A guide to which DVD mass-production option works best for you.

You’ve burned a master disc of your pice de rsistance and are ready to ship it all over. Just one problem: you have only one disc, and burning hundreds by yourself isn’t feasible. Or is it?

Both duplication services and home-use duplicators create the same outcome, so which one should you go with? This article will arm you with the information you need to choose the option that works best for you, so you can tackle your next big project with ease.

Duplication

The duplicator works just like a photocopier, except this process uses a laser to burn pits into the dye of the recordable area of the disc. You’ll end up creating a carbon copy of your original. And unlike photocopies, which can be hard to read if ink is low, your discs will end up identical every time. If there is a problem with any disc, the duplicator will reject it.

Now that we have a better understanding of what duplication is, let’s delve a little deeper into the subject matter and explore the difference between duplication services and home-use duplicators.

CD/DVD Duplication Services

If you have occasional orders for more discs than you can reasonably burn yourself, you’ll find that a duplication service company can be very helpful. You don’t have to have a job with hundreds of discs; the duplication service can provide you with varying numbers of duplicates.

Duplication services can be convenient when you don’t have time to fuss with doing it yourself. All you have to do is supply them with your master disc. They save you time and the hassle of doing it yourself.

Regardless of the number of discs you choose to duplicate, your order can take a few business days, depending on the duplication company. If you have a limited amount of money, are short on time and don’t need to duplicate discs that often, then using a duplication company to fill your order is ideal.

In-House Duplication

Burning discs one at a time on your computer is a daunting task when you need large numbers. If you’re duplicating large orders of discs more often than not, you should look into getting a duplicator. There are many options available that are easy to use and affordable. The greatest thing about most of these duplicators is that they require no software, and they can be standalone units, which makes them very easy to set up. We’ll look at manual and automated duplicators.

Manual Duplicators

Manual duplicators look like a rack of DVD burners stacked on each other, with a simple menu system. One drive acts as the reading drive, while the rest burn a duplicate of what’s in the reading drive. Their design is simple, and they usually have only a few buttons. Many of them require you to just turn on the tower, load all the trays and let the duplicator do the rest.

The number of discs a tower can burn depends on how many drives it has. It can range from one duplicate at a time to how ever many you’re willing to buy. Higher-end models can come with a built-in hard drive for storing DVD images. This can free up the tray that would have held the master disc and is great for quickly returning to a past project.

Manual duplicators are the most cost-effective option for burning multiple discs yourself. This option is ideal for lots of little jobs, but you can also use it for bigger ones, if you have the time to reload the trays.


Automated Duplicators

Automated duplicators are a lot like manual duplicators, except they’ll save you even more time and effort. This will come in handy when you’re routinely duplicating large numbers of discs. With the automated duplicator, you place a stack of discs on a spindle, and the duplicator’s robotic arm will retrieve the discs when it’s ready to start burning them. This is why some people call them autoloader duplicators.

Because of the autoloader feature, the duplicator can usually complete a duplication job from start to finish without you, once the discs are loaded. That way you can give your full attention to other things and even let it operate overnight. This allows you to get your duplication project done and have a life. Some of the higher-end models can print labels and burn discs in bulk as well. They are often referred to as publishers.

Automated duplicators cost more than manual duplicators, but they take a lot less time to load. If you’re burning large numbers of discs and have limited time to babysit your duplicator, than an automated duplicator is the product for you.

What About the Labels?

If you’re going to take the time to burn all of your discs, you should make sure they have a high-end look. Could you imagine going into your local video store and seeing the latest Hollywood title with a handwritten label? Videomaker always recommends that you print labels directly on the disc instead of using paper labels. Fortunately, you have a lot of options for creating your own professional-grade labels. Duplication service companies can help you out, or you can do it yourself.

Print Services

Duplication service providers can print the label on the discs when they burn your order. You can also order blank media with labels printed on them, so you can burn the discs yourself and not have to worry about the print job. Most duplication houses offer inkjet or thermal printing, which adds a professional feel to your discs. For even higher-quality labels, companies like Disc Makers offer silkscreen printing on duplication projects. Because these options look and feel different, don’t hesitate to request a print sample or drop by their facility to see which look works best for you.

Print Yourself

If you know you’re going to print a lot of labels or simply want the convenience of at-home production, you can do it yourself with a CD/DVD printer. These printers can print labels directly on your discs. These devices vary in the number of discs they can print at a time, as well as whether they use inkjet or thermal printing. Unlike a lot of duplicators, they require a computer. As with home-based duplicators, you can choose between manual and automated printers.

Manual and Automated Printers

Manual printers work well for small jobs of 25 or fewer. Unfortunately, they can print only one at a time, which can constantly take you away from working on other projects. If you have the time and mostly small jobs, this works great and is the most cost-effective way to print CD/DVD labels yourself.

Automated printers operate a lot like automated duplicators. The number of discs they can do at a time varies greatly. If you need to print a large number of labels, these printers can save you time and trouble.


The Biggest Bang for Your Buck

With so many options, what should you do? There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding on which option will work best for your needs. In the end, it will boil down mainly to time and money.

A duplication service company can provide high-quality duplication with very little work on your part, giving you time to focus on what you do best. You don’t need to worry about the process once the master disc is in their hands. However, it can be quite expensive if used routinely.

Doing it yourself allows you to duplicate your project within your own time frame. If you do enough duplication jobs, this can be a cost-effective investment and another arrow in your quiver. The main drawback is keeping track of your ink supply and maintaining and repairing the duplicator.

Vendors

Okay, you’ve figured out which process will work best for your requirements. So what’s next? Obviously, the neighborhood Giganto-Mart doesn’t carry duplicators or offer duplication services. To help save you time, Videomaker has assembled a list of vendors that is a great place to start searching for the best company to meet your duplication needs.

Conclusion

Sometimes, using only one of these options is not enough. Consider using multiple duplication options. The company I work for has a manual duplicator we use for all our small jobs. Occasionally, for bigger duplication jobs (200 to 1,000 discs or more), we’ll turn to an outside duplication service company to make our product look good. For jobs beyond that, we rely on replication, which is a whole new story. (In replication, the information is put onto the disc as it is manufactured, rather than burned onto an already-created disc.)

The next time you burn multiple discs from your computer’s burner, consider the time you can save with duplication. Anyone who needs to burn and print discs will benefit from CD/DVD duplication services and/or home-use duplicators.

Stephen Smith is an award-winning producer and editor for Lone Peak Productions.

Manufacturer’s list

To download a PDF of Manufacturer’s list, CLICK HERE.

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