Making CTP A Reality
Browsing in bookstores while holiday shopping last month, perhaps you glimpsed Entertainment Weekly The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, People's Unforgettable Women of the Century, The Life Millennium, or Time Almanac. If so, you know that a hallmark of these publications is meticulous treatment of photos and color.
John Calvano, editorial operations manager at Time Inc. Home Entertainment, is one of the behind-the-scenes individuals responsible for overseeing quality of those publications--and more. When all is said and done, at the end of 1998 Calvano expected to have overseen editorial production for 8,000 pictures within 10,000 pages across 37 titles (or 52 if you count hard- and soft-cover editions as separate titles).
The books are produced by 13 editorial teams that work with Calvano--including internal Time staff groups, freelancers and outside book packagers.
Calvano was honored by Publishing & Production Executive magazine--a sister publication of BookTech the Magazine (BTM)--with induction into the 1998 Production Executive's Hall of Fame. Calvano was honored for leadership and innovation within the book industry and at Time, Inc., including groundbreaking efforts in four-color computer-to-plate work. Calvano's formal induction took place at the 11th Annual Gold Ink Awards/Hall of Fame Banquet Monday, Oct. 26.
BTM talked to Calvano about his views of his job and his experiences with computer-to-plate work. The interview was conducted by Editor Rose Blessing.
BTM: You manage many book projects simultaneously, yet take time to investigate new technologies. This takes focus and organization. What is your general management philosophy?
Calvano: Primarily, a place for everything and everything in its place. (Calvano displays books-in-progress spreadsheets--one that shows the status of elements that editorial and art teams are gathering, another that shows key production information, like which suppliers have been chosen, or whether text or cover or endsheet paper has been selected, etc.) Specifications for each title are filled in as they become available and they are referred to on at least a daily basis. I always ask, "What piece of the puzzle is missing. Can I have that piece now? If it isn't available yet, let's look at it tomorrow."
BTM: What sort of specs are you collecting?
Calvano: Trim size, how many inks allowed, etc. Will it be hardcover or softcover? What kind of paper will be used--which affects the way we do our prepress work. Bar codes--we have EAN, UPC barcodes. Much comes from our book production department and product managers.
I also maintain a comprehensive schedule that includes the deadline-oriented details on it. Every day I look across and can see what's going on with all titles each day. I may give a heads up to any of my editorial teams, such as a reminder that, "Next week you have delivery of artwork for a particular cover. How are you doing on it?" A gentle reminder. That's part of keeping everything on track.
BTM: The way that you mention making "gentle reminders"--a week before a project is due--indicates something about your management style.
Calvano: I see my role as support--a support and troubleshooting role. I bring other skills and talents to it, but my underlying goal is to get these books out with the least amount of headaches on the editorial side. What can I handle, anticipate and deal with in order to avoid a reversal of progress.
Flanking this office are departments managing the manufacturing, the printing and the binding. One of my goals is to ensure that they have the fewest headaches from the work managed by this office, i.e., that the files for CTP printing have the highest integrity. We avoid receiving calls saying, "You have a bad file the color looks awful the job isn't reproducing correctly for the stock chosen."
BTM: You began printing books computer-to-plate first with Quebecor and you continue to work with them as well as other printers. What has computer-to-plate printing done for the quality of Time Inc. Home Entertainment's books?
Calvano: Computer-to-plate has allowed us to move from 150 to 175 line screen due to its ability to regenerate the dots onto the paper more faithfully than with film.
BTM: Does it save time and money?
Calvano: The digital proofing process costs us less because it eliminates the cost of film. True, I'm paying approximately the same price for a digital proof as for a Matchprint; however, the cost of film has been eliminated. And we see an improved turnaround time on proofs, as well as more efficient makereadies on press.
Though there are increased costs for managing files that did not exist before, costs that offset some engraving savings, it's overall still a savings. Whatever I save at the engraver, I may spend up to half that on increased file management and processing.
BTM: How significant is the issue of finding and maintaining trained staff?
Calvano: The training level needs to be increased for everyone involved in the process. For example, where you had a safety net at your engraver in the past to correct the ills of the designer on his or her desktop files, much of that is going away--that safety net--and more onus is being placed on the designer to make files correct from the beginning.
BTM: Training seems to be a challenge industry-wide. From my vantage point, having interviewed many manufacturing executives at publishing companies over several years, Time seems to excel at hiring, training and keeping staff. If a production manager works for a book publisher that does not work so hard at that, or for some other reason has high turnover--is CTP impossible for that company?
Calvano: No. It's not impossible for anybody. It takes a mindset and a commitment from the top--from management. It's a decision--"We're going to do this because it's going to be better for us"--and that credo must transcend every level of employment within that company. Approach it pragmatically and it will be successful--and ultimately, easier with the bonus of better quality.
BTM: So there's no halfway approach.
Calvano: It has to be looked at as the big picture, and not just "a piece of our business is going to go computer-to-plate and they are going to deal with it." It's not only in the front end, it also benefits the back end. It gets the product to the bookstore. And it's a global picture, teaming with your vendors. Without edit and manufacturing getting together to solve the challenges, it's not going to happen. It won't work.
BTM: So the fact that you make the decision to go computer to plate becomes almost a communication tool in itself--vendors and everyone in your company knows what the plan is.
Calvano: In the past, publisher and printer could operate fairly independently of one another; sometimes it was an us-and-them situation. That attitude won't lead to success in computer to plate.
BTM: Computer-to-plate does seem to require a commitment to a specific vendor, at least to get started. Is that always necessary? In contrast, film is kind of plug and play. Or maybe it's not--tell me what you think.
Calvano: Hopefully, someone who is considering going computer-to-plate will be committing with a current printer who decides to go computer to plate, and will not have to switch vendors and develop a new relationship.
But theoretically, they could start without a printer selected, and choose a supplier at the end and say, "Go computer to plate." But without a printer you do not reap the benefits of technical knowledge regarding the CTP system during your file preparation. You are going to get your best information from the printer that owns the CTP system.
BTM: If a book publisher has been sending film to three or four printers routinely, making a commitment to go CTP might be little harder, don't you think?
Calvano: We use different printers for CTP. They have different CTP systems and may require different file formats. Slightly different, but not dramatically. For example, I can prepare a book in PostScript file format and ship it on a CD or transmit it via WAM!NET to three different printers and have it print the same at three different locations.
But any one of those printers could say, "Could you not save it as PS and make it TIFF/IT or DCS?" So I can say, "Yeah, we'll do that." I go to my engraver and say, save as DCS. Will it look any different on press? Potentially.
BTM: But you don't see it as a major obstacle.
Calvano: That's right. By the way, I do want to respond briefly to your implied statement that it's easier to prepare film than to prepare pages for CTP. I don't think that's the case. The rules for creating a file of integrity for film output also apply to computer-to-plate file preparation. If you made an error in a file which generated film output that was missing a font, the same thing would happen in CTP, or vice versa. So you're really only changing from outputting film to outputting the file on a plate--you can consider film like the plate.
Yes, you can take that film to another vendor. What about a CTP file? Maybe, maybe not. So some would say that film is easier from an administrative point of view.
Well, yes, you can see film. You can see the film on your shelf. You have an archive somewhere, and you can physically see the film and proof it. You can take the pages down and you can count them and look at them.
Take a computer-to-plate scenario. (Calvano pulls a Jaz disk from a file drawer in his desk.) I've got a book here. No proofs or anything. Here it is on this disk and I'm going to send it to Quebecor to be printed. Six months from now I'm going to send it to Donnelley to be printed. And here it is, the disk. And I can't see 144 pages, feel them and touch them, and make sure they are all here. I can see a directory of the page on the disk here. So I'm going to cross my fingers, hope to die and ship it.
BTM: Do you see a proof on a reprint?
Calvano: No. However, the OK'd press sheet or proofs from the previous run will be used to match on press.
BTM: You trust them to do that. Is it just a matter of getting used to that?
Calvano: It's time for paradigm busting. We need to break paradigms and traditional ways of thinking with regard to the computer-to-plate process. Not entirely, but in certain areas. This film and proof thing.
This (Calvano motions to the disk) is still a tangible, but it has really been compressed--miniaturized. It's clean; it's neat; it takes less room. (Calvano pulls six disks from the same file drawer.)
Here are six books. Here are 1,200 pages. Now think about the same books imaged as film flats. In this office. Where would I put them? I'd have to have a storage room, in a humidity and temperature controlled environment, carefully stored or they are going to become out of register and have to be restripped. They are going to get brittle eventually.
But here they are, archived.
BTM: So from a security, feeling comfortable standpoint, you're pretty comfortable, you can have your disks in one drawer there and there are your books.
Calvano: And if someone in promotion says, '"We need to do an ad to promote this book and I need six spreads for my designer to place into a layout," I go to the disk and pick up sets of two pages, and save them as an EPS image on a disk, within 15 minutes, and give them the art. And it's done.
In the past, I would have had to take this spread to a studio, have them do a 4 x 5ý shot on a chrome, correct it, scan it, separate it and put it in the ad, incurring a lot of time and cost.
BTM: So that's the kind of thing that pushes you over the edge as far as being comfortable with it.
Calvano: You can do some of these digital things even if outputting to film, too. But CTP has become a welcome partner in our prepress regimen with positive efficiency and financial implications. Additionally, its manufacturing benefits over film production, such as improved on-press registration and finer plate imaging, raise our quality prediction threshold. CTP has become a norm.