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Hamilton--How Far Away Is Remote Proofing?

June 2000
In a world of ever-tightening deadlines and faster production cycles, color proofing is a major stumbling block. Time is required to make the proof, especially in an analog workflow, and delivery and review add to that time. And while nothing can be done about either the creation or review stages of proofing, the delivery of the proof is an area that would seem ripe for compacting. Or at least that's what we've been hearing for some time now.

Yet remote proofing is used for just a small fraction of all print materials produced. Why? If service is one of the primary differentiators between companies—a debatable point—then wouldn't it be wise for printers and prepress service providers to offer remote proofing to their major clients? And with virtually everybody connected to the Web, in many cases via a T-1 or other high-speed wire, shouldn't this methodology be taking off like the proverbial rocket?

Quality's The Thing
If only it were so simple in real life. On a purely business front, proofing is a profit center for the advertising industry, which can mark up proofs—in more than one way—and pass along the cost to its clients. For the same reason, many printing and prepress companies are in no hurry to see Matchprints, Cromalins, Color-Arts, IRISes or Approvals head off into the sunset.

Yet we're now at a point where most, if not all, of the stumbling blocks preventing remote proofing are gone or going away. Obviously, the remote proofing system has to deliver a contract-quality proof if this process is going to be adopted on a widespread basis. To be sure, there are plenty of jobs that require a high-end proof such as the ones mentioned above, but these types of "critical-color" jobs are not the bread and butter of the industry.

To be able to serve as a contract proof, the remote proofing system must satisfy several conditions:

  • a reliable and stable source file: no shifting type or missing images;

  • both color and content must render accurately;

  • cost-effective and easy to use; and

  • an efficient and economical transmission system.

These are not simple requirements. Take the file format issue. Despite the efforts of Adobe—then Agfa, Enfocus and Lantana and, more recently, Creo, Heidelberg and Scitex—PDF has yet to displace either PostScript or Quark/Illustrator/Photoshop/TIFF as the primary format for file delivery. To be sure, PDF still suffers from problems, but by and large, it satisfies the requirement for a reliable and stable file. For proof of this (sorry), the AP Adsend program has been working for some time now and ships approximately 75,000 ads every week using PDF. I'm not sure what it will take, but Adobe's InDesign is not going to be the answer to this one.



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