PIA Color Management Conference: Take 4

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Color Management: 10 Years Back and 10 Years Forward - How Times Have Changed: Part 1

This session at The PIA Color Management Conference featured three industry experts who took the audience back in time and then took a peek into the future of color management technology. I will cover each speaker's presentation in a seperate blog post. First up is Dave Hunter...

Dave Hunter
Dave Hunter, President of Pilot Marketing and one of the founders of the conference, discussed the previous 10 years and reflected back on how things have changed since the conference's inception in 1999.

Dave began by talking about what he referred to as the "bleeding edge technology" of color management. "Bleeding edge technology means that the technology doesn't always work, and when it doesn't, you get cut. And depending on how bad it doesn't work, you bleed. And sometimes you bleed a lot. If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn't be up in front of you talking today. Because I've lived through a lot of bleeding edge technology." Dave said.

Proprietary Systems
Looking back 10 years, Dave said that initially it was a very proprietary color world. Prepress color management systems only interacted with themselves, not other systems. The formation of the ICC in 1993 gave the industry an open platform so companies like Aldus, Adobe, Quark along with different RIPs could share the same profiles.

"Remember Pagemaker?" Dave asked while he talked about some of his early experience with color management when he was with Aldus. He would attend summit meetings with top software manufacturers (Agfa, Apple, Adobe...) to work through color problems. Dave said he learned a lot in those early days by writing down notes and listening to the conversations.

Dave discussed the state of the art in profiling in 1992. "At Kodak's labs in Bedford, MA, the hand held spectrophotometer took two of us to carry across the room, and costed around $15,000. "There were three of us that would take turns reading a 1,000 patch output target, one patch at a time. It would take approximately six hours to do. And to process this profile, would take about eight to ten hours." Dave said. He added that the state-of-the-art Mac IIci that was used would crash about half of the time. "An output profile would literally take 16 hours to make." Dave said.

The Holy Grail
Dave continued his stroll down memory lane by reminding the audience when color management was sold as the Holy Grail. Color management was oversold as something that will take bad images and make them good or "Child's Play" as Lino Color used to say. Or "Perfect color with your eyes closed." as ColorBlind claimed. "It never met expectations, and it was getting a pretty bad reputation because it was this never-ending promise that was never fulfilled." Dave said.

    Anyone Remember this claim? "Perfect color with your eyes closed." Really?

Apple Trouble
Dave spoke about the turmoil at Apple in 1996 - 1997. In 1997 Apple considered dropping ColorSync until they figured out that it was unique and catered to it's core users: graphic arts and printing. Since then they have put a lot of resources into ColorSync and it helped save Apple as a company.

Some of the companies from 1998 that were making software or hardware for color management: Color Savvy, Logo, RIT80, Praxisoft, ColorBlind, Fuji, LightSource, Monaco, Optical, Heidelberg, GretagMacbeth, Techkon, Sequel Imaging. "Many of these companies are not around anymore." Dave said. He also referred to what he called the 2008 X-Rite Empire. LightSource, Monaco, GretagMacbeth, Sequel, Logo and Pantone are now all part of X-Rite. And although X-Rite bought out GretagMacbeth, Dave pointed out that more of the recent product releases have been GretagMacbeth products.

Enabling Technologies
Dave expanded on some of the enabling technologies to color management throughout the last ten years:

  • LightSource Colortron 1997 - 2001
    • First hand held sub $5000 spectrophotometer ($1500)
    • Used software on a computer for intelligence
  • ColorBlind software 1997 - 2000
    • First to use 3D modeling so you could see what was happening with gamuts
  • Standards Committees
    • Dave McDowell, Larry Warter, Mike Rodriguez, Larry Steele worked tirelessly to provide the framework that enabled all of this color management technology. "These guys don't get enough credit. Because without them, this industry would really be in disarray." Dave said.

Education is Key
Dave wrapped up by emphasizing that education has always been an issue and it is still lacking. "I liken the analogy of color to an onion. Just when you think you know it all, there is another layer. And I'm still peeling back these layers of the onion because there's so much to it. And still crying along the way" he joikingly added.


Topics: Creative

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