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DIGITAL digest 12/00

December 2000
A Digital Evangelist
FRANK Scott has managed to become one of the graphic arts industry's recognized authorities on digital ad delivery, while still keeping up with the demands of his work for Time Inc. As director of digital development, Scott was part of the team that converted Time's New York-based magazines to computer-to-plate production and established its partnership program to solicit ads in digital format.

After working for more than 20 years on the publishing side of the industry, Scott has moved onto new challenges by joining the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) staff as vice president and director of research. Since this is a big change on several levels, it seemed like a good time for a quick Q&A session.

PI: Going from magazine publishing to association work, and physically relocating from New York to Pittsburgh, are no small moves. Why the change?

Scott: There were several reasons. Partly, it was for personal reasons. I wanted to get out of New York City and have some family ties to Pittsburgh. Mostly it was for professional reasons, though. I've done a lot in my 20+ years on the publishing side of the industry, but when I looked at my immediate future at Time Inc., I didn't feel I was going to be adequately challenged. Also, I was getting burned out with being so focused on getting that next page done and on its way.

A friend let me know that the director of research position was open at GATF. As I looked at the job description and thought about GATF as an organization, more and more it seemed like a really good fit for me. Even though GATF conducts studies and offers training workshops and conferences on digital equipment and workflows, I feel it could step up its efforts. With my experience in the digital side of printing, I hope to help rectify that situation by increasing the emphasis on some of the digital workflow issues and technologies coming at our industry. The existing staff is very knowledgeable about, and has years of experiencing dealing with, the ink-on-paper part of the process. They will continue to work hard in those areas, but hopefully we will be able to become a similarly strong resource in the digital arena.

PI: How much of GATF's research efforts currently are focused in the digital arena?

Scott: GATF has several labs dedicated to specific material testing services, but it also has a number of experts on hand to perform research in the digital arena. It conducts two or three research projects per year—usually in conjunction with the Tech Alert conference—on emerging digital equipment and workflow issues. The original research studies being presented at this year's Tech Alert will focus on digital cameras and computer-to-press.

For Tech Alert, and GATF's research efforts as a whole, I'm suggesting we divide our work into thirds.

One-third would be devoted to looking at new and emerging technologies. This includes developments that are already in the marketplace, and what is coming down the road. We would try to answer the question, "Out of all the things that get announced, which are the new promising technologies?"

The second third would be focused on technologies that actually have been commercialized, including the experiences of companies that are starting to use them. This would be fairly comprehensive research that looks into several issues. Does the technology achieve the quality required? Does it have an ROI?

The final third would be taking a look at leading-edge technologies after they have an established track record in the industry. Are they meeting their expectations?

PI: What opportunities do printers have to benefit from the research work done by your department?

Scott: Printers can purchase many of our studies, or attend events such as Tech Alert or our Color Management Conference to hear about what technologies are available, what's on the horizon and which ones may best suit their needs.

Beyond that, anyone interested in learning how our research and testing services can apply to their business should visit www.gain.net. Select "PIA/GATF" from the main menu and click the "GATF Research, Testing and Lab Services" link.

PI: How do your plans in the area of digital ads fit with the efforts of the Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publications (DDAP) association?

Scott: They go hand-in-hand. I will still be on the DDAP board of directors. DDAP has spent a lot of time and effort doing things such as making sure the accredited file formats work as intended and ensuring there are tools out there to implement the standards.

It is not in a position to set up training programs, though. The association also can't help individual users troubleshoot problems that they may encounter.

PI: The PDF/X-1 digital ad format has been the source of some debate. What's your take on its usefulness?

Scott: I'm an advocate of people using accredited file format standards, in general.

PDF/X-1 is still a relatively new development in the area of standard file formats. It has only been accredited for about a year. Some people have said they don't want to use the ANSI standard because it is based on an older version of the Adobe PDF specification and it allows for embedding of legacy file formats.

As I understand it, both of those concerns are being addressed at the ISO level. That group is working to get the PDF/X-1 standard accredited with the current Adobe 1.3 spec and to provide the ability to either include legacy files or not.


Digital Bytes. . .

WAUKESHA, WI—Digital Color, a 15-year-old prepress company, has opened a computer-to-plate facility on the premises of one of its customers, NCL Graphic Specialties. The $600,000 expansion corresponds with a growing trend in the prepress industry to add new services. NCL has more than 200 employees and produces approximately 100 million labels and 30 million coupons each week. The company previously operated its own in-house conventional plate production department.

VALMEYER, IL—MAR Graphics has announced the addition of a Xerox 6155 to its digital printing department. The 6155 gives MAR a high-speed, black-and-white, variable imaging capability that augments its color variable imaging abilities. This addition positions MAR as an all-inclusive source for print projects when combined with its six-color UV web products and mailing services. MAR is a trade-only printer offering forms and document printing, as well as warehousing, to brokers nationwide.

PITTSBURGH—Computer-to-press technology will be a key focus of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation's eighth-annual Tech Alert conference, which is set for January 28-30 at the Pittsburgh Hilton & Towers. Eleven of the 13 press manufacturers offering "direct-to" solutions have agreed to participate in a GATF research study that will compare the print attributes and color fidelity of the various presses on the market. The results of the study will be presented at Tech Alert. In addition, new research results will be presented on digital photography and multi-color perfecting sheetfed presses (eight or more units), along with updates on remote proofing and coatings (UV, electron beam and aqueous). Registration fee for the two-day conference is $695. Call (412) 741-6860 or visit www.gain.net for more information or to register.

TULSA, OK—The 500th Heidelberg Quickmaster DI press to be installed in the U.S. reportedly is helping Odyssey Digital Printing continue its torrid growth rate of 80 percent annually. Management describes the company as a "boutique facility" that runs two Heidelberg DI presses, a toner-based digital press and three large-format sign printers. With the QM DI, "we're cutting 10 extra minutes from the makeready of every job," says Jan Fairless, vice president. "That adds up to extra capacity that we need because our customers keep supplying us with more and more work for our Quickmaster DIs." While the shop can handle any digital printing project, Fairless adds that four-color newsletters account for the bulk of the work run on the DIs.

EDEN PRAIRIE, MN—Lifetouch Inc. is slated to be the first North American beta test site for the high-speed Indigo Publisher 8000 digital color web press. The company already has four other Indigo presses, which support its core business: school photography. The four-unit Publisher 8000 is capable of producing 8,000 A3 full-color pages per hour.

LAS VEGAS—Creel Printing/Digital Color Network has purchased two Saber Luxel P-9600 CTP photopolymer platesetters from Fujifilm Graphic Systems. Creel/DCN is a commercial printer specializing in high-end catalogs, publications and promotion materials. According to Barry Harvey, vice president of operations, the increasingly competitive nature of the publication market necessitated the move into CTP-based production. The Saber can produce up to 27 eight-up plates per hour at 2,400 dpi in its two-beam configuration, which recently won a GATF InterTech Award.

PORTLAND, ME—The PIP Printing location based here reports seeing dramatic results in its shop since installing an A.B.Dick Colour digital press last May. Within the first six weeks, PIP Printing was putting seven or eight jobs through the press each day, representing only 10 percent of its offset work. By Labor Day, all of the company's four-color work was completed using the digital press.
 

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