Vol. 31 Issue 4 Reviews

Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher

US$ 1,495; Primera Technology, Inc., Two Carlson Parkway, North Plymouth, Minnesota 55447-4446, USA; telephone (+1) 763-475-6676 or tollfree in North America (+1) 800-797-2772; fax (+1) 763-475-6677; Web www.primera.com/.

Reviewed by Jared Dunne
Denver, Colorado, USA

Figure 1Primera is a Minnesota-based company producing disc duplication and printing devices. The company manufactures a whole range of these units, from entry-level to high-end, and has recently released what it claims is the first Blu-Ray disc duplicator. This review concerns itself with one of the entry-level units, the Bravo Disc Publisher (suggested manufacturers price: US$ 1,495, although this unit can often be found for less). This particular device can duplicate CDs and DVDs (the new Bravo unit that also handles Blu-Ray discs costs about double the price), and is able to handle up to 20 discs at a time (see Figure 1).

The Bravo connects to either a Windows or Macintosh computer through a USB cable (but must take its power through an external cable/adapter). The system requirements are not particularly onerous: Windows 2000 or XP, 700 MHz Pentium III/IV processor, 512 MB RAM, 10 GB hard drive space; Macintosh OS X version 10.2 or higher, G4 700 MHz (it will run on an Intel Mac as well), 256 MB RAM, 2 GB hard drive space (6 GB for producing DVDs). The one factor that requires care is the need to connect the Bravo to a USB 2.0 port on the computer (2.0 ports appearing identical to USB 1.0 ports, of course).

The unit is simple to unpack and set up. You need to make sure the unit is set on a stable, flat surface, all the packing adhesives removed (that prevent the robotic arm from moving unnecessarily, etc.), and the printer cartridge installed. The installation disc loads the necessary drivers and software to the computer. On a Macintosh (this review was carried out using an Intel iMac, Mac OS X 10.4), it is necessary to add the Bravo as a printer option using Printer Setup Utility. The software for managing operations—selecting what kind of disc format, loading the content, attaching image files for printing, etc.—is provided by CharisMac Engineering. The Discribe software presents options for burning Data CDs, Audio CDs, or copying a CD/DVD. What is not provided for the Mac platform is any software for creating the disc labels. Templates are provided, but you must possess graphics software such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to prepare your labels. According to the company, a survey of Mac users indicated that the vast majority of them already use Adobe software for working with graphics. For users who need something more economical, Primera recommends Magic Mouse Discus Labeling (listed for US$ 45; Web www.magicmouse.com/) or Smile On My Mac DiscLabel (listed for US$ 32.95; Web www.smileonmymac.com/). If you have the Bravo connected to a Windows machine, Primera provides its own project management software, called PTPublisher. In addition, the company provides a version of SureThing Disc Labeler, a dedicated graphics program that enables the user to create disc labels using helpful templates.

The first step in producing a disc for duplication is to create the audio or media content and have it available on the computer hard drive. Then, the text and image(s) for the disc label need to be prepared and saved as a graphics file (the software supports any file type Apple Preview supports: JPEG, TIFF, PICT, PDF, GIF, BMP, etc.). The printer utility Page Setup enables the particular type of disc to be selected (there are choices beyond the standard CD/DVD, such as Business Card Disc, 80 mm CD, etc.). The printer driver is supposed to center the image and crop it to the shape of the CD. You should be able to create a graphics files using a custom page size of 120 mm square (4.72 in) and center your image and text in that area. I had some trouble getting this to work properly. As I discovered, it is critical to properly set the Inner Diameter (the area where there will be no printing), and the Outer Margin. There are also adjustments to be made for Print Quality, Disc Surface Quality, Color Matching, and Intensity. Getting these right takes some experimentation, but it is important to take the time to do so, as the results can vary quite a bit. I would also advise creating the graphics file (in Photoshop or whatever other software) to be high resolution (300 dpi should be sufficient), in order to retain the sharpness of the text and images. I should also note here that you of course need to make sure your discs are printable, and while there is no need to use the Primera media, you would be advised that not all printable discs are equal in quality, and this will definitely affect the quality of the print using the Bravo (Primera discs range from US$ 48/100 to US$ 64/100, depending on surface quality and water-resistance).

Once the label has been created, the printer settings properly adjusted, the content loaded (a simple process of selecting the tracks and ordering them), all that is necessary is to load up the blank discs into the Bravo’s Input Bin and click the Print button on the computer. The robotic arm will first check that there is not already a disc in either the burner drawer or printer tray. Then, the arm will lift a disc from the Input Bin and move it to the open burner drawer. Depending on the disc type, the media, and the burn speed selected, this stage will take a few minutes. When the first disc is burned, the drawer ejects the disc, it is picked up by the arm and placed onto the printer tray. Before printing commences, the next disc is loaded into the burner. Once the first disc is printed (again, this will take some time, depending on settings and content), the arm picks it up and drops it into the Output Bin. These operations proceed automatically, and it should be noted that they happen quietly and smoothly. The software settings provide for doing a test burn/print (probably a good idea, in particular to check that the printing results in the best possible image, that the text is centered, and so forth), and to verify after burning, if desired.
All in all, the Bravo Disc Publisher works very well. For producing small runs of discs, this device offers an affordable, relatively trouble-free option. For more intensive requirements, Primera has a comprehensive range of other units. The company also produces and markets ink cartridges for the Bravo. It may not be easy to find these cartridges at your local office supply store, but they are available from a number of online suppliers (at discounted prices).