The NORM in Workflows
There's been a new trend in digital workflows over the past several years. 'ROOM' workflows used to be the norm. But now 'NORM' workflows are fast becoming the norm (say that 10 times fast).
Perhaps this isn't the boldest statement, but there are definite implications for publishers and printers. And, for those PDF purists, to set the record straight, both ROOM and NORM workflows can accept PDF files.
First, let's define these two different workflow frameworks. ROOM stands for 'Rip Once Output Many'. In this type of workflow, pages are RIPped into an intermediate format, either unscreened raster or screened bitmap. These files are then imposed and, ultimately, sent to proof/film/plate.
NORM, is an acronym for 'Normalize Once Render Many'. To better understand this model, you have to split the process of RIPping into its individual steps, interpreting and rendering (rasterizing/screening).
Within a NORM workflow, pages are interpreted and saved into an intermediate format, referred as a 'normalized file'. These normalized files are then imposed, and ultimately sent to proof/film/plate.
The main selling point of ROOM workflows has been that they're the only ones that can guarantee that what you see on proof will be what you get on film/plate. This is a myth. NORM can also deliver the same reliability, along with a much lighter and flexible format. Let's look at some specific advantages of the NORM workflow model.
1. Lighter format. In a NORM workflow, the size of the intermediate files are smaller. This might not seem like a big deal, due to the cost of storage these days, but most companies don't have unlimited space. A lighter format allows you to keep more jobs online, and reduces the amount of server management during peak periods. Smaller files also result in less network traffic.