Optical Disc Fundamentals | Recordable Media | Data Capacity | CD-ROM Formats | File Structure | ISO-9660 for Universal Playback | UDF: Universal File Structure | Types of DVDs | Designing for a Wide Audience | Types of DVD-Rs
Prospective Audience | Planning and Budgeting | Target Platform | Equipment Configurations | Zero-footprint Installations | Solo Vs Team Effort | Working from a Design Document | Interface Design | Sourcing Design Ideas | Creating a Storyboard | Prototyping | Gathering Data | Data Conversion | Converting Images | Video Formats | Video Compression
Databases and Text | Multimedia Authoring | DVD Development Tools | Outsourcing | Testing… Testing… | Stages of Development | Autostarting Cross-Platform Discs
Choosing the Right Write Mode | Optimising your CD-ROM for Playback | Recording on Quality Media | Zapping Viruses | Hybrid Discs | Creating the CD-ROM Master
Short Run or Long? | Short-run Duplication | Mid-range and Longer Runs | Turnaround Times | Early Design of Packaging | Factoring in the Cost of Rush Jobs
Determining Your Packaging Needs | Packaging Options
Marketing and Promotion | Finding the Right Company | Ongoing Promotion Techniques | Using Add-Ons for Increased Sales | Tapping the Internet | Self-Promoting Independent Titles | Large-scale Distribution | Catalogue Sales | Direct Mail | Direct Response Ads | Press-releases | Flea Markets | Credit Card Sales | Conclusion
Organisations | Web Stuff | Publications


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.


Optical Disc Fundamentals
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 Media
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 times.

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.


Data Capacity
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 disc.


CD-ROM Formats
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 data.


File Structure
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 for Universal Playback
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 Structure
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 volume structure.

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 replication.


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 features.

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 Audience
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 DVD-Rs.



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.


Prospective Audience
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.


Planning and Budgeting
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.


Target Platform
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 generation equipment.


Equipment Configurations
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.


Zero-footprint Installations
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 approach:

  • - 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 Design Document
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.


Interface Design
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.


Sourcing Design Ideas
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.


Creating a Storyboard
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 look like.

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 hinder it.

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.


Gathering Data
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.


Data Conversion
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 directly
  • - 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.


Converting Images
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 from www.debabelizer.com/Internet/Equil/products/DeBabelizer/index.htm.


Video Formats
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 Windows.

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 MPEG-2.

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.


Video Compression
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 combined.

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 removable media).

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.


Multimedia Authoring
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.


DVD Development Tools
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 applications.

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.


Testing… Testing…
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 programming bugs.

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 program.

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.


vStages of Development
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 time.


Autostarting Cross-Platform Discs
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 surprisingly simple.

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.



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.


Choosing the 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.


Optimising 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 performance.

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.


Recording on Quality Media
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.


Zapping Viruses
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. Solomon’s Virex.

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 Discs
“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.


Creating the CD-ROM Master
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 guidelines:

  • 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 warning message).
  • 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 669 100.



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 project delays.


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.


Short-run Duplication
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.


Mid-range and Longer Runs
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.


Turnaround Times
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 calculations.


Early Design of Packaging
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.



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.


Determining Your Packaging Needs
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 employ.

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!


Packaging Options
Many packaging options exist and new ones are being devised all the time. The following options are available for your independent production:

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 multi-page booklets.
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.
Discpack : 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.
Jewel case: 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.
Vinyl sleeve: 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.



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 information.

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 customers.

The more traditional methods of marketing and distribution are explored in the following section.


Marketing and Promotion
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 Company
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 information.

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.


Ongoing Promotion Techniques
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 Increased Sales
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.


Tapping the Internet
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 base.


Self-Promoting Independent Titles
It will 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 366 033 or 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.


Large-scale Distribution
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.


Catalogue Sales
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
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.


Flea Markets
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) www.aimia.com.au
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 www.digital.org.au
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 Association www.discdupe.org
The IDDA 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.


Web Stuff
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 Information) http://www.nla.gov.au/padi
An extremely 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 future access.

OSTA (Optical Storage Technology Association) http://www.osta.org/technology/links.htm
A 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 sites.

The CD Information Centre http://cd-info.com/index.html
This 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.