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What They Do

Insider Info

CD-ROMs are disks that hold information that is accessible by computer. "CD" refers to the object itself, a compact disk. "ROM" stands for read only memory, which means you can use the CD, but you can't record new information on it.

CD-ROMs can be used in an almost infinite number of ways. They can be educational, entertaining, informative or practical. New CD-ROMS are released daily and innovations are just as frequent.

CD-ROMs can be used as photo albums. They can store games or encyclopedias, house films or books, record the experiences of Holocaust survivors, plot military strategies, teach children to read or simulate the effect of advertising campaigns.

It takes many creative professionals working in different areas to develop a single CD-ROM. Some are programmers; others artists or writers. The producer may be the person who initially came up with the idea or they may be someone hired to oversee its implementation. From the idea, a "spec" is created. The spec is like a blueprint and it takes into account every single aspect of the CD-ROM.

The producer first meets with various people to determine how different factors, such as mood, visual appearance, marketing, content and interface will look in the finished product. The interface is the design element on a screen that lets you interact with the CD-ROM. The interface must be simple and understandable.

The producer may select the people who will work on the project. Reviewing a person's past work, discussing ideas, investigating possible resources and interviewing people are all a part of this. To choose the correct people for the job, the producer must understand all the different elements and how they will interact.

When the team is assembled, it is the producer's responsibility to ensure that each aspect of the CD-ROM is coming along within budget, according to schedule and in agreement with the spec.

Although the producer is essentially in charge of the project, they are still answerable to the accountants, marketing people and head honchos. There is a strict budget and timeline to follow.

Seattle CD-ROM producer Scott Hudson remarks that one of the most difficult aspects of the job is dealing with budget and time constraints. Producers have to handle all the finances on a CD-ROM project. They estimate how much it will cost to produce and ensure the project is completed within budget.

The producer may make suggestions or corrections along the way. "You're involved in the management with the artists, and you talk over technical details with computer programmers," says Amy Moon, a CD-ROM producer in San Francisco. "The job has tremendous variety." It's important that you like to be part of a team and enjoy working with others, she adds.

Once the producer is satisfied with the new CD-ROM, it is tested on all types of computers and by various kinds of users to find and eliminate any "bugs" in the program. The CD-ROM must be easy-to-use and it must work with many different software platforms.

After the final testing, the CD-ROM is ready to be mass-produced and shipped to stores. Depending on the company and the project, the producer may be involved with the marketing and advertising side. In a smaller company, the producer usually has more responsibilities. They could be involved in every step -- from invention to distribution. One perk to this is more freedom for the producer.

Most CD-ROM producers work for software and multimedia companies. However, new changes in the ways that CD-ROMs are used are opening up employment possibilities in many areas of the workforce.

CD-ROM producers may work for advertising agencies, nonprofit organizations, government offices, retail outlets or human resource departments. Even cereal companies may one day have a full-time CD-ROM producer on staff. As more uses are found, more jobs will be created.

The software and multimedia companies tend to be located in cities where technological changes and trends are happening. "You can produce your own CD-ROM anywhere," says Moon. "But if you want to work for a company, they are big and tend to be in cities."

CD-ROM production isn't normally a 9-to-5 job. "I spend about 10 hours a day at work," says Hudson. "It's pretty intensive work, especially when a project's getting near completion." Overtime is often required. Since their responsibilities are usually comprehensive, the producer is called whenever there is a problem or emergency.

The physical requirements for this job are minimal. Producers work in an office setting, so most physical limitations could be accommodated.

At a Glance

Coordinate and oversee all of the elements that comprise a CD-ROM

  • Diplomacy and good people skills are important
  • There is the potential for tremendous growth in this industry
  • Being organized and able to manage time and money are essential characteristics


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