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Author Topic: File Delivery - 8bit or 16bit? Sharpened or not?  (Read 19668 times)
Dinarius
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« on: September 01, 2008, 02:23:50 PM »
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I know there is an element of how long is a piece of string here, but I'm really pitching this at people who are delivering to designers/publishers.

My perference is to not make any decisions for the client. i.e. 16bit and no USM - except for a tiny amount during save out from Adobe Camera RAW or Flexcolor.

What do others do?

Give a reason if you wish, but I'm more interested in doing a kind of survey, so just say 8 or 16 and yes or no USM.

Thanks.  

D.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2008, 02:45:34 PM by Dinarius » Logged
teddillard
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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2008, 03:17:31 PM »
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I know there is an element of how long is a piece of string here, but I'm really pitching this at people who are delivering to designers/publishers.

My perference is to not make any decisions for the client. i.e. 16bit and no USM - except for a tiny amount during save out from Adobe Camera RAW or Flexcolor.

What do others do?

Give a reason if you wish, but I'm more interested in doing a kind of survey, so just say 8 or 16 and yes or no USM.

Thanks.   

D.
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8-bit, about 1/2 USM amounts.  

(clients don't want, understand or need 16 bit files, and if you give them no USM they complain they look soft, full USM they invariably sharpen them again.)

I know you wanted no editorial comments. but I have to say, in my current "day job", I deal with a lot of designers and prepress guys...  their response to any of these issues is, "it's the photographer/prepress guys job to give me good color...  I don't want to deal with it."

As a photographer, then, I give them my final, processed files, and that is that.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2008, 03:18:17 PM by teddillard » Logged

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Guillermo Luijk
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2008, 03:54:30 PM »
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If the destination of your images is not supposed to edit them, the image must be finished so the needed USM should be applied.
Moreover if no additional processing is needed, using 16 bits is wasting 8 bits, so 8 bits.
If the images have to de uploaded and size is important, JPEG is the option.
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Dinarius
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« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2008, 04:01:15 PM »
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Ted,

Not sure what you mean by 1/2 USM amounts. Please clarify.

I take your point about complaints about softness. Hence my application of a little output sharpening.

GLuijk,

Gotta say I disagree unless you know the size the image is going to be used. I never do. Also, since USM is so subjective, I want the designer to do what he thinks is necessary.

Equally so on the point of 16 v. 8. If he feels that he'd like to tweak something, then I'd rather he was doing it in 16bit.

Just my tuppence worth.

D.
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Chris_Brown
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2008, 04:13:55 PM »
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I deliver ready-to-print CMYK files (at the dimensions specified by the client) and a matching JPEG at 75 DPI in the same physical dimensions. Up until 2006 a printed proof was delivered with every file at an additional cost, but over the last two years designer & clients have declined these proofs, mostly because many files are delivered via the internet, not FedEx. However, color critical jobs are always proofed.
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teddillard
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« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2008, 05:35:10 PM »
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Ted,

Not sure what you mean by 1/2 USM amounts. Please clarify.

I take your point about complaints about softness. Hence my application of a little output sharpening.

GLuijk,

Gotta say I disagree unless you know the size the image is going to be used. I never do. Also, since USM is so subjective, I want the designer to do what he thinks is necessary.

Equally so on the point of 16 v. 8. If he feels that he'd like to tweak something, then I'd rather he was doing it in 16bit.

Just my tuppence worth.

D.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=218760\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Well...

USM is cumulative.  You can do 100%, or 50% + 50%, and it adds up to essentially the same thing.  

So, making the assumption that you're going to do sharpening to make it look better than it would look as "soft", but not final sharpening (based on the final output useage), I try to split the difference and just do about half the sharpening I'd consider "final".  Then they can go in and sharpen, and they're happy...   and my file looks good, whether they decide to post sharpen or not...  

As far as 16bit goes, every one of my clients has said, "Why are the files so big?  I can't use such big files..."

Every time I've left final production steps to the designer or prepress guys, it either doesnt get done, or gets done wrong...  and at this point, it's even the books I'm writing on how to do it right...  heh.   You just can't assume they know what to do.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2008, 04:20:59 AM by teddillard » Logged

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kaelaria
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« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2008, 08:03:17 PM »
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I deliver whatever they like - I make sure to get full specs ahead of time and educate them if necessary.
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01af
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« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2008, 09:02:01 AM »
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In my experience, clients---even when they are professional graphics designers or layouters---have absolutely no clue how to handle unprocessed (unsharpened) RGB image files. Whenever I delivered unprocessed files they ended up being printed inadequately---which was embarrassing for me as the photographer every time. So unless I very absolutely positively KNOW that the client is competent in digital post-processing, I strictly refuse to deliver unprocessed files. Before handing them out (as RGB files in JPEG or 8-bit TIFF format and sRGB colour space), I will scale them, apply tone and colour corrections, and sharpen.

However I don't do the CMYK separation because that would make sense only when you know the minutiae of the printing process (which in 99 % of cases aren't known to your client, and much less to you). Usually it's better to deliver RGB files than CMYK files.

-- Olaf
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teddillard
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2008, 05:30:34 AM »
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I deliver ready-to-print CMYK files (at the dimensions specified by the client) and a matching JPEG at 75 DPI in the same physical dimensions. Up until 2006 a printed proof was delivered with every file at an additional cost, but over the last two years designer & clients have declined these proofs, mostly because many files are delivered via the internet, not FedEx. However, color critical jobs are always proofed.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=218762\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Sorry, this has been buggin me...  the thread got a little quiet, so I hope you don't mind another bit of my, well, elaboration.  

I know some photographers do deliver CMYK and have been very happy with that procedure, but there are a few notable problems with this practice.  

If you've invested properly in both understanding how to convert to CMYK correctly, and can proof accurately, which it sounds like you guys have, Chris, then that's one thing.  But just hitting the convert-to-CMYK button and leaving it at that, is very risky.  

The biggest issue is that it so completely reduces the gamut of the image it leaves very very little for the prepress guys to work with if they do have do do any adjustments.  Here's what it looks like...  this is Generic CMYK compared to Adobe RGB:

[attachment=8187:attachment]

This is called "Early Binding" in color management process terms... and simply means you're committing to your color gamut early in the process.  The photographer commits to the CMYK on delivery, everyone down the line works within what they get.  "Late Binding" is where you keep as much as you can as long as you can, (Adobe RGB) presumably letting the prepress guys, who have the proofing and the press profiles make the final decisions.  

Then, of course, is the issue of the liability...  if the client comes back to you with the costs of the bounced job, and prepress fees, etc, as a result of bad conversions, what do you do? (This is not fiction...  I have stories, I assure you.)

I'm not jumping on your process, Chris...  just wanted to make it clear that this is something that carries a fair amount of overhead, and isn't as simple as it may seem.  I have had clients ask specifically for CMYK, my response is a flat "no", with an explanation...
« Last Edit: September 03, 2008, 05:39:08 AM by teddillard » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2008, 11:06:49 AM »
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If you've invested properly in both understanding how to convert to CMYK correctly, and can proof accurately, which it sounds like you guys have, Chris, then that's one thing.
Yes, that is my thing. I've worked with the pre-press departments of Quebecor & Donnelley, in both a couple short run (~60,000) and long run (1,000,000+) plants to get accurate printing profiles of several of their presses. I've worked with over a dozen local and regional sheet-fed plants to get accurate color & proofs. In a several cases I've been asked to come in and assist their pre-press crew in understanding the ICC conversion process because, in their words, my proofs & color were so accurate they wanted to know what I was doing.

A couple of times these pre-press talks have resulted in getting some great work from a printer's client.    

The foundation for everything I learned was from Dan Margulis, his books and his workshops. The money I've spent on those educational items has paid off in spades. His material has allowed me to interact intelligently with some of the best pre-pressmen in the the mid-west. This better discourse provided me with critical information and access to their proofing equipment, which, in turn, allowed me to debug my process and get great results.

However, if anything is limiting, it's the designer and/or art director. Many times they don't have a clue how an image will be reproduced until late in a project's process. With clip-art (i.e., iStockPhoto) becoming the norm for acquiring a quick image, delivery of files in RGB with minimal sharpening is becoming more prevalent. With this trend comes a compromise in color because not all pre-press departments have the man-hours to hone a magazine or catalog with hundreds of images to their best look.
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« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2008, 06:51:39 PM »
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Then, of course, is the issue of the liability...  if the client comes back to you with the costs of the bounced job, and prepress fees, etc, as a result of bad conversions, what do you do?
I had an interesting conversation with another photographer this weekend which addresses the liability of the reproduction of the image. He delivers 16-bit RGB files in the ProPhoto colorspace. I deliver 8-bit CMYK files in the colorspace of the designated press. We both print "proofs" of the images if the client will pay for them (which is becoming more rare as the years pass).

He believes what Ted is positing: if a photographer delivers a CMYK image that doesn't reproduce correctly, then he is liable.

I believe that if a photographer delivers an RGB image that doesn't reproduce correctly, then he is liable.

In my opinion, there is less room for error when an image is delivered in CMYK, and that a release should be signed by the client if they demand the images be delivered in RGB or Raw format because there is a much greater possibility for error on their part.
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teddillard
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« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2008, 07:23:39 PM »
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I had an interesting conversation with another photographer this weekend which addresses the liability of the reproduction of the image. He delivers 16-bit RGB files in the ProPhoto colorspace. I deliver 8-bit CMYK files in the colorspace of the designated press. We both print "proofs" of the images if the client will pay for them (which is becoming more rare as the years pass).

He believes what Ted is positing: if a photographer delivers a CMYK image that doesn't reproduce correctly, then he is liable.

I believe that if a photographer delivers an RGB image that doesn't reproduce correctly, then he is liable.

In my opinion, there is less room for error when an image is delivered in CMYK, and that a release should be signed by the client if they demand the images be delivered in RGB or Raw format because there is a much greater possibility for error on their part.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=220034\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

...just to be clear. In terms of quantity of data, I advise delivering half-way between these extremes.  16-bit Prophoto RGB, or RAW files, is as far away from Adobe RGB as 8-bit Adboe RGB is from CMYK.

Adobe RGB allows enough room to edit, to bring files into printable gamut, without specific press profiling information.  Prophoto RGB in 16 bit is more data than most photographers, nevermind prepress houses, can deal with.  CMYK, without very specific press and paper information, limits the prepress process to a very small set of options, a limited gamut of colors, in working with files.

My only point is that CMYK is such a limited gamut the photographer must know precisely what they are doing before making the conversion.  It is not simply a matter of pushing the button, and there is a liability involved.

Let's clarify the extent of liability, too...  If you deliver AdobeRGB files you may be liable for re-processing "post" costs, at worst, depending on how unreasonable the client is, a reshoot.  If you deliver a CMYK file with a "SWOP Certified" proof, you may be liable for press fees, pre-press fees, in addition to the photography end of the equation.  This is a huge degree more exposure, for which you need to prepare accordingly (as Chris has shown above) and also charge accordingly.  I've got to add, too...  I've worked on press.  I have seen the "trail of blame".  The guy who gets the blame is the guy who is not there to protect him(her) self, and that is very often the photographer.  

You've GOT to hear this story.  I was called in as a color consultant on this particular catalog production job.  Long LONG story short, my client (in-house photography studio) produced files, including the CMYK on the press' recommendations, with some guide prints that were close, but not "signable".  The prepress guys made press proofs, the client signed and approved them.  Then the PRESS could not match their OWN PROOFS.  Who did they blame?  The photographer, naturally, contending that is where the CMYK came from. NO amount of reasoning would help the situation because the photographer simply did not have enough influence in the process.

Again, I'm only making this point because of the repeated misconception that I've heard from photographers...  all it takes to make a CMYK conversion is pushing the button.  I have literally heard people say, "look, every time I push that button, I make another $50".  Chris very clearly dispels that above, and that is the only way I suggest doing CMYK.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2008, 06:57:18 AM by teddillard » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2008, 06:58:22 AM »
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Adobe RGB allows enough room to edit, to bring files into printable gamut, without specific press profiling information... CMYK, without very specific press and paper information, limits the prepress process to a very small set of options, a limited gamut of colors, in working with files.
But can you guarantee the RGB image will reproduce correctly?

The point I was trying to make to the other photographer was that you can't make this guarantee, and in addition he's requiring that the designer must continue to retouch, color & contrast correct the image to suit their needs. This begs the question: why would a person in business leave good money on the table?
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teddillard
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« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2008, 07:03:13 AM »
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But can you guarantee the RGB image will reproduce correctly?

The point I was trying to make to the other photographer was that you can't make this guarantee, and in addition he's requiring that the designer must continue to retouch, color & contrast correct the image to suit their needs. This begs the question: why would a person in business leave good money on the table?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=220102\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


...see additions to my post above.  

No, I would say that the only people who can guarantee accurate reproduction are the guys running the press.  And again, I'm not saying necessarily to not do this, I'm saying if you are going to do it, do it right, whcih you are.  

As far as money on the table, it's a basic business decision.  Do you want to make money doing prepress, or shooting?  I've seen studios go both ways with that question, and very successfully.

My job, I feel, is to give the client a good quality product, just like when I gave them well exposed film.  AdobeRGB on a color managed system is that product, for me.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2008, 07:04:00 AM by teddillard » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2008, 09:07:46 AM »
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No, I would say that the only people who can guarantee accurate reproduction are the guys running the press.
So it's okay to deliver a file with colors that are impossible to print accurately and hope that the pre-press company and/or client will not accuse you of "bad color"? If that's true, it makes good business sense to have your client sign a release of liability because if there's a struggle in the press room and you're not there, you're going to take the fall.

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As far as money on the table, it's a basic business decision.  Do you want to make money doing prepress, or shooting?
Yes.

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My job, I feel, is to give the client a good quality product, just like when I gave them well exposed film. AdobeRGB on a color managed system is that product, for me.
In the early 1990's we began scanning and retouching in-house, competing against a couple of color houses that provided complete page make-up services and stored large catalogs of images on-line for their various clients. We stepped into the fray for two reasons: 1) the film was rarely returned to our studio (i.e., "lost") and 2) we felt we could produce better photographic results for our clients. Within one year we were scanning films & retouching images for entire projects, not just our own photography. Our net income more than doubled. Our client relationships improved and strengthened. We became partners in our clients' marketing plans.

The only downside to this is that the increased responsibility requires constant learning and testing. Not a bad trade-off for good money.

When photographers forego the submission of final files, the design community expects RGB files and does all the retouching and pre-press themselves. The trend is moving this way with the help of online stock images.

I've personally experienced this: a client's designer requesting the raw files or the basic image files in RGB, unsharpened. I suspected the only reason they wanted the images in that form was for the additional billable hours. I asked the client for a comparison of proofs. I provided three raw images to the designer and he provided us with a description & layout of how the images would be used. In two days we each provided prints to the client showing our work. We easily provided better results, and our prints were CMYK proofs, his were not.

The client was surprised, which surprised me. Why wouldn't a photographer and his retoucher provide better results? We are immersed in photography all the time. We study it, we research it, we try things out, we test methods. Our primary concern is the image and its reproduction. With the tools at hand photographers have the ability to control how an image looks down to the dot. To let go of this only invites the collective degradation of our profession, eventually relegating us to simply adjusting a light and pushing a button.
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bjanes
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« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2008, 12:01:35 PM »
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8-bit, about 1/2 USM amounts. 

(clients don't want, understand or need 16 bit files, and if you give them no USM they complain they look soft, full USM they invariably sharpen them again.)

I know you wanted no editorial comments. but I have to say, in my current "day job", I deal with a lot of designers and prepress guys...  their response to any of these issues is, "it's the photographer/prepress guys job to give me good color...  I don't want to deal with it."

As a photographer, then, I give them my final, processed files, and that is that.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

This [a href=\"http://www.adobe.com/digitalimag/pdfs/phscs2ip_reproprep.pdf]White Paper[/url] by Jeff Schewe on the Adobe web site discusses many of these considerations.

Bill
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teddillard
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« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2008, 12:41:18 PM »
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This White Paper by Jeff Schewe on the Adobe web site discusses many of these considerations.

Bill
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perfect!  thanks...
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« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2008, 04:12:29 PM »
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My job, I feel, is to give the client a good quality product, just like when I gave them well exposed film.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=220103\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Well, the industry simply isn't the same as it was back then. Back then a piece of film could be scanned by well trained scanner operators whose job it was to convert to CMYK while also doing on the fly automated sharpening for the press at the final placed size.

Delivering a native resolution file in Adobe RGB is nothing like delivering a piece of film. Somebody, somewhere must know what to do with the digital file and the odds are _REAL_ good it won't be the designer nor the printer nor even the client. If YOU don't know what to do with the file then you are really hanging your client out to dry. There are very few printers who can accept RGB and do a really good job dealing with the conversion and sharpening for the press. They are out there, but the odds of them getting a low bid for a cheap client is minimal.

Back when I was delivering files for clients, I made them put, on the P.O., the exact proofing device that the first CMYK proof would be made from. I also had really good profiles for all the proofing devices used here in the US. Once I got the confirmation of the proof being used, I used the ICC CMYK profile for that device and only showed my clients what the image would look like, in CMYK. To show them what it looks like in RGB is to have them fall in love with something they'll NEVER get on press.

After doing all the work on the image in RGB with CMYK soft proofing on, I then converted from ProPhoto RGB (my working space) to the CMYK proof profile. Once I converted to CMYK I then reconverted the CMYK to RGB in either sRGB or Adobe RGB. Then I delivered both the CMYK and the RGB files made from them. Why? Because if I gave them RGB that was made from the CMYK then nobody down the line could screw up the conversion. If somebody took the RGB file I gave them and did their own CMYK separation, the odds are REAL GOOD they would be very close to the CMYK I gave them.

I also padded the file resolution by about 20% but did final output sharpening prior to the CMYK conversion. I told the clients that they could go up or down 20% and expect reasonable results but if they when up or down more that 20% of the original, the results would be inferior because the output would be "ruined" (sometimes it's good to engage in "white lies" in order to keep clients from doing the wrong things).

If you know what you are doing, the odds are really good you will be the only one who does at this point in the industry. If the jobs you do go well and the clients are happy, they will keep coming back for your knowledge. If you just give clients what they think they want, the odds are also pretty good that somebody down the line will screw things up and guess who gets the blame?
« Last Edit: September 08, 2008, 04:13:36 PM by Schewe » Logged
teddillard
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« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2008, 06:00:01 PM »
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Quote from: Schewe,Sep 8 2008, 04:12 PM
Well, the industry simply isn't the same as it was back then. Back then a piece of film could be scanned by well trained scanner operators whose job it was to convert to CMYK while also doing on the fly automated sharpening for the press at the final placed size.



Ah, I was talking before scanning, actually...    

hmmm.  before faxes.  woah.  even before, like, cell phones and FedEx.  dammit.  we made separations with a frikkin CAMera back then...  (THAT job sucked.  It was what drove me to commercial photography, actually...)

Jeff, the white paper linked above is great...  and for the record, I'm in pretty much total agreement with what you're saying there.  Thanks for that, it represents a whole lot of work!
« Last Edit: September 08, 2008, 06:03:47 PM by teddillard » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2008, 09:09:41 AM »
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So, here's a little bedtime story...  

We had a major retailer come to us for color management consulting.  They do 4 big print catalogs a year, huge.  Plus website stuff, etc.  They use 6 photography studios, all over the place.  Each studio uses a couple of different cameras.  They also use uh, was it 4, prepress/offset catalog houses.  As you'd guess, the problem was consistency and standardization of files, because for each catalog run they were spending over 600 hours of photoshop time in post, for color adjusting.  

I should add they sell gems and jewelry...  stuff where color matching is so critical that a piece of really nice stuff can look like costume jewelry really really easy.  

They had 3 problems, basically.  First, they weren't getting consistent photography "product" from their studios, even within a studio, because of the processing variations.  Second, they had different instructions for each prepress group, a big issue because one image may go to several uses.  Third, and a result of this all, they just didn't even know what to tell everyone they needed.  

Our first step was to get everyone into the same room.  All day.  We had everything but beer there...  (thinking back, that might have made it even easier...  note to self...)  It really was quite remarkable to have so many people, really good at what they do, trying to answer the same question we're asking here.  How should we deliver files?

The prepress guys talked about what they were getting, and what was a problem.  The designers and production guys explained their issues, and likewise the photographers.  It was really great, and my job was to sit back and let them work it out...  herding them towards a solution.  

Based on that, our second step was to offer file quality standards, based on what the prepress guys asked for.  Those standards are not really rocket science.  I'll detail them below.  

Our last step was the interesting one.  Rather than do a conventional camera profiling process (a notoriously unreliable effort in an open environment like this...) we tried to "characterize" the individual camera processing.  Here's the problem...  they had Sinar, Phase and Leaf digital backs, with a few assorted brands of lenses and lighting kits to boot.  They also has some DSLR cameras, including a Nikon D200 for the web work, and occasional thumbnails in the catalogs.  Every camera manufacturer has a slightly different take on how files need to look, and many actually have different "looks" within the software.  

Because I had experience with all the software systems, I could go in and standardize how the processor was going to map the colors.  This was nothing more, really, than make sure they all were aiming towards a similar contrast, saturation and color "interpretation".  (For example, the D200 likes to saturate the red a bit.  We just made a processing preset that turned that down a bit.)  Even the difference between the colors in Leaf software, between the Valeo and the Aptus needed to be tightened up.

It's a little like dealing with a job, back in the day, where every photographer was using a different film emulsion.  Get them all using the same film, and you've saved yourself a bunch of work.  

The standards the prepress guys settled on were this:

Calibrated, color accurate display
Adobe RGB 8 bit
Sized to 120% of layout size, if provided.  If not, native resolution.
No sharpening (they were emphatic about this, across the board)
Black point for areas that need to hold detail - no lower than 10,10,10
White point for areas that need to hold detail - no higher than 245, 245, 245

It's really basic stuff...  but they felt that if the various photographers delivered files that met these, they had enough to work with to make the CMYK, and guarantee color matching on-press.  They felt that if we could standardize the look of the different camera platforms, all the better, and that would kick into serious time saving.  

We reckon, after all was said and done, and a little fine-tuning and processing education, we saved the client around 300 hours per run.  How much is post time running these days?

OK, that's my story.  It was a remarkable chance to take the prepress guys, who were saying "we can't work with what you're giving us", and photographers who were saying "just tell us what you want" and a client who was desperate to open up the lines of communication and solve the problem.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2008, 09:10:33 AM by teddillard » Logged

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