The drupa review pt 2: the cloud descends
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By James Matthews-Paul
13 June 2012
GMG's CoZone enables users to collaborate, manage and deliver documents from multiple locations and can handle multimedia documents
Part of my resistance in entering the print sector was the perceived boredom of it. Platemaking, chemistry and paper or banner composition held little interest to me and made it awkward to explain to my friends what I wrote about for a living. However, this drupa has seen a number of nascent technologies that are actually rather cool – and never more vital for the print sector than now, when we need the outside world to realise the particular power of print as a communications tool. Moreover, four years ago 'cloud' would have meant little to most, but three major developments from this drupa rely upon it.
Anybody with an eye for marketing won't have missed Pantone's change of tack in the last few years. Since the launch of Pantone Universe, mugs, stationery and even cosmetics have been bringing colour to the consumer world as a desirable, controllable commodity, and PantoneLive's emergence at drupa extends the ease of colour power into the commercial space. This cloud-based tool allows brand managers to define their master and dependent colours, which are then globally accessible to anybody in the eco-system – including designers and printers – to ensure faithful reproduction regardless of substrate.
It's the sheer accessibility of the Pantone brand which makes this a winner for me. It's also one of the first industry vendors to realise that if you make the brand appealing to consumers, they will start to specify in their professional lives. Pantone aims to extend its new platform into the large-format space, too – which reflects the move by GMG with ProductionSuite (and various MIS vendors) to encourage pick-up of output consistency and centralised management.
GMG might not have the consumer ubiquity of Pantone, but it does have a vision of the modern cross-channel world – and print's role therein – that is hard to criticise. CoZone is a modular cloud product which incorporates colour management, soft proofing, project control and job approval for all parts of the supply chain, from origination through to production. More intriguingly, it sees this as a fundamental part of all media delivery, and envisions use not just for printed media, but for other areas of the output landscape – including web and video. With much of the drupa conversation revolving around the necessity of viewing print as part of the cross-media mix, both CoZone and PantoneLive, in distinct ways, have recognised this and are already delivering solutions that cater to a future need.
Chili Publish calls itself 'the hottest online document editor', but I think this slogan does it an injustice. It's essentially a versatile interface that allows you to define, at the master level, templates for various documents – anything from business cards through to company reports, menus or point-of-sale – with parameters for how text, assets or data are incorporated, producing a print-ready file at the other end. It can be skinned for individual users with their own custom rule settings and be adapted for web portal functionality, but for me the clever bit is design automation. Alternate layouts can be provided for different data requirements (think about that random person in your company with a painfully long name), making regional variations, for example, rather simple.
Chili can handle all sorts of variable data and input mechanisms and includes live pre-flighting at the end of the process. An obvious area of expansion for the product is in wide-format, which would make it immensely powerful for those with extensive print accounts at the national or international level; the functionality is already there. It's not a cheap package, but then it doesn't need to be: it aims mostly at those with massive print collateral requirements or specific publishing regimes.
Each of these online options offers a more realistic vision of how print is conceived, ordered, refined, output and used, the enterprises or brands that commission the work, and the printers likely to produce it. While relevant mainly to the larger commercial houses (both narrow- and wide-format) at present, every printer knows that consistency and quality are slowly regaining precedence over price. These products are also likely to guarantee an improvement in service for the end user through the extension of oversight and brand ownership, and the relationship between those and the eventual printed matter.
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