Starting the Copying Process
Having come this far, let's make a CD from the layout we've created. As you might guess, several ways are available to do this. You can use either of the following methods:
Use the CD layout to create the CD directly.
Use the CD layout to create an image of the CD on your hard disk and then use that image to create one or more CDs.
When you create a CD image, you are essentially creating a file on your hard disk that has all the audio information necessary to create the CD. You can't play this huge file, but you can use it at a later time to burn as many copies of the CD as you like. For more about using CD images, see "Creating a Disc Image for Later Copying," later in this chapter.
We'll dig into each of these two methods in the following sections. However, in either case, the first thing you need to do is make sure a blank, recordable CD is in your CD-RW drive. Don't worry; if you forget this, you'll get prompted when it comes time to start recording.
Using the Layout to Create the CD Directly
After you have created a layout, or if you have used the File menu to open a previously saved layout, you can start the recording process. The Easy CD Creator program prompts you to insert each CD. To start recording, you can click the Create CD button at the top of the program window, or you can select Create CD from the File menu. In Figure 3.8, you can see the CD Creation Setup dialog box that pops up and allows you to make some decisions about the recording process. To see all the options, be sure to click the Advanced button.
Figure 3.8 The CD Creation Setup dialog box first prompts you about how the CD will be recorded.
We'll get into each of these options over the course of this section. For now, let's focus on the first three:
Target DevicesThis is the drive letter of the CD-RW drive that holds the blank recordable CD. If you have more than one CD-RW device in your computer, which is not likely, you can choose between the devices.
Write SpeedThe values available in this field depend on the type of CD-RW disc drive you have. Some drives are capable of writing at a faster rate than others. However, don't go out and buy a CD-RW drive based solely on its maximum speed. Even though a higher speed if preferable, you might end up lowering it anyway to prevent errors such as buffer underruns.
Number of CopiesWhat can I say? This is the number of CDs you want to create, obviously!
Underrun = Death!
A buffer underrun is a real drag. It's an error that can occur when your computer can't keep up with your CD-RW drive causing it to not have data to write when it needs it. For more information about this kind of error, and things you can do to avoid it, see Chapter 15, "We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: Troubleshooting CD Recording."
With the Advanced button clicked, you can see the other advanced options available for you to choose from. These fall into two categories. The first is Create Options, where you can decide whether you want to perform a test or just create the CD. The second set of options, called Write Method, get a little more complicated, but we'll steer you through those murky waters.
You'll often hear the term coaster applied to a CD that didn't make it all the way through the burning process. Because you can't rewrite a CD-R disc, a failed burn leaves you with a disc that's only good for setting drinks on.
From the Create Options, you can choose one of the following options:
Test OnlyThis option test writes the entire CD burning process and is a good idea if you're having problems burning discs, using a new computer, or have just installed a new CD-RW drive. If you're not having any problems, you don't need to go through this lengthy process.
Test and Create CDSimilar to the last option, except that if the test is successful, Easy CD Creator automatically starts to burn your CD.
Create CDThis option enables you to skip the testing process altogether. If you've been using the drive for a while and are confident in its capabilities, choose this option. If you run into a problem and find you are making coasters instead of CDs, go back and select one of the test options first.
Write CD-Text InfoOff to the side, you will notice this button. Not all CD-RW drives have this capability, but if yours does, you can select this option and the information about the artist, CD title, and song titles are saved on the CD you create. If played in a CD player that recognizes this kind of data, you will see this information displayed when the CD is played.
CDs work in tracks and sessions, and regardless of whether they are open or closed. Tracks are individual chunks of informationfor example, in this case, a song. A group of tracks burned in one process is called a session. Finally, a disc remains open and able to store more sessions until it is closed. You can choose how to write a disc from the Write Method options list:
Track-At-OnceThis means that each track is written individually, with a two-second gap between each track. Under this option you can choose to
Leave Session OpenThis leaves both the session and disc open so you can add more tracks later on. However, you won't be able to play the disc in a CD player.
Close Session and Leave the CD OpenThis completes the session, but leaves the disc open so more sessions can be added later. It's important to remember that most audio CD players cannot read beyond the first session of a disc, so this option isn't very useful for music CDs. Also, because the disc is left open, you'll be able to use it only in your CD-RW drive.
Close CDThis option, naturally, closes the CD. After this is done, you can no longer add any tracks or sessions to the disc. You can, however, play it in a regular audio player.
Session-At-OnceThis option causes the program to write the entire session in one pass. If you are creating a CD with the first session containing audio tracks and plan to add a second session with data, this is a good choice. It also eliminates the two-second gap the track-at-once method places between each track. The CD remains open after the session is written.
Disc-At-OnceThis causes the entire disc to be written, as you have designed it in the layout, and then the CD to be closed. Because multiple sessions aren't of much use with a music CD, this is usually the best choice. This method also prevents the two-second gap from being created between tracks on the disc.
When in Doubt, Use Disc-at-Once
Using the disc-at-once method has a few other advantages over the track- or session-at-once methods. With the other methods, you don't switch between source discs until each disc has written the track according to the order of the layout. This means you must sit through the entire burning process so you can switch discs when called upon to do so. Disc-at-once prompts you to enter each CD right away so it can extract the audio tracks you have placed in the layout. So instead of writing each track out, and making you wait while it does so, it extracts each track and creates a temporary file on your hard disk. When all the tracks have been read, it then writes the entire CD, and you can go off and tend to other matters.
Finally, if you find that the preset options Easy CD Creator uses for this dialog box don't suit your needs, you can use the Set as Default button after making the necessary changes to make the program remember the current settings.
Digital Audio What?
Digital audio extraction (DAE) refers to the process of taking the data straight from the CD, still in digital format, and sending it to the program (Easy CD Creator in this case) that is "ripping" the data from the CD.
When you are ready, click the OK button to start recording. When Easy CD Creator is first installed and used to create a CD, it tests the source CD-ROM drive to ensure that it supports digital audio extraction. It also makes sure that the drive can keep up with the speed at which the CD-RW drive will be writing the new CD.
It is important to understand that if you selected the disc-at-once method, after the laser starts to burn the CD, it can't stop or pause for even a second until the entire CD is written. The burning of a track, session, or entire disc is a continuous process that cannot be interrupted from beginning to end. If the buffer becomes empty in the middle of writing a track, which can happen for various reasons, a buffer underrun occurs and your disc becomes a coaster.
After testing your drive's capabilities (which should happen only once unless you re-install the program or install a new CD-RW drive), the CD creation process begins. If you are using the track-at-once method, the program writes the table of contents first. Then, it prompts you for a CD, writing the necessary tracks to the recordable disc, before requesting the next CD it needs (see Figure 3.9).
When you are using your computer to record a CD, don't use it for anything else, unless you have a very fast CPU and don't plan on making heavy use of other resources, such as memory. As a rule of thumb, leave the computer alone while it's burning the CD!
Making Multiple Copies
Because disc-at-once writes the audio tracks to your hard drive first, it is much easier and faster to use this method when making multiple copies of CDs that use the same layout. After those tracks are on your hard drive, it can write as many copies as you desire without requiring you to insert any more CDs.
If you are using the disc-at-once method, the program prompts you for each CD first, reading the tracks it needs, and then storing them in a temporary file on your local hard drive. After all the necessary CDs have been read, the program then writes the table of contents and, finally, begins writing the disc.
Figure 3.9 Easy CD Creator prompts you to insert each CD you have used for the layout.
After the program reads the last CD, one of two things happens. For track-at-once, the program writes the final track, closing the session or disc as you instructed. In contrast, for disc-at-once, the next step is to write the table of contents and then begin writing each track. In Figure 3.10, you can see the dialog box named CD Creation Process. This display shows you where the program is in the CD burning process.
Figure 3.10 The CD Creation Process dialog box shows the progress Easy CD Creator is making.
In the upper-left corner are four lines of text. The order of these lines depends on the method with which you're burning the disc. While it is creating the CD, the program places a check mark next to the line that describes what is happening at that moment. The four phases of the process are:
Prepare Audio DataThis means the program is reading the track from your CD or hard disk and converting it to the format that will be used to write the disc.
Writing Table of ContentsThis works just like the table of contents for this book, which tells you where you can find specific chapters. In this case, it tells your CD player where each track is on the disc.
Writing TrackWhen this selection is checked, the program is writing a track to your CD-RW drive.
Closing CDThis line of text gets the check mark when the program is finishing things up and marking the CD as closed.
At the bottom-left part of this window is an indicator that shows the progress for writing each individual track. In the upper-right of the display is another indicator you can use to judge the total progress of writing the CD.
Watch that Buffer
The Buffer field, beneath the progress bar for the current track, is an important one to watch when the CD-RW drive is writing. Ideally, it will always say 100%. If this figure drops too much, usually below about 75%, you are likely to have a buffer underrun on your hands, reducing your CD to a coaster. For ways to avoid this kind of error, see Chapter 15.
If percentages aren't enough for you, at the bottom-right you can see a small chart showing the number of tracks contained in the layout, and the number that have been written so far. If you are having a bad day, you might also see something under the Skipped column, which means that the program could not write that particular track and moved on to the next one. If you're making more than one CD, the text beneath the chart lets you know how many copies have been completed and how many are left to go.
If you get bored with the process, or decide you've made a big mistake, click the Cancel button at the bottom. This aborts the process, and, regardless of what has been written to the CD, you'll have another coaster to put your drinks on.
After everything is finished, Easy CD Creator informs you by placing a big check mark over the CD symbol next to the progress indicator at the top-right of the screen (see Figure 3.11).
Figure 3.11 Easy CD Creator tells you when it has finished successfully.
Notice that a new button, Jewel Case, has been added to this dialog box. Click that button if you want to create the jewel case inserts for you new disc. Of course, you can always do that later, as you will find out in Chapters 11, "Using Jewel Case Creator to Create Labels and Inserts," and 12, "You've Got the Look: Using Graphics and Other Advanced Stuff with Jewel Case Creator."
Assuming all went well, click the OK button to close the program. Take the CD out of the recorder and enjoy! If you did experience problems, see Chapter 15 for some help in identifying what went wrong and how to fix it.
Creating a Disc Image for Copying Later
Instead of burning straight to a CD you can use Easy CD Creator to make an image of the CD on your hard drive. I can hear the question now. Why do this? Well, if you want to create multiple CDs, creating a CD image on your hard disk and using the image to create new CDs as you need them is faster. Because they read and write information so much more quickly, copying from your hard drive can also be more reliable than from a CD-ROM drive.
Another One Bites the Dust
If problems occur during the creation process, or if the program terminates prematurely, you will see a big red "X" over the CD symbol instead of a check mark. This means something has gone terribly wrong and the CD will most likely not be playable.
Just like burning straight to a recordable CD, creating a CD image requires a CD layout. However, instead of using the Create CD button, use the Create CD Image option in the File menu. Easy CD Creator prompts you to select the location for the image file (be sure you have enough space on the hard disk!) and to give it a name. When you click the Save button, it then creates the image file. This won't take nearly as long as it does to burn a CD.
When you are ready to use an image file to create a CD, go back to the File menu and select Create CD from CD Image. You will be asked to select the image file on your hard drive to use, and then prompted to insert a blank recordable CD in the CD-RW drive. From there, the process works pretty much the same as for copying from other CDs (minus all that nasty disc swapping).
Image Files Are BIG
It's important to remember, especially when creating music CDs, that image files can eat up a lot of your hard drive's real estate (up to 650MB). With hard disk capacity getting larger and larger with each passing year, this has become less of a concern than it used to be. However, if you create a lot of these image files and don't delete them when they're no longer needed, the amount of space they use will add up very quickly.