A look at the technology that has impacted the production process prior to printing.
By Mike Ruff
As computing power surged, so did the skill and knowledge in desktop publishing. Almost all the dedicated prepress houses disappeared. The ones that survived added services like digital proofing, screen making, and then digital printing. Now, most of these services are digital print houses or were acquired by print companies that wanted the knowledge base of their employees for their own prepress departments.
Accelerated Prepress Innovation Advancement
Software: In the ‘90s, QuarkXPress, Photoshop, Freehand, and Illustrator quickly established the modern prepress workflow that we see today. But most of the work was manual and slow. Shops with heavy workloads had to hire more and more people to keep up with the demand. Automation began to be a necessity rather than a luxury. Most of the early automation solutions were standalone. Compatibility was an issue at first but a problem that was rapidly solved. However, the software needed to do special functions and file work was clunky and could cost as much as $25,000 to truly automate. That problem went away through the introduction of software and servers that automated all these functions, or at least had plug-ins to do it.
Today, plug-ins and apps can do many functions automatically. Files can hit an automated server and actually be on a digital press within minutes, with no human involvement.
Color Management Innovation
With faster file preparation came the need for better, automated color management. It was not doing us a lot of good to get a file to press and have inaccurate color results. But where there is a great need, there are always great people who step up and solve the problems. At that time, the best technical people in the world worked for free on color management committees like the Print Properties Committee ISO/TC 130, CGATS, US TAG, GRACoL, SWOP, Fogra, G7, and others. These committees comprising prepress giants of the industry tackled these problems and solved most of them. They have provided the understanding of how color can now be precisely controlled for proofing and plate/screen making prior to a file reaching the press. This was huge in increasing profits for print companies that were innovative enough to invest in cutting-edge prepress technology.
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