Although the wide-format RIP business is considered mature, the ability to deliver accurate color on inkjet printers and other output devices is far from a no-brainer. The introduction of ICC-workflow strategies several years ago was supposed to provide a "magic bullet" that would make color management automatic. As it turns out, implementing an ICC workflow can be relatively complex. While many people think of an ICC workflow mostly in terms of output profiles, the process of managing digital color involves a series of decisions that begin in the applications program and end at the printer.
These realities were high on the priority list of the team that redesigned SoftRIP 5.0, Wasatch Computer Technology's flagship RIP and print-management program. The newly released SoftRIP 5.0 amounts to a totally reworked user-interface and navigation strategy, reflecting input from customers, design engineers, and color-management experts.
"It was important for us to keep all those components that have made SoftRIP one of the world's most successful print-management products, but at the same time make it possible to apply advanced color management in a visual way," says Wasatch vice president Jay Griffin. "We think the 'Color Transforms' feature accomplishes that in a completely new way."
The "Color Transforms" screen visually represents the ICC workflow in all of its stages from input through output in a single user interface. On the input side, the user is able to apply any custom ICC profile to any or all of four types of incoming graphics data (RGB vector and raster, CMYK vector and raster). A 3D color representation of any ICC profile in the workflow can be viewed instantly (and can be compared to any other) by accessing Wasatch's "Profile View" window. Individual color corrections can also be made to each of the incoming data categories. On the same screen, operators can select a custom output profile, access the calibration utility, and activate Wasatch's "Color Separation Rule" feature. The latter provides expanded levels of color control for Hi-Fi and other expanded-gamut printing devices. The calibration utility, which linearizes output characteristics for specific printer/consumables combinations, has been significantly simplified.
In the bells-and-whistles department, perhaps the most compelling function on the "Color Transforms" page is the dynamic flowchart. This feature is an interactive visual map of sorts, which deploys a series of colored paths that indicate how any job will move through the color-management workflow. The schematic display changes in response to operator changes within the ICC workflow.
Another key upgrade to the look and feel of SoftRIP is the job set-up procedure, which has been simplified to the point that a new user can literally be printing in seconds. All set-up settings have been consolidated in one menu, which allows the operator to choose the printer, imaging configuration, and connectivity settings on one screen. The imaging configuration, a conceptual extension of Wasatch's well-regarded color configurations, allow operators to select "preconfigured" data that matches standard print scenarios. For most users, one of the thousands of "canned" imaging configurations shipped with SoftRIP 5.0, will produce excellent results.
SoftRIP 5.0 also takes a step forward in terms of job management. All Queue-management functions have been incorporated into a single, user-configurable screen. The Queue's interfaces displays both RIP and printing status for up to four printers. Operators can move jobs from one condition to another and from printer to printer according to the needs of the schedule.
Even with these major improvements, many of SoftRIP's most popular features remain in place. ImageNET, the self-contained network printing solution and graphics-transfer utility allows users to move files easily among multiple workstations and the RIP without additional software. With the Spot Color Capture feature, users can record and match custom colors from any source simply by reading the surface with a colorimeter.
Wasatch SoftRIP 5.0 is also available as SoftRIP SP for Screen Printing, which includes Wasatch Precision Rosette Screens for making moire-free color separations, and SoftRIP TX for digital textile producers. (Wasatch Computer Technology: www.wasatchinc.com)