Remote proofing for small and mid-sized printers

By Ron Ellis

For years, remote proofing has been lumped into the same category as other cool but expensive and impractical technologies. Over the past year, remote proofing has become both affordable and practical. Two new products have matured to the point where remote proofing both on screen and via printing is now a reality for those who wish to pursue it.

            Sometimes the very idea of remote proofing can be somewhat confusing. For this article we will consider it to be remotely printing or displaying a proof or images with the same results at multiple locations unhindered by geography. Remote proofing is obviously not for everyone, but for those who it benefits, remote proofing can be both a great time and money saver.

 

Remote proofing makes sense in certain situations

Remote proofing can be invaluable if a printing plant has multiple locations and wants to be able to move work between plants. If a printer has a large customer for whom time and turnaround is important, a printer can install a proofer or viewing station at the customer’s location and eliminate couriers, overnight shipping, and can cut days out of correction cycles by providing a key customer with this high-end service.

Providing these services to a customer can also ensure that you get the job instead of another printer without these capabilities. If an agency is working on a large account with a client multiple locations or a geographically distant location, remote proofing allows them speed up approval cycles.

Imagine changing a process where several hundred proofs are sent out by courier and tracked for approval to a process where the respondents are emailed instantly and log on and approve changes in a central location with no wait times. Also imagine a printer with a key client being able to ‘print’ color accurate proofs directly to the customer’s location with no need for couriers, or the loss of a day in the schedule. Also, for photographers and other content reproducers, it can ensure the content is sent exactly as they intended it.

 

Two products excel at remote proofing

For hardcopy proofing using inkjets in multiple locations, Best RemoteProof is the leader. For on-screen proofing and annotations, RealTime Image leads the market. Although the technology has matured to the point where you can cobble together a solution on your own using calibrated monitors, proofers and color management software, it can be a long and frustrating road.

Both Best and RealTime have products that are affordable, work well, and have color management, PDF, and other technologies integrated directly into the products. With both of these there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Best Remoteproof

Best Remoteproof is a software product designed to allow users to output proofs in multiple locations with the same results. The product comes with a special spectrophotometer called the Best Eye which is used to verify the accuracy of the proof. Any Best product can output a remote proof file, but the instrument is required to verify that the remote proof is accurate.

Best Remoteproof operates in the following manner. The proof producer (Site A) outputs a hardcopy proof containing a hardcopy and a PDF file color bar and then reads in the those values using the Best.eye Eyespectrophotometer.The proof producer then creates a Best Remoteproof Container file (BPL) which contains a PDF file of the proof image and a Job Definition Format (JDF) file.

The JDF file is also included which contains the necessary information, including the reference profile, rendering intent, and spot color tables that are required by the other Raster Image Processor (RIP) to ensure the output matches. The PDF BPL file is then sent to the Remote Proof receiver (Site B). The receiver outputs the proof, and then reads in the values using their Best Eye spectrophotometer. As long as the values are within an agreed upon error value, the proof is considered valid and will match.

There are several reasons Best Remoteproof works well. It tends to work best when both ends have identical papers and printers, although it will attempt to match even on other papers. The PDF BPL file that Best creates is compressed and transmits easily over the Internet. (This same file can be used to view proofs using Acrobat as well). (Note: You can’t get to the PDF file outside the BPL file) The Remote ProofBest Remoteproof application and Best Eye spectrophotometer provide a level of quality control that has been missing until now with many remote proofing applications.

In New England (as well as around the rest of the country) Best proofing software has the highest market penetration among printers and is easy to keep at known calibration states, so Remote ProofBest Remoteproof is an easy upgrade and doesn’t require completely rebuilding and relearning your proofing system if you are already using a Best product. By simply adding the Remote ProofBest Remoteproof software and measuring device at both ends, you can begin sending and receiving remote proofs and be certain they match. For what it does, the product is inexpensive, and it can pay for itself quickly in saved time and shipping.

Richard Dannenberg from Best says, “Not only is it a great product, but it is a great way to verify the accuracy of proofs.”

The implications of a product like Best Remote Proof are that any printer can easily add remote proofing capabilities to their configuration, whether the needs are multiple locations, or drawing themselves closer to a key customer. The Remote street price for Best Remoteproof is approximately $2,500, which includes the Proof product including the Remote Proof software and measurement device. (The Remote ProofBest Remoteproof application requires a Best RIP be present on each end as well).

For even small printers this product has many relevant applications for customers that demand high turnaround and special services.

 

RealTime Image

RealTime Image has emerged as the leading product for on-screen remote proofing. RealTime Image is a collaborative web-based product that allows users in multiple locations to view color accurate proofs on-screen. The service is typically provided as a subscription service, and the customer is provided with a secure area to log into containing only files relevant to their projects. Using RealTime Image, clients log onto the service using a web browser along with a free plug-in. They are taken to their area, and then can look at and annotate color accurate files on the screen. Annotations are stored separately and do not effect the original file. RealTime Image provides a palette of tools for viewing, measuring density, displaying separations, and all client annotations in the order they were received. Like Best, RealTime Image is based on the International Color Consortium (ICC) Color Profiles, and to be color accurate requires a calibrated monitor. The higher-end the monitor, the better the results, and RealTime Image recommends contacting GATF in order to review the results of a recent Tech Alert study.

RealTime Image customers use the product to perform time sensitive color corrections and approvals with customers in remote locations, saving time, money, and providing customer with a convenience they don’t get from other printers not using RealTime Image.

Steven Tripp from RealTime Image states, ”The first time that I had the opportunity to see a demonstration of the RealTime Image solution, it was over five years ago. Since then, this remote proofing solution has been tried and tested. RealTime Image has created products that are very scaleable. This scalability, as well as the option for customers to use whatever file format meets their remote proofing requirements, has established RealTime Proof as the best in class solution.”

QuebecorWorld Acme Printing in Wilmington, MA has been a long-time user of RealTime Proof. This remote solution is actively applied in their proofing workflow. RealTime Proof has a long list of satisfied customers, including corporate accounts, trade shops, agencies and printers.

Although subscription-based services tend to make printer’s cringe, the pricing is scalable and does not have to involve a large investment. RealTime Proof can be purchased as an online service for a few hundred dollars per month, or in the form of a server software solution for under $10,000.

If you have customers that would be interested in remote proofing, the products are here now, and they work. For more information about Best RemoteProof contact Richard Dannenberg (Richard.Dannenberg@BESTColor.com). For more information about RealTime Image contact Steven Tripp( tripp@rtimage.com).

About the author: Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He worked in the commercial printing industry for 18 years and brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations and he provides color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.