Sunday, October 16, 2011

DVD Burners, Copy Protection, Inks Part II

Well, three months is a bit of a wait, I agree, but hey like you guys I’ve been busy surviving, marketing, working and taking care of business. Well, yeah, this blog is part of all that and that’s why I’ve not totally abandoned it. Nor will I ever. For as long as I live and function there will be an E.C. Come, E.C. Go blog on marketing and producing video.

First things first, however, so I want to wrap up or at least deliver on the promise of Part II, of “Burners with Copy Protection & Printing Secrets” then later you can scroll back up and read about where E.C. Come, E.C. Go is going in the near future and why it makes sense, or should, for me to offer the complete series, in publication since 2004, in a published book as well as downloadable PDF and eventually an eBook format. I plan to post that sometime in the next few days.

A recent response to one of the posts on a Videomaker Forums venue generated a valid request from fellow video producer, Charles Schultz, Missouri. Charles’ question is a simple one and I thought it might be fun to respond with information and illustrations in a blog here. More on all that later.

In Part I, published July 3, 2011, I noted that regardless of opinions positive and negative about using a DVD burner tower that provides copy protection (effective or not based on fact or opinion) I was going to find out by purchasing one. It took me a bit longer than I intended to make the purchase, but I did, from Super Media Store. Sadly, I’m still waiting for test results from an IT friend I know and trust who promises “great delight” in telling me “how many seconds it takes me to break it” — what would I do without my friends, right?

Manual feed DVD duplication towers for standard DVD duplication for 1-to-1 (you really need something more, trust me) start at $150 depending on source, hardware, etc. They can run much higher but let’s say you CAN get something that works well enough for that starting price. Do a search on Google.

I’ve made it for several years with my old Reliant Digital 3-up manual unit, including Pioneer burners and a hard drive, diagnostic programs and more but that unit is growing long in the tooth though it still does an outstanding job and I did spend close to a thousand for it. The RD people are now called Denver Disc and they still offer GREAT customer service and quality products. Ironically, I could have purchased a 4-up unit from them now that offers copy protection for about the same price ... currently at $995. On the other hand is is software-based copyright and compatible with Windows XP or Vista PC. I use a Mac and I didn’t want to “go there” with software copy protection, licensing fees or no.

Anyone having a need to burn/duplicate more than one copy of a DVD (most of us, probably) however can acquire a basic manual tower system for a low investment. In fact, there are 9-up units out there priced at well south of $500. Check out Super Media Store, ebay and Amazon as well as Media Supply, Pro Duplicator, American Musical, Meritline and a host of others. Again, do a search on Google. The field is HUGE!

You’ll spend significantly MORE when you add copy protection, software or hardware or “otherware” based. My unit from Super Media Store is a 5-up Spartan Fortress, balancing between budget and production needs, and ran me $979 ... at the time it was the best buy I could find in a non-software, no license or key required, copy protection system.

This system has other benefits including auto-start recording, options to record different types of DVD and CD media blanks, with or without copy protection written onto the duplicates and a hard drive for storing various projects. In my research most of these type of duplicators ONLY provide their copy protection when duplicating from DVD-R master to DVD-R blank. Duplicating from other formats or from the hard drive negates copy protection being included on the resulting DVDs.

So, I balanced the trade-offs, costs, budget, etc. and WANTING copy protection to whatever extent it might prove effective (keeping “honest” people honest, for example) I went with it. I’d also interviewed others in the industry who I knew were using copy protection either way ... software of hardware. For the most part these professionals posed no regrets and all cited an uptick in sales over previously non-protected duplication DVD productions.

I went with the non-software based units because I didn’t want to have to be concerned with the ongoing expense of licensing and key purchases, nor did I want to contend with decisions based on my computer platform. The vast majority of the software-based copyright schemes with licensing or otherwise is PC-based. Nothing wrong with that but I use a Macintosh and simply do not see going to another platform ... good, bad or ugly.

These fees can range from per project to per DVD. They can require purchasing 50 or more at a time and rarely offer an emergency purchase of one (to get the job done that you’re right in the middle of before remembering you need to acquire more licenses) ... that sucks.

And, given time, overall effectiveness of the protection being equal, I will spend as much for ongoing licensing regardless of what I might have saved up front by purchasing such a unit, as my unit cost. On that basis, if it lasts half as long as my old reliable Reliant, I’ll do better than break even. Not to mention the possible 2-to-25 percent uptick in DVD sales due to keeping honest people ... well, you know.

your duplicator tower, once you’ve justified and established a real need for one (with or without copy protection, depending on the volume of sales you now generate or expect to generate in the near future, from a known dealer. Don’t dabble with weird places on the web whose creds you cannot confirm or establish.

This by no means will restrict your choices as there are a number of places such as and similar to the ones I’ve already mentioned where you can either obtain references from people you know, resources you trust, or already have an ongoing personal/business relationship with over the years.

with folks on the various forums who insist I’m mistaken about the range of speeds to record (I suggest 8X or less, plenty fast enough and safer than rushing it with today’s higher speed rated blanks, regardless of the equipment used); and also insist that I’m being ultra narrow minded when I say that nose grease and fingerprints, skin oils and other substances take away from the appearance of those glossy or semi-glossy surfaces.

In addition to practical experience from years of duplicating and printing on all sorts of stock, I’m personally and knowledgeably aware that the glossy finish blanks and even the waterproof blanks, while they might be great in defense against moisture damage with inkjet systems, do not look that great after a bit of handling. And, contrary to others’ findings, MY findings are these oily residues, fingerprints and nose grease occurrences DO NOT simply wipe off with a damp cloth. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. You’re mileage and/or preferences may vary.

While there are certainly people and those other wonderful creatures between the ages of two and 18 who mishandle, toss, grab both sides of or otherwise abuse DVDs and CDs by leaving them out to collect dust, wiping them off with t-shirts or GASP! paper towels, storing them on dashboards, window sills and anywhere else the sun shines, there’s the rest of us.

Those who keep them in cases when not in use. Handle them by the edges. Prefer to not leave them in the player tray. Keep them safe from sun, moisture and baby fingers. These people do not suffer the damages experienced by spills, sweaty glasses or hands, or play them outside in the rain. Therefore, my hundreds of clients through the years have rarely contacted me for copies due to damage of the graphics. They also don’t have to deal with unsightly smears and fingerprints that glossy surface and waterproof DVDs quickly accumulate.

stems from some of the same thought processes as do matte or glossy finish. Again, mileage may vary, but for me I prefer to burn, then print unless I’ve printed my blanks early enough to give them sufficient drying time ... 24 hours usually works, but sometimes depending on the humidity, it could take twice that or more.

It’s not a question of if but when you’ll begin to notice weird little striations, actually tiny cracks that radiate outward from the center hub area where centrifugal force and motion have caused problems with your pretty graphics. And even though others claim, practical experience based or theory based, that the fast drying glossy and waterproof finishes eliminate this problem, my personal experience (hands on, not theory) has been otherwise.

Trust me, it’s safer to print any type of stock after burning but also acceptable if you give your printed stock sufficient time to thoroughly dry.

in DVD/CD duplicator towers with copy protection include the Fort Knox by Applied Magic; Systor systems Disc Master series; Pro Duplicator systems; Denver Disc mentioned previously; and also a system from the makers of the original Casablanca standalone editor, from Gary McNally of McNally Productions, McNally’s Plug and Play. Gary carries not only the Spartan Fortress but other units that require the software licensing.

The jury’s still out on just how effective copy protection is on the system I acquired. As soon as that report comes in from my IT friend, there’ll be a blog article with all the details. He’s promised me a thorough report.

Burn slow and burn first, print last. In most cases this is the safest way to ensure fewer print problems or client issues. Stay with Verbatim, JVC's Taiyo Yuden, Disc Makers brand. For the record, JVC/Taiyo Yuden is rated number one on many forums, blogs and columns offering opinions on the best DVD stock and Super Media Store, mentioned previously, is named as one of the best low cost resources for purchasing this product.

Constant Ink Supply Systems, CISS, coming soon. I will provide relative current information on printer brands that use them and resources for the systems as well as the printers they serve. On average, a printer using a CISS will cost you about $125 initially, with costs of $70, given or take for replacement ink of good quality. The supplies generally equals 10-to-11 full 6-cartridge refills for printers like some of the Epson series. Do the math.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a couple other blogs to write tonight so remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2000-2011 Earl Chessher

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