This post focuses on how to create a professional looking and sounding portfolio disc that won’t make more enemies than friends.
A good portfolio will open up a lot of doors for you as a producer or engineer. What makes a great portfolio? Well, it obviously should sound good. That depends on the quality of your work – you just have to not screw it up if it’s already solid. With a portfolio it also has to look good. Let’s face it – a lot of people to whom you’ll want to be dropping off your CD will be getting a lot of submissions. So what does that require? First, choose if you want to make a CD or a DVD. A CD is definitely easier, but a DVD is still a little unusual. If any of your material has been made into a music video or used in film, it’s great to include the visuals as well. Additionally, DVDs can display album artwork and additional information on the screen. It’s really up to you and your resources.
You’ll probably want a jewel case. Slim cases vs. standard cases? It doesn’t really matter but most slim cases don’t have back sleeves, which can be really valuable real-estate for information.
CD-R or…? Unless you’re planning on sending your disc out to thousands of people, it’s probably not worth making a glass master. CD-Rs are just fine. These discs won’t need to be terribly durable – they’ll probably only be listened to a few times. And a label will make it more durable. So, no need to get anything top-of-the-line. Any major brand spindle of data discs should be fine.
CD Label? Labels are really important for a professional looking package. Sharpies just don’t cut it, really, but there are some important things to realize about labels…
- They increase the thickness of the CD which can produce weird sounds when spinning in some drives.
- The thicker size also means that they will almost certainly get stuck in slot loading CD drives… that means your disc will get stuck in a Macbook Pro or Macbook. Just about everyone and their cousin has one of these in the music industry for whatever reason. So that’s not a good impression to make. My solution? Put a warning on the disc artwork. It’ll make you look really smart and, if they ignore it or don’t notice it, you can point it out after the fact.
- Matte labels generally look crappy. I recommend using glossy labels. They suck up ink better and don’t bleed nearly as much.
Album insert? Definitely have a cover insert, at least. Again, I recommend something somewhat glossy for ink reasons. As ink is one of the biggest costs in making a portfolio disc, save some ink and keep the insert small.
Back insert? Not essential but it looks cool to have one, especially since this is the bit of the CD that will be seen when the disc is lying next to other discs (ie… the title ‘spine’ thing™).
Lead with your strongest stuff first. Don’t make people just through hoops with lots of intros or menus (on a DVD have it play something good immediately).
Check with your clients before using their material! You’re basically distributing it for free. Make sure that’s ok. If they say no, ask if you can use a 60 or 30 second chunk of it. Usually they’ll agree to that.
How do you make a DVD? There are some pretty decent, free DVD authoring tools for Linux. I use QDVDAuthor (use the latest stable version… the one in the Debian and Ubuntu repos is really unstable). There are lots of options on Mac and Windows, but they’ll all cost you money.
For the graphics stuff there’s a great resource of templates available at Cinram. Use them.
Make sure to include a nicely laid-out one-page resume or promo page along with your disc.