DIGITAL PROOFING — Bouncing a Process Check


Technology Editor

Proofing has been one of the most contentious aspects of the printing process, especially in the digital era. The expectations of print buyers, of course, have been a big contributing factor. Debates have raged within the industry as well, typically with the issue boiling down to whether a given proofing solution is “good enough.” Ironically, the question beginning to be asked now is whether a proof is needed at all.

The current state of proofing was nicely laid out during two sessions at the recent VUE/Point 2004 conference. One session was set up to focus just on remote proofing, but both ended up considering proofing as a continuum of capabilities.

“Proof of What?” was the title of the broader session. In it, a debate was sparked by a provocative statement from Erik Cullins, associate director of digital development at Time Inc.

“Proofing is broken,” Cullins asserts. He bases this opinion on the some 3,000 proofs a year that the publisher receives. The mismatch between printing and proofing stocks is the heart of the problem, the production exec says.

Adding fuel to the fire was Dave Zwang, noted industry consultant and president of Zwang & Co. “If proofs don’t work, why bother?,” he asks.

An argument can be made that printing standards (such as SWOP and GRaCOL) hold the potential to make color proofs superfluous. Printers simply need to “run to the numbers.”

The industry needs to get serious about standards, agrees William Birkett, owner of Precision Color, which is a prepress shop with no in-house printing capabilities. “If we are to treat printing as an industrial process, then we need standards to define what that process should be,” he says.

Getting the Word Out

Even as his company works to promote the development and use of standards, Birkett is pessimistic about the impact of this effort. “It’s a question of personal interest versus the good of the industry,” he explains.

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