Digilabs Technologies Blog

Flowing is an email I have revived form Laura Hughes of Freeze Frame Publishing. I made no editing, just added a few links at the bottom. If you were looking for a Christmas story to make your day, this is it.

I wanted to send you a note today thanking you for your wonderful software… and its new improvements. We used the template for the 8×8 photobook in making a man’s dream become “touchable.”

Anthony Torrone is a 56-year-old, developmentally disabled man who has been keeping a journal of his prayers for years. His dream was to have it published. You and I know that no publisher would touch this project. Ken and I knew we could make it happen because we had good software to use. So the short version is a bunch of retirees helped a man realize his dream… but it gets even better.

His story ran on the front page of The Grand Rapids Press yesterday. He has had two book signings and has sold out of 340 books in two weeks!

This link is the blog site set up by “Team Anthony” to help him share this chapter of his story.
http://anthonysprayers.blogspot.com/

This link is the post of the video of Anthony watching his book covers come off the iGen4 at Color House Graphics.
http://anthonysprayers.blogspot.com/2011/11/anthonys-books-are-printed.html
This has certainly become bigger than Ken or I could have anticipated… and what a nice “opportunity” that is! We are set to print his second run of books today: 400 softcover copies and 60 hardcover copies. He has sold out of his first run of 300 softcovers and 40 hardcovers.

What has been so incredible is the outpouring of support and love to this man. His neighbors and friends collected monies to pay for the first printing (which was for ink and paper only). Schuler Books and Music donated their space for his book signing which was held on Saturday, Dec. 3. They are also selling his books, collecting taxes, doing all kinds of paperwork… and not taking a share of proceeds. Anthony’s neighborhood businesses are all selling copies of his book… again, for no cut in proceeds. Two retired Press reporters and a photographer donated their time and skills to create the beautiful book that Ken and I have the privilege to print. Even the attorney for his trust has donated his time and expertise to make sure Anthony benefits from all sales of his book.

This is a wonderful Christmas story.

Who knows how far this will go. It has already gone much farther than any of us working on this thought it would. A press release will go out today. It will go far and wide. Anthony had big dreams all along… and they are coming true for him.

We’ll keep you posted on what happens next!

Happy Holidays,
Laura

If you want to order the book online, click here. If you just want to take a look, click this link.  (if you decide to buy it, just remember to put in the coupon code Anthonybook)

Dear DigiLabs Technologies Customers,

I wanted to take this time to share with you some of the latest developments of our platform as well as those that have been available but remained mysterious for a while. I am sure you will find all the new features as exciting as I do.

Our team works hard to continuously update our offering in order to serve the needs of our wide international customer base. In the last couple of years, we have been focusing on cloud based offerings, so you can customize your application using web based tools at anytime from anywhere. Our web platform enables the simple release and immediate access to new features.  The cloud solution further ensures an integrated update system for the software. Once an update is released, you can easily and immediately customize, build, and test your application. Once you are ready to release the application, it becomes automatically live and accessible to all your customers worldwide.  This turns updates and upgrades into a breeze. Our upgraded download delivery network provides the most efficient download speed for your customers using multiple global end-points with no hassle and no extra costs.

Enough with old news and on to the most up-to-date material. We have recently completed a new version of the My Photo Creations product. This is a major update with more than a 100 additions based on your feedback and requests. Below is a summary of some of the main features in this release:

Place images and text over the spread
You ask, we answer.  The software now enables the placement and movement of images across the gutter of two the pages. This means that your client can place an image in the middle of the page! This was always available in a full bleed double page spread, but now not only is it much more flexible and customizable but it can also apply to text and other graphical elements.
Take a look at a sample:

Where did my images go? My book is empty!
Does this sound familiar:  “Where did my images go? My book is empty!”
Just so that you never have to answer this question again, we have added the ability for users to locate their images from their software. As before, the software will use all of its intelligence to locate the images by itself, but if it is unable to, it will ask for them. This means that if the user imports images into the software from a specific location to create a product and later moves or renames the images outside the application, the software will prompt the user to point out those images. This will make reordering of products simpler.

Albums that open with a full spread
For all those serving the professional photographers, we have a treat for you. Albums can now start on the left so that all pages in the book are full spreads. Wave goodbye to the two extra sides. This feature is also great as it enables users to edit the inside of covers for soft cover books. Need a visual? Here you go:

Brag Books
All those users who just want to throw one full bleed image per page and be done, we are with you. A click of a button and your book is automatically created in a matter of seconds and you are on your way. This makes a great brag book.

Those of you that haven’t been to Japan might be confused about this one, but we thought we would share. The trendiest thing in Japan is those little photo books with one image per page that get strapped to cell phones. This gives a neat touch of personalized decorations to the smart phones.

And much more…
Consistency is a key and albums are joining in for similar visual design to Photo Books. In the new version of the software not only are JPEG’s full bleed for photographic output but the software displays bleed view for the user to consider while designing.

For all those holiday time busy bees, we have added the Chinese Lunar Calendar in addition to the previously existing Jewish Lunar Calendar.

Gallery wraps are a hot commodity and therefore we have now added Mirror Wrap options. Gallery Wraps also use an adaptive resolution warning system. Low resolution warnings are based on the assumed viewing distance of the gallery wrap. Larger gallery wraps can have slightly lower acceptable resolution as they will be viewed from a distance and thus the perceived quality is the same as smaller wraps from a closer distance.

Those were only the highlights. Overall, this release has more than a 100 changes and improvements that I hope you will find useful. Read below for instructions on how to get going with the new version.

The  previous post discussed t the difficulties of color matching.  To sum it up.  Color is a variable of light and light conditions which vary. Its production depends on the material used to produce it and the device we produce it on. We can not define all colors. We can not print all colors, and each machine will print a different set of colors.

So, if we can not define it, print it, or in may ways even agree on it, how can we even start to match colors?

There are many consultants and color experts out there that will be happy to help you. This is because the details of implementing color management is real life is complex. In this entry I do not intend to do that.  I will try to explain the fundamentals of  color management and what need to happen for it to work. When it comes to the details, you will probably still need this consultant, but at least you will know what you are paying for.

First we need to agree on the meaning of color. In 1931, the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) has defined the CIE_XYZ color space.  The CIE_XYZ color space represents color mathematically as the sensation of color that people with normal color vision will experiance when fed with defined light under defined viewing condition.  In the years later, other CIE profiles were developed, but we will skip directly to the CIE_LAB.  The CIE_LAB color space is designed to approximate human vision and represents all the colors we can see.  We don’t need to know more about it except that its model is such that  it is good as a definition and can be supported by todays computing power on desktops and printers. The CIE_LAB (or the CIE_XYZ) are Device Independent Profiles. They do not define colors by the specific numbers user by a specific device to display a colors.

This is in contrast with Device Specific Profiles. A Device Specific Profile represents color by a specific color we get from a specific device that is producing the color, such as RGB or CMYK devices. By definition they represent a specific device, but we will get to how they do it later.

The actual color management boils down to a simplistic process:

Know where you came from. The producing device (camera, screen, scanner) knows about himself enough to attach his own Device Specific Profile which can tell us the device (color) perception of the world.

Know were you are going to. The receiving device (printer, monitor) knows his own profile, so he knows what is his (color) perception of the world.

Know the way. Translate between those two different (color) perception of the world the best way you can.

And yes, it is simple as that.

The Device Specific Profiles describes each input and output device that participates in the process. A profile also has an additional function. Not only it defines the way the device understand the color values, it also provides a way to map between the device colors space and the CIE_LAB color space (and back). The Device Independent Profile (also knows as PCS, for profile connection space) defines color in a deice independent way and will act as a mediator between the two profiles. Since every profile can translate from its own color space to the PCS and back, the PCS is the Rosetta Stone of color. For example, we can take an RGB value in the screen space, convert it to a CIE_LAB value, and convert it from CIE_LAB to a device specific CMYK value. Note that we did not need the two devices to know about each other in advance. We did not need to match the specific screen to the specific printer (which was the way it was done in the past).

The actual mapping between the profiles via the profile connection space happens in the Color Management Module (CMM). The CMM is a software  application that does the mapping in a way the colors remains consistent across the transformation. The key challenge for the CMM is how to handle gamut mapping, or colors that cannot be reproduced on a device and still get as close as  if it were visually the same color. To do that mapping the CMM will need not only the profiles, but some rules about mapping missing colors. Those rules are called rendering intent, for example, do you want the colors to match perfectly and the others to be “clipped” (you will choose this for a logo, where the color accuracy is key) or would you prefer to map all colors and keep the relationship between the color the same (as in a photo).

As you noticed, all of this process depends on each device having its own device specific profile, but I never told you actually how do we get it. And make no mistake, this is the most important part of it all. If the device profile does not describe the device color abilities correctly, we will not get matching colors regardless of how fancy of a system we use! The art of setting the device profile is called calibration. The calibration process measures the device actual outputs against a predefined set of inputs to build the device profile. Monitor calibration is typically done by connecting a sensor to your screen and running a piece of software that produce a series of colors on the screen and reading them from the sensor. Since the application knows what color value it used and what color values did the sensor sense it can build a map between the device actual colors and the expected colors, or a Device Specific Profile. With a printer, the process typically involves printing a page with a known set of colors and measuring each color to build this mapping table. This is were it gets complicated and labor intensive. You need to profile for each paper type, and machines will move out of calibration based on volume, age, load, and humidity, to name a few, so this is a never ending process.

So, to have a good color managed process you will need to have the right systems in place, which is the simple part. You will have to use those systems correctly. You will need to educate your users to use calibrated monitors and to keep them calibrated. You will need the software they are using to support the profile information on screen and when creating the files to print. You will need your printers to be properly calibrated on a regular basis and you’ll need to pay close attention to the system settings (such as rendering intents or what profiles apply to what paper / job).

Not rocket science, just plain old consistent craftsmanship.

If you’re not sure were the title of this blog posts comes from, take a look at this video.   Fascinating as it is,  this post will not deal with matchmaking but with color matching.  No, not matching you shirt with your jacket…the “other color” matching.

Basically, how do we match the color we see in one place with the color in/on another.  For example, you want your company logo red the same color, no matter where it is printed.  Otherwise, why did you pay gazillions to those corporate identity guys.  You want it to be the same red on your web site, your power point presentations, your brochures, your magazine ads, and even on the billboard near the highway…so you see it every time you drive back from the office at 8.00 PM. The problem is, how can you make all those reds match.  Heck, your logo may have other colors in it.  You want all of them to match. That is “the other” color matching, and it is not as simple as it sounds.

This post will just layout the ground and show why this problem is a real hairy one. The next post will discuss what can be done about it.

The first thing we need to discuss is color. What is color and what is color made of?

We have a light source, let’s say the sun. This light source omits numerous waves of energy, each having different wavelengths. All of them combined together look like a white light (although some of the frequencies are not in the visible range, such as Ultra Violet (UV) or Infra Red (IR)).  This light hits the surface on an object, for example a red apple.  The surface absorbs some of the frequencies and reflects the rest. In our case it reflects the waves that are in the red range. Those waves get to our eyes and hit some sensors that can interpret those frequencies as red, green, or blue. This information pass through our optic nerve into our brain and creates the perception of color. This is called a Subtractive Color model – as the frequencies that are not absorbed form the color we see. We also have the Additive Color model, where we project different frequencies, adding them together to create the color. Printed color is subtractive, while projected color (TV, monitor) is sdditive.

So if color is light, what is color where there is no light? Is the apple red but we just can’t see it or is the apple something else? This may be a philosophical question, but also a very practical one.  My logo’s red is going to look different under different light conditions. Since red is an attribute of the light it reflects, the same red will look different on noon in an Arizona’s summer than noon in a Seattle winter.  It will actually look different based on the type of light, be it the hour of the day, weather, lighting conditions or even our latitude and longitude…you name it.  So what we have here is a real problem of definition. We need to agree on the environment we are going verify that the colors match.

The second variable is the reflective surface. Some frequencies will be absorbed buy the surface while others will be reflected – this gives our brain the perception of color. We do that by spreading ink on the surface. However the surface participates in the process. Printing on a white paper will give different results than printing on black paper. And as anyone who painted their house with some white variation knows, not all whites are created equal.

So now we get to the question of how we can define color in a way we can communicate it. There are few ways to define color. For example, since we said our eyes recognize red, green and blue, we can try and define each color as a combination of red, green and blue. This is what us known as RGB color. We define the color by three values, 0-255. So black is 0, 0, 0 (absence of color) while white is 255, 255, 255 (full color). The CMYK (Cyan, magenta, Yellow, Key black) is used in the printing industry defines color using four values, one for each. There are the CIE color space, HSV and HSL (hue, saturation, value and hue, saturation, lightness). If you want to learn more, look here

This way of defining color adds limitations. Wave length or frequencies are analog, and they are continues and infinite. In other words, you have infinite combinations that can represent color. But the way we try to represent color is digital.  Lets take RGB – if each color channel can have 255 values, the total number of colors we can represent in the RGB model is 16,581,375. This sounds like a lot, but it is still less than infinity and we need to decide what colors will we use these values. Also, not all color models are compatible. We can define some colors in one color space that we can not define in another. See the following image to see the different color space range.

Lastly, we have to consider that eventually we will use a mechanical device to print or project a color. Those devices do have limitations. They can not produce the full color gamut.  So, not only can we not define all colors, but we can not produce all the colors we can define. Even worse, this is difference in devices causes different colors to be produced differently.  Below, see an example of a TV viewable gamut.

To sum it up, color is a variable of light and light conditions which vary.   Its production depends on the material used to produce it and on what we produce it on. We can not define all colors. We can not print all colors, and each machine can print a different set of colors.

With such a mess it is a miracle we can print color at all.  Next time we will discuss: How can we make your red logo colors match?

Finally, after countless hours and delays the new version of MyPhotoCreation is  out.  We have started upgrading all our customers to the new version. Please keep in mind that doing it for hundreds of customers in 22 languages and 5 continents does take some time and does offer some challenges.  We take advantage of the first few upgrades to perfect our process and find all the last minute glitches. Once we done that we expect a fast release to all of our existing customer base worldwide. Expect to be notified when this does happen in the comming weeks.

Many of you heard,  read, or seen, talks about our coming upgrade. I guess it is time to start showing what is  all the fuss about.

The new version is a major upgrade. Okay, let me rephrase that. It is a huge major big upgrade. There is so much new in it that it will not fit in one post, not even two. To be honest, I’m not sure how many posts it will fill, so, this is going to be the first out of N posts about the subject. For simplicity, (and so I also have some time left  to work on getting this release out) I will also try to keep the posts short and focused around one topic at a time. Lets start.

At Digilabs we have three main applications. My Photo Books, and My Photo Calendar & Cards are the two applications we license to private label partners. We also have the DigiLab application which  is used by professional photographers to order proof magazines, traditional photographic prints, and upload web galleries.

With the new version we combined all three applications into a single application. We combined the best part of each, rewrote some areas, fixed others to bring them all to the same level, and added new modules. Overall, the new application will support  photo books, photographic albums, proof  magazines, web galleries, calendars, greeting cards, postcards, trader cards, posters, gallery wraps, and photographic prints. The architecture is such that new products can simply be added in the future , such as gifting (mouse pads, or mugs) and more.

We have also improved the delivery packages and the installer. This is boring, i know, but wait until you read that. After combining all the applications together, merging things around and implementing a new content delivery architecture, the current installer is not the size  of the sum of the three installers, not even half of that. It is mush smaller than what every application used to be separately. The size is not final yet, but for the combined application, we are looking at about 30-35 MB. (keep in mind that the current applications are between 80 MB – 120 MB each, and the total size of all three of them is around 250 MB, so 35 MB for all of them combined is quite nice).

To sum it up. A single application with more products, some completely new and outside of the traditional digital press domain of the current applications. All in a smaller footprint and download. One of the main reasons we could do this is our new content delivery architecture. More on the subject (and more interesting details with screes shots) in the next post.

The Digilabs crew has freshly arrived home from the Print ’09 show in Chicago.  Print09 014The show ran from September 11th through the 16th & is the largest show for printing in the United States!   We had the privilege of presenting in the HP, Xerox and Duplo booths showing the highly anticipated new version of the Digilabs software & integrated and automated workflow! Chicago was beautiful & we had some great meetings!  People seemed to LOVE the new version we previewed which is special in SO MANY ways…

Check out the book Xerox made of their Print ’09 booth using our online book share HERE!

Digilabs has had the privilege to sponsor & exhibit at the Infotrends Digital Imaging and the  Photo Publishing Summits at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, CA this whole week!   Not only have we met a lot of new and exciting people (and many of our happy customers !) but we’ve also learned a lot of the ‘buzz’  (and as you see in the pictures, also some  ‘booz’) of what’s going on currently in the photo publishing market.

infotrends

It was also a great opportunity to demo a the beta version of our new My Photo Creations (temporary name) software that should be coming out late fall as well as hear some actual feedback!  And let’s just say the response was glowing!!!

We have also participated in the Print 09 show in Chicago. More on that in a different post.

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. However, they still needed a way to write. To combat this problem, NASA scientists went to work, developing a pen that writes in zero gravity. A decade and $12 million later, they came up with a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300C.

When confronted with the same problem, the Russians used a pencil.

This is, by the way, am urban legend. Didn’t happen. If you want to know what did happen you’ll have to read to the end of the post.

Despite that, everybody likes the story. We all like stories that demonstrate the government waste and bureaucratic stupidity. But I brought it for a different reason. When I’ve first heard this story, years back in school, I’ve seen something else in it. Naturally, I didn’t know to much about governments then…

I’ve seen it is something else. That is, our tendency to think about solutions to problems, and not about the problems themselves. My high school math teacher used to say that understanding the solutions is 1/2 the way to the answer. Over the years I learned to appreciate this lesson, although I think he under estimated it. I think understanding the problem is more like 3/4 of the solution.

What is the difference between the two? Imagine the year is 1969. You are a NASA engineer, and your boss came you with a problem: “We found that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity, can you build me a pen that can write in space?”. What are you going to do? You will go to work to create a pen that can write in zero gravity. And being a brilliant NASA engineer, working with other brilliant engineers, what else can you do? You will come up with a space pen.

The problem is that once your boss changed the problem definition from “how can we keep notes in space” to “how do I get a pen to write in zero gravity” he also, without noticing, changed the problem. He already solved it to say “we will use a pen” and reduced it to a mechanical questions of building this pen. You see, the problem “how can we keep notes in space” can be answered in many different ways, where pen is only one of them. What about a pencil, a laptop (okay, they didn’t have those then, but maybe this is what they needed to develop?), an iPhone, a piece of caulk, using copy paper, and you can come up with another 10 ways if you put your mind to it. Once you reduced the problem to “how do I get a pen to write in zero gravity” we are left with a mechanical question of “how to build a space pen”, which, by the way, engineers like, but might have nothing or little to do with the original problem of taking notes in space. So you end up with a space pen.

In my job I do get customer feedback, and often, it involves suggestions. For me, when I get a suggestion, I always ask what are you are trying to solve and why? Some people take it as an offense. After all, I am the customer, I know what I am talking about, and as the customer, I am always right. I don’t question all of that. What I question is something else. Since most often than not, the “problem” is defined already as a solution, I want to make sure I understand the problem well enough to see if the proposed solution is the right one. In other words, I don’t question the need to take notes in space. I want to verify what is it behind the “how do I get a pen to write in zero gravity” problem. I want to uncover the real problem that needs solving so I end up with the pencil and not the space pen.

So next time when you feel I grill you with those detailed questions that seem to go nowhere and focus around small details, (such as how do you envision this zero gravity pen will be used? when will they use it? Who will use? Does it have to be ink? What will they use it for? Why do you want it…), cut me some slack. It’s not you I question. It is me trying to understand.

Okay, so what is the real space pen story? As I said, the story above is a myth. The space pen is real, in use until today, and does solve some real problems that pencil have.  The space pen was developed by Paul Fisher, the founder of the Fisher pen company, who also created his “bullet pen”  in the 1940’s, which became one of the best-selling pens of the Twentieth Century. Fisher perfected a pen that was sealed with pressure inside of the cartridge that made the ink to flow regardless of gravity. It took him 2 years and $2 million to develop. NASA chose the pen in 1967 for use by Apollo astronauts and it’s been a part of space travel ever since. For the Apollo mission, NASA had purchased 400 pens at $6 each. Prior to 1967, there were no pens that worked in space so there were pencils used. NASA preferred the use of the pen as there were concerned about pencil dust floating around as well as fears that if the tip of a pencil broke off and drifted into the electronics. For the same reasons, the Russians also use the space pen.

To learn about the space pen technology click here. Yes, the space pen is still around. You can even buy on this site a space pen for around $25.

In the  previous posts we spoke about  image resolution, scaling, and graphics, and how a flat PDF file, or a raster PDF, can result in reduction in quality of the final printed page. However, this is actually the small part. There are more.

When you raster all the page to a single image, it all blends together. Once it’s blended together, it is pretty hard to break it back into pieces. (Okay, I say pretty hard and not impossible just for the chance that some kid in Silicon Vally (or Bangalore, whatever)) is working in his garage on this next big thing). I think there is a say about how much easier is it to break an egg than to put it back together. This should not come as a surprise. This rhyme, printed on 1810, with origins in the 15tn century, already said it all.

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the king’s horses,
    And all the king’s men,
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

So, what does that have to do with your PDF’s you ask? allot.

Lets say you are a professional lab. You charge premium prices and provide top notch work. You have a person on staff that actually looks at the files before you print them. Now, this guy comes to you and says something like that. “Hey Sara, I got here this book from our customer. I see a problem in the book, what should I do”. Well, if your file is a raster PDF there’s not to much you can do. However, if it is a vector PDF there is allot you can do.

You can, for example, open the file in Adobe Acrobat Professional (or probably any other PDF editing tools) and actually edit the file. You can delete this empty image that was left in by mistake. Or move the text somewhat from the edge of the page if needed. Even delete the text and add new one to fix a typo. Or, you can open an image in PhotoShop to fix its color gamma if needed. Don’t get me wrong. Not that you want or need to fix every job, but when the need arises, wouldn’t you like to be able to do it.

But what if you are a big printer. You don’t inspect every file and opening a file in PhotoShop sounds like a nightmare? Well, there are products out there that will read PDF files (as well as image files) and automatically enhance there images. They can produce magic, from color correction, white balancing to sharpening and noise reduction. They have it all.

Products from HP Indigo, XEROX, KODAK, Athentech, and there are probably few more I failed to mention. All those solutions can improve your printed output quality while integrating in an automated work flow. You will not need to look or touch the files in order to get better print quality (and more satisfied customers). The key, however, is the ability to look at the individual images and enhance them individually. Working on a full page can be useful for noise reduction, but that’s about it.

So, a vector PDF gives you smaller files, higher quality, and the ability to enhance and fix your output later. So, you ask, why would anyone generate non vector PDF’s? Well, you want to know why? Because its easier! at least for the programmers. Do you really willing to accept this as valid reason?

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