Last Rites for the Hard Proof
Here's a compelling prediction: monitor-based proofing systems will replace hardcopies by the end of 2005. Skeptical? Don't be.
Proofing is often cited as the final barrier to implementing an all-digital workflow. But it won't be for long.
Paper-based analog proofs will virtually disappear by mid 2005, replaced by digital technology that's already much faster, more flexible, and far less expensive. There are compelling reasons to believe this prediction will prove true, not the least of which is the history of printing and proofing.
Printing's history is marked by constant improvements. New techniques and technologies that helped 'get the word out' faster made the printed page look better, and saving publishers money ultimately prevailed in the ongoing battle of convention.
The short history of color proofing is no different, except the rate of change is quickening, with each new proofing method replacing the old in half as many years.
Color proofing wasn't necessary until four-color process took hold. Four-color printing was so compelling that, by the late 1960s, it was making serious inroads in B&W markets. But the complexity of four-color process made proofing a necessity for anything color critical. And in those days, proofs were made on press.
Then around 1970, film-based (analog) proofing emerged as a potential replacement for the costly and time-consuming press proof. Initially, printers and publishers didn't trust 3M's Matchprints or DuPont's Cromalins, because they were different, and therefore perceived as less accurate. But by 1980, film-based analog proofs had largely displaced the press proof, ultimately becoming the de facto standard.
Digital proofs debuted around 1990, some 20 years after film-based proofs appeared. They were initially produced by proprietary systems such as IRIS printers, Kodak's Approval, and 3M's Rainbow. As was the case with analog initially, publishers and printers didn't trust the color accuracy of this new, unproven technology. Then there was the cost. Early digital proofing systems started around $70,000 before options.