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Media Compatibility

I see DVD duplicators being used more and more these days. Businesses are investing in duplicators and using them to provide duplication services or getting DVDs out to customers as a marketing technique. If you’re using a duplicator, whatever your plans are, you’ll most likely run into the same problem; media burn failure.

I know it’s the last thing you want to run into and the last thing you might hear a manufacturer talk about, but it is a common issue. I talked to many clients and I have asked them to tell me about their experiences with our duplicators. Many of them are very happy and usually recommend us to their partners. Every now and then I run into a customer having a problem with high failure rates. Naturally I got interested and talked to them more in-depth to see what they all have in common.

I saw a pattern and noticed that in their haste to blame the duplicator, the media was being overlooked as a possible culprit. There are hundreds of different brands in the market right now, and many of the brands just don’t hold up when it comes to being burned in a multi drive duplicator. I’ve had this discussion with different partners and thought it might be easier if I just posted a blog on the topic.

Working with Vinpower Digital I learned about duplicators, media, and other industry insights. Over the time, along with hard lessons learned, I became a media specialist (at least for the sake of this blog).

When it comes to media you want a good disc that you can rely on time and time again. There are hundreds of brands to choose from, but only about 10 companies making them. You might think that if one brand coming out of a factory is good then another brand coming out of the same factory should be just as great, right? No. There are different grades of media being produced and the companies willing to pay the highest prices get the best quality. Companies like Sony, Verbatim, TDK and others even have workers in the factories checking the quality and making sure that the products stays consistent.

So what about the rest of the brands? Well the rest of the media that gets manufactured is made at a high volume while some lower grade DVD’s go through less and less quality control. The dye used to produce DVD’s can even become diluted and thinner, reducing the disc quality. This media in turn gets gathered together and sold at a very low price. The distributors will then pass on the lower price to the retailers. The problem is that you might get a few discs that burn good and then you’ll get a few that fail. Over time the failed discs can be just as high as the successful ones. If you are in the duplication business then those failed discs could mean loss in inventory, sales, and even customers.

When you first consider the price of the cheaper discs it seems like a great choice, but think about the failed discs, loss in time or even worse loss of customers and you’ll realize the more reputable brands are always best. With todays technological advances in producing media the price difference between the good brands and poor brands amounts to only a few cents per disc. A few cents doesn’t seem like much, while happy customers are worth a lot more in the long run.

Sub $200 Blu-ray reader in the plans for Sony

As the driving force behind Blu-ray disc (BD) technology for optical discs and drives, Sony has announced its plans for a Blu-ray reader (no burning capabilities) to retail for less than $200. With the increased size and clarity of computer monitors, more people are watching movies and even television through their computers. In fact, the laptop is fast becoming the business travelers’ portable entertainment system.

Even though prices are dropping on BD players, including the Sony PlayStation 3 and optical writer drives, they still retail in the neighborhood of $500 plus. So introducing a BD reader at less than $200 gives anyone with a HD computer monitor the ability to save over 50% off the cost of traditional BD players.

This is also big news for the duplicator field as in most manual tower CD and DVD duplicators, they are equipped with 1 reader only drive and multiple writer drives. The reason being is that the reader is typically much less expensive than the writer drives. In addition, having a separate drive devoted to reading only, reduces the wear and tear on the writer drives. Up to this point, there have only been BD writer drives on the market so all BD duplicators required a writer drive to act as a reader for at least one run. That increases the overall cost and lowers the productivity for BD duplicators if a drive is being tied up as a reader instead of being able to make copies. By having a low cost BD reader, it makes the BD duplicator far more efficient and prolongs the BD writer drives lifespan while keeping the unit in a respectable price range.

As for HD DVD, they still have yet to introduce a reader or writer drive for the duplication market. Even though there are prototypes on display at various CE trade shows, none have hit the market or are slated to be released within 2007. This is putting the HD DVD camp farther and farther behind the BD camp in terms of reaching the independent video market and the highly lucrative medical, education and financial field for data storage. Maybe that’s not the markets they are courting at this time, but in the end, they will be big factors in who wins the format war.

Is the CD-R on its way out?

What is the state of the music industry and are the record labels following the path of the dinosaur to extinction or merely evolving into a Darwinian metamorphosis into a new business model?  Everyone’s quick to point out the amount of money the record labels are loosing as a result of music file sharing sites and the illegal pirate trade.  The landmark legal win for the RIAA on behalf of the labels against Jammie Thomas, of Minnesota, by ordering her to pay $220,000 in restitution for sharing copyrighted material without permission, is a major victory.  However, will this change the tide of illegal music sharing or just drive it further underground.  I estimate it will most likely not cause much of a ripple in the overall damage to the industry’s financial woes, but instead make headlines for a short time until the next Britney Spears fiasco captivates the masses.

 

So why do I bring this up when the blog is largely devoted to duplication of optical discs (CD’s, DVD’s, etc) and not to digital file sharing?  The reason is, just like the music industry, the “industry” has been writing the obituary of the CD-R for years only to see the sales of CD-R discs and CD duplicators continue to stay alive and thrive.  Why is it that the CD refuses to go the way of the Dodo bird? 

 

I personally think it’s because a lot of people still like having a physical representation of their music like a CD that they can see and touch.  In addition, the price to duplicate a CD is so cheap these days, why get rid of it.  When you can find CD-R’s for less than $0.10 each and multi-drive duplicators for under $400, then the cost of entry becomes next to nothing.  Anyone with a small Casio keyboard with a 4 track recorder can put out their own record and become their own mini label out of the garage. 

 

As long as there is a drive that will accept CD’s, the CD-R and the CD duplicator will have a place in the market.  The iPod and other MP3 players may be the future, but they haven’t killed off the CD, and it doesn’t look likely anytime soon.