So, you've spent a fair amount of time setting up your proofing system. You've carefully selected your hardware, software and media. You've set up your workflow correctly, calibrated it carefully and selected the standard that you want your proof to match.
You print a test proof, measure a color bar, and verify that the proofs that you are generating are within the tolerance needed for proof accuracy. And there in your hands is your final product, a color-accurate proof. The problem is that the proof doesn't belong in your hands. It belongs in the hands of someone else - your client or supplier.
You now have several choices to make. You could send to your client or your supplier the proof that you are holding in your hands. If you can afford the time, this can be a viable option. But who can afford the time, especially if the proof needs to be shipped out of town?
A second option would be to send the file to your client or supplier and have them produce their own proof. The question is, do you trust their proofing accuracy as much as you do your own? Although they may claim that they conform to standards and run a very tight ship, this is certainly a case for "trust, but verify."
Recently, a number of products have been brought to market that greatly streamline this process through the use of Web-based interfaces.
One such program is ProofPass, a product from ColorMetrix. ProofPass is a subscription-based service that allows you to measure a supported color bar and get an instant pass/fail report. If you set up an account for one of your customers or suppliers, you will not only be able to monitor their system on a proof-by-proof basis, but you will also be able to perform trending analysis, which can help you help your partners detect problems before they cause proof failure.
From Chromix comes Maxwell, another Web-based monitoring and reporting system. Much like the ProofPass product, Maxwell allows you to scan a color bar and upload the results to a Web interface to be viewed by anyone you grant access to. Maxwell can monitor prints, proofs and even monitors. If Maxwell detects a problem it can even email you an alert. No need to constantly check the status of your remote systems. Another feature of Maxwell is the ability to take a set of measurement data and use it to build an ICC Profile directly within the program.
Fujifilm brings us Taskero Universe, one of the first software programs to pass G7 System Certification from IDEAlliance. Taskero allows you to communicate and verify color across a number of devices, including monitors, inkjet and digital halftone proofers CTP devices and printing presses. Taskero incorporates many of the above features, along with the capability to collect additional data such as pressroom temperature and humidity. Basically, if you can measure it, Taskero can monitor it (see figure 1).
A special feature of Taskero is the ability to build and output plate curves, and to use future measurements to constantly fine-tune and update these curves.
EFI offers Web Control Center. Web Control Center was built to automate the proofing and verification process. Remote installs of EFI's inkjet proofing RIPs, Colorproof XF and Fiery XF, can be connected through Web Control Center. From the host site, the user prints and verifies the accuracy of a proof. The image along with all calibration files and ICC profiles can be automatically uploaded to Web Control Center and forwarded to a remote site or sites also running copies of XF.
If these sites use Epson x900 inkjet printers with the built in inline spectrophotometers, the entire process at the remote site of processing and printing the file, measuring the color bar, calculating the accuracy, reporting the pass/fail status (see figure 2) and uploading the verification data to the Web Control Center database for analysis can be fully automated, resulting in true "lights-out proofing."
If you are interested in investigating the capabilities of these products to determine how they will best serve your needs, plan to attend this year's Graph Expo in Chicago, Sept. 11-14. In addition to the vendors, the IDEAlliance (http://idealliance.org ) is holding the 2011 G7 Summit during the show. The focus this year is on process control. The sessions could help you to select just the right product for your particular needs.
John Nate is technical sales manager for EFI. He can be reached at 262.691.1290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.