ES brings beautiful books
When most of us hear the phrase ‘hardback book’ we don’t think of a book so big that it comes with its own presentation table, but that’s exactly what Pelé, a limited edition celebration of the life and career of the Brazilian football superstar, is. And while the size may be extreme, the repro skills that went into preparing it from scores of archive photographs are the same that London-based DL Imaging applies every day to a wide variety of fine art books and magazines.
Formed in 1988, DL Imaging decided in 1992 to focus specifically on digital repro, which at that time was a very young market. Up to 2010, the company produced a large number of magazines for financial specialist publishers, but as finance director Rexford Ladd explains, “All the magazines’ editorial staff had Macs by then, so we could see that work going inhouse. We decided to concentrate on colour work, mostly for book clients.”
That decision paid off and today the company provides colour management and retouching skills for a prestigious roster of museum and gallery clients in the UK and beyond. The list includes some of the UK’s leading art galleries, museums and publishing houses.
The DALIM SOFTWARE connection
All along the way, DALIM SOFTWARE has been a critical component of DL’s technology arsenal, from the MISTRAL automation and project management system via TWIST and DIALOGUE Engine for production automation and proofing respectively, to the ES collaborative production and management platform. DL Imaging was one of the first UK users of ES, installing it in the spring of 2014.
The switch from the older MISTRAL system to ES had to be made quickly without stopping production, as Chris Ennis, IT manager at DL Imaging recalls:
“We didn’t down tools while transferring production from MISTRAL to ES, it had to work!” he says.
And it did, though there were the inevitable teething problems that putting live work through any major new software is bound to reveal. With support from system integrator LGS and direct involvement from DALIM SOFTWARE as needed, the ES installation at DL Imaging has now managed 230 titles, such as a heavily illustrated 700-page catalogue for a leading gallery in London. Book paginations run anywhere from 64 to 840 pages but the performance from ES is up to the task. “ES can chew through 1000-page books without slowing down,” says Ennis.
By default, DL Imaging has ES configured to produce print-ready PDF tailored to the specific printer of each job, low-resolution PDFs for reviewing and ePub formats and archives all of them. “We’re covered for the digital age, ES lets us generate files for any medium,” confirms Ennis.
Productivity is also improved thanks to built-in pre-flighting, with every incoming PDF file normalised via TWIST. “We hardly get any user errors thanks to this,“ says Ennis, adding, “Every title goes through ES, though clients won’t necessarily use the online features. We use the flatplan for project management and clients can access this online if they want – I’ve even made a brochure to introduce them to these capabilities.”
Configuration is key
It’s not just the work-horse capabilities of ES that Ennis and his colleagues like, but also the extent to which it can be configured to suit their specific needs and those of their clients. “We couldn’t ask for any more customisability,” says Ennis. In addition to displaying pages within the flatplan view according to status in terms of job submission, correction, proofing and output, Ennis has been able to design icons that indicate at a glance which proofing device – two Epson StylusPro 4900s driven by GMG ColorServer for colour accuracy, or a Canon C60 digital press for content proofing and very short-run production – has been used.
Ennis worked closely with LGS to develop a set of custom user actions within ES to speed frequent tasks, such as merging groups of pages into single PDF files, with control over PDF parameters such as PDF version and image compression, and output to various digital formats, including DVL for iPads, HTML5 and ePub. A ‘text black’ option supports co-edition in which text that is to be translated or otherwise edited between editions is moved to a fifth colour channel, enabling independent review and correction of each edition. These user actions are available to clients as well as to staff at DL Imaging. Ennis has also started to add automated support for the text overlays into the ES workflow, merging them with the underlying artwork files. This requires the use of DL Imaging’s existing standalone implementation of TWIST, but Ennis found that building the merge queues in ES and linking to TWIST was straightforward.
Turn the page
Custom proofing options for the Epson printers with various stock and target print colour conditions such as Fogra or GRACoL standards are also selected directly from ES. Soft-proofing is handled via the DIALOGUE Engine but again initiated from ES. Ennis particularly likes the ability to soft-proof via HTML5, which emails a link to the client that gives them a temporary log-in to ES and provides a 3D page-turning view of the publication, complete with high-resolution viewing if desired, and the ability to accept or reject each page individually from that view without having to see the flatplan. “This is a cleaner way to do it, it saves outputting a PDF version which even with compression might be too big to email,” he explains.
ES has also made it possible to offer collaborative services to DL Imaging’s clients. The company handles repro work for Touchline, an international communications agency that produces a variety of publications for international sporting institutions. Via a branded portal to DL Imaging’s ES installation, Touchline can share work for review and correction with its client, with Touchline staff able to easily download and share low-resolution PDFs. Approved files are then notified automatically to DL for output. Ennis sums up the company’s approach with pragmatic understatement: “We produce big fine art titles that may be several months in production, sometimes with pages re-run 20 times or more due to colour adjustments, so project managing these titles manually would be a task-and-a-half. ES plays a big part in making it much easier.”