Last week, Brian took us through the steps of manufacturing your DVD. This week, he talks about artwork and packaging.
Depending on the complexity of the format you select, and the familiarity of the designer with the medium, the time it takes to produce your disc packaging will vary greatly. Begin this process while you are authoring your DVD because DVD replication often takes less time than producing your packaging. Replication can take only a few days, while printing and assembling custom packaging can take a few weeks, depending on the manufacturer. If you choose from among your packaging options early and supply your artwork before your disc master is released for replication, you will save significant time on your total production schedule.
DETERMINING YOUR PACKAGING NEEDS
Packaging can make all the difference in getting your film noticed by the industry, by distributors, and retail buyers. Your options vary widely, and the appropriate packaging solution really depends on the ultimate destination of the DVD. The packaging of DVDs is generally different from the CD jewel case; this was done because manufacturers did not want customers to become confused and assume that their DVDs would play in their CD player. A DVD that is used for a promotional screener may not require the same type of case that you might need for a film that will be sold in a video store.
-Many packaging options exist and new ones are being devised all the time. Here are some examples of a few types of the more popular available DVD cases: Amaray-style case. This is the most popular DVD packaging format, usually seen in major studio releases. This case is an all-plastic clamshell with clear vinyl pocket for inserts. It also features a push-button locking tray hub for easy disc release and clamps for multi-page booklets. The “safe boxes” are made from impact-resistant polypropylene to protect the discs, and the wide spine offers high visibility and added retail impact for your DVDs. The insert can include all information about the film and filmmakers, chapter titles and menu points, and the film’s Web site address where people can go for information and discussion – and where you can collect their information to put them on a mailing list for a newsletter for announcements of future releases and screenings.
-DVDigipak. This is a premium packaging alternative to the Amaray-style case for your DVD video. It retains many of the advantages of the Amaray and offers the impact of high quality packaging and plenty of space to make an elegant and impressive graphics presentation.
-Jewel box. This is the standard package for audio CDs, but if packaged with shrinkwrap and a bar code, it can often be used for DVDs for online retail. Although uncommon for DVD-Video, it offers compact size, affordability, and attractiveness when used with a printed insert.
-Digipak. Full graphics panels replace traditional jewel box paper inserts, and a secure locking tray keeps your disc in place. Digipaks have lower mailing costs than a conventional jewel box.
-Custom-printed cardboard jacket. This is an economical way to have beautiful packaging on promotional screeners or DVDs that will be sold on your own Web site. It can be mailed directly without an additional envelope if you leave a blank area on the back of the jacket for an address and postage.
-Tyvek sleeve. The most economical packaging option for promotional copies. Sleeves can be all-white or have a window for visibility of label copy. We recommend Tyvek sleeves over paper sleeves, which can scratch DVD-Rs.
It is well worth putting together an impressive package to impress retail, promote to the industry, and put forward the right image to your customers. Besides supplying the actual data that is included on an optical disc, customers frequently supply the artwork to be printed on the surface of the compact disc and the artwork for the package and any inserts. Optionally, these materials can be handled by the production staff at some replication facilities for additional cost. Finalizing the disc artwork design, choosing packaging materials, and producing artwork for packaging can take a significant amount of time, but, unfortunately, these tasks are too often left till the very last stage of the development process. Stay ahead of the curve by addressing artwork and packaging as early in the process as possible, and be sure that the replication service you choose can accommodate your requirements. For example, if you design your on-disc artwork for precise offset printing, and the replicator only offers silk-screening, the results will probably not please you.
Using templates is a must. It is extremely important that your printing materials be exactly to spec to work with automated packaging equipment. Templates are available for all standard sizes. You can download these templates from Disc Makers’ Web site (www.discmakers.com/fg4/). The design approach and implementation can also make a big difference in the final results. Even if you have experience working with paper-based printing, you need to be aware of the differences in printing on compact discs, as described in the following section.
If your goal is to sell the film in retail outlets, you should include shrinkwrap, a release number, and a bar code on your project with your artwork. A release number is an identification number for your project, and is usually a combination of a few letters and numbers that you select. Many retailers will use your company’s release number in their systems, and it is also helpful for your own inventory if you are producing more than one film (or multiple versions of the same film). A UPC bar code is a must for retail sales. Stores won’t sell products that don’t have them. A UPC bar code will cost at least $750, but Disc Makers will give you one for free with your DVD replication order. If you are using a Disc Makers UPC bar code, leave a space on your artwork where your bar code will be inserted.
DESIGNING ARTWORK FOR DVD PRINTING
Three-color silk-screened printing is standard for all Disc Makers replicated DVD packages. Silk-screening uses spot PMS colors (Pantone Matching System – actual mixed inks) and not process colors (colors created by combining the four process inks on press: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).
Some facilities, including Disc Makers, use the computer-to-plate (CTP) process for insert and cover printing, which is a modern method of creating plates for the printing press directly from the computer, avoiding the use of film and other mechanical processes. CTP allows the manufacturer to image the plates directly from digital files which provides for a much higher quality image on the plate as well as faster production times.
-If you are creating your own artwork for the DVD package, follow these tips for optimum results:
• -Keep your design simple. While Disc Makers uses a 100-line screen, the industry standard line screen is 85 lines per inch (lpi), or about the same screen ruling as you find in newspaper print. Also, the tonal range allowed is 15-85%, meaning that tints less than 15% may not show up and tones darker then 85% may close up. These factors limit the amount of detail you can present in an image and also cause gradients to reproduce poorly.
• -Work from your replicator’s template. Each replicator’s DVD has a slightly different printable area depending on the mold they use, so only their templates will be perfectly accurate for their DVD. Disc Makers offers free downloadable design templates at www.discmakers.com/fg4/.
• -Bleeds, design areas that run past the outer edge of the printed media, are not permitted.
• -DVD label proofs usually show more detail than the actual on-disc silk-screen print and do not always give an accurate impression of what these kinds of problem areas will look like.
• -As many as four or five spot PMS colors can be printed, but again this is still not the same as full-color process. If a white instead of silver background is desired, a “donut” of white ink can be laid down first. Any of these on-disc print options involve additional cost.
• -Full-color silk screen printing is available, again at an additional cost. Disc Makers offers deluxe, full-color silk screen printing at 200-line screen, which is the highest in the industry.
• -Trap aggressively, depending on what colors you’re using. Trapping addresses possible registration problems that can occur between adjacent colors in a printed design by slightly expanding one color region into the other. If it is type on black, give it as much as a one-point trap. Many graphics applications include support for trapping. If you are supplying electronic files to Disc Makers, a pre-press specialist will check and trap all of your files for the best results when printed.
• -PMS inks have varying levels of opacity, so the color combination from printing the inks on top of each other may be different from what you expected. Other screened blends of two or more colors can also present problems for these same reasons.
• -True duotones cannot be done predictably, since registration in silk-screening is difficult, and a moiré pattern can easily occur. Also for this reason, avoid using fine type knocked out of a screened background or screened type in small sizes.
• -When proofing, keep in mind that printing your label proofs on white paper will be misleading because your design will be printed directly over the silver surface of the disc (unless you are laying down a flood coat of white). This may cause some of your lighter tones to disappear due to the gray value of the silver being similar to the value of those tones. You can get around this by using the silver as a design element – so it becomes an extra color.
Short of printing the ink on a DVD, there is no totally accurate means for viewing what the actual printed surface will look like. Skilled professionals can anticipate many of the effects that may occur, but even they are surprised from time to time. The fewer unpredictable elements you have in your design, the less chance you will be surprised by the outcome. As long as you’re aware of the unique nature of silk-screening ink on a silver DVD, you can adjust your design accordingly and come up with creative and impressive results.
Disc Makers, with a staff of over 20 full-time award-winning designers, specializes in great-looking custom DVD packaging. Call us at 1-800-237-6666 or visit our Web site (dvd.discmakers.com) if you have questions or need suggestions.
OUTSOURCING YOUR PACKAGE DESIGN
A DVD can’t compete in a crowded marketplace unless the package on the outside looks as good as the film on the inside. You have one shot at success with your release – don’t let a design done by an amateur hold you back. Your film deserves a professionally-designed package. That’s where photographers and graphic designers come in. These consultants create the visual image that complements your artistic vision and represents your work. Enlisting a graphics professional is an investment in your image and your future. The goal is to create a visual representation that will promote your work effectively for a long period of time by making your title stand out from the crowd. Having your artwork professionally designed also enhances your image as a serious filmmaker – and it can save you a considerable amount of time and frustration and can often enhance the look of your DVD beyond your expectations. However, professionals can be expensive – and paying top dollar may not always yield what you want or need. Take the time to do some research. Do they offer a satisfaction guarantee? Have they won awards? Are their prices competitive?
-Before you commission work from prospective photographers, graphic designers, or other consultants, follow these guidelines:
• Make sure they have experience in the field.
• View their portfolio and be sure their past work appeals to you.
•- -Talk to former clients and business associates to confirm their level of professionalism. Are they up-front about their prices? Have they done work for artists who have gone on to bigger and better things? Do they seem receptive to your vision and budget?
•- -Know what you want to achieve, and make sure you have communicated your desires effectively.
In addition, find out the details. While design turn-times generally are not quoted because the speed of the replication process can depend on graphic design changes and the time it takes for the customer to approve proofs, the process can be speeded up if the manufacturer will send out the proofs quickly. Will they send you physical prints of design proofs for your approval? How fast will these go out to you? Will they cover the cost of overnighting the proofs to you? This is another benefit of using a professional operation. That generally means faster turnaround and better quality control, since a single business can be held accountable every step of the way.
Graphics professionals’ prices vary widely depending on location, the degree of services and time needed, and their professional standing. Beware, however, that the more you learn about graphic work, the more tempting it becomes to work with an amateur or even by yourself. You should realize that the time you are spending getting an amateur consultant up to speed could be spent doing the many other tasks a filmmaker needs to do to generate a buzz about the film.
Check back next week for tips on finding an audience.
For more info on Disc Makers, visit the company’s website.