Optical disc packaging

Optical disc packaging

Optical disc packaging is the packaging that accompanies CDs, DVDs, and other formats of optical media. Most packaging is rigid or semi-rigid and designed to protect the media from scratches and other types of exposure damage.


Jewel case

A jewel CD case

A jewel CD case is the original compact disc case that has been used since the compact disc was first released in 1982. It is a three-piece plastic case, measuring 142 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm (5.59 in x 4.92 in x 0.39 in), a volume of 177.5 cm³, which usually contains a compact disc along with the liner notes and a back card. Two opposing transparent halves are hinged together to form the casing, the back half holding a media tray that grips the disc by its hole. All three parts are made of injection-molded polystyrene.[1]

The front lid contains two, four, or six tabs to keep any liner notes in place. The liner notes typically will be a 120 mm × 120 mm (4.72 in x 4.72 in) booklet, or a single 242 mm × 120 mm (9.53 in x 4.72 in) leaf folded in half. In addition, there is usually a back card, 150 mm × 118 mm (5.9 in x 4.65 in), underneath the media tray and visible through the clear back, often listing the track names, studio, copyright data and other information. The back card is folded into a flattened "U" shape, with the sides being visible along the ends (often referred to as the spine) of the case. The ends usually have the name of the release and the artist, and often label or catalogue information printed on them, and are designed to be visible when the case is stored vertically, 'book-style', on shelves.

The back media tray snaps into the back cover, and is responsible for securing the disk. In its center is a circular hub of teeth which grip the disc by its hole. This effectively suspends the disk in the middle of the container, preventing the recording surface from being scratched.[1] The media tray was originally constructed of a flexible black polystyrene, but many newer trays use a more fragile transparent polystyrene. This allows the reverse of the back card, which is usually used for additional artwork, to be visible. The first album to include a transparent media tray was the Pixies' Surfer Rosa album,[citation needed] released in 1988. The format did not become common until around 1995-1996.

Jewel cases are occasionally used for DVDs, but generally not for those that contain major film releases. Blank Blu-ray Disc media is also most commonly sold in standard-width jewel cases.

Origin of the name

According to Philips, the name reflects either the generally high quality of the case design compared to initial attempts, or its appearance. According to one publication,[1] initial attempts at packaging CDs were unsatisfactory. When the new design, by Peter Doodson, was found to be "virtually perfect" it was dubbed the "jewel case".[1] Another publication[2] quotes Doodson describing that he "specified polished ribs as they pick up the light and shine" and states that the resulting appearance led to the name.


There are a number of shortcomings with the format of the jewel case. The structure has a weakness in that the case is hinged on two brittle plastic arms which often break if the case receives shock or stress. The teeth of the hub holding the disc are also prone to failure by snapping. There is a problem with the tabs ("half-moons") which hold the liner notes in place; sometimes, especially with larger booklets, the tabs grip the booklet too tightly, leading to tearing. When replacing the booklet, it can get snagged and crumple or rip. As noted above, some CD releases have only two tabs, which allows the booklet to be more easily removed and replaced (with the disadvantage that the booklet sometimes falls out if held the wrong way).


Double albums can either be packaged in standard-thickness jewel cases with hinged media trays (which can be lifted up to reveal the second disc) or in a "double jewel case", sometimes called a multi-CD jewel case or a "fatbox", which is slightly larger than two normal jewel cases stacked on top of each other, and can hold 4 or even 6 CDs. Double jewel cases do not fit in some CD racks; however, some racks have a few extra wide slots specifically to accommodate them.

The intended successor to the original jewel case, which is now gaining ground, is the "Super Jewel Box", a more advanced design which offers (amongst other improvements) a greatly strengthened hinge area. Unfortunately, the super jewel box cannot be used as a direct replacement for the older jewel case design as its card insert for the back is slightly different in size. However in many other ways it is an attractive concept and some CD manufacturers (for example the high-end company Linn) are supplying them. The depth of the disc tray is also greater, allowing for two discs to be placed on top of each other. The super jewel box was developed by Philips and other CD-format developers, originally in a larger format as a DVD case, and then in smaller formats as CD cases.

In the standard CD height, the super jewel box is the conventional case for Super Audio CD (SACD); a taller form, midway between CD and DVD-Video size, is the conventional case for DVD-Audio, and as of mid-2006, the case format for all albums released by the Universal Music Group in Europe.[3]

Many alternatives to the standard jewel case may also be found, including larger DVD-style cases with a more book-like shape. It is not uncommon to find CDs housed in custom cases, tins and boxes of varying shapes and sizes. Slipcases and other envelope-type designs are also used.

Some DualDiscs are packaged in jewel cases of a somewhat different design from the CD version; the inside edge is rounded instead of flat, and the physical position of the disc is moved slightly toward the spine to make room for a latch mechanism. The overall dimensions of a DualDisc case are roughly the same as a standard CD case. However, the hinge mechanism is smaller and cannot be dismantled as easily as on a standard jewel case.

Smaller jewel cases are used for 8 cm CD and DVD media; similar cases without the hub are used for MiniDisc and (magnetic) Zip disk media.

Slimline jewel case

A "black side" Slim Case

Slimline jewel cases first gained popularity as cases for CD singles sold in Japan and Europe, and have become a common space-saving packaging for burned CD-ROMs. The cases used for CD Singles sold in Japan and Europe are 7mm thick, with a "J-card" type inlay, showing cover art through the front of the case, and also through both the spine and part of the back of the case. The CD itself is usually inserted "upside-down" in the case, so that the artwork on the disc itself shows through the transparent back of the case.

Most slim jewel cases sold for burned CD-ROM use the measure 142 mm × 125 mm × 5 mm (5.59 in x 4.92 in x 0.2 in), which is roughly half the thickness of a standard CD jewel case, allowing twice as many CDs to be stored in the same space, and will generally fit two to a slot in a standard CD rack. They generally do not have room for a full package insert booklet, only a slip of paper for a track listing or cover art, showing only through the front of the case. Unlike the standard jewel cases, slimline cases are made of two pieces rather than three and do not have a place for a back label. However, with this design the "spine" is too narrow to accept a label identifying the contents of the CD, making the discs more difficult to identify when stored on edge on a shelf.

The bulk of slimline cases are made with translucent or transparent polystyrene, and are available in multiple colors. A stronger alternative is made from semi-opaque, semi-flexible polypropylene which is strong enough to protect the disc, but flexible enough not to break easily. Also, the hinge mechanism is inverted compared to the standard-width case, with the pivot arms being attached to the lower part of the case rather than the clear cover side.

External marketing packaging

In the U.S. and Canada, the jewel box of a music CD was originally packaged for retail sale in a large cardboard box called a longbox in order to fit in store fixtures designed for vinyl records, offer larger space for display of artwork and marketing blurbs, and deter theft. This box also provided a form of censorship if the store deemed a particular album cover potentially offensive to the public. This packaging was much-criticized as environmentally wasteful, and was eventually dropped by most retailers in the mid-1990s, though major record companies continued to ship CDs to wholesale clubs, such as Costco and Sam's, in longboxes into the 21st century. Longboxes were not used outside North America.

Around 1994, the top wrap-around label sticker began to appear on most CDs, to make it easier to read what each CD was from the top without having to flip through them. These stickers were usually nothing more than informational labels and rarely would have any use in the marketing of the album. The wrap-around sticker also provided an extra seal, possibly as another theft deterrent.

A chiefly Japanese packaging is the addition of an obi strip, a strip of paper wound around the side of the case to show details such as the price, artist, etc.

Paper or Tyvek sleeve

Paper sleeve

The simplest, least expensive package is a paper envelope. More expensive versions add a transparent window to the envelope allowing the disc label to be seen. The envelope can also be made out of spunbonded polyethylene (trade-named Tyvek). This is both more durable and less abrasive than paper. However, such packaging is rare for commercial releases due to its relative lack of protection compared with other designs, and is primarily limited to promotional and demo discs.

It is also often used in software packages, where the box is labeled promotionally, but the disc comes in a paper sleeve (to cut costs).

Q Pack

The Q Pack was developed by the Queens Group Inc. in the mid 1990s as an alternative to regular CD jewel cases. (The Queens Group was purchased by Shorewood Packaging, who are part of International Paper). The Q Pack does not have a snap-in tray like a regular jewel case. It is characterized by the corrugated raised area where the top hinges to the back. Since Q Pack cases are not transparent, generally cover art is applied a decal to the cover. Decals can also be applied to the inside front, on the tray underneath the hub and the back cover. A slot for an insert booklet is found inside the front cover as on typical jewel cases.

The Q Pack has become one of the calling cards of No Limit Records, who used it often in the mid-to-late 90s.[citation needed]


The term "digipak" refers to a particular type of CD case, which essentially consists of a plastic CD tray glued inside a folding cardboard cover. Though it once referred specifically to the patented digipak packaging, the term has since become a genericized trademark generally used in reference to any cardboard-based CD package. Despite being made of paper, they were once considered a more environmentally-friendly alternative to jewel boxes. However, they remain less common than jewel cases due to higher manufacturing costs and lower resistance to wear (particularly shopwear).

A taller form has been used for some DVD movie releases; it is essentially identical to the CD package, though with raised top and bottom sections to keep the disc from sliding out if it comes disengaged from the hub.

Discbox Slider

The Discbox Slider (also called DBS) is a disc packaging concept in 100% carton board, found both in CD and DVD sized packaging formats. The DBS is comparable with plastic jewel or amaray cases when it comes to size but holds more of the features of the LP style cases in terms of light weight and printability. The DBS case opens up from the side by moving the slider part (on which the disc is resting) from the sleeve. The Discbox Slider is also considered as one of the most environmental friendly CD or DVD packaging options as it is 100% recyclable. Many covermount CDs released in British magazine Mixmag used to be packaged in Discbox slider, after replacing a standard jewel box, although the discbox slider itself was replaced by a simple cardboard sleeve.

Compac Plus

The Compac Plus is a disc packaging which is similar in style to a digipak. However, it consists of two plastic CD trays which "clip" together like a normal slipcase. The packaging was introduced in the early 1990s. It was originally a brand which had their own logo, and was used by bands such as Blur, but as years progressed, many other artists started to use their own version of the packaging. The packaging is also known as Compact Plus.

LP style case

A recent trend in CD packaging has been packaging CDs in sleeves comparable to LPs. Many of these albums come from Japan. However, a few European and American albums are given LP-style packaging, such as Morrissey's live album Live at Earls Court, The Who's compilation Then and Now, and R.E.M.'s 2-disc version of their greatest hit package, In Time. A similar packaging type was also used for Phish's 1995 live release A Live One, with the CDs inserted into interior slots perpendicular to the spine rather than the ends. The Beatles' White Album 30th Anniversary re-release was released as essentially a scaled down version of the original release, including card wallets housing the CDs, which in turn slot into the LP-style folder. Unlike the original release, the album was also provided with a plastic protective cover for the package. While some new albums are given the treatment, many of these albums were older albums that were released back when records were still the predominant medium. A more recent use of this style of CD packaging was featured on the Beatles' "Capitol Albums" series.

The downside to this format is that unless the disc is given a protective sleeve of some sort, the disc can be easily scratched each time it is taken out for play. A more serious issue can also be that if the glue that keeps the sleeve that holds the CD closed on the side closest to the spine (on gatefold covers) weakens, it can get onto the CD, rendering it unplayable.

However, the advantages are that album covers that were originally textured, such as Back in Black by AC/DC or Fear of Music by Talking Heads can retain the texturing on the CD release.

Even more recently, CD manufacturers have encased standard CD jewel cases in a cardboard slipcover, to give the appearance of LPs and allow more space for cover art. Vitalic's album OK Cowboy is one example of this style of packaging.

Keep case

A Keep case

A keep case is the most common type of DVD packaging. It is taller and thicker than a Jewel case, and is made of much softer, less brittle plastic (polypropylene rather than polystyrene), so it does not break as easily. They usually hold one or two discs, but are capable of holding up to six discs. Slimmer keep cases, so called "Slim-paks" or "Thinpaks" typically used for DVD box sets consisting of the thin keep cases stored in a paperboard box. The thin cases are half as thick and can generally only hold one disc as a result, but there are newer slim cases that have central disc holding teeth on both sides. The teeth are made in such a way that when the case is closed, they go between the gaps in between the teeth on the other side.

A standard DVD case is a single-piece plastic case with two creases, which folds around and snaps closed. It measures 135 mm x 190 mm x 14 mm (5.3 in x 7.48 in x 0.55 in). It is wrapped on the outside by a thin piece of transparent plastic which can hold a paper label. The label measures 274 mm x 184 mm (10.8 in x 7.25 in).

Some DVD releases have a cardboard outer sleeve around the shrinkwrap.

Current (early 2007) prerecorded Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD titles ship in packages similar to but slightly smaller than a standard DVD keep case, generally with the format prominently displayed in a horizontal stripe across the top of the case (red for HD DVD and Playstation 3 Greatest Hits Games, blue for Blu-ray, and clear for PlayStation 3 regular games).


Discwheel open

One notable disc package is the Discwheel. With the case closed, the CD or DVD can be manually rotated so that it operates as an informational wheel chart. This allows for information to be offered mechanically as well as digitally. Stock Discwheels include: Date Wheels, Pregnancy Wheels, Football Schedules, Body Mass Index Calculators, Cocktail Recipes Guides, World Time Conversions, etc. Custom Discwheels are also available. Discwheels are patented and available from Flexigroup, who also make paperboard and plastic wheels.

Snap case

A snap case are a design for both CD and DVD packaging, and are made in the standard sizes for both. Each is made of a single-piece plastic tray and closure, which snaps over the right edge of the front flap. The printed flap is made of thin paperboard which wraps around the left edge and across the back of the tray, to which it is glued. It has largely been replaced with the DVD keep case and CD jewel case due to its flimsy design. Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema were the only major film studios to release DVDs in this format.

Soft Case/Green case

The soft case, also known as Earth case or Green case, are soft-shell cases made from recycled optical discs. They are considerably more pliable than other style cases given that they are made from various mixes of plastics. They are sold by various companies as replacements for disc owners who are environmentally friendly and can be differentiated from other cases by their opaque appearance. The softness of the cases leads them to break less, though the safety of the enclosed disc may be somewhat sacrificed since the case can be bent end-to-end easily.

ECO Pack

In 2006 Universal Music introduced the first completely paper-recyclable CD case, titled Eco Pack. Not only is the sleeve printed on recycled card, but the tray is also made an innovative International Paper product branded PaperFoam.[4] Universal used this packaging for issues in its 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection series after 2006.

Lift-lock case

A lift-lock case viewed from the side, showing the latch mechanism

Many gold CDs, including those from Mobile Fidelity, are packaged in lift-lock cases, a special type of case where the CD is lifted out of the case automatically and a latch unlocked when opened. The advantage of this design is that only the edges of the disc are handled when removing it from the case, and the disc is never subjected to any bending force while removing it. From the outside, they appear almost identical to a standard jewel case. They have the same dimensions as a standard jewel case, and use standard booklets and back cards.

Spindles and other bulk packaging

100-disc cake box and spindle

Blank CD and DVD media are often sold in bulk packages called spindles or, less formally, cake boxes. This type of packaging consists of a round, clear plastic cup that mates bayonet-style to a base with a central post that holds a stack of discs; dummy discs made of clear polycarbonate with no recording surface are often packed on the ends of the stack to avoid scratches from contact with the hard plastic of the packages. Such packages have been designed to hold anywhere from ten up to 100 discs, and offer the user multiple options for packaging the finalized disc.

Due to the considerable expense of blue-laser media, blank Blu-ray discs are not yet (as of late 2009) widely sold in cake boxes.

TDK and Memorex have begun selling some of their blank media in what they refer to as "Snap n' Save" cases, essentially polyethylene cases designed to hold up to ten discs in a package.

Finally, some bulk packages of blank media forgo a permanent container completely, instead using a simple blister pack for small numbers of media, or bundling large numbers of discs in shrink wrap to reduce waste.

Unique cases

  • An unusual type of case has been marketed as empty cases for CDs that do not have cases. It is a plastic case with an open right side so the optical disc can be slipped in. The disc should sit into a black jagged plastic 'U' that appears on the left of the case than can be moved to push the CD out using a black button in the top left of the case.
  • A "SteelBook Case" is similar in shape to the keep case, but its material is metal. Products such as Platoon, Fight Club, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Dark Knight DVD packages fall under it.[5][6][7][8]
  • A special edition case for the 1994 The Flintstones movie soundtrack was in the shape of a stone that could be opened to reveal the CD inside.
  • The Simpsons Movie soundtrack had a deluxe packaging version available, which contained a donut-shaped case that held the CD. This donut case was inside a thick white box.
  • Most versions of the Nine Inch Nails album Broken were released in digipak in which another panel was placed over the CD so that the consumer could fold it down to reveal the disc.
  • Some keep cases, such as the special edition of Total Recall are externally lined with aluminium. Total Recall was also released in a disc sized foam lined can about 3/4 inch thick.
  • The original release of the Pet Shop Boys 1993 album Very was packaged in an orange jewel case with raised bumps (sometimes unofficially described as the Lego case), designed by Daniel Weil of Pentagram in London. The bonus CD, Very Relentless was similarly unique, with the two CDs housed in card sleeves (Very in orange and Relentless in pink) with both of these housed in a translucent rubber case with raised bumps.
  • Another uniquely designed CD case was for a CD released in the UK called "The Apple EP", which contained four tracks, each performed by artists signed to Apple Records. The case, which was made of three pieces of cardboard, was shaped like an apple, and was held together by a plastic rivet. This allowed each of the three pieces to fan out and rotate. The CD itself was housed in the centre of the second piece of cardboard.
  • British band Spiritualized became famous for their unique CD packaging. Their 1997 album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space came in a pharmaceutical-style blister pack, while its follow-up, Let It Come Down, was distributed in a moulded plastic case featuring a concave relief of the lead singer's girlfriend.
  • The limited edition of Brotherhood by The Chemical Brothers came in a cardboard box of a similar size to a jewel case but slightly taller and thinner. The box can be opened from the right to reveal both CDs packaged in cardboard cases, along with the booklet and a postcard.
  • The deluxe edition of Hotel, the 2005 album by Moby, is a digipack made out of a much smoother material than normal. It is packaged in a slipcase of a much harder thicker material than a typical cardboard one.
  • The Tri-Slim CD Jewel Case is another one-of-a-kind type of case. This case employs a standard size double CD jewel case and a precision card. The card is slipped into the front side of the case (where the booklet normally goes) and holds the 3rd disc in place. Many feel the Tri-Slim CD Jewel Case is preferable triple slim case to the traditional type because it does not obstruct the rear trayliner card.
  • One-piece polyethylene cases of various shapes are sometimes used for disc storage, though these tend to lack space for labels and booklets and are not commonly used for commercial releases.
  • The disc of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas PC version was housed inside the hard cover manual on a rubber hub.
  • The Delirious? album Live & In The Can was packaged in a cylindrical metal container. The CD rerelease of the Metal Box album by Public Image Ltd. too came in a metal container, in homage to how the original record was packaged.
  • Technical death metal band Nile released 1000 copies of their album Ithyphallic in pyramid shaped packaging.
  • Alice in Chains' 1995 self-titled album was first released with a limited number of CDs in a purple and green jewel case.
  • Progressive Death metal band Opeth released the Special Edition for their 2008 album Watershed in a Jewel Case-sized packaging which looks like and opens up like a letter. They also released limited editions of Morningrise, Orchid and My Arms Your Hearse in a CD-sized aluminum tin with embossed Opeth logo on the lid, and the CD was sitting on a thin foam disk and was packaged with an Opeth logo sticker. The track listing was stuck to the bottom of the tin.
  • German punk band Die Ärzte have several releases with special packaging. Up to 1994, jewel cases were used. Planet Punk and Le Frisur were released in a cardboard packaging, similar to digipak. Runter mit den Spendierhosen, Unsichtbarer! was released in a plush pocket. Geräusch and Devil used another type of cardboard packaging. Bäst of was released in a metal box. The packaging of Jazz ist anders is made to resemble a pizza box.
  • The CD case for the limited edition of the 1995 techno compilation CD Dance Opera 4 consisted of two pieces of acrylic plastic that screwed into one another holding the three discs (two audio discs and one disc with the contents printed on either side).[9]
  • The most recent editions of The Residents' albums (specifically The Third Reich 'n Roll, Duck Stab, Eskimo, The Commercial Album, and Mark of the Mole) were released in hardback book cases, with a paper slipcover inside, housing the disk.
  • Star Trek (2009) was released exclusively at Target on Blu-Ray with a model of the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701) that also doubled as the disc case
  • The films from the live-action Transformers series have been released with transforming DVD cases in the shape of Optimus Prime,[10] Megatron,[11] and Bumblebee.[12]
  • Another version of the keep case, used for Meet the Robinsons and other titles, includes two lifts on the right side of the package.
  • Early Lego PC games, starting with Lego Island, featured standard jewel cases with a spine formed with raised lego studs which can connect with other lego pieces. These have since been phased out and replaced with keep cases.
  • Most K-Pop albums tend to come in special packages that varies in size. They are not typically a jewel case or reside in a certain type of case, but the packaging depends on the label etc.

See also


External links

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