. For example, using professional voice actors will
make a big difference to how your script will sound. Likewise for the other
photographic, video and sound recording elements to your title – it is risky to
leave these vital components to amateurs and gamble the overall production
quality. Maintain the highest level of quality for your content and your
audience will recognise and appreciate the extra degree of polish.
The CD-ROM and DVD-ROM are digital storage media. Any
content that is not in digital format, that is analogue, must first be converted
to the appropriate digital format. The data conversion stage of the project (for
all types of media) typically involves these tasks:
- - Scanning photographs or line art
- - Performing analogue-to-digital conversion of audio recordings
- - Converting video content to digital format or importing digital video
- - Keying in text or performing optical character recognition
It’s a good idea to maintain your asset log as these tasks are
taking place so that all elements are kept a track of. Certain tasks, such as
the creation of compressed video in MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats can require
considerable expertise to obtain satisfactory results. Digital sound processing
can also benefit from expert knowledge. Whenever necessary, seek guidance or
assistance for handling content conversion that may be beyond the capabilities
of your computer system or experience.
Image conversion is a major part of the development cycle.
There are a multitude of graphics file formats, although some of the more common
ones include TIFF, GIF, PICT, EPS, JPEG and BMP. Each format has different
characteristics, and works better in some applications than others. Some, like
EPS, take up enormous amounts of disk space, although they produce high quality
and easily scaleable images. Others, like PICT, take up much less disk space but
have a poor image quality. One important thing to be aware of is that authoring
applications can sometimes require the use of particular file formats, which
will establish the exact type of image conversions you’ll need to carry out. In
other cases it will be up to whoever is designing the title to decide what will
be the best formats for the purposes of the format.
Xtreem Technology can handle all your photo and slide
conversions to digital formats. Costs are usually aligned with the resolution of
the scanned image and the nature of the source material. You also have the
option of having slide film processed and returned in PhotoCD format on CD-ROM.
Images contained on a PhotoCD are available in several different resolutions and
can be easily converted to the necessary formats for you project using a number
of graphics conversion tools. Images are easily stored and accessed in this
format; you can handle a large library of graphic images in a very compact
space. Your ultimate choice of graphic file formats will depend on your
authoring program and development environment. Many authoring programs,
including Macromedia Director and Totally Hip Software Live Stage Professional,
accept a wide range of graphic formats. Consult your software manuals of product
technical support to gain more details of your options. An excellent tool for
performing graphic conversions is deBabelizer from Equilibrium, available in
both Macintosh and Windows versions. Demo versions for downloading are available
There are two standard formats for video: NTSC and PAL. NTSC
is the standard format in the United States and Latin America, and has a frame
rate of 29.97 frames per second (fps). In most other countries PAL is the
standard format with a frame rate of 25 fps. The two are not compatible and a
VHS or Beta desk must be able to display the appropriate standards – PAL will
not play on a NTSC-compatible machine and vice versa. Ensure that the deck you
use to grab the video on can be read the video format you intend to use.
Regardless of which format you use, however, you can edit your
video with a program like Adobe Premiere or Apple Final Cut Pro. The problem of
incompatibility disappears once the video has been digitised and compressed onto
your CD-ROM, so the video will play back on any computer, regardless of whether
it came from an NTSC or PAL source. Also keep in mind that Windows PCs have a
minimum colour display of 216 colours while Macintosh uses 256. As a result,
video developed for the Macintosh platform may look dark and contrasty in
There are many systems around that are designed to digitise
your video content. Ideally this process should involve as little loss of
resolution as possible. With improved processor speeds, video capture and
editing can be handled even on a stock PC, such as a 300MHz Pentium II machine.
Inexpensive IE-1394 interface cards can bring in digital video content direct
from your miniDV camcorder. Already many Windows and Macintosh machines include
this as a standard feature. Professional applications, however, generally
require more sophisticated tools that represent a complete hardware and software
solution, such as the Avid Editing Suite. Similar software suites have the
ability to conduct on and offline editing, and work for both PC and Macintosh.
Some of these products are able to grab video from a magnetic source tape (High
8, Beta, VHS etc.), convert it to digital format, and save it in a selected
format. Common digital video formats include QuickTime movies, AVI, MPEG-1 and
Another useful feature of some programs is the option of
recording digital video output back onto video tape, although this is certainly
not as useful as CD-ROM or DVD. The advantages of distributing video on these
forms are of course the reduced cost and weight when compared to video
cartridge. Inexpensive DVD-R devices are also becoming more common – Apple
offers one called the SuperDrive in one of their G4 computers that allows anyone
to produce DVD discs that can be played back on many set-top players.
Compression techniques will determine how well your video
will run on a desktop, and the results will vary according to the capabilities
and limitations of the user’s equipment. Before you choose a compression
algorithm, you must determine the minimum requirements for a user’s computer
system. System variables include: computer processor type and clock speeds (350
MHz Pentium II, 333 MHz Power PC, 400 MHz Pentium III, etc.), RAM (8MB, 24MB,
etc.), cache, and video RAM (256K, 4MB, etc.). You also need to consider the
storage space that is available on the CD-ROM when all of the content is
Once these factors are determined, the next step your video
grabbing software will require is the setting of the compression ratios to be
used (these will be based on any of the popular compression algorithms). A
number of video editing applications make this easy, such as Adobe Premiere and
Apple Final Cut Pro, offering flexible options and presets for compression.
If you have already figured out your minimum user
configuration, make sure you state it in succinct terms on your package
labeling. For example, “This CDROM requires at a minimum a 90MHz Pentium system,
or equivalent, or a Macintosh 120MHz PowerPC system computer with at least 8
Megabytes of RAM.” Ensure that as many playback platforms as possible are tested
with the title as there are multiple variables involved with compression that
can create problems. Relate these tests not only to your target platforms, but
to the style of video also. Digitising video effectively is a skill, not simply
a computer process. For this reason, try as many different ratios as you can,
burn a few CDs and test on different machines. Make sure you give yourself
enough time to thoroughly test your materials before you commit your project.
The digitising and compressing of video can be complicated and
involved. While this single task will be one of the most demanding aspects of
your project development, it is important to be patient and test repeatedly.
Authoring refers to the process of designing and organising
content for a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. Authoring is different to presmastering, which
is the physical process of structuring the files for a particular format and
copying them to a distribution medium (such as CD-R, DVD-R or any other form of
One of the great characteristics of the CD-ROM is that its
contents can be accessed from a wide variety of applications – in fact any
application that runs on a computer. In some cases, it makes sense to bundle the
required playback engine with the data files – for example, if you’re including
adobe Acrobat or QuickTime files. Licensing requirements for including the free
reader applications are generally minimal, but check with the software supplier
first, since conditions and terms change fairly frequently. The key to producing
hybrid discs – playable by computer on different platforms – is to segregate the
platform-dependent elements (search engines, players, readers) from the common
data files. Platform-independent data, such as Macromedia Director data, can be
played back through the Director movie player that matches the appropriate
computer platform, Mac or Windows.
Another popular technique is to generate the CD-ROM content
using HTML documents. The files can then be viewed through any Web browsers.
This can be a fast and efficient way to organise and present a large amount of
information on disc. An entire Web site can be converted to CD-ROM format for
distribution using an application designed for this purpose. Many companies that
want to mix Web site content with extended video content use CD-ROMs for
distribution. Large MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 video files that cannot be easily
distributed across the Internet play quickly and seamlessly from CD-ROM.
Databases and Text
Database or text-based material is often best accessed
through a search engine approach, using a product such as TransBaseCD from
TransAction Software to provide the interface. Search engines can also be
integrated into applications that use the page metaphor for displaying
information. Adobe Acrobat offers high-speed text search capabilities for large
collections of portable document format files using their Catalog module. Both
Publisher and Adobe are well adapted to CD-ROM uses. These tools are
particularly useful in business applications because they provide a fast,
convenient means of converting paper-based information (reports, technical
papers, research material, white papers, product information, technical support
data and so on) to a readily accessible digital format on CD-ROM.
For more interactive productions where video,
sound, animation and text are combined into dynamic presentations, products such
as Macromedia Director, Macromedia Authorware and Totally Hip Software LiveStage
Professional remain the favourites of CD-ROM developers. Director remains the
industry leader and the hands-down favourite of most developers producing
multimedia CD-ROMs. The steep learning curve, however, may discourage developers
new to the industry. Click2learn ToolBook is tailored to computer-based training
applications and simplifies the design process with numerous pre-built
templates. An AutoPackager utility included with the program can burn a
self-contained training course direct to CD-ROM, with playback capabilities
included. Tools such as Director and ToolBook are well suited for developing
education products and training material. Director, however, is better suited
for entertainment titles, games and general-purpose CD-ROM titles.
For creating references and information sourcebooks, tools
such as RoboHelp Office, available from eHelp Inc. can produce platform- and
browser-independent content that takes full advantage of multimedia elements and
presents information in a familiar environment. Large, complex bodies of
information can be compactly organised for easy navigation and access.
Using a programming language like C/C++ or Java is also an
option that provides more control over a project, but this approach clearly
requires more development time and some serious programming effort. Generally,
using a programming language to design an interface would only be required for
very specialised applications.
Once again, if your project doesn’t call for lots of
interactivity, then you have the relative luxury to keep the authoring process
quite simple. As an optical disc titles becomes more complex with more
interactive elements, authoring packages with more features and capabilities
will be required. Commercially, there is no evidence that a more complicated
authoring environment or custom programming results in a more successful title.
However, if your intention is to enter the games market, keep in mind that the
standard authoring applications may not be up to the task. Many of the best
selling games titles in the CD-ROM market rely on their own sophisticated
software engines, designed from the ground up, to support high-speed,
interactive playback. The authoring process in these cases is certain to require
and the use of a programming language and a high level of skill.
There are many factors that differentiate the authoring
packages available. One of the most important is the ability to produce a CD-ROM
that can be played on a variety of platforms, including PCs, Macs and UNIX
equipment. In addition, it is handy to know that some authoring programs are
more comprehensive that others; while most programs for you to create and edit
the media elements elsewhere, some of the more flexible applications actually
integrate media creation and authoring.
If you are in need of development tools for DVD-ROM or
DVD-Video, the choices are more limited and the cost significantly higher.
Depending on the kind of content that you want to package on your DVD title, you
may need different capabilities, ranging from simple formatters to products that
support elaborate interface design, MPEG encoding and multiple language support.
Eventually, as DVD equipment becomes more widespread, the costs of development
tools will come down, just as they did for recordable-CD premastering
DVD Creator, produced by Sonic (www.sonic.com), ranks as the most popular title
development tool. Apple’s Final Cut Pro has evolved into a capable, full-feature
program for authoring DVD-Video to DVD-R or DVD-RAM. ASTARTE’s DVDirector is a
more sophisticated product that can design interactive playback controls, manage
subtitling streams and multiple languages. DVDMotion, from Multimedia Technology
Centre, incorporates many of the important premastering options in a sub-$1000
package. For Windows users, DVD Performer and SpruceUp, from Spruce Technologies
(www.spruce-tech.com), fulfill the
requirements of professional and novice creators of DVD content.
While offering detailed information about DVD development
techniques is beyond the scope of this guide, check the Xtreem Technology website for new
information in this area.
If your project is very detailed and contains lots of
interactive elements and/or large numbers of files, it is recommended that you
provide a professionally designed front end using an authoring application. Take
some time to work out if your skills and resources are up to the job – if you
have a lot of time, curiosity and a good development system then doing the
authoring yourself is not a problem. If any of these capabilities are in
question, we suggest discussing your need with a professional. Contacting an
experience authoring house will give you a good idea of how much your project
will cost and how long it will take. Be warned: authoring is an expensive
professional service, and you shouldn’t be surprised if your quote is in the
tens of thousands of dollars.
Routinely testing all parts of your title as it progresses
through the developmental process is recommended to ensure that all the kinks
are worked out. Your testing is not finished, however, when you complete a
pre-release version of your CD. When you reach that stage, you should seek
outside help by creating an Alpha and a Beta version of your project. These two
versions represent consecutive problem solving steps designed to test, and
retest, your product among a select group to avoid any glaring problems.
The Alpha version is a working version of a title often
produced as a one-off CD that is used to test interfaces and tricky authoring
problems. Distribute it in-house or to a close circle of testers, users and
programmers. Ten to 20 copies of the Alpha are usually enough to troubleshoot
most of the glaring problems and make suggestions for improvement. It is also
crucial that, after you have collected all the feedback from this initial
testing group, that you log all changes you make, no matter how small. Careful
attention at this point will help to control the introduction of new problems or
The Beta version then becomes the second working version,
where all glaring problems have been worked out. Only released after comments
and recommendations from the Alpha users have been implemented, it should be
distributed to 20 or thirty recipients who fit your customer profile. It should
also be distributed to a list of more extensive testers whose sole job it is to
find the remaining bugs in your program. You can do this externally; contacting
a regional computer users’ group for a list of sophisticated computer users.
For a guaranteed response, solicit testers online through
related news groups or message areas of the major services. They will usually
volunteer for the chance to take part in the development process. There are many
ways to conduct this sort of testing and you should take every opportunity to
find people who will try as hard as possible to find errors and bugs in your
Finally, if there are any prospective publishers that are
interested in your title, take the chance to forward your Beta version. This is
another valuable feedback opportunity: publishers will most likely recommend
changes they’d like to see implemented and your product will only benefit from
critique and professional suggestions.
These testing stages may seem laborious, however
their purpose is essential not only in analysing the quality of the authoring on
your CD-ROM or DVD title, but ensuring the playback performance is adequate.
Testing audio and video segments, animation and interactive sequences etc. can
help ensure file placement and program design are appropriate for the product.
Poor performance suggests you may need to revise your design and organise files
for more contiguous access or reprocess some content, such as video material.
In order to maintain the best control during the developmental
process, a CD-ROM should be developed in stages. In a large scale environment
there are often several versions of both the Alpha and Beta stages, followed
finally by the release version. Even then, further versions are often found
necessary. Even the most basic projects, therefore, need to be subjected to at
least one version per release stage. Experienced developers will leave plenty of
room within the production schedule to accommodate for thorough testing and
changes required before the title can be released.
Less complex titles, such as business CD-ROMs designed for a
specialised audience, may not require as many cycles of testing, however even
the simplest productions should be tested to some degree. The developer or
author of the CD-ROM content will be ‘too close’ to the product to detect any
problems that will be glaringly obvious to reviewers who see it for the first
Faster disc drives and more capable
authoring tools make it easy to produce presentations that start up and play the
moment someone inserts the disc in a drive. Particularly for smaller discs and
discs in unconventional shapes, such as CardDiscs, the immediacy of having a
disc autostart on both Mac and Windows machines brings your message home with
greater impact. The technique for creating autostarting, cross-platform discs is
The easiest way to create the master for a cross-platform
disc, and the approach used by many experience developers, is to use Adaptec
Toast on the Macintosh and choose their Mac/ISO hybrid selection when building
the disc contents. Create a temporary partition with the contents of the Mac
portion of the disc, including any files that you want the Mac user to see with
their normal desktop icons. If you’re including a file for autostarting the
CD-ROM on the Macintosh, such as a Mac=specific Flash executable file, check the
AutoStart option when selecting the volume for the Mac partition and choose the
Flash file (it should reside within the same volume as the other Mac files). You
can save space on the CD-ROM by having shared Mac and PC files (such as image
and text files used for HTML pages) residing in a common folder on disc. The
only content that has to go in the Mac partition are those files you want the
Mac users to see.
To produce an autostarting disc on the PC side, you need to
make a text file name autorun.inf and place it at the root level of the disc
contents. Use a text editor to create the autorun.inf file and include the name
of the file that you want to autostart in this file. For example, if you want to
fire up a Flash presentation titled ‘wow_catalogue.exe’ automatically on disc
insertion, just add these two lines to a file save as autorun.inf (in Notepad or
another text editor):
Make sure that the target startup file resides at the same
level as the autorun.inf or that you provide a path to the appropriate folder.
Other PC-based tools will let you generate hybrid Mac/PC discs, but Toast is
generally the simplest and most reliable tool for this purpose.
CHAPTER 4: PREMASTERING
Premastering is the process of preparing a set of files for
transfer to recordable CD media or to a disc image that can be used for
mastering at a replication plant. Applications designed for use with CD
recorders (e.g. Creative Digital Research HyCD Publisher, Prassi Software CD Rep
Plus, Adaptec Easy CD Creator, or Adaptec Toast) provide a number of file output
options and offer support for most of the CD-ROM formats. If you intend to do
your own testing of the CD-ROM title, a one-off CD generated by a CD recorder
can be the fastest and most effective way to go. Xtreem Technology can also
generate one or more copies for test purposes.
Premastered material can be submitted to a replicator as a CD
one-off or on a variety of media. The standard format for submitting DVD
material for replication is DLT tape cartridges (not DVD-R or DVD-RAM discs).
You can also transfer files to a replicator using other forms of removable
media, including magneto-optical cartridges, Zip and Jaz cartridges, and similar
media types. For CD-ROM replication, there is a definite advantage to submitting
your files on a CD one-off recorded using the Disc-at-Once write mode and tested
thoroughly. Discs submitted in this format require the least work to prepare for
mastering and present the least opportunity for errors to creep into the master.
Check with your Xtreem Technology to ensure we can work with the removable media
you have selected.
Right Write Mode
Over the history of CD recording, several
different methods have been devised for moving data to disc. Two of these
methods in particular do not result in a disc that is suitable for replication.
Most CD recorders and CD recorder applications support both Disc-at-Once (DAO)
and Track-at-Once (TAO) write modes. Multisession discs, in which the data is
recorded to disc over several individual sessions, use TAO mode to accomplish
this. The laser is stopped and started repeatedly while the data is being
recorded. If the final session is closed (which consists of creating a master
table of contents), the recorded CD-R can be read in multisession-capable
drives, but the resulting disc contains linking data that will often cause
errors if you try to use the disc to create a glass master for replication. In
comparison, DAO mode writes the data to disc in one continuous stream, without
starting and stopping the laser. This is the appropriate write mode to use when
creating masters for replication. The selection of the write mode is one of the
configuration settings in most CD recorder software packages.
Another equally problematic write technique (from a
replication standpoint) is packet writing. Software packages such as Adaptec’s
CD Direct and CeQuadrat’s PacketCD make it possible to treat a CD recorder and
blank disc like a floppy diskette. In fact, this is the giveaway when
determining if you are using packet writing. If the program displays a wizard
and asks if you want to create a disc that will be accessible by a drive letter
or a disc that will act like a floppy diskette, you know that packet writing is
involved. Packet writing involves formatting the disc (which can typically take
an hour on a 2x CD recorder) so that files can be added one at a time or in
small batches. You may not be aware that formatting is taking place, because
sometimes it is performed in the background, allowing you to start writing the
disc almost immediately. The structure of a formatted, packet-written CD-ROM is
completely incompatible with the requirements of disc replication. Use packet
writing only for your own personal archiving and file storage. Rely on DAO write
mode whenever you want to produce a CD one-off to take to Xtreem Technology.
your CD-ROM for Playback
Current generation CD-ROM drives
achieve 12x, 24x, 32x and greater data access speeds. Performance and data
access issues are not as critical today as they were with earlier 1x and 2x
drives. File placement and organisation, however, can still have an impact on
Placing many small files in many layers of folders slows down
access time, while grouping related files by prefixing the filenames with a
letter can speed it up. Both Windows and Macintosh computers read files and
directories in alphabetical order; so, when naming your files, it may help to
alphabetize them. Some CD-ROM premastering applications use alphabetical
listings to handle file placement on the compact disc so that A’s appear closer
to the center of the disc than C’s. Other applications give you the option of
determining the precise placement of each file on the disc, allowing you to
carefully control data access and performance issues.
Store files that need to be accessed simultaneously within the
same folder or in folders in close proximity to each other. What slows your
CD-ROM drive down is not the time it takes to read the data, but the time it
takes for the laser to zoom from one folder to another while looking for the
appropriate file. Minimize the laser head movement by situating files in close
proximity if these files need to be accessed together.
The increasing popularity of CD recording has
resulted in some marginal media suppliers introducing recordable discs of
questionable quality. Don’t risk compromising the usability of your CD one-off
master by recording it on a disc of inferior quality. Bargain CD-R discs
sometimes contain bubbles in the polycarbonate, inconsistencies in the dye
layer, and other imperfections that can cause problems when you attempt to make
a glass master from the recorded CD. High quality media can be found at many
different outlets for under $2 per disc. Stick to name brands, such as Kodak,
Verbatim, Ricoh, 3M, and Maxell to avoid problems. The 50¢ or so per disc that
you may save by going with a cheaper brand may cost you hundreds of dollars if
your project is delayed because of problems creating the glass master.
When you’re producing a master for replication, the
files being transferred to a CD one-off or other media can potentially be
infected with viruses. Viruses distributed on CD-ROM can wreak havoc with your
customers or business partners and seriously damage the reputation of your
organization. To avoid this problem, run a thorough virus check of all of your
source files prior to premastering and producing a CD one-off. Any reputable
virus scan program will do the job, as long as it has been updated recently for
the latest viruses. Symantec Norton Antivirus, Dr. Solomon’s Virus Guard, or
McAfee Virus Scan all do a good job on the Windows 95/98/NT side. For the
Macintosh, you can rely on Symantec Norton AntiVirus for the Mac or Dr.
Keep in mind that if you’re producing a hybrid disc, you
should run the virus scan program and disinfect the files for both platforms—Mac
and PC. To be extra safe, after you’ve completed the premastering and created a
CD-R gold master to bring to the replicator, run the virus scan software on
files contained on the gold master. This might seem like an excessive
precaution, but you cannot easily restore a damaged reputation gained from
transmitting viruses on disc.
“Hybrid” usually refers to a disc that can be used on
multiple platforms, including Macintosh, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, UNIX, and DOS.
A number of different approaches exist for creating a hybrid disc. The
partitioned approach creates separate volumes for each platform. For example,
you can design a CD-ROM with a separate Macintosh HFS volume and an ISO 9660
volume. The data for each volume must be duplicated, so this approach consumes a
large amount of CD-ROM space for identical material, such as video content,
images, sound files, and so on, that could otherwise be shared.
One way to handle hybrid disc data is to create a shared data
region that can be accessed by platform-specific readers, data engines, or
multimedia players. For example, a CD-ROM might have the Macromedia Director
playback engine (the projector) for Macintosh and for Windows each sharing
Director files from a common data region on disc. Similar approaches allow UNIX
users to maintain the look and feel of their native work environment while
sharing data with other platforms. One tool for seamlessly creating hybrid discs
is available from Creative Digital Research. HyCD Publisher Professional creates
four-way hybrid discs that allow PC, Windows 95, UNIX, and Macintosh
environments to efficiently share data. Using a product specifically designed to
handle hybrid creation can greatly reduce the problems you encounter when
producing discs for multiple platforms.
Most people prefer to do their own
premastering and the latest generation of premastering software packages make
this a much easier process than in previous generations. For many types of
discs, you can simply choose the appropriate file structure and CD-ROM format,
select the files and directories that you want to include on the CD or CD-ROM,
and burn a master. To make sure that your CD one-off won’t produce problems
during replication or when delivered to your audience, consider the following
- Select Disc-at-Once write mode from the configuration
settings available in the CD recorder software.
- Choose a file structure that is appropriate for the files
that you want to include on the CD-ROM. For example, if you choose to use the
ISO 9660 Level-1 file system, you cannot include Windows long filenames on the
CD-ROM (the recorder software will either truncate the filenames or display a
- Choose the CD-ROM format that is appropriate for your title.
For example, if you are producing an Enhanced CD in Blue Book format, make this
selection from the configuration options in your CD recorder program.
- If you are producing a hybrid disc for use on multiple
platforms, separate the common data files from the platform-specific search
engines and players. Use a CD recorder application that supports hybrid disc
creation to produce the CD one-off.
- Never transfer files to disc using packet writing if your
goal is to create a CD for replication.
If your project includes complex elements or you’re
uncomfortable with some aspect of the recording process, you may want to consult
with someone more experienced, particularly if you are producing your first
CD-ROM. Xtreem Technology is able to offer premastering from your source media
and a reference CD with most CD-ROM manufacturing packages. If you have any
questions call Xtreem Technology on 1300 669 1001300 669
Optical disc manufacturing shares at least one thing in common
with software development – both processes offer many potential pitfalls and
problems, and there is ample opportunity to be beset by problems if proper
attention isn’t paid to the host of small but important details! Experienced
professionals as well as first-time buyers can fall prey to the same problems.
When dealing with replication and packaging issues, the more information you can
glean from reliable sources before you start is your best defence against
Short Run or Long?
If you only require a small number of discs, up to about
250, the most cost-effective solution would be to have them produced using a
CD-R duplicator. Unlike manufactured CD-ROMs, the discs used in this process are
made from recordable media, exactly the same as you would use at home.
Professional CD duplicators, however, have anywhere from 2 to 16 recorders
combined in the same piece of equipment, producing discs at speed ranging from
2x to 16x.
Some of the newer duplicator units even have the capability to
create, duplicate and print images on blank media, allowing high-quality,
professional-appearing CD-ROMs to be produced in minimal time.
If the number of discs you require is much more than 250, then
conventional manufacture is more practical and cost effective. Instead of
working from blank recordable media, pressed discs first require that a glass
master be created. The glass master, which contains the indentations
representing the data, is used to generate stampers for the manufacturing
process. Stamper imprint the data image onto the molten polycarbonate – hence
the reference to pressed discs. The surface of the disc is usually overprinted
with a design using silkscreen or offset printing techniques in one or more
colour after the disc has been pressed.
CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs that are replicated in a manufacturing
plant are very different from the discs that you burn in your CD or DVD
recorder. Rewritable discs are different again. Understanding the differences
between each type of media can affect your decisions when planning duplication
or replication. Ensuring your data is not submitted on CD-RW media can help
avoid delays when scheduling manufacturing. The basic disc types are:
- Pressed Discs: Pressed, or manufactured, discs are created in a mould from
molten polycarbonate and coasted with a reflective aluminium layer and
protective lacquer. The data – millions of microscopic indentations – is
embedded in the disc surface as a part of the mastering process. Artwork is
silk-screened or offset printed onto the disc after manufacturing.
- One-Off Discs: In comparison, the CD-R one-offs that are produced by your
recorder start with blank recordable media that contains a special photo
sensitive, dye-based layer. Data is physically imprinted by a rapid-firing
laser. These discs are a write-once form of media; once you record the data, you
cannot erase or overwrite it. Artwork is typically applied by a printer after
duplication, but custom-printed blank media can be obtained as well.
- Rewritable Discs: Data can be recorded on rewritable media, such as CD-RW,
DVD-RAM and DVD-RW discs, and then erased so that new data can be recorded.
Instead of actually burning the data into a dye layer, most rewritable media
relies on phases-change technology, where a laser beam creates changes in a
crystalline material. This type of media is well suited to archiving, but it is
totally unsuitable for use as a master in replication.
If your project is quite
small, such as a few CDs intended for promotional activities, demonstration
material, distribution of databases or sharing inter-office content, then you
can get away with simply duplicating on recordable compact discs (CD-Rs).
The duplication process is very simple: A single CD-R is
burned as a demo for client approval. When approved, the image is then
downloaded to a hard drive connected to a series of CD-R burners. Discs are then
burned and verified at the speed of the duplicator, usually between 2x and 16x.
This process is ideal for short runs as it allows the fast production of small
quantities at low cost.
Once the CD-Rs are burned, there are several different methods
for printing such as thermal ink jet, thermal transfer and silk-screening.
Silk-screening produces a disc that looks exactly like a replicated CD, so it
offers advantages if you require a very high quality image. If you are burning
more than 25 CD-Rs ask Xtreem Technology if silk-screening is available, whether
it costs more and whether it will affect your turnaround time.
Orders between 100 and 300 units are a grey
area. In this case, the decision of whether to duplicate or replicate becomes
more dependent on the individual customer’s needs and requirements. It is best
to talk to your Xtreem Technology representative for help in evaluating the
costs and turnaround times to get the best value out of your money. Replicating
more than 300 discs is best suited to large-volume manufacturing processes
working from a glass master. Disc printing options include silk-screening and
offset printing. Be sure you allocate enough time in your schedule to
accommodate the printing method you use.
While Xtreem Technology will handle rush jobs, you can
expect that some type of premium will be involved. If you can, plan ahead to
save money! Some advertisements in trade publications imply that CD replication
is as easily as dropping a roll of film off for processing. In reality, it’s not
quite that simple. CD replication requires careful attention to a number of
details, which if rushed or overlooked can lead to unsatisfactory results and
less than professional quality.
When manufacturers quote a turnaround time, it is often for
replication only, and doesn’t include the parts that often take the longest -
premastering, label film preparation, packaging or shipping. While a
manufacturer might advertise a five-day turnaround, they’ll need to receive
label information two days before the order can even start. If your film and
master arrive on a Monday, your CDs won’t ship until the following Tuesday. Five
days become seven, and more if you include the weekend. If you need additional
printed parts such as inserts or other packaging, you will need even more time
to provide the required art or film.
Turnaround times, therefore, are only estimates and there are
many variables that will affect how long a particular job will take. Delivery
schedules can change if proofs are not approved on time or if there are any
complications during the manufacturing process. Delays are not reimbursable, so
to avoid running into problems it’s best to allow a couple more days in your
production schedule to give yourself a safety buffer. Additionally, it’s worth
knowing that when turnaround times are quoted, they don’t usually include
shipping times, another thing you will have to factor in to your
Early Design of
Given that the CD replication process has such
speedy turnaround times, the packaging and printed components of your CD-ROM,
DVD-ROM or DVD-Video production can often take longer than the disc pressing
itself. We recommend that you start designing your packaging when the CD or DVD
is still at the testing stage, or even earlier, during authoring. While your
master is likely to be put through a number of alterations through its
development cycle, the packaging design and marketing message are likely to be
the same right from the beginning. With spot-on organisation it would be
possible to complete the package design, colour separations and even printing,
days, if not weeks before your disc master is completed.
Factoring in the
Cost of Rush Jobs
Avoid a rush job by planning well in
advance so you can complete each step of development and save yourself the
stress and high cost of a faster turnaround (sometimes adding more than a 100%
cost increase). However, if there really is no choice, it’s nice to know that
rapid turnaround times are possible.
DISC ARTWORK AND PACKAGING CONSIDERATIONS
Aside from providing the data or content for the optical disc,
customers also need to think about whether they would like to supply artwork for
the disc surface and packaging. If it suits your needs better, the design work
can be handled by production staff at Xtreem Technology for an additional cost.
Alternatively you can handle these parts of the production yourself and save
yourself time and money in the process! Keep in mind, however, that there are a
number of guidelines to follow.
The time it takes to finalise disc artwork, choose packaging
materials and produce the artwork for the packaging can all add up and
unfortunately these tasks are often left until the last minute. Stay ahead of
your deadline by addressing the tasks of artwork and packaging as early in the
development process as possible.
There are many packaging options to choose from. A disc can be
packaged in a plastic jewel box, a cardboard sleeve, a vinyl sleeve or a
cardboard retail box. When choosing your packaging it is vital to keep in mind
the final destination of the CD-ROM or DVD. A CD-ROM that is used for in-house
training won’t benefit from the more expensive retail-style case that you would
better choose to market a game sold at a software store.
If you intend to market your product in a
retail environment, packaging is an especially important consideration. Consumer
studies have indicated that even if a particular kind of software is being
sought, shoppers will continue to make comparisons while browsing store aisles.
For this reason, your product will need to make a big impact and draw potential
customers in. Attention must be given to the size and shape of the package as
well as the placement of the item and the type of information it displays.
Particularly in the games genre, flashy add-ons such as holograms and danglers
can really help during the debut of a product, although these can be scaled back
during the rest of the product’s life span. As for the rest of the software
industry, keeping a track of what your competitors are up to is the best way to
start thinking about what your own product should look like. Many merchandisers
recommend adding stuff to make it seem heavier and more ‘value-packed’ –
indicating that there is ‘more’ on the front of the box is one of the best way
to catch a potential customer’s attention.
To fully understand the importance of the various selling
surfaces on the package, you must consider the behaviour of the consumer.
Consider that eventually the box will get ‘spined’ – displayed spine out – after
it has been on the shelves for a certain amount of time. You need to be aware
that the spine surface has to work hard to entice the shopper to pick the box
up. Set the title name vertically and right-reading and include a ‘why buy’
statement, such as “Learn The Secrets of Smart Selling!” or “Make a Million
Dollars in Property!”
You have about fifteen seconds to close the sale once the
customer has picked the box up, turned it over, and scanned the information on
the cover. Typically, the best way to economically convey the information is the
use of screen shots, a list of features, and any other selling gimmicks you
A few scattered points to consider:
- - For a children’s title, always indicate the intended age of the user – a
parent will simply not buy a title that doesn’t display this information.
- - Always indicate on the packaging that the box contains a DVD, a CD-ROM, or
whatever your product happens to be. Merchandisers may not know the package
contains software! In addition, these disc media are still considered premium
product by consumers and your product will benefit from this assumption.
- - Always include a ‘why buy’ statement on every surface.
- - Put hardware requirements and technical specs on the bottom.
- - Most importantly, show an early mock up of your product to a potential
store buyer. The changes he or she recommends can often provide invaluable to
the success of your product.
As in retail, the appearance of your CD-ROM or DVD package for
direct mail purposes is also important. Packaging your disc is a simply vinyl or
paper sleeve might be appropriate for some applications, however for your disc
to have maximum impact, custom printed cardboard jackets or CD wallets
(especially with extra fold-out flaps) will get your product to stand out better
in the mail. Compare and contrast other pieces that were used for similar
applications; Xtreem Technology can supply you with some samples upon request,
or log on to www.xtreemtc.com.au for
further information on what product will best suit your needs.
When designing the CD mailer, wallet, folder or jacket,
consider the retail box points above. Your mail piece, demo or show give-away is
competing for attention too. In addition, if you are doing a custom mailer, take
an early version to the Post Office for advice on the costs involved. You need
to know about any design flaws that will end up costing you!
Many packaging options exist and new ones are being
devised all the time. The following options are available for your independent
Amaray CD/DVD Red Tag
Box: This is the most popular and familiar DVD packaging format.
The box has a push-button locking tray hub for easy disc release, and clamps for
Custom CD wallet:
Similar to the cardboard jacket, the CD wallet offers extra protection,
usually has a spine, as well as additional graphics space. Traditionally used
for direct mail, but now also becoming accepted in the retail environment. Can
be used as a self-mailer.
Custom printed cardboard jacket:
Good for mail order. A good idea is to leave a blank space on
the back of your jacket. You’ll be able to put an address and stamp right on
your jacket for mailing purposes.
: Includes a plastic tray glued into a cardboard wraparound cover. The
discpack is a more distinct and sophisticated packaging option for your disc and
a little more environmentally friendly since it has less plastic that a jewel
case. The discpack is also significantly more expensive, however, especially on
manufacturing runs of less than 3,000 pieces.
While this is the standard package for audio CDs, it is also the most
popular CD-ROM packaging format due to its size, affordability and
attractiveness when used with a printed insert. Good for many uses ranging from
in-house to retail sales. Also available are double jewel cases, as well as
slimline single and double jewel cases.
There are popular and come in a variety of options. They offer the
ability for you to insert an extra piece of literature in addition to your disc.
These are made with non-woven material to trap dirt and protect the playing
surface. Vinyl sleeves are primarily used in-house, for direct mail and for
promotional giveaways. They can also be made as a binder that can hold up to 4
CDs with an insert.
CD Slip Case: A slip case adds
value to a standard jewel case packaging by doing several things at once -
providing additional surfaces for promotional information, appearing
'value-added' due to its sleek and more unusual design, and offering better
protection for the case inside. The CD slip case is ideal for a high quality
product within a retail environment, due to its sophisticated appearance.
FINDIND AND AUDIENCE
CD-ROM and DVD-ROM titles still have yet to carve out their
own clear place in the retail market. Bookstores don’t know exactly what to do
with them, while computer software outlets don’t tend to stock very many titles.
At the same time, they are being widely used by educational institutions,
business organisations, legal firms, medical organisation, insurance agencies
and so on, as compact, convenient repositories of training material, specialised
data, laws and regulations, educational resources and other forms of
The extra storage space available on DVD-ROM opens up
additional interesting possibilities that some organisations are beginning to
explore. Releasing discs that can be distributed on a multinational level due to
their ability to be played back in a number of different languages is just one
example of how optical disc technology can open up unique new opportunities.
These practical kinds of optical media applications are still
seeing a sharply rising growth curve. DVD drives and players are now showing
growth rates surpassing any storage medium of the last twenty-five years. It is
corporate adoption, however, that will open up an entirely new area for
developers. Developing and distributing for these channels often involves
investigating the different approaches used by these industries and modifying
your marketing approach to reach your primary audience. Reading trade
publications and placing industry-specific advertisements will help you reach
specialised niche markets.
As a rapidly evolving communications medium and a part of the
digital revolution, CD-ROM and DVD-ROM titles can sometimes be promoted best
through the use of other digital channels such as the World Wide Web. The Web
lets you reach an international audience and allows you to target specialised
interest groups, focussing your marketing directly towards these potential
The more traditional methods of marketing and distribution are
explored in the following section.
A choice you will have to make as your project
nears completion is whether to work as an independent producer or together with
a distributor or publisher. Depending on the nature of your title, working with
a publisher can often be a good way to help develop, manufacture and promote
your work. While some publishers have an existing staff of developers and may be
reluctant to deal with independent producers, others are actively seeking
quality titles and are eager to work with newcomers in the field.
Finding the Right
Seeking out the relevant companies for your genre of
title is the first step of the process. Approaching companies that deal genres
not related to your title will be a waste of time. Industry directories of
publishers provide category listings and contact information for both major and
minor players in this field. You can also scan the back of successful CD-ROMs
and DVD-ROMs in related title areas to obtain publishers’ names and contact
Next you should get in touch with the publishers directly and
be put in contact with their new product development department, who can provide
you with a set of guidelines on request. It is best to have something solid
prepared before you reach this stage, because in most cases, an idea on paper
will not sell your project effectively. Providing a demonstration disc not only
demonstrates not only your skills in disc-based digital content, but gives the
potential publisher a reasonable idea of the style and character of your
project. There’s no need to go all-out for a complete production – a few
well-polished modules and a smooth interface design will be enough to
demonstrate the nature of your title. Xtreem Technology can manufacture small
runs of CD-ROMs for just these purposes.
Once your project is picked up for distribution,
you should take an active role in its promotion by keeping the publisher up to
date with the latest information about your title. For example, if a CD-ROM
title was favourably reviewed in print or online, keep a physical record of
these instances and send them on to your publisher periodically. He or she can
then use this exposure as leverage to get more stores to carry your title or to
display the package in a more prominent position.
It’s a great idea to include a registration card with your
title. Information about your customer base is invaluable when it comes to
marketing efforts and the release of future titles. If there are any new
releases or updates in the future, you have a ready-made mailing list to notify
an interested audience. A token award to customers for returning the
registration, such as a utility program or a pen inscribed with the company logo
can boost registration rates significantly.
Occasionally developers will secure project funding from
distributors. This can be dangerous ground in that such deals can cut
significantly into your future profits and you can loose control of your title.
Ensure you only deal with legitimate distributors and that the terms of funding
are clearly stated.
Using Add-Ons for
Planning your CD-ROM or DVD-ROM title so
that it may incorporate add-ons in the future is a strategy to generate
continued sales and interest in the titles you produce. If you have a title that
lets the user construct and visualise home design plans, for example, you could
provide supplements that include sample house plans, custom architectural
details, different varieties of furniture, landscaping options, and coordinated
design schemes. Industry directories and databases can be kept current with
quarterly update modules.
Consider the fact that if your customers were prepared to buy
your title in the first place that some of them will respond to add-ons that
increase the usefulness and value of the title. This is the information gleaned
from your registration cards come in handy. You can also use response forms in
your product packaging or post update details on your Web site to make sure all
your products can be easily purchased.
Organising your website so that users can register online
after installing a title or program gives you a direct link to your customers,
providing they give you an email address and allow you to use it. Producing an
e-newsletter is a great way to stay in touch and provide updates and
announcements. Many customers will prefer that contact is kept to electronic
forms only, so respect their preferences and stick to email as opposed to direct
mail and brochures.
Electronic commerce across the Internet is a
growing phenomenon, and not only for the big commercial interests. For a small,
independent producer with a title, the Internet can be one of the best ways to
tap into specialised markets and reach your target audience. Some of the options
available through the World Wide Web include:
- Make your CD-ROM or DVD-ROM title(s) available for direct sale on your
website. Transactions will be handled by online order forms or any other
recently developed payment methods for Internet transactions. Protecting your
buyers is vital, however – ensure their details by use of a secure socket layer
and encryption for all online transactions involving private information.
- Establish links to your commerce site from other sites that deal with
related topics. If you’ve designed a CD-ROM that teaches piano techniques,
communicate with the Webmasters at retail music equipment sites, audio CD
outlets, music education sites and so on. Your commerce site will be
well-received and engaging if it is contextualised by these links, and in turn
you will benefit by traffic from as many directions as possible.
- Purchase banner ads on appropriate sites to draw attention to your title. In
these early days of Web advertising, it’s still possible to inexpensively
purchase a recurring banner ad on many high-profile Web sites.
- Use the <META> tag in your HTML document listing to provide multiple
possibilities for search engines to access your pages. A long list of keywords
can provide greatly improved odds that someone will land on your site as the
results of their Web search activities.
- Take advantage of Internet forums, mailing lists and news groups. Announce
your product’s availability and provide a simple way for people to order it.
- Put a portion of your program, title or game up on the Web and allow people
to download it for free. Since Doom by ID Software became one of the most
successful game releases in the industry’s history, many game developers have
utilised this technique to good advantage. Trial versions of a product
piggybacking on someone else’s CD-ROM can also help generate a new customer
Self-Promoting Independent Titles
certainly be helpful to incorporate space for a barcode into your packaging
design for application at a later date, or even better, to have secured a
barcode prior to printing so that it is already included. Barcodes can be
obtained from EAN Barcodes by calling 1300 366 0331300 366
visiting their website at www.ean.com.au.
Any product that will be sold in a bookstore or stored at a library must have an
ISBN (International Standard Book Number). A basic fee of AU $44 is payable to
the ISBN Agency Australia while actual ISBNs are allocated in pricing blocks of
10, 100 or 1,000. A single ISBN will cost AU $33 and no re-registering is
required – ISBNs do not expire. Call +61-3-8645-0300+61-3-8645-0300 for more information
or visit www.thorpe.com.au/isbn/index.htm.
Most large chain store outlets have ongoing
relationships with their distributors and don’t want to spend time with
individual developers. Furthermore, some huge outlets are likely to have a
computerized distribution system that is not even compatible with small outfits.
It can be quite impossible to get one of these organizations to work with you on
an independent basis, and a better approach might be to find a distributor that
specialises in working with new or growing title producers. Such distributors
have an existing network of business relationships which would otherwise be out
of the reach of a small, independently produced title. Many of these
distributors have managed to find success for alternative or small-scale
producers and know the techniques and approaches that work best to get titles
into either mainstream channels or other niche markets.
Keep in mind that large-scale distributors are interested in
selling to general audiences; if your title is unique or distinctive or designed
to appeal to a narrower audience range, you might do better finding alternative
sales channels for it.
Having your title included in a catalogue can be a sure way
of reaching an audience composed of CD-ROM and DVD-ROM title buyers. The common
business arrangement is for the CD-ROM or DVD-ROM publisher to sell the title to
the catalogue company, which then handles the direct-mail catalogue distribution
and services orders. Some caralogye companies, however, require that the title
producer pay a fee to be included in the catalogue. In this type of arrangement,
orders are often forwarded to the title producer for servicing and the catalogue
company may collect a transaction fee or a percentage of the sales.
If you have several titles available, another alternative
might be to produce your own catalogue and distribute it through a mailing list
carefully constructed to the characteristics of your target audience. Usually
you can purchase mailing lists, categorizing the entries by a number of
criteria, from many established lists rental agencies.
Direct mail is another means of distribution, providing you
have a database filled with prospects. Through a postcard or sell sheet you can
advertise to prospective customers what you’re offering, what it costs, why they
should buy it and how they can get it. It generally not acceptable to make
follow up calls after a postcard drop, so you’ll have to cross your fingers and
hope the orders start coming in. The usual rate to a postcard direct mail offer
is from 1% - 5% (2% is considered a normal response). Acceptable postcards can
be sometimes made in-house or at local copy centres, but the higher-quality look
gained from getting your material professionally printed will do no harm in
attracting more customers.
Another option is to rent mailing lists. Computer
publications, hardware and software manufacturers all have subscriber or client
lists and most of these are for rent. Rent a list of likely buyers and test a
small number (5,000 – 10,000 is suggested as a minimum) by sending them a
postcard. If you get a satisfactory response to this test mailing, go ahead with
a full mailing. If you had a poor response, however, several factors might be at
play, all of which can be tested: the list may be inappropriate, the offer may
be poor, your mailing format may not be right (postcard or letter or sell
sheet?) or the copy or layout might be ineffective. Direct mail is unfortunately
a process of trail and error. There is also a great deal of waste involved, as
well as the risk of annoying potential customers who are tired of the barrage of
direct mail queries that stream into their mailbox each day. For a customer base
comfortable and familiar with electronic mail and Internet, it can be less
wasteful and more effective means by which to reach your audience.
Direct Response Ads
If don’t have access to a database, place direct response
ads in relevant publications and start building your own contact list from
scratch by gathering the contact information of every respondent. Be sure to
include an attractive offer and a toll-free number where buyers can request
information from – both of which are proven to boost the response to
advertising. Keep in mind that it takes many repeat ad impressions before your
phones start ringing. Try different magazines, but don’t give up after just one
or two ads, as it takes an extended period to get a heavy response.
Sending out press releases to appropriate publications to
announce your product can also produce results. Press releases often work better
than ads, since an article about your product seems more unbiased and you don’t
have to pay for advertising space. Try to weave a story around the product. Why
is it innovative? What does it need to solve? Why must the public know about it?
Try not to over-hype your product because if your press release looks too much
like an ad, the chances of a magazine or newspaper running it are slim. Include
all the necessary information at the end of the release and when your press
articles are responded to, add all names and addresses to your data base.
A surprisingly effective technique for moving a lot of
product is to secure a booth or table at a computer show. Well-publicised
computer flea markets can be heavily attended events where attendees go into a
buying frenzy hoping to pick up hardware and software at bargain prices. The
best places to find out about such events are through your local media, the
Internet and topic-related magazines or other publications.
Credit Card Sales
If you are planning to sell your product directly using
phone, mail or the Internet, you will need a merchant credit-card processing
service from you bank in order to accept payment from these sources. Do some of
your own research on the different credit card providers and banks, and be aware
that start-up fees can be steep and deposits are occasionally required.
Credit card associations (such as Visa, MasterCard and
American Express) take a percentage on every sale (3-5% is common for most small
businesses). If a sale is disputed between a merchant and customer, the credit
card company will more often than not side with the customer. Plan on the
application process to take 2-4 weeks, depending on your bank or credit-card
provider. Some companies provide a turn-key solution to Web store setup, such as
CreativeSoft (www.creativesoft.com.au), and their
affiliation with credit-card process services can bring fees down substantially.
With an automated system of this type in place, you can verify credit cards
online automatically and accept order securely, with far less effort that if you
tired to set up a transaction system for your own Web store.
This short booklet has aimed to give a broad overview of the
issues involved in designing and producing CD-ROM and DVD-ROM titles. Although
it would be impossible to cover all the issues involved in this area in such a
short space of time, we hope we have succeeded in giving you a sense of how the
process works and suggested some useful ideas to get you thinking. Many small
developers get caught in the trap of thinking that to succeed they need to
release an epic work, without fully realising the amount of work that even a
modest project demands. Sometimes it’s a good idea to simply avoid the
‘blockbuster’ mentality and work towards constructing a useful and manageable
title on a much smaller scale.
With a desktop computer and active imagination you have the
opportunity to create and share music, artwork, ideas, research, historical
data, travelogs, experimental video and anything else you can store in digital
format on optical media. The best uses of this medium have barely been tapped
and you have the opportunity to make your statement on a half-ounce digital
canvas and share it with the world!
We at Xtreem Technology look forward to the opportunity to
work with new developers, as well as established CD-ROM and DVD-ROM producers,
to help solve production and replication problems, provide the most appropriate
packaging and add the level of professional finish that is the mark of a quality
title. We look forward to talking with you, answering your questions and helping
make your optical disc project a success.
Australian Interactive Media Association (AIMIA)
AIMIA promotes the interactive
media industry’s growth and success by providing promotional support and export
assistance to members, organising networking events and acting as an advocacy
group to government.
Australian Digital Alliance
The ADA links members with an
interest in equity and balance in intellectual property law from diverse areas
such as education, private enterprise, scientific and research organisations, as
well as major cultural institutions, libraries and individuals.
International Disc Duplication
functions in a forum capacity, linking those organisations in the business of
recording onto CD-R and DVD-R while also: acting as a resource for information
on products, working with suppliers on meeting the needs of the industry,
lobbying in issues of licensing, and promoting technologies that can lead to
growth of the disc duplicating industry.
This is an IT news site
containing a great deal of topical and current information relating to the
information technology sector in its entirety. Also provides a good amount of
supplementary information such as white papers and reviews.
PADI (Preserving Access to Digital
rich resource by the National Library of Australia dedicated to the preservation
of digital information, an area concerned with ensuring that information in
digital form is managed with appropriate consideration for preservation and
OSTA (Optical Storage Technology
thorough site relating specifically to optical disc storage technology and all
associated issues. Particularly helpful are the links which provide a
comprehensive listing of related organisations, publications and reference
The CD Information Centre
site is relatively simple but has some more unusual nuggets of information such
as a section covering optical disc history and commentary in the form of
published articles by industry professionals.
One to One Magazine http://www.oto-online.com
One to One
group produces three publications - One to One, Mediapack and DVD
Report - concerning the international media manufacturing industry and
providing global directories, conference announcements and details and
exhibition publications. The site is a great starting point for access to
globally relevant industry news and information, international manufacturing
contacts and events. Subscription to the publication is free.