WHY DO YOU RECOMMEND THAT SILVERBIRCH WRITES THE REPLICATION/DUPLICATION MASTER?
The article below (HOW A SILVERBIRCH CD-R MASTER IS WRITTEN) is still interesting so we've decided to leave it here!
However, since the end of 2015, we only write DDP masters (unless a client specifically wants a CD-R Master).
What is a DDP?
Disc Description Protocol (DDP) is a format for specifying the content of optical discs, including CDs and DVDs.
DDP is commonly used for delivery of masters for replication or duplication. DDP is a proprietary format and is the property of DCA.
The DDP master is has EXACTLY the same function as a professionally created CD-R master but has several advantages.
1) It can be send online like any other text or audio file, both to the client for final proofing and then to the plant that is making the CDs. The DDP saves our clients courier/post bills which not only save money, but time.
2) If the DDP is sent with a DDP player, it can be opened on just about any computer and played. It's very similar to playing an iTunes playlist. Of course we include a DDP player with our masters.
3) If you are used to listening to audio on a computer, the DDP will be exactly the same experience but, if you prefer to listen to a CD, the DDP player we include has a "burn" button. Just insert a blank CD in your drive, press the burn button and it will write a bit accurate CD that is EXACTLY the same as the CD.
4) You can export the individual 16 bit, 44.1k audio files from the DDP. These are the files you will send to your iTunes upload provider. They will also include the song spacing so if playing back to back with no preset space, the spacing will be exactly as you have approved.
5) On the "face' of the DDP program, you will be able to look at all the CD-TEXT info to make sure it it accurate.
THE OLD WAY or HOW A SILVERBIRCH CD-R MASTER IS (was!) WRITTEN:
This is how we ensure that a master is exactly the same as the source and will not be rejected at the plant (causing delays in the manufacturing).
This is procedure we follow and if a client insists on writing their own, this is the procedure we recommend.
- Client approval re the each individual master, the song spacing (if desired) and lastly, email approval of CD-TEXT (text exported from the CD writing program). Here's more info re CD-TEXT.
- Dither the 24 bit files with POW-r dither and burn on Toiyo Yuden CD-Rs using a Plextor Drive (by consensus, the combo used by the majority of professional mastering engineers for writing masters).
- After writing, check the subcodes of disc (via a computer program, several can do this) to make sure the CD-TEXT got written properly. Also check to see how "&" signs, etc, or "accents" translate as they often don't. Also text copied and pasted from other programs will also transfer over data from original program that can cause glitches in the CD-TEXT. A sub-code check will reveal all of this. Sometimes the text has to be changed and a new master created.
- Do a quick check of the gaps between tracks on the CD player. Also we are checking to make sure there are no clicks or pops in the gap and that any cross-fades created play through properly.
- Do a test for C1, C2 and CU errors. This is done on a Plextor Drive with a program called Plextools. No CU errors are acceptable but a certain percentage of C1s and a very small number C2s are technically OK. However if we see ANY C2s, we write a new master! There are other programs that do this but Plextools is considered the "Gold Standard" by most mastering engineers. Once in a while, a master has to be rewritten if it does not pass all of these tests. BTW, this doesn't mean the disc won't play properly but it usually means the plant will reject it and ask for a new one.
- Write the subcode info on cover for the master including all the info that the plant needs to replicate. This reflects the professionalism that goes into each master that is written at Silverbirch and ensures that the plant knows exactly how the disc should be replicated. Notes like "CD-TEXT" and if written, "ISRC"s are enabled ensure that these functions are transfered to the glass master. Other helpful notes such as "audio in the Pre-Gap of track 3" is intended and song is called "blankety blank" will reassure the plant that there was no error made and that the copyright forms have covered the audio content. When these notes are NOT included, the good plants will stop the job and call the broker to get clarification of whether the audio should have been an i.d.-ed or the copyright status of the song in the pre-gap (which is of course not listed on the graphics!). By the time they call us, we call you, you check and answer us, anywhere from a day to several can be lost!
Take the master disc to our tower burner (also Plextor burners) and burn as many reference discs as the client needs. These have the same printed ink-jetted labels and covers as the masters but are marked as "reference copies". The refs are perfect copies of the master and if they check out OK, the master will be OK.
We have intentionally kept the cost very low for the refs ($5. ea., no studio time) in order to discourage clients from writing extra ones. We KNOW ours are perfect copies and do worry that the copies are not going to be made correctly (see HOW TO...).
- After printing labels, we seal the master disc with tape (removable) to remind the client NOT to open it. If we are replicating, we keep the master and pass it on to the CD Dept. after approval of the ref. We DO NOT recommend bypassing the reference copy as there are a few scenarios that can result in an error to being made. We are completely responsible for replacing any bad discs or discs with errors caused by us in the assembly of the sequence that was contrary to instructions (and that includes any courier costs!). However, we cannot not be responsible for any errors on production runs caused by an error in the master where the client has not OKed the reference copy in writing (email is fine).
- After approval, archive project. There are many reasons why this is a good idea and at $25., is a real bargain if it is needed at any time in the future.
As mentioned before, most artists, newbie mastering engineers and even experienced recording/mixing engineers do not, will not or cannot put this kind of time and effort into creating the master disc not to mention that it is a fact that most people that write CDs don't know what preferences to enable or disable when burning CDs (hence the following link).
Just the simple act of not turning off dither when when writing from our 16 bit files FTP-ed proofing files will cause a bit more brightness to be added to the sound than the real files actually have. We've seen people write discs in Nero with "normalize" inadvertently left on and that can become a real mess. Or sometimes they burn a disc in iTunes and forget to de-select the mp3 box and get a production run of mp3 files!
In our role as manufacturing broker for thousands jobs that are not mastered here, we often field calls from the plant with questions re the master (b/c no info was put on cover re a "hidden" track, etc.) or outright requests for a new master due to failure of the media. Sometimes they notice an i.d. that is not in the right place and sometimes they don't. These things are not the responsibility of the plant and are due to negligence in the creation of the master and/or lack of detailed proofing by the client. The plants that Silverbirch uses for replication all have excellent glass mastering departments but often times clients do not replicate with us and our masters are sent to plants that are not so diligent and that is really where following our disc writing procedures really cut the errors down to zero!
We highly recommend that you go the extra financial mile ($55. CND for an full length CD which includes a master, ref. and archive) plus shipping of your choice and have us create the final master/ref. and send it to you, no matter where you are in the world!