5 things that can delay or degrade your CD/DVD project

1. Lack of quality photos for cover/insert

Frequently I am sent low resolution or poor quality photos for the insert and even for the cover. I usually recommend reshooting them, but of course it’s too late by the time people get to the design phase. So we “make do” and I have to try to work my Photoshop magic on substandard photos. If your music looks unprofessional, people will interpret your music accordingly.

Think ahead by hiring a photographer early on, and schedule several sessions with them. Don’t forget to get photos during your recording or filming sessions. A recording studio are a particularly difficult place to get good shots because of the lighting and tight space. Flash is not very flattering, especially in a tight space, so without a good fast lens, photos are often dark, blurry and full of noise (grain).

Quality photos can be used for more than your CD/DVD insert – you need good photos for your website, posters, promotions, newspapers articles, and of course for posterity when you need to publish your memoirs.

As a graphic designer who is also a photographer and a musician, I have a unique perspective on how I take photos. I take extra shots of backgrounds, details of instruments and with an eye toward what will work on a cover or interior spread. Other important features even many professional photographers don’t take into consideration are the proportions of how the image will be used – a CD cover is SQUARE (as are thumbnails on websites), DVD covers are tall while film is wide – and the key parts of the image (heads, feet, hands, instruments) should be well within the margins because the printed piece often cuts off a small amount of the outside of the photo (bleed). Leaving room for writing for a cover is also helpful.

Bonus tips:

  • Be sure to get a full release for all photos for indefinite and unrestricted use.
  • You cannot pull sharp, high resolution photos from video, even HD. Video is usually shot at a frame rate which results in about 1/250 of a second shutter speed, so any motion will be slightly blurred – by design – motion blur is actually what makes video look smooth and pleasing to watch, but does not make for a quality sharp still photo. That is why film productions always have a still photographer on set.
  • Proof potential cover images at about 1 inch to see how it looks when it gets used as a thumbnail on a website or catalog.

Further Reading:

Check out my full photo portfolio at www.photos.dianathornton.com

2. Packaging files not designed and formatted to correct specs

Designing CD/DVD inserts and packaging is unlike any other design, especially web design. Many designers are very talented with a wonderful creative eye. But when asked to layout and design a CD/DVD, they are not qualified. When I began designing CDs and DVDs I had been doing general graphic design for nearly 10 years, but when I designed my first CD, I felt like I was learning it all over again. CDs and DVDs have particularly tight specs, and every printer uses different templates. They also include required elements such as copyright, publishing and contact information that are often overlooked, even by seasoned musicians.

When someone calls me to get a quote on a project and they tell me they are doing their own graphic design, I grill them regarding who their designer is and what program they are using. This is because, more often than not, I receive files that are not printable – they are not in my templates, don’t have bleed, in the wrong format, and even low resolution. Then I have to explain what is wrong with their files, and we all wait for them to be fixed. I even had to start offering “finishing services” because I was getting so many unprintable files from clients and designers.

As an experienced CD/DVD designer, I recommend people use me or a designer familiar with CD/DVD design. I know budgets are tight, but your music is worth an extra 44 cents each to look professional and stay on schedule.

Bonus tips:

  • Start your design well before your master is finished. By having your files ready to go to print the moment you finalize your times and tracks, you can keep things moving along.
  • Digipaks can add as much as a week to your production schedule.

Further Reading:

 

 

Check out my design portfolio

3. Licensing not obtained early enough

Another delay is often caused by researching and getting your licenses at the last minute. The factory will not reproduce your CD/DVD without proof of licensing. Many projects can be held up because the licenses are not on Harry Fox or are held by an overseas publisher. This is particularly tricky when the publishing is held by multiple parties, and you have to track down and contact someone for 25% of a song. And sync licenses for film are a whole other level of complexity.

Once you know what tracks you’re including on your album, start doing your research. Find out who the publishers are and how you can obtain licenses for each (Harry Fox, etc.).

  • Bonus Tip: You don’t have to go through Harry Fox to get a mechanical license. If you know the writer/publisher, especially if they are local, you can get a written license directly from them. Here is an example of a license you can use.

Further Reading:

4. Missing ISRC codes

ISRC codes are not required for CDs, but they have become standard. I recommend purchasing your own code which is good for all future releases as well. You then assign each track a number and your mastering engineer will encode your master with them before creating your PMCD or DDP. Have these ready for your engineer before the mastering session.

Further Reading:

5. Master not finished/reviewed

Before you send your CD/DVD to the factory, you will need to have it mastered/authored and then review a COPY made from that master to be sure all is exactly right. When I started Crescent Music Services back in 1997, I was fortunate to have as my business partner mastering engineer Parker Dinkins. I learned a great deal from him. One lesson was that the production master (PMCD) should not be touched by anyone but the engineer and the factory (he sealed it in a ziplock). Instead, he made a REFERENCE COPY directly from that master for review. If the reference copy is OK, then you know the master it was copied from is OK. Many things can happen during the burning process, so without this final and careful review, you can inadvertently send the factory a master with errors, missing tracks, pops, clicks and cut off songs. They do minimal error checking, so it’s up to you and your engineer to provide them with an error free master. Just because the mix sounded great on the last CD you were given doesn’t mean your production master burned correctly.

I can’t stress this enough. Do not wait until the day you are sending the master to the factory to get it from your engineer.

Bonus Tips:

  • Always get TWO productions masters (PMCD) from your engineer – one to send to the factory and one for you to keep somewhere safe. That way if your master gets damaged or lost on the way to the factory you have another to send quickly. Remember to get a review copy from EACH master.
  • Even if your engineer uploads your music to the factory as a DDP (image file), request a PMCD and review copy for your own records.
  • Don’t send your PMCD to the factory via the post office. Use a trackable carrier/method such as Fedex. I’ve seen too many masters get lost on the way with the post office (even their trackable service). Package it in a jewelbox and in a solid outer box (don’t use bubble mailers).
  • Have more than one person review the reference copy.

Further Reading:

 

I hope these tips help your next project go smoothly and on schedule. Give me a call to discuss your design, photography, and manufacturing.

Please download my free ebook “CD Project Planner” for even more information.

DDP masters

If you are submitting your music as a DDP, please follow these instructions:

Uploading a CD/DVD Image file or RAW disc files to the factory

For an Audio CD project DDP Image files work the best, .iso files do not work for Audio CDs.

It is best to create an image file of your disc before uploading  iso and DDP image files are standard for cd/dvd data discs and dvd video discs, and may be created using most disc burning programs (.gi, .iso, .nrg .udi, .cue and .c2d are also image formats we can process).

Next:.please zip the image file or files to be uploaded, as this adds in a layer to insure file integrity during transmission and may decrease the transmission time.

Connect to FTP site using the following information.:

Host:  ftp.ads-cd.com

Email me for the username and password

 

Please email the following information to FTP@theadsgroupdifference.com, kristin@theadsgroupdifference, and dvt@crescentmusic.com

  • Name of the .iso image file you’re sending.
  • The expected source disc name after it’s written.
  • Reference Crescent Music Services, name of artist and title of project

Don’t send artwork files to this FTP folder.

Getting your CD track info to show up on computers

When a music CD is inserted in a computer connected to the internet, the media player application (like Itunes and Windows Media Player) go through a convoluted system of taking the number of tracks on a CD, the running times of the tracks, and then comparing this information to a database of existing CDs online where it then retrieves the album, artist, track information, and even album cover from a central database. Different media players use different databases – Itunes uses Gracenote. Windows Media Player uses AllMusic.

Then what is CD-Text?

CD Text

YOUR COMPUTER DOES NOT READ CD TEXT. CD Text refers to the track names and other information encoded into the disc during mastering. Only Text-enabled CD players (in your car or home) read this info.  These devices are not connected to the internet so they do not have access to any on-line database.  Their text display (showing ‘CD-Text’) presents info that has been included when the physical disc was created, either as part of ‘pre-mastering’ or ‘mastering’.  Any duplication from a disc with encoded with CD Text will transfer the track names only to another CD. HOWEVER, ripping an MP3 will NOT read the track name (remember, the computer can’t read the encoding).

One word of warning about CD text. Because this is encoded in your master, if after the mastering stage you decide to change the name of any tracks, the master will need to be re-made with the new track names encoded.

Online Databases

One of the most popular online database is Gracenote. Gracenote recognizes a disc by analyzing the sequence of tunes on the disc and their lengths. This isn’t foolproof. Occasionally you may see album information from the wrong CD and you have to manually tell it which CD is in the drive. For individual tracks, Gracenote generates a fingerprint of a portion of the music file, and thereafter identifies the track with that section.

This information is usually then stored on your computer by your media player as well as the online database for others. It is NOT encoded on your disc.

Album data can be extensive, and includes album title, artist name, record label, year of released CD, genre, musicians, producers, ISRC, and even label website. Track data include track title, artist name, record label, year of album-released song, credits, genre, subgenre and more.

Believe it or not, the information in the database can come from anyone: the record label, the artist, or even a fan. Whoever uploads the info first. When someone puts the CD into their computer, if their media player doesn’t find it in the database, the program will ask the user to enter the album and track information and then uploads it to the online database for others to then download when they play their copy of the CD.

How do I submit my CD track information?

There are currently 3 different competing online databases. Gracenote, AMG, and FreeDB. You should at least submit to Gracenote and AMG, but while you’re at it, you might as well do the other. Every database has a different submission procedure.

1. Never submit info completely in capitals or completely lower case, if there is no special reason for that.
2. For bands that have a leading “the”, simply leave out the “the” (e.g. use “Rolling Stones” instead of “The Rolling Stones”)
3. Names of people should be written “first name last name” – NOT “last name, first name”. (John Doe)
4. Use the name of the artist repeated on the “title” field if there is no title (usually seen on an artist’s first major label release, such as with the B-52’s)
5. For a sampler or compilation, you should include the track-artist in the track-name, using the syntax “artist / track-title” and set the CD-artist to “Various”

Gracenote

Note: Only media players licensed by Gracenote will submit the data to Gracenote.

  • If you use Itunes, the easiest way is to just put your CD into your computer. Click on the first track and select ‘file’, then ‘get info’ and enter the track information (You can also click in the edit fields or, on a PC, hit [ctrl]+[I].)  When you have entered all the track information go to ‘advanced’, ‘submit CD track names’, fill in the requested information and hit [OK].
    The software will try to identify the CD. If the CD is not identified, you will be asked if you’d like to submit the information. To submit the information, type the following information in the required fields then click the Submit button.
  • Or, you can submit your CD information directly to Gracenote.com as a “content partner”
  • Or just wait until your first fan puts in their CD and enters the information for you (correctly you hope!).

Once a CD’s track listing is in the database, anyone playing that CD in a Gracenote powered player will have it recognized. It can take up to 48 hours for a new submission to show up.

Full submission of all data (including audio and graphics) are only accepted through the avenue of specialized accounts.  This is how songs appear for on-line sale through the various providers.  For iTunes, product is only accepted via their iTunes Producer software that does the rip, encode, and meta data formatting, and submits as a full single file uploaded to that labels account. CDBaby has deals in place with all the various online services.

FYI Gracenote Inc. knows almost any time a CD is “ripped” for use in a portable music player. Apple, Creative and Rio use its service, along with hundreds of software products for playing and recording music CDs.

To learn more about CDDB, visit www.gracenote.com. or read their FAQ page

All Music Guide/AMG (Windows Media Player)

Many retailers like Itunes and Spotify pull bio info from All Music Guide so it is important to submit to them. www.allmusic.com/product-submissions

The album, artist and song information on AllMusic comes from their data provider, Rovi. Rovi provides them with written content like reviews and biographies, tagged metadata like Genres, Styles, Moods, Themes and Similar Artists, as well as information about credits, album covers, sound clips, music videos and a ton of other good stuff. Providing your product to Rovi is the best way to get your information on AllMusic.

Mail Rovi one copy of the product along with any relevant promotional materials, such as artist bios and press releases, and email a single message containing artist and release images (in JPEG format and at least 300 pixels wide) and other promotional materials using the addresses below. Rovi adds products and other materials to their databases at their discretion. By submitting products and other materials to Rovi, you acknowledge and agree that those products and materials will not be returned to you, will become the property of Rovi upon receipt and may be used by Rovi at its discretion. All products and materials should be sent to:

Product Submissions
Rovi Corporation
1168 Oak Valley Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Email, for music content.music@rovicorp.com

Your CD or DVD will go through data entry, scanning, and sampling processes, in which everything from credits to track listings to cover art to sound samples will be added to the database. Rovi editors may also assign descriptors such as genres, styles, and moods to the artist or album. Your product will then be stored in Rovi’s archive in case there is a future need to review, update, or correct the data.

Rovi’s editorial policy is that all reviews, synopses, and biographies must written by their staff and freelance contributors, so they cannot simply copy and paste content supplied by artists and labels or studios. However, this copy is very helpful to them as research material, so please do send it along.

FreeDB

You will need a freedb-aware program supporting submit. For Windows you can use MAGIX Music Manager, Feurio!, CDex or Audiograbber, for Linux you can use Grip. A longer list of freedb-aware applications can be found on their site. www.freedb.org

Musicbrainz at http://www.musicbrainz.org

Submitting tracks via the internet

Formats I can use to duplicate your CD:

  • MP3 Version 1, Level 3, save at 192 bit (this is CD quality)
  • WAV

Then ZIP the files, either individually or, if together, don’t let the zip file get more than about 50 MB large.

Upload the files – DO NOT EMAIL THEM

I will be notified via email that new files have been uploaded.

Send artwork files separately.

IMPORTANT! Name each file according to track number/sequence on finished disc:

Example:

Track 1 Here Comes the Sun or
01 Here Comes the Sun (notice the leading 0 that forces it to stay in order)

I WILL NOT CHECK YOUR TRACKS AGAINST YOUR ARTWORK!!!!

I cannot add ISRC codes – those must be encoded by a mastering engineer.

Inserting Track Info onto your Master

CD Extra – Interactive Music CD

CD Extra is an interactive music CD. It combines video and audio.

CD Text – Text Encoding

This is NOT the track info you see when you play a CD on a computer with iTunes or Windows Media Player.  (See Getting your CD track info to show up on computers)

The artist, CD title, track names, etc. are encoded onto a CD like a table of contents. It enables certain CD players to display text information such as artist, title, track names … etc. It can only be read in players that support CD text (usually in cars or multi-disc carousels) and usually have an LCD display which scrolls the song info while it is playing each track.

This is encoded into the master, and not each track, so if you submit individual tracks for duplication, the cd text encoding will not transfer with it.

Track Info for your Computer

When a music CD is inserted in a computer connected to the internet, the media player application goes online and retrieves the album, artist, track information, and even album cover a central database. This information is usually then stored on your computer. It is NOT encoded on your disc. [READ MORE]

IPR Form

Click here to download

Instructions included on page 2 in file.

This form is an interactive PDF, which means you can save it to your computer, fill it out, save it, print it. You will need Acrobat Reader 8 or higher. Reader can be downloaded for FREE at  http://www.adobe.com.

Completing the Fillable Form

  • Download the form using the link above. Your web browser may be configured with an Acrobat plug-in to automatically open the file within your browsers window upon download. To download the file directly to your computer or to a disk, right click on the link, then select “save link as” or “save target as” from the dropdown options. Make a note of the location on your drive and the name of the file being saved so you can locate it later.
  • open the file using Acrobat Reader.
  • Position the cursor inside a form field and click. The I-beam pointer allows you to type text. The arrow pointer allows you to select a field, a check box, a radio button, or an item from a list.
  • Enter your text and press Tab or use your mouse to click on the next form field.
  • SAVE AS – Name the file with your Artist name – project title – Release number – IPR form. (Example: “The Beatles – Abbey Road – AB220 – IPR Form”)

Handling a CD or DVD

We take CDs and DVDs for granted these days, throwing them on the desk, stuffing them 3 at a time into paper envelopes. But if we truly want these repositories of precious music and data to last, we need to handle them carefully. Here are a few points you may or may not know.

  • The data side (bottom) of the disc must remain free from scratches, fingerprints, dust, etc.
  • Cleaning the disc can actually damage it.
  • NEVER touch either surface.
  • Handle by the edges (or center hole).
  • NEVER set a disc down on a hard surface.
  • Return disc to its jewelcase to when done.
  • NEVER write on the data side of the disc. If you must write on a disc, write ONLY on the label side (top) and ONLY with an approved marking device such as felt-tip, non-toxic permanent ink — NEVER USE A BALLPOINT PEN!
  • Don’t let the bottom of the disc touch anything other than the player or the case it came in. I’m amazed at the scratched-up, greasy-fingerprinted premasters that I’ve seen.
  • Use quality media. Taiyo Yuden are considered the best in the industry.
  • NEVER leave an unprotected disc in direct sunlight – it will deteriorate the data. DO NOT expose to excessively hot and/or humid environments
  • Never clean in a rotary fashion. If it becomes necessary to clean the disc, use a soft, dry cloth, rubbing gently, always from the middle towards the outside. This will minimize errors if you accidentally scratch the surface (the data starts from the center in). We recommend a micro-fine cloth available from most optometrists for eye glasses.
  • Even slight bending of a disc can cause stress fractures. The aluminum then becomes deformed, causing some ridges to be blocked. As a consequence, error correction always has to be applied in that area, affecting the final sound.