Living Digitally in a Four-Color World
"CTP is still not as predictable as we would like even though the quality of the product (that is) going to press is better than (when produced using) conventional stripping," says Charlton.
The shift from the film, contact-based proofs to the digital ones requires an adjustment in evaluating proofs and a high degree of file integrity throughout the process, adds Franzino, noting that the proofing process for four-color jobs is faster in a CTP environment.
A switch to a CTP workflow requires increased levels of expertise as jobs grow more complex and the "safety net" a traditional engraver naturally provided is not what it used to be, since there are fewer checkpoints in the process, notes John Calvano, editorial operations manager, Time Inc. Home Entertainment, New York City. Art, design and prepress staff need to be trained to understand the basic requirements of print production and manufacturing in a digital workflow, he suggests.
Compared to a black-and-white CTP workflow, a four-color workflow, industry professionals agree, offers more significant savings in the long run. However, four-color files are often larger since they contain graphics. Therefore, dealing with them--and especially proofing them--is more of an issue.
A four-color CTP workflow is generally more complex than a one-color one, says Ervin, explaining that
customer expectations for color matching are higher
digital file preparation is more complicated and time-consuming
scanning, image editing, trapping and other prepress functions require "more capable (and expensive) systems as well as highly-skilled prepress operators" and
large files containing graphics also require more sophisticated electronic storage and retrieval systems and a larger investment in telecommunications services.
What, in Ervin's opinion, has allowed CTP to take off in a one-color world earlier than in a color world was the technology enabling printers to produce black-and-white work efficiently and inexpensively. "Only recently have the CTP systems been able to produce confidently, in our opinion, and consistently, above a 150 line screen for color," he remarks.