KPG Touts Matchprint Virtual's Color Matching
Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG) recently invited journalists to New York to show off the company's Matchprint Virtual Proofing System. The product, which shipped in July, enables publishing teams to collaboratively proof and markup pages over an Internet connection.
KPG is ramping up its marketing efforts around the product, zeroing in on color accuracy as a key point of distinction. Company officials say Matchprint Virtual is so color accurate, it can even be used for contract proofs.
KPG's print media manager Jennifer Bergin outlined Matchprint Virtual's history and advantages for the press, then turned things over to KPG technician Al Chisek, who demonstrated the product's remote proofing markup, and color matching capabilities for the media.
Chisek demo'd how the product fosters collaborative workflow, using remote markup functions. He loaded and annotated a 300M file housed on MatchprintVirtual.com, located on a server 3,000 miles away. The file rapidly downloaded over Chisek's T1 Ethernet connection.
Performance was peppy, with no noticeable lag, as Chisek remotely edited the document. He didn't produce hard copies for attendees to compare, but did share one printed before the demo.
During the demo, KPG officials stressed that Matchprint Virtual is more technologically advanced than most 'soft-' or collaborative-proofing systems. These allow pages to be previewed and notated online, but can't be used for matchprints or contract proofs, KPG officials say.
"We're talking about color-accurate proofing [with Matchprint Virtual]," KPG's Bergin says. "We're offering monitor-to-monitor match, monitor-to-hard-copy match, and location-to-location match."
That means when an art director or account executive in, say, New York is working with a prepress operator in Los Angeles (or wherever), the RGB colors they proof on their computer screens will match the CMYK-generated colors on the printed hard copies.
How is this possible given the prevalence of low-cost computer monitors in use today? Answer: It's not. KPG's Matchprint Virtual solution includes a pair of customized monitors, proprietary color science hardware, and virtual proofing software developed by KPG's partner, RealTimeImage Inc., San Bruno, Calif.
New customers are visited by a KPG engineer, who installs the system inside a kiosk. The kiosk creates a curtained-off color-accurate area. The system can be tuned to create and manage multiple color profiles, based on project needs.
A "simple recalibration process" returns the monitors to their base level. In fact, a daily recalibration is prompted by a timed alert in the software. Operators can't start their first proofing session of the day without performing the color reset.
Indeed, Chisek demonstrated color accuracy with monitor-to-monitor and monitor-to-hard-copy matches, using KPG's standard configuration: an Apple Mac G4, two customized Sony monitors, and Matchprint Virtual's software application suite.
"If you don't have a baseline to start from, color accuracy will slip, and printed output will vary," Chisek says. "That's why previous [soft proofing] systems couldn't be used for final press checks."
That's not to say that Matchprint Virtual can't be used on low-end hardware; it can, KPG officials say. But once basic proofing is done and a matchprint or other contract proof is needed, a final proof using Matchprint Virtual can serve the same purpose.
The day also included a Q&A session with Brad Mintz, senior VP of graphic services at McCaan-Erickson, in New York. Mintz was among the product's beta testers, and thrashed earlier versions of the product for the past two years, while it was under development.
KPG's absolute color accuracy adds to the efficiency of soft proofing, Mintz says: "The time savings are enormous throughout the whole process."
As part of its marketing push, KPG is also trumpeting Matchprint Virtual's technical achievements this year. Among them: earning SWOP certification, and winning the 2003 InterTech award from the Graphic Arts Technology Foundation (GATF).
To accelerate that uptake, company officials said 2004 will see KPG work to expand its customer base beyond early adopters, such as graphic design and prepress houses, and print service providers.
"We believe the early adopter phase for digital proofing workflow systems is ending, and that mass adoption is about to begin," says Rob Pipe, director of KPG's worldwide color proofing business.
Other vendors are also working to position their digital proofing systems as capable of replacing the hard-copy contract proof. It seems certain that, in the near future, hard-copy proofs will be an option.
KPG is located at KPGraphics.com.
- Ben Winters