Ilse Jurriën : March 30th 2008 - 11:00 CET
X-Rite interview at PMA : Colour management… a subject that doesn't mean much to today’s consumers. For the professional however, it is part of his daily business and integrated in his workflow. The distance between science and need and ignorance seems to suffer from an unbridgeable gap. Companies such as X-Rite are trying hard to make the consumer aware of the available solutions on the field of calibration, profiles etc. In short the so-called colour management. X-Rite showed many products for the amateur as well as for the professional. X-Rite will come with a whole new product soon, about which we will inform you in due time. Michelle Hamme, Inside Sales Representative of X-Rite USA gave some of her precious time to talk with Bas de Meijer. |
Question : There is a lot of prejudice about colour management. It is usually seen as something very complicated. Is colour management difficult?
Answer : Is photography complicated? You need to have some knowledge about aperture, shutter speed etc. As a photographer you have to learn a lot consider the filming era. Being a photographer you learned how everything worked. You learned which film you had to use for certain colours, how to expose the film for obtaining the correct colours and how the film had to be processed and printed in the lab. You had to know exactly what you could expect from the prints you were going to get from the shop. Digital photography requires the knowledge of how everything works in your own lab. That is how you could describe the combination of Photoshop and your printer. And yes, of course it seems complicated but that is mainly because it is all-new and you lost your traditional tools. With a bit of effort one can learn the versatile of the new digital tools now available.
Question : Many photographers don't even know the difference between sRGB and AdobeRGB for example. This is rather basic knowledge in my opinion. So where does the average user get his knowledge? Could X-Rite play a role in this?
Answer : I suppose the press could contribute to this. The press is perfectly capable of explaining in their media what colour management is and what the user has to take into consideration. It is very easy to make a profile with the correct gear. You have to be aware of what you have to do with the profile afterwards. This is something Adobe does well. They have documentation in which they explain what to do for their three main packages. It offers very useful information on one A4. X-Rite offers one day training to handle the equipment for people who don't know anything about profiles. It also depends on how much involved a person is in photography. How far do you want to go in doing it yourself? If you print your pictures in a lab, monitor calibrator suffices. The lab should know everything that comes after that. But if you make your own prints you need to know more. Not everybody needs to know everything about colour management, but some basic knowledge is essential.
Question : The equipment needed for profiling is rather expensive. Isn't it too expensive for most users?
Answer : Prices are dropping gradually therefore the equipment is coming within reach. There are differences in how far you want to take it. What you should do in any case is profiling your monitor. Huey delivers equipment that is very affordable for the amateur photographer. The i1display is a bit more expensive but still very reasonable. Moreover X-Rite gives you a voucher worth 200 dollars in case you decide to take it a step further. Printer profiles however have a higher price point. But is the i1photo expensive? Maybe when using it as a hobby, but for the professional photographer it is an important tool. Before purchasing such a tool, it is wise to question yourself thoroughly as to whether or not you really need it. Perhaps the included profiles of the manufacturer are good enough. Or you can settle for having a company making the profiles. What's important is to calculate if it pays off to purchase the system. It will take time, ink and paper; an expensive business. So maybe an i1Photo would do it. For now, prices are still dropping so colour management will also come available for more market segments.
Question : What part is responsible for the price of this equipment? What is the difference for example between an i1Display and an i1Photo?
Answer : The part mainly responsible for the price is the metering sensor. The i1Photo is a spectrophotometer. It measures everything, the monitor, scanner, digital projectors, printers and even cameras. The i1Display is a colorimeter and only lets you profile monitors.
Question : You have mentioned a segment; the group of enthusiast amateurs. So far equipment that X-Rite offers is mainly used by professionals. How important is colour management to the amateur?
Answer : I am positive that colour management is also very important to the large group of enthusiastic amateurs. On a daily base I get to hear: "I have been editing a picture the entire day and the print is not similar to the one I have on my screen and I can't get it right." Not only professionals complain about this, also consumers. They do care how their prints come out. That is ever so important. What a photographer should do in the first place is get the colours of the monitor and printer under control. That will put an end to a lot of wrong prints and annoyance.
Question : You talk to photographers a lot. What is their main frustration concerning colour management?
Answer : Their main frustration is that the monitor does not match the printer. They bought an expensive, excellent printer, use fine and expensive paper and ink but they don’t get a good print. That costs a lot of money and that is why it is so important to calibrate. Otherwise your good money is simply wasted.
Question : And what is the main frustration of somebody owning a system?
Answer : People expect colour management to work like a point-n-shoot camera. But like in the earlier days when you had to do everything yourself on a camera, you have to do a lot yourself with colour management. They don't want that anymore. They presume that just pressing a button makes colour management fit completely. But you have to make a real effort to control it and you actually have to use the profile.
Question : You are not the only manufacturer on this field. A photographer might find it difficult to know the differences between the brands. I mean, a camera is obvious, but a device for colour management seems more like a black box. What are the differences between the various similar devices?
Answer : There are indeed quite a few manufacturers delivering monitor calibration. And there is a lot less choice for printer profiles. You should not just look at the hardware but also at user-friendliness, service and optional possibilities to upgrade like the upgrade we offer from the i1Display to the i1Photo. As far as hardware is concerned there is not a lot of difference between the brands. It's like cars. A Mercedes and a BMW do exactly the same, but they differ a lot. The Swiss-Made i1PRO spectrophotometer for example has a very strong build and is known as one of the best in the market. If you don’t drop it severely it will last a long time. Moreover our software is very user-friendly and we offer video assistants within the software. And we offer the Flash-based i1Defined Interactive Training CD with every X-Rite i1 solution. The i1Defined Personal Color Trainer (PCT), an hour long, one-on-one remote training comes with a colour management expert and is included in addition to the CD with i1Photo, i1Photo SG, i1Proof and i1XT bundles, with additional sessions available.
Question : Can you tell us something about the developments in colour management?
Answer : The next generation is coming up, but I cannot make any comments on that just yet. The tools will become smaller, easier to use and less costly. And our attention will go to a broader group of users that will include the social photographer and anyone passionate about photography.
Question : So what can we expect for the future?
Answer : I think that above all the user-friendliness will improve across our entire colour management products as well as integration of colour management within products. As an example HP has integrated a special version of the i1Photo in the more expensive top-of-the-line large size printers. This version is integrated in HP printers only. This is one example of what to expect. Slowly more will be incorporated. The printer will start making profiles itself which unifies the workflow to a larger extend. And automation will start playing an even bigger role.