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The New Hollywood Workshop #15: Replicating: The proofing process

By Eliot Hochberg (eliot@high-mountain.com), July 3, 2003

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One of the most important parts of the DVD authoring process is the proofing process, and it’s important to be prepared for typical limitations and requirements.

If you are a stickler for detail, you’ll want to see proofs of every printed item. You’ll also want to go through every aspect of every DVD you author to make sure no mistakes slip by. In practice you’ll find that deadlines, complexity, and processes limit your ability to proof every aspect.

For printing the cover or insert of your project, you will encounter the typical type of proofing available, an Iris print or Match print. These are usually a little pricy, $50 to $100. Depending on your client, these may be sufficient. They don’t guarantee 100 per cent color fidelity, but are close enough that in most situations your client will be happy with the results. Typically, if the color on the final product is significantly different from your Iris or Match print, then you can request a reprint at the printer’s expense. That may, however, be little solace if you’ve missed a deadline.

Another way to proof that I only recommend for picky clients with deep pockets is a press check. This is where you actually go to the print floor when your project is printing. After the first few come off the line, you review them with the print professional running the press. There are small adjustments that can be made, assuming the color is basically correct. If you have a really good relationship with your printer, you may be able to get this for free; but typically, since these print shops run very tight schedules, the 10-30 minutes it could take to do a press check will cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and they’ll charge you accordingly. It is therefore important to let a printer know you intend to do a press check before the project begins, so they can plan for it.

If you’re confident that the color will be correct, either because of an easy-to-please client or a simple layout, or if you’ve already approved color, but need to only make text changes, then you may want a “blue line” proof. Although I seldom see actual blue lines anymore, this term refers to a monochrome proof that allows you to check the text. The benefits of the blue line proof are that these usually can be turned around quicker, and are less expensive.

For the label on your project disc, Iris and Match prints don’t seem to be typically available. I believe this is because most DVD replication houses use a digital process, so there is no film to create a Match or Iris print from. In fact, you may have a hard time getting any printed color check at all. The most you can expect is a PDF of the label. Some replicators may have other options. Remember that the label is at a much lower resolution, so prepare your client for that. Show them other professionally authored DVD labels, and explain that the graininess is due to printing limitations. This should prevent unnecessary conflict later.

There is a chance, for a huge amount of money (possibly $10,000) that you could convince a replicator to due a press check on your DVDs as well. They never really want to do this, because their machines typically run 24 hours a day. Any delay can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so I would never expect this. But if you have a client with deep pockets, I’m sure there is a price that would let you do a press check. But so far in my experience, such checks aren’t necessary.

As for proofing your DVD content, that all depends on what you offer your client. I put the responsibility of proofing the DVD content on the client. They will have to be happy with everything anyway, and therefore have to view all of the footage. However, if you feel comfortable proofing and proofreading, here’s what I suggest:

Make a list of every feature in your DVD. Every button, every screen. A flow chart or an excel spreadsheet could work well. Make a checklist of each element. Then methodically go through each element, checking off things that work as you go. This kind of work can be done on a set top player by an intelligent but otherwise non-tech person. If you use another person, be sure to budget in the cost and time in your bid. Be warned, however, that it could take as many as ten times the length of your content or more to go through every aspect of your project. You may also want to try your disc on friends, family or colleagues. they can view the project with a neutral eye, and give you insight into how the disc will be used by the viewer.

In the end, it’s important that, no matter how you do your proofing, that your client understands the limitations of whatever proofing methods you use, and that they sign off on each proofed stage. This will protect both you and them from conflict later. Also be sure to review with your replicator their proofing abilities at the beginning of your project.

The New Hollywood Workshop is dedicated to using Macintosh computers and software to do what the big boys do. Want an example? Check out Duality, a short made completely with Macintosh products.

Eliot Hochberg is a Web developer with over seven years’ experience. Apple’s new professional tools are just the ticket for a sole proprietor like Eliot to go to the next level. Right now, he’s seeking DVD duplication services that support DVD Studio Pro. If your company does, let us know. We’ll list you in future articles.

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