Preflighting-A Digital Seatbelt
Technology has transformed the prepress production workflow considerably during the last decade. Technically, we can do things faster and better than ever before, and with shorter deadlines, we're forced to deliver fast, furiously and accurately.
So what happens if the file running at intergalactic speed is missing graphics, has bad color specification or has serious font problems at the printer? In an ideal world, this would never occur, and in the real world, the preflight process can ensure it does not happen.
Welcome to the insurance policy for the digital highway. The preflight process ensures that the file has passed certain tests before it is shipped, guaranteeing that all components—graphics and fonts, for example—are included and technical specifications have been defined correctly.
"We use FlightCheck, by Markzware Software, to check all the source files before we ship," states John Dougherty, manager of publishing systems for Hachette-Filipacchi, New York City. "The fact that it gathers everything up (graphics and other linked files) is good, and it works better than (simple) collect-for-output (applications)."
Supporting the cause
For the digital advertising workflow to function, basic and advanced preflighting is a must. One association that has been instrumental in streamlining digital workflow for the advertising community is the Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publications Association (DDAP), Marblehead, MA. DDAP has addressed digital file inconsistencies by endorsing one file format, TIFF/IT-P1. The TIFF/IT format enables the file or advertisement to be shipped intact, ready for output to film, computer to plate or computer to press. However, it may be necessary for a printer or prepress house to preflight TIFF/IT files as they would other formats. That's where AdCheck by Total Integration, Pallatine, IL, comes in. As the name suggests, this preflight application allows users to check that TIFF/IT-P1 files have been written to the correct output specifications.
Frank Scott, director of digital development, Time Inc., New York City, sums up AdCheck nicely, when he says, "It works."
Assessing the necessity of preflighting
Other developers have tuned in to the woes of ad production management and have entered the preflighting scene with offerings of their own; Acquired Knowledge, San Diego, CA; Enfocus Software, San Mateo, CA; and Extensis, Portland, OR, have all developed preflighting applications.
For the advertising community, proofing for color is obviously very much a necessity, and digital proofs, in combination with quality-control procedures like preflighting provide publishers and agencies extra "insurance" that their files will be properly printed.
In the early '80s, the well-known British DJ, Jimmy Saville, promoted safe car travel with his advertisements: "Clunk, click, every trip." To preflight or not is certainly not life threatening, but any process that promotes a trouble-free, win-win workflow gets my vote. Here's to a new motto: "Check RIP, before you ship."