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Mar 1, 2005 12:00 AM
In previous proofing features, we’ve focused on color management issues as well as the two leading monitor-based proofing solutions: Kodak Polychrome Graphics’ (KPG) (Norwalk, CT) Matchprint Virtual and Integrated Color Solutions’ (ICS) (New York City) Remote Director. So this time around, we’re highlighting the most basic soft-proofing component: the monitor.
In recent years, many graphic arts users have replaced their chunky cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors with sleek new liquid crystal displays (LCDs). New models offer improved brightness, increased gamut and wider viewing angles.
"We see LCDs displacing CRTs entirely," reports John Sweeney, vice president of sales and marketing for ICS. "We have not had any Remote Director customers purchase CRTs in the last year, but of course there are legacy machines installed that are effectively being used for monitor proofing."
Sweeney says advantages for LCDs vs. CRTs include higher luminance (brightness), larger color gamut, smaller footprint, decreased magnetic field radiation and reduced power consumption.
Rob Pipe, KPG’s worldwide director of virtual proofing, reports that most Matchprint Virtual customers also are opting for LCDs. "A couple of years ago, LCDs had uniformity issues when going from one screen area to another, but that’s improved dramatically."
Pipe adds that LCDs are relatively inexpensive for the quality they deliver.
Do you see what I see?
For color consistency and repeatability, KPG only works with monitors it has tested and approved: Apple’s Cinema Displays (20, 23- and 30-inch models), an Eizo, a 21-inch monitor; and a Sony Artisan CRT. "These are SWOP-certified and excellent in terms of uniformity and color consistency," says Pipe.
By combining a known population of monitors with uniform software and colorimeters, MatchPrint Virtual reduces process variables so that all users are on the same page when it comes to color. "When we calibrate a Matchprint Virtual workstation, we do it in a way that gives the same result to the whole population of users," explains Pipe. "So if someone is in Chicago, New York, Frankfurt or Tokyo, they’re using a known monitor and the same calibration software and colorimeter."
KPG doesn’t use an off-the-shelf colorimeter—it’s a modified X-Rite device specifically designed for monitor-based proofing. "Our calibration software is different, too, because we know so much about the monitor, measuring device and application," says Pipe. "Our software is designed for proofing, not just calibrating monitors, and we believe that drives a lot of the accuracy."
Users are required to recalibrate the Matchprint Virtual system every 24 hours. Although they don’t have to log in from a calibrated workstation to view a proof, only a computer running Matchprint Virtual software and an approved monitor offers a contract-quality proof. The system also records whether the proof was viewed with a color-accurate workstation. ICS’ Remote Director 3.0 is cross-platform—it’s compatible with Macs and PCs.
"We recommend the monitors from Apple, Eizo and Sony as defined in our SWOP-certified systems," says Sweeney. Because new systems are being certified, Sweeney suggests downloading the application data sheets (which define the configuration, setting, and color tolerances) from www.swop.org. Remote Director supports Gretag Macbeth’s EyeOne spectrophotometer as well as X-Rite’s Optix colorimeter.
Users can’t cheat when calibrating Remote Director—not only does the system require verification, it also enables individual users to keep tabs on all of their fellow users’ monitor status. Users’ calibration status is shown traffic-light style: A green light indicates less than one DeltaE, a yellow light means three DeltaE average, and a red light translates to three DeltaE or greater. Because calibration status data is recorded in the proof record and archive, users can’t fudge their color management routines.
"For the first time, we actually control the viewing condition for proofs, because the viewer must come to the Remote Director configured computer," adds Sweeney.
Of course, even the most sophisticated monitor and calibration scheme must overcome the weakest link in the proofing chain: human perception. "Color is definitely subjective, because we don’t have our eyes calibrated," says Pipe. "It can be impacted by emotional factors—an angry operator literally can see red—as well as environmental conditions such as knick-knacks near the monitor, or even the operator’s clothing."
While you might not be able to convince fashion-conscious operators to dress only in neutral gray, at the very least you should probably ban red sweaters and pay strict attention to ambient lighting, as you should do for hard-copy proofing.
It’s premature to write off CRTs—new models are still being introduced—but LCDs are definitely the popular choice for monitor-based proofing. Both ICS and KPG are bringing soft proofing into the pressroom, so larger displays are the next logical development.
Beyond the displays, we can expect even more soft proofing innovations. ICS, for example, recently introduced Flash Proof, a software plug-in that lets Remote Director v3.0 users manipulate a proof to view the interaction among substrates, coatings and lighting onscreen. Flash Proof allows users to "tilt" images on-screen to view gloss or sheen. Viewers can see how light reacts or reflects off specialty varnishes, inks and metallic surfaces.
Pantone (Carlstadt, NJ) and ColorVision, the digital imaging unit of Datacolor, introduces its second-generation colorimeter, Spyder2. Spyder2PRO software delivers white-point correction routines, automated black-and-white luminance adjustments, and an improved method for loading calibration data at startup. Multiple monitor calibration support can be achieved for Macintosh and Windows systems. See www.pantone.com.
The Eye-One Display2, Gretag Macbeth’s next-generation monitor profiling solution, has enhanced hardware and software to ensure consistent, predictable color on both LCD and CRT monitors. The compact colorimeter for emissive color measurements offers the same sleek, lightweight design as the original Eye-One Display.
A newly enhanced sensor provides fast measurements, high repeatability and sensitivity in dark areas. The device’s detachable ambient light head also serves as a dust shield. Use the USB-powered Eye-One Display2 at multiple workstations with no additional licensing fee. See www.gretagmacbeth.com
X-Rite’s (Grandville, MI) MonacoOPTIXR reportedly has won more awards than any other monitor calibration solution. The colorimeter uses patent-pending technology to produce accurate ICC profiles for CRT and flat-panel color displays. Combined with next-generation color management software, MonacoOPTIXR helps graphic arts professionals manage color from monitor to print.
X-Rite’s Pulse ColorElite system includes a handheld spectrophotometer, an award-winning monitor calibrator, advanced color management software, a Pathfinder hand-scanning guide, and a storage unit. Operators can scan in either direction at their own pace. The spectrophotometer can be tethered via a USB cable or untethered for remote scanning or patch reading. The spectrophotometer’s onboard memory can store up to 3,000 patches, with enough battery life for 10 profiles.
Pulse ColorElite’s standard software has ICC profile-building capabilities for monitors, scanners, RGB printers and digital cameras. Users with a RIP for CMYK devices can opt for the Premier version. The output profile editor has expert controls using lightness, saturation and output curves. The software interfaces with all current X-Rite monitor calibrators. For greater display profile accuracy, users can adjust the customizable white point. User-selectable viewing conditions provide control of environmental variables for display profiles (D50 default). See www.xrite.com
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