Technology is quickly evolving all around us. Gone are the days of the cassette tape – instead we are finding ourselves working with computers, compact flash, and CD. In the wasteland of our media closets sit banks upon banks of cassette tape duplicators, reel to reels, and who knows what else just lying in “storage”.
Today many churches are making the switch to CD, but unlike the world of cassettes there are many options when it comes to duplication and fulfillment.
One of the relatively new gadgets that catches everyone’s attention is the all-in-one CD/DVD duplicator printer. With inkjet technology improving so quickly we can now get gorgeous prints directly to the CD! No more fuss with labels, boring black and white text, or write-on markers. Not to mention the convenience of “setting it and walking away”. Who needs to spend countless hours switching out media when you can push a button, walk away, and come back a couple of hours later for a full set of CD’s or DVD’s waiting for you in the bin?
Many churches have opted for this solution, but quickly find they erred. Don’t get me wrong, the duplicator/printer is a wonderful device and it definitely has its place in media ministry. However, if you have to turn over large volumes of CD’s or DVD’s quickly this is not your answer. While the process is easy, it is not quick.
If your church has the need to turn around large numbers of CD’s or DVD’s on demand the only real solution is a tower duplication system. These systems are designed for taking your disc and quickly replicating them for mass distribution.
I recently got a chuckle out of a church’s idea of saving money. The senior pastor (not being a technical savvy person) decided to purchase a CD duplicator for the church. But in an effort to “save” money he bought a one-to-one duplicator. It took on average 10 minutes for this duplicator to burn a CD, and then the next disc had to be inserted. This “savings” cost the church a volunteer for AN ENTIRE DAY AND A HALF each week! It was also a huge burden on the machine (which wasn’t intended for that kind of volume) so they would burn through a unit every 6 months. This is an example of how NOT to duplicate CD’s for media ministry.
It’s important for you to take into consideration all the factors involved in your ministry. First, do you need to duplicate quickly? If so, how many will you be duplicating per session? 10, 30, 100, 1000? What should the discs look like? Are you looking for full color prints or black and white images? Will your discs be printed with text only? Will the label change from week to week? All of these decisions will factor into your purchasing decision.
Tower duplicators are available in many sizes – usually from 1 to 16 drives, and most commonly can be chained together to provide multiple copies in one pass. Tower systems can often grow as your ministry grows – providing greater flexibility over time. Another strong point to the tower is the minimal moving parts – it’s just a fact, the fewer moving parts there are, the less to break. The less to break the better off you are.
If you are going to use a tower system then you need to think about how your disc will be printed. There are several options here. The first option (although not a great one) is labeling the disc. I personally don’t like this option because it tends to throw the disc out of balance and on some players (especially car players) the disc won’t be accepted because of the thickness.
The next option is inkjet or thermal printing using any number of readily available automated printers. This is the most common solution for the church.
Another option is to mass-produce screen printed blank CD-R’s or DVD’s. This will give you an EXCELLENT end product, but usually requires a minimum of 1000 orders and isn’t the quickest turn around time.
Once you have determined how you will print your CD’s or DVD’s you are well on your way to duplication bliss. If you are using inkjet, you should print your discs at least 24 hours prior to the duplication to allow the discs plenty of time to dry.
Now, after the service, you will load the pre-printed discs into the tower tray, insert your master disc, and with the press of a button you will hear the whirring of drives spinning your message onto disc! In a matter of minutes the first few will be ‘hot off the press’ and ready for distribution.
If however you are looking for a means of creating training material, class material, promotions, or other products that don’t have a demanding turn around time, an automated duplicator/printer can be just what the doctor ordered. With this machine you will get quality prints to disc and duplication for less than $.50 per disc (depending on the model printer and disc coverage). With these automated units doing in-house runs for advertising, classes, choir parts, etc. is a no-brainer.
Most of the automated printer/duplicators will handle between 25 and 100 discs at a time. Each has their own features and their own quirks. It’s best to research your unit thoroughly before purchasing. Some of the things you will want to ask include:
• How many prints can I get with 50% coverage? (This will give you a consistent yardstick for comparison of technologies)
• How much does ink cost and how often will I be buying it? (Many cheaper units require more ink for equal coverage OR have very expensive inkjet cartridges – what looks cheap up front might not be so cheap in the long run.)
• How does your unit pick up the blank discs? (You will find some methods that you like, and some that will scare you to death.)
• What type of warranty do you offer?
• How many burners does your system include? (Some of the automated systems will come with one burner, others will include two burners.)
• What software is included, and how easy is it to use my own .JPG graphics? (Some systems will not allow easy importing of home-made graphics. For most churches this is a critical concern. I’ve found software to be my most critical make or break decision for automated printer/duplicator units.)
• What is your return policy? (Lets face it, you might buy something and hate it – at an average street cost of $3,000 this would be one expensive paperweight. Know that you can return it.)
In conclusion, decide what you need out of CD/DVD duplication and buy accordingly. In some instances both systems might be what you need. Usually the combination printer/duplicators can be used for the automated printing function, and usually adding a CD/DVD burner is only a couple of hundred dollars. So you might use the automated system for both printing discs for the tower system AND duplicating special event non-time critical productions.
This is not a decision you want to make by price alone. Learn from the church who wanted to “save” money. Make sure the device will deliver what you need and provide you with years of hassle free operation.
Spread The Word.