Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Send it back, or just smash it ?

Yes, users get frustrated with color management. Max Corman is rich enough to express his rage in a way many of us can only dream about.

Here is an excerpt from his post: "This device was not coming out alive. Basically i just smashed it about a dozen times on the ground until i felt the neccessary release that had been long coming. How XXX could make such a stupid design is beyond me."

I'll leave my readers to decide whether the calibrator was guilty as described and got what it deserved or whether there was a miscarriage of justice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PIA/GATF conference impressions

Hi folks, I'm back in Paris after attending the PIA/GATF conference in Phoenix where I got a press pass thanks to Mr. Jim Workman of GATF -Jim, thanks for the freebie ! A few hundred people attended, mostly printers solidly convinced of the usefulness of color management, and a sprinkling of color experts/consultants who were networking. The numerous courses and tutorials allow print industry attendants to learn the techniques, and figure out how the pieces fit together.

One of the wierdnesses of the color management field is the essential role of this tier of color consultants who help users pick solutions and make them work. I chatted with Don Hutcheson, Steve Upton and Roger Breton. I also had the honor of talking to Abhay Sharma, who is the author of "Understanding Color Management".

As regards specialist CMS vendors, the usual suspects were doing time, namely Xrite ,Gretag, Eizo, ICS, Fuji, and the ColorEyes people, as well as Alwan of France and Chromix who are both software vendors and consultants. Plus a bunch of RIP and proofing solution suppliers.

Xrite had managed to sneak a DTP70 onto almost every table in the vendor room, their automatic spectro is obviously getting traction with OEM solution vendors like RIPs. Gretag had a couple of prototype IOs waving their little arms and measuring, it's time to get product out to buyers, folks ! Eizo had spread wide-gamut CG220 monitors around. Fuji seems to be interested in taking their minilab color correction software mainstream, targeting it at wholesale image processors like magazines or agencies. And yes, there is obviously money to be made supplying the humble D50 lightbooth.

My own "Best of Show" award goes to Steve Upton of Chromix, for his ColorThink Pro profile visualization and evaluation tool, a must-have for every serious color geek. With an add-on ribbon for Steve's demo of multiplex juggling - photos have been omitted here but might be made available for blackmail purposes if payment is offered ;)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Microsoft embraces and extends Colorsync

The above is a photo demonstrating peaceful coexistence at the PIA/GATF conference of the Tiger and the Borg. This session had Roger Siminoff of Apple (seated left) and Tim Grey of the Borg (right) talking about their companies color management policies.

Roger informed us that "Steve Jobs is a genius", and that Apple has long been conscious of the importance of color management, and as an example are pushing remote proofing or paperless proofing, which they consider an important market.

Tim showed how Microsoft is overtaking the ICC model with Vista's WCS (Windows Color System), and Tim added "Bill Gates is a genius too".

The consensus seems to be that WCS has considerable technical merits, and is a step forward from the present ICC practises. Tim indicated all design documents for WCS are available to developers under NDA, and will be made public when Vista is released. And that the reason why the ICC had not been approached with this stuff was that it was felt to be too slow.

Still, this session went down badly with a number of questioners, all of whom, like this author, were concerned about the interoperability of WCS with non-windows platforms. Tim Grey's short answer was "if you don't want it you don't have to use WCS, you can keep on using ICC instead in Vista"!

Interestingly, some Xrite employees seemed unhappy about the quantity of information filtering down from Billsville, while the Gretag crowd seemed happy with everything about WCS to the extent that they even bought this Borg-averse journalist an excellent prime rib dinner.

Friday, December 02, 2005

IO and Profile Maker Pro 5.05 for Windows - update

A little bird tells me that a first production batch of robot IO clones are ready to go out into the world and measure. They were ready and waiting, all they needed to face a life of precise servitude with Swiss serenity was software that has now been gifted them: Profile Maker Pro 5.05 for Windows can be found on the Gretag Macbeth site .

This update is supposed to be able to drive both Gretag's own IO and Xrite's DTP70. It is also supposed to incorporate a significantly improved Gamut Mapping in the profiling engine. All of which makes it a recommended update as far as I'm concerned.

You know how much I love my DTP70, I just hope PMP 5.05 can acquire data from this instrument in spectral mode, it would seem the current version only reads the LAB values. And yes, inquiring minds want to know whose dog ate the homework —excuse me— the Mac version of PMP 5.05 ?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

My own test shots.

Nobody is sending me interesting files so I've started making my own. Here is the first one, showing the setup testshot and then and then the hand-tuned version. I find the profiling tools give me accurate color easily, pleasing color not in this case.

Of course, profiling technology does have its uses for on-screen viewing and printing of the colors in this image.

I'll post the profiled images soon.

I have the peppers sitting next to me in the light used to make the picture above, and they match the CG210 pretty well. I think I'll dig out a spectro tomorrow and measure the peppers, It's an interesting variation of the usual print/screen matching game

I've also tried previewing this image using profilesfor my Epson 2100 printer, and it looks hopeless on matte, but will probably print decently on glossy. The background and eges are what gets hits hardest.


Monday, November 28, 2005

First Camera Profiling Results: Ron Donson

Photographer Ron Donson has graciously allowed me to post images from his profiling experiment. Here they are. Decide for yourselves which sandwich you prefer. Both images are copies of the same file, one was left in AdobeRGB, the other had a profile I made for Ron assigned. Both images were then levelled out identically (by numbers) resized and converted to sRGB with relative intent, and posted.

Please copy-paste the following links for downloads. Tabs are neat for flicking back and forth between the two images.


I'll let you vote in the comments for which you prefer.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Camera Profiling Experiment Rules

I've started to attract a lot of visitors interested by my offer of free camera profiles. I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart, I'm doing it to gather experience in what works and what doesn't.

You send me a target, and a couple of photos created with the same lighting and settings. Preferably all of the above are in-camera Jpegs, otherwise identical Raw conversions. No photos that allow me to evaluate the work means no profiles.

If you send me in-camera Jpegs, that means 2 files (One chart, one sample).

If you send me conversions, that means 4 files, preferably:(Converted chart, converted sample, Raw chart, Raw sample).

Large files can be easily sent via http://www.yousendit.com.

I'm summarizing the shooting guidelines below:

The target has to be very carefully lit, any gradient or colored reflection will damage the profile. One single softbox far away is good lighting, it can be masked or goboed to even it out. A mini colorchecker may have less lighting issues than the full-size one.

The target should not occupy the whole frame, to avoid vignetting prolems leading, again, to non-uniform lighting. It should not be cropped, I want to see the cardboard frame at the very least. If possible it should be mounted on some grey background.

Yes, lighting is crucial. The method I know off I learnt from the Coloreyes software - a respected profiling tool - which recommends ONE single softbox, slightly to one side, as far away from the chart as possible, feathered or goboed to make the illumination constant. An additional precaution is to move the card holder away from the back wall, in fact keep it away from every wall because of reflections, and also pay great attention to reflections on the camera. One thing I might do in the future is recommend two shots of a rotated target and create software to help me average out those shots.

TESTING: "The camera should be custom gray-balanced using whatever tools you usually employ for this. You can gray-balance in the Raw converter by clicking on your preferred target square."

The workflow must be locked down. Fixed conversionparameters, or in-camera Jpegs, please. The camera should be custom grey-balanced. And, if possible, the Lab value of the colorchecker white patch should be around 96, if this is the target you're using. You should almost be blowing out that patch, I think. Also, beware of lens vignetting ...

Canon's DPP is a very good converter to attempt this with.

When you get the profile emailed back, you simply assign it to your images in Photoshop.

You can send files to the address at the top of the blog. However, I will expect feedback as a condition of making the profile. A couple of additional images taken with the camera in similar lighting, sent with the target file are one of the requested peices of feedback.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Color Management Books

I just received Andrew Rodney's new book, Color Management for Photographers, and Abhay Sharma's Understanding Color Management. Reviews will go up shortly, but here is the sneak preview:

Andrew Rodney's text shines as a howto book. It is simpler and more complete as a tutorial text than Real World Color Management. It'll teach you what a color-managed workflow is, why you want one, and how to get the job done with the main tools on the market. There's even a set of work-through exercises, and a very useful CD with a lot of demo software, sample images and other useful goodies.

Abhay Sharma's textbook explains all the color-geek stuff in terms simple enough to understand. This is where you'll find a clear definition of all that quaint terminology, like "tristimulus", and the background on colorspace conversion formulae . Dr. Sharma also provides information on how profiling software is architectured, and the actual contents of an ICC profile file, again in terms simple enough to understand.

Capsule summary: Both books are excellent, while very different. Professional and amateur photographers as well as users of color management technology in industry won't regret buying Andrew Rodney's book. Readers wanting to understand the concepts underlying CMS software and practice will find in Abhay Sharma's text an excellent introduction to the science behind the technology.

Dr. Edmund Ronald

DTP70 Bill Atkinson targets

The DTP70/Profiler combination is pleasing me more every time I use it. Bill Atkinson is well known for his Epson widebody profiles. He tells me he likes the DTP70 too, and he's made some targets for it, including one huge strip for wide-body printers, that the spectro reads ingests in one gulp. To make the strip feed in straight Bill has constructed an input tray for the spectro. You can find the Atkinson targets for the DTP70 here and a picture of Bill's setup at this site.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Xrite's DTP70 and i1Match software play nice together

I've tried using theXrite DTP70 as a measuring instrument for Gretag's i1Match. It works.

I have an old i1 Rev A spectro, and the associated i1Match v3.0 software. Xrite supplies a very nice free, undongled app called ColorPort, which allows you to define targets and read them in.

So I read in the Gretag TC9.18 reference file, made myself a two-page A4 target for the DTP70, opened the Tiff files in Photoshop and printed them close to the edge, and read the targets into ColorPort with the DTP70. Then I exported the measurements from ColorPort into a CGATS file.

Finally, I connected the i1 Spectro (it's the i1Match dongle), read the CGATS file into i1Match, and made a profile. Bingo!

Compliments to Gretag and Xrite for behaving like adults and supporting industry-standard data formats !

I assume that PMP will be able to read the same CGATS files as i1, so one can doubtless use PMP as a backend for the DTP70. Neat !

DTP70 and Monaco Profiler 4.8 Review 'official" full text.

Xrite sells an automated print profiling solution, a bundle containing the Xrite DTP70 and Monaco Profiler 4.8. This is based on the DTP 70 spectro, which I started testing two weeks ago. It's been a very pleasant experience.

Until I started working with this Xrite combo, I didn't know printer profiling could be so simple. I was up and running in less than 30 minutes after unpacking the product, and inkjet profiles now take me less than 10 minutes to create.

The DTP70 is a fast compact device that acts like an inkjet printer in reverse: It ingests printed testcharts and scans them. Like an inkjet, it connects to your computer by a USB cable, and takes up little real estate. The only control on the device is the large button — you press this to tell the spectro to start scanning the chart you inserted.

The chart-scanning process requires only a couple of minutes per page. Yes, it's lightning fast!

The spectro hardware has both white and black backing strips for measuring. You can choose which to use by flipping the backing plate. Also, a UV filter can be manually rotated in and out of the measurement path at will—this is a very sensible design, as only some users and some software packages will need the filter. For the record, my position is that photographers who make client prints should not use the filter, while printers who make proofs should.

The Monaco Profiler Platinum software that Xrite supplies to drive the DTP70 has a comprehensive range of color management abilities. It can create scanner and camera profiles, calibrate monitors, create RGB and CMYK printer profiles, and edit ICC profiles. So far I've only exercised the printer profiling part of the package.

Installation of Monaco Profiler on my Powerbook under Panther was a breeze. The software can run anywhere, provided you plug in the dongle. My dongle got programmed remotely by the Xrite Web site during a registration procedure launched during installation. When installing on "fanjet", my noisy dual G5 with Mac OS X Tiger, I had a minor glitch as the HASP dongle driver didn't install automatically. As for Windows, the install on a Win XP machine at Canon's offices (see below) went through flawlessly.

I first profiled my home Epson 2100 inkjet, with two glossy papers and one matte paper, in RGB mode. For this, I used the half-page test chart, the simplest supplied by Monaco Profiler. I verified profile quality visually by means of a print of the Colorchecker template downloaded from Danny Pascale's site, updated with some of my own measured patch data. I also ran off the Pixl test image before printing some of my own portofolio.

When I was quite certain that my homemade inkjet profiles were good, I put the DTP70 in a plastic shopping bag and took it to visit Mr. Mariane, at Canon's headquarters in Paris. Together, we profiled a wide-body Canon inkjet, and a monster RIP-driven Canon laser-printer/copier that costs several hundred thousand dollars.

The copier yielded excellent color-accurate results for the Colorchecker, both in RGB and in CMYK mode, and made visually appealing photo prints, when our Xrite-generated profiles were used. However, to obtain optimal color from such an unstable device, the printer's self-calibration procedure should be invoked to re-linearize, before a print run and before profiling; also, color-sensitive prints should be run off as multiple copies, and the first few pages of each batch of prints should be disregarded.

No product is perfect. However the only weakness I found so far with the DTP70 is that the paper lead-in of a test chart needs to measure close to 30mm or else the paper mechanism will refuse to feed in. This makes it necessary to trim the charts by hand, precisely. But the Print with Preview dialog in Photoshop lets me print charts at exactly the right distance from the paper edge, on A4 sheets, and then the feed mechanism performs very reliably with no need for manual trimming of the page.

Capsule summary: The DTP70 and Monaco Profiler profiling combo is unproblematic to use and lightning fast. This industrial-strength profiling system is perfect for a production environment such as a repro-center or print-room.

I wish to thank Danny Pascale, the author of the Babelcolor color measuring and conversion software, Steve Upton, padrone of Chromix and author of the Colorthink profile evaluation tool, and color specialist Roger Breton for their invaluable assistance while I was struggling with ICC Color Theory 101 during this review.

Friday, November 04, 2005

DTP70 Review is up on Publish.com

Click here for my "official" Publish.com review of the DTP70!

I'm now going to shift my focus to the rest of the Monaco Profiler Platinum software, and also look at profile Editing.

I like the profiles I got with the small chart. Skin tones look ok on my Epson. No point in moving to the bigger charts IMHO. But I'm looking for a way to improve the linearization of the devices I'm using eg. cheap inkjets.

One of the big advantages of a fast profiling device is that you can easily experiment with the driver settings, in order to improve the final image.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Five-minute profiling with the DTP70

Apart from some tiny irritations listed below, Monaco Profiler has speeded up considerably after I installed it on my G5. I now need just about 5 minutes to make an inkjet profile with the half-page chart, and that time spans both measuring and computing the profile. I now feel that I've got this system sussed - it's time to do some real printing rather than just Colorcheckers and standard test pages to check out the profiles. I've been printing some portraits of a friend's son on Epson Premium Glossy, not at all recommended or supported on the Epson 2100. My most important criterion is skin texture, and the kid's skin tone looks ok on the prints.

I had a phone discussion with Steve Upton of Chromix yesterday, and he makes his inkjet profiles with at least a thousand patches on his slow Gretag Spectrolino/Spectroscan systems. I'm not sure that's necessarily a good thing, though - when I was younger I did a lot of neural net training and I learnt that when you use too many data points for training a net you can get overfitting. Once I've written the first Publish.com article about the hardware, I'll start to play around with changing parameters in the software, and test profile quality with large and small charts, dense cubes and sparse cubes.

Detailed DTP70 lab journal.:I installed Monaco Profiler on my G5 dual 2.5 with Tiger today - the computer I call "Fanjet". I encountered some minor software issues which I hadn't seen on the Powerbook under Panther. Profiler wasn't seeing the dongle. I found the dongle installer in a directory, installed it and everything started working properly. It seems that the dongle driver didn't install by default ! Also, there's some strange interaction between Monaco's screen profiling reminder and my screens, carefully profiled and matched with ColorEyes, are having their assigned profiles ignored at reboot. So I have to go into Display Preferences and reset the screen profiles to the ones I want. More entertainingly, the Xrite mail system has apparently blacklisted gmail, so I can't send those nice people mail easily and report these small glitches.

Oh, and by the way, I found my old Colorchecker under some socks, and it doesn't quite match the new one.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

DTP70 - a device for printing beautiful Colorcheckers !

Today I printed some beautiful Colorcheckers using that very first ICC profile I'd originally made within thirty minutes of unpacking the DTP70. On monday, I will give the DTP70 and Monaco Profiler a hard workout with a variety of printers, testing against GMB Profile Maker Pro with a fellow color geek in Paris. But I can already state that the first profile I made was very good; out-of-the-box experience excellent, and the profiling software is a breeze to use.

Regarding my earlier posts of problems: As I'd guessed, there was no problem with the profile. But printing the Colorchecker was real hard - for me. I had a lot of problems with neutrals going bluish etc. This was all my fault for not understanding the arcana of choosing a rendering when printing. I've taken a week to sort myself out. Even going to the extent of measuring the patches on my Colorcheker.

In the end I was told by the guys listed below to print with Absolute Colorimetric from a LAB-encoded Colorchecker file, and the result was beautiful !

I'd like to thank the color geeks on the colorsync list - especially Danny Pascale of Babelcolor fame, Steve Upton padrone of Chromix, and Roger Breton, for sorting this out for me.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Comparing colorcheckers

Yes the red patch on my new Colorchecker was off by 3 deltaEab compared with Danny Pascale's average. And yes, you can compare images by superposing them on 2 layers and blinking. And yes, I'm going to have to look at how I'm printing, because the printed versions have those 3 colours which are off by 7 or 8 deltaE.

In the mean time, I used the DTP 94 and Profiler to profile a friend's LCD screens. Monaco Profiler Software and DTP94 hardware are neat, easy to install and easy use. Software has a feature for measuring performance with definable patches, I think the Colorchecker colors are wired in - I should use this feature in future screen profile tests, crosschecking with the i1.

How to make your own custom Colorchecker

The quick way to make your own ColorChecker is to start with a template eg. that from Danny Pascale's Babelcolor site. You go into i1 Share, and measure all the patches. Then you chhose Export and save out the data as either a Lab or AdobeRGB photoshop patch file, which you then read into Photoshop. Magic brush to select the patches from the template, then fill. Of course, if someone created a macro to do this it would be faster. If you want to do so, post a comment.

Inter-colorchecker, inter-instrument agreement and other issues

In this post I'm using Blogger as a lab journal.

The slight disparity of a few of the Colorchecker patches, between the original and the printed version is bugging me. Color geeks are perfectionists or they're nothing, and the bug has bit me too. The strange thing is, the match between paper types is very good, it's the match between my two profiled prints and the Colorchecker which diverges slightly.So I suspect that the only open part of the loop, the image data, might be bad.

So, l'll measure out my own Colorchecker. I will then update the image I got from DannyPascale's site with mty own data and reprint. Unfortunately, I cannot stuff the colorchecker into the DTP70, so I have to measure the chart with my EyeOne. This introduces the additional complication of inter-instrument agreement, which I will try to address in another set of measurements later by measuring some printed patches with both instruments.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

DTP70 progress notes

Today I set up the appointment for the GMB PMP comparison I want to do with the DTP70. We're going to do some CMYK with a BestColor RIP as well, on some real wide-format printers, we have a whole menagerie of them available !

And I profiled another paper,on my mini-wide-format Epson, which I call super-Tetenal. This is a 290g superglossy ceramic inkjet paper which I often use to make 13x18 prints. Give me some leeway, I'm using this page to dump my rough notes.

I haven't yet quite sorted out the paper feed of the DTP70. It rejected my A4 supertetenal sheets until I scissored off the leading margin up to the dotted line. Maybe I'll go in and edit the margin away in Photoshop and see whether matters improve.

Anyway, total time to get a profile is under 10 minutes: 2 minutes max to feed and read, 5 minutes to calculate on the Powerbook. Maybe it's time to move Profiler to the G5 - code name Fanjet- and let it earn its name.

I'm not totally happy with the profile quality today. The red patch, again, and surprisingly the foliage green. Strangely, the two sets of prints I have, matte and superglossy, these match quite well, they even match the Powerbook screen, but not the Colorchecker. However my PocketChecker (tm) matches the big new colorchecker. I'm going to hand-measure the colorchecker tomorrow and reprint. By now the installation phase should be considered over; it's time to go for results.

Today I had an epiphany: Black detail is much better on the matte than on the glossy. Hmmm. Maybe there is a reason why people print B&W on matte. It's not because it looks prettier, I always thought that was a convention, it's because the deeper blacks actually allow us to carve more detail into the dark tones.

As you can see, I have no problem showing how dumb I am on my blog - feel free to comment if you see something worth correcting !

Oh, and yes, the DTP-70 really makes profiling immediately before you print perfectly feasible. Maybe in a few years they'll bring out a really cheap model and everybody will have push-button profiling. The EyeOne is not something I use casually in the same way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

DTP-70 vs. EyeOne: US Automation as good as Swiss Elbow Grease.

Good news: It would seem that the DTP-70/Monaco Profiler 4.8 combo will immediately produce RGB profiles that are in the same league as those of my old EyeOne Match system. And, to my knowledge, nobody has ever faulted the quality of the EyeOne profile engine, although measurement errors sometimes crept in due to the ruler design (that's fixed, now).

I've been printing the Pixl Test Print rendered perceptually on my Epson 2100, with the Epson Matte profile I made with the DTP70, and an old i1 profile. Xrite manages to pull some more definition out of the shadows, Gretag yields perceptibly better yellows, but otherwise the two prints are really very close. I don't think anyone ouside color's magic circle -artists, designers, fashion people and us photographer chickens- would notice the difference.

However, the DTP-70 profile was generated with just one button-press to read the half-page with 343 patches, which took about a minute, while the EyeOne profile was made with two sheets of patches. That's a dollar more of ink and paper, one print more to run off and a decent amount of elbow grease to scan it in.

There are some much more sophisticated testcharts available in Monaco Profiler, but given the excellent initial results I haven'felt the need to use multi-page charts — yet: Epson's enhanced matte paper, with its reduced gamut, is not exactly the best candidate for a discriminating RGB test.

Also, I've been looking at yesterday's Colorchecker test in daylight. Yesterday's commentary is confirmed: Nice, with some imperfection on the hard red patch and on the light skin patch. Extremely good density match on the neutral patches.

I also did some due diligence by talking to Paris color consultant Gerard Niemetzky. He tells me his clients are happy with the DTP-70.

So far, so good, as Andrew Rodney wrote me once. Now, off to bed. Commentary on Apple's Aperture app should be up on Publish.com tomorrow.

UPDATE: I will be meeting with a fellow color geek in a week's time, he has the high-end Gretag package, and we will jointly run comparison tests with Profile Maker Pro. I prefer to do it this way, two pairs of eyes are better than one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

DTP70 Review Update 1: UV filter or no filter ?

While installing the DTP70 -the actual user's manual is on CD- I came across the instructions for moving the built-in UV-cut filter into or out of the spectro's optical path. Although I had noticed this filter in an earlier glance at a sample instrument , I'd forgotten all about it. A check showed me the filter of the unit I just got was in place.

Should I filter the UV, or not ?

Let's remember that the filter is not there to filter UV from the light reflected from the specimen. There's no point in doing this because the spectro can easily ignore any UV bands - after all it's a spectro and bandwidth discrimination is its job !

Indeed, the filter is there to remove UV from the illuminant . Because UV light hitting the specimen might cause fluorescence i.e.. light re-emission in a visible band. In such a case, the reflectivity of the specimen in that band would be remarkably enhanced, and might even rise above 1!

Now that we understand the reason for the filter, we have informed our decision as to its desirability. For proofing, we are simulating one substrate with another, and we really don't want some accidental fluorescence of the proofing paper to perturb our simulation of the printing paper. So we filter out the UV.

On the other hand, as a photographer, I expect people to view my prints in real-life conditions which may well contain some UV. So when making photo prints I would not want to filter out the UV.

The DTP70 is exceptional in that the UV filter can be flipped in and out of the illuminating path. But our discussion is also informative as regards the Pulse and the EyeOne: Printing-trade members might wish to purchase the more expensive UV-cut versions of these instruments, while the photo trade can safely employ the cheaper standard unfiltered models.

DTP70 and Monaco Profiler Review

I've been organizing review material for the fall. The first new item which has come in is Xrite's DTP70 and Monaco Profiler Platinum, together with a DTP92 screen calibrator. I expect it'll take a while for me to form an opinion about this profiling system, so information will get added here dribble by dribble. It will then be collated and summarized on Publish.com.

The DTP70 is Xrite's star product, an automatic chart reader that can gobble up whole A4 pages. Monaco Profiler Platinum is Xrite's high-end profiling software, and it can profile monitors, scanners, digital cameras, and RGB and CMYK printers. It also includes a profile editor.

What amazed me about the DTP70 package is how quickly it can all be set up. I had my first inkjet profile cooked one hour after opening the package, and it looks pretty good! The device is fuss-free, the documentation is not quite up to date but clearly written and seriously useful. And the software itself is truly user-friendly.

In fact, the remarkable thing about the whole product is that you don't get lost while using it. The software presents exactly the right amount of information and choices to allow you to advance through the profiling process, and also allows you to review and change your earlier choices if you want to backtrack. Did I say it's user-friendly ?

If you don't understand something while advancing through the software screens- I was wondering why I was being offered a choice of rendering intents when I thought all would be generated automagically — then the manual will supply the necessary information -apparently there is an indication in the profile of which rendering intent should be considered the default option.

I printed out a synthetic colorchecker on my Epson 2100 inkjet, and compared it with the real one, cutting up strips of the paper chart to superpose them on the paint squares. Viewed by tungsten lighting, the results was very nice color-wise, with just two squares slightly off - the perennially difficult red, and the "light skin analogue". Moreover, the gray square density of the print matched the original squares much better than in any profile I ever got from my Eyeone system.

Tomorrow I will go back and check the Colorchecker itself - I'll use the EyeOne to measure the squares, edit the values into the print file, and do another print and compare. The chart image and square values I used today were averages obtained from Danny Pascale's site, www.babelcolor.com

Some of you may wonder why I don't have a measured Colorchecker already, seeing the amount I write about CMS. Well, I do have data that adequately represented my old chart, but I've mislaid my old cardboard-backed chart. So I had to go out and purchase a new plasticky one. And, truth be said, the red square on the new one doesn't agree with my memory of the previous one !

I'm going to do some more user-testing of this system in the coming weeks and months. However, I beg the reader's indulgence, I am a journalist, and a color-management user as a photographer. I am not a color-scientist.

Friday, September 16, 2005

WCS story followup: Is it Game over for the Profile Industry ?

Some users may land here, see the Q&A post about WCS, and wonder what it's all about. Well then, here is the link to my column. There's also a comment posted that decodes the jargon a bit, I'd welcome more informatve comments here.

And then here are my musings on the future of the ICC profiling tool industry.
1. Color will go mainstream as soon as a central control panel for color is integrated in Windows.
2. Hardware (Pucks) for calibrating monitors will become a high-volume commoditized buisness.
3. Low-end *packaged* profiling software for monitors will disappear. Vamoose. Gone. Specialty code shops will write the Windows drivers for pucks.
4. High-end software for calibrating monitors will survive, as a niche. However the market may grow so srongly as a result of the commoditized hardware explosion that revenues here actually expand.
5. In the office print-profiling world, especially inkjets and laser color printers, calibration hardware (spectros) will also be commoditized, and integrated into the printing devices.
6. Low-end print-profiling software will disappear. However a new market for "color tweaking" plugins for Windows will emerge.
7. A niche market for ICC software will remain, in specialty office use.
8. ICC will hang on forever in the prepress and printing industry. Which is where it was designed and where it should have stayed from day one. How did this monster ever get into the house of Joe Public ?
9 And the the 64 million dollar question: What is Adobe going to do in order to interoperate with WCD while remaining platform-agnostic ?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Microsoft Vista Windows Color System (WCS) Q&A

Hi Edmund,

Thanks again for all of your patience as I've been working on your request. I heard from colleagues this morning and it turns out that unfortunately, the spokesperson is not able to make the call today. My sincere apologies for any inconvenience, and they asked that I let you know they would be able to arrange a call in the future.

However, below you will find answers to your questions, which can be attributed to Josh Weisberg, Group Product Manager, Windows Client Division, Microsoft.

1) If I understand rightly the architecture is measurement based rather than profile-based. Is this correct? If so, Windows computes the profiles itself, in a way transparent to the user. In this case, if I understand rightly, the user will still need measurement hardware (spectros) to calibrate the equipment, but no more special third party profiling software for screen or print like Profile Maker Pro from GMB, or software from Xrite. Is this correct?

ICC and WCS XML architectures are both profile-based. It is probably clearer to describe ICC profiles as pre-processed monolithic collections of device, viewing condition and gamut mapping data, where the WCS XML profiles are unprocessed modular profiles with separate profiles for the objective intra-device measurement data, the objective intra-viewing condition measurement data and the subjective inter-device/viewing condition gamut mapping data. In one sense, both ICC and WCS XML profiles contain the same basic information. ICC profiles combine them all together typically after some processing by the profile creation software to massage the objective measurement data into the format structure. WCS XML profiles keeps the information separate and unprocessed until invoked by the workflow transformation process.

2) If users don't need special software to profile, this addresses one of the main weaknesses of the ICC CMS system, the fact that the user has to supply profiles. Users will love MS for providing an integrated solution. On the other hand, Microsoft has in the past never been a leader in Color Management Solutions, why should the print and photo industry believe that their solution will work and translate color in an accurate and pleasing way? Who are the color experts backing the Microsoft approach?

Canon is a leader in color devices, color engineering and color science. Together we co developed the Windows Color System architecture to provide solutions unattainable by previous color management solutions. In addition to Canon Inc. and Canon Development Americas who have color experts that have led both ICC and CIE standards bodies, Microsoft's own color team has considerable experience in the color management industry with expertise that was behind the colorsync2 architecture, led formation of ColorSync Consortium (later became ICC), led creation of sRGB and scRGB and more.

Please note we are currently in Beta with WCS, actively soliciting feedback from our industry partners and we will be making improvements to WCS based upon this feedback.

3)      In what way is the drift of equipment addressed? Will MS encourage a move to self-calibrating equipment, or is the user stillsupposed to keep measuring his equipment and ensuring its color stability?

This solution will enable 3rd parties to better address the problem ofdrift by supporting plug-in device models as well as device model profiles that are objective measurement data which can easily be compared against newer measurements to compute differences and recomputed the plug-in device parameters. While we did not solve all color management problems with this version, but this work lays the foundation for a long term commitment to solving color management problems.

Again, please attribute this information to Josh Weisberg, Group Product Manager, Windows Client Division, Microsoft.

Thanks again for all of your patience Edmund, and please let me know if I can be of assistance with any future inquiries.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Monitor Gradient page

Ethan Hansen has put up a very nice gradient testpage at http://www.drycreekphoto.com/Learn/Calibration/monitor_gradient.htm . You can go there and check out your monitor !

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Summer Summary

Hi Folks,

The summer's just about over, and it's time to start tracking Color Management products and monitors again ! I will also be setting up a companion blog for Photo Reviews, shortly. Here are some quick notes concerning Eizo products:

• Eizo has some new monitors. Of special interest, The Flexscan S2110W is a 1680x1050 WXSGA 21.1 inch LCD monitor that sells factory-direct only over in Nihon. it has 1000:1 contrast, 450 candelas luminosity,and an 8ms switching speed. There's an integrated USB hub with two outputs. Of course, as it's a Flexscan it's DDC compatible, we'll see if Eizo finally allows this range to work seamlessly with the Mac. From what I've seen, the stand does not rotate, but the monitor is hinged to its stand in such a way that it can be folded close to the table.

• The Eizo S1910 monitor incorporates an "overdrive circuit" that improves the rendering of motion video. This unit is a bestseller over in Japan.

• Eizo's ColorNavigator software has been revved to version 4. I'll be doin g a review of this soon. This version supports a variety of colorimeters: Xrite's MonacoOptixXR and OptixPro, and ColorVision Spyder2 and Spyder2 Pro2. As with previous versions, ColorNavigator 4 supports most GretagMacbeth Eye-One units. Ambient light measurement has also been added to the functionalities of this version, which can be downloaded for free off the eizo site (www.eizo.com).

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Are Dual-Monitor Setups a Good Idea ?

During a recent conversation, Steve Upton of Chromix stressed the way we adjust to a whitepoint. As a result, I'm not so sure anymore that dual-monitor setups are a good idea for color retouching, because the whitepoint of your palette monitor will contaminate your evaluation of the main display, especially if you set the main display background to full-screen black.

Request for help in establishing a Monitor Calibration Quality Evaluation Protocol

As you've noticed, I write a fair bit about color management, and I'd like to get my opinions about LCD monitor calibration on a more solid footing. So, I would like to establish a test protocol that I could run on my machines to test calibrators. This is journalism, not rocket science, but I still want to be able to do things decently.

I was thinking of first adopting a methodology similar to that of Dr. Abhay Sharma for the WMU Profiling Review.

If I understand rightly, this means doing a whitepoint measurement and then computing delta E for colorchecker squares. The evaluation results can then be the avg and max delta E measured.

The instrumentation I now have is a Gretag Eyeone spectrophotometer. I wonder whether this would be sufficient to act as a reference for this purpose, seeing I'm doing journalism and not science? Also, I don't know how to do the reading: Which software can put the instrument in a state to read in the screen squares, then make measurements ? I guess I need to somehow establish the base 100L value then compute the delta E for each colorchecker square, can anyone tell me exactly how set up software to do this ? It would be nice if Gretag offered some support, eg. made their SDK available ...Maybe some existing package can already do this ?

Specialists will rightly assume I don't know what I'm doing; however, Color Management is now trickling down to consumer level so we need consumer-level testing of this type.

I am cross-posting to the blog, and the Colorsync list, so you can answer here or comment there if you wish. I would appreciate input from all the professional members of the community.

Monday, June 20, 2005

L* - obsoleting gamma

The latest Basiccolor Display and ColorEyes Display give the user the option of calibrating to L* instead of a gamma value like 2.2 or 1.8. Gamma values are related to the functioning of CRT screens, and these are nowadays a quasi-obsolete technology.

The basic idea behind L* is to have a monitor space which does not employ the obsolete notion of gamma. In fact, L* seems to be derived from LAB, and is therefore a perception-linear space, at least as far as the luminance axis is concerned.

An L* working space and various test images can be downloaded here. I don't think that the use of an L* working space in Photoshop is really necessary to enjoy the benefits of a screen profile made with L* in photoshop.

I will try to make a translation of the german L* documents soon; then you can tell me what it all means. There is however one caveat — I have heard rumors, which I'm trying to confirm, that L* is patented — I wonder whether a _notation_ for a psychophysical quantity eg. color can be patented ? Would the decibel or music notation be patentable in the eyes of US law of 2005 ?

Basiccolor 3.1 is up ! L* makes its Debut!

Try it! Go get the demo ! I've heard it said that if you want optimal results when viewing images onscreen in Photoshop you should use L* and a matrix profile.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

BasicColor 3.10 and ColorEyes Display update on Monday

They say twins are telepathic — Basiccolor and ColorEyes Display are both coincidentally releasing an important update on Monday, June 20, with support for hardware calibration of numerous DDC compatible LCD monitors amongst which just about the whole Eizo CG range, eg. CG210 and CG21 the Nec Spectraview 2180, and, I surmise, the LaCie 321. Some exotic devices like the displays OEMd under the Quato, A.C.T. Kern and Eye_Q brands are also supported.

Some controversy surrounds the Apple Cinema Displays, and the Eizo Flexscan series. In the case of the Apples, it would seem that DDC has been implemented unidirectionally, allowing the monitor type to be recognized by the computer. However no information can be written from the Mac to the screen, so hardware calibration is not feasible. In the case of the Eizo Flexscans, Eizo has released an SDK for PCs but not for the Mac, so the software has differing capabilities dependent on the platform.

Both companies supply fully functional demos — go get'em!

The X-rite Pulse ColorElite options

In this story you can find my Xrite Pulse review . Now Marc Levine of X-rite has put up a message detailing the contents of the various Xrite Pulse ColorElite packages in a way *specialists* will perfectly comprehend. Marc"s message also gives examples of the functionality of the ColorshopX package supplied with the accessory pack.

Marc is in the color management business, I'm in the news buisness, which means explaining things I don't understand to other people.

At the moment referring to Marc's article, and my own notes, Pulse can be sold:
With or without Monaco Optix XR monitor calibrator.
With or without accessory pack.
With or without CMYK capability.
With or without UV filter.

Maybe a simplified product matrix might be easier to sell, and stock for retailers ? Anyway, here are my recommendations: Everyone should get the accessory pack, the Optix is nice if you don't have a screen calibrator yet, you need the CMYK option only when driving a RIP or profiling presses , as for the UV filter, I don't recommend it, except again if you're in the proofing buisness. Oh, and did I tell you to get the accessory pack ?

My take on Pulse is it's very user-friendly. Maybe some users can post their usage experiences with Pulse as comments ?

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Eizo CG210 is calibrated, finally.

My Eizo got nicely cleaned up by Basiccolor 3.10. For the previous state, refer to the CG210 review in the previous article, compared with the 213T. Updates to BasicColor and ColorEyes Display allow DDC monitor calibration ability. A list of supported DDC LCD screens, … NeatImage user testimonials … Bug-fixes from Canon and Lexar etc, can all be found in my latest story A Digest of Good News

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nice template wanted !

I'm new to blogging. Can anyone suggest a nice template ? I'd liketo have really densely packed text so I can post stories, and a farly sober, low bandwidth look with some color or black. Not just a white background.

Monitor Matchup: Pitting an Eizo CG210 Against a Samsung 213T

My description of setting up a dual monitor system was published on June 13 2005. Color accuracy on the Eizo has since been improved by the use of Basiccolor 3.10. See my next story for the details.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005