Thursday, September 9, 2010

REVIEW: ColorBurst® Overdrive 1.2.6 RIP (Mac only)

ColorBurst® Overdrive is a job building tool using a feature called environments. The pitch on the web site is:

Why waste valuable time manually configuring your print driver with every single print? There's no need to risk wasted ink and paper "accidents" due to forgotten or mismatched menu selections. Overdrive lets you build print environments so there's only one selection needed at print time. Page format and color errors are minimized by merging all of your printing parameters into a single click.

Features

Overdrive is a PostScript® RIP that delivers high-end color, accurate proofing and Pantone® matching.

Full PostScript and Raster File Support

  • EPS, PS, and PDF files
  • RGB, CMYK, and grayscale 8-bit and 16-bit support for TIFF (LZW compression is supported), JPEG, J2K, BMP, PICT, PNG
  • Camera RAW, Photoshop® PSD

Black Point Compensation

  • Adobe® black point compensation built-in
  • Output matches Adobe Photoshop exactly, so Photoshop users get expected results from Overdrive

PANTONE® Color Matching

  • ColorBurst Overdrive includes the full licensed PANTONE Color Library
  • ColorBurst's AutoSpot™ technology greatly improves the accuracy of Pantone colors
  • All colors are handled automatically during processing

Input ICC Profiles

  • Overdrive has separate Input ICC Profile settings for RGB, CMYK, and grayscale images
  • Any ICC input profile can be utilized with one of 4 different rendering intents
  • An option to use embedded profiles can be turned on or off

Output ICC Profiles

  • Overdrive uses RGB output profiles
  • Overdrive can use any paper manufacturer's RGB ICC profiles

Job Manager

  • Overdrive offers Job Management normally only seen in much more expensive RIP applications
  • Files and folders can be dropped directly into the Job Manager, opened from the File Open menu, placed or saved to the optional Hot Folder, or even dropped on the Overdrive application icon
  • Jobs can be reordered, deleted, or placed on hold to be processed later

Print from Applications

  • Print directly from image-editing and layout applications, such as Photoshop, InDesign® and Illustrator®
  • Select the Overdrive printer from in the Print dialog to send files directly to Overdrive Job Manager

Hot Folder

  • Print to the Overdrive Hot Folder locally or across a network
  • Automatically scan the Hot Folder at a user-defined interval

Sample Walkthrough

One of the key features of Colorburst® Overdrive is the Saved Environment feature. When you create a new environment, you first have to set your printer settings which it will retain and recall the next time you load that environment. This is a key feature over using the driver alone as the driver is famous for changing settings and if you don’t catch them you’ll get poor results.

For this walkthrough I’m using a Epson Stylus® Pro 3880 with the Ultra Premium Luster Photo paper being loaded through the sheet feeder. The important thing to notice in this dialog is that I’ve turned off color management. 16-bit and Output resolution are choices for you to make, but many argue that 8-bit and 1440 will yield equally good results and print much faster. I also always use High Speed (bi-directional printing) as my tests indicated that there is no quality penalty for doing so. 


Next up is the Color Matching where you want to make sure you are not using ColorSync, but instead use the printer vendors controls (in this case its Epson, but on Canon’s it just says Vendor Color Controls):

For the printer settings, choose your desired paper. This is a bit confusing because you have to choose borderless in this dialog as a separate paper size. This appears to be a Mac thing as I’ve seen it in other applications as well, but not on Windows (where it is simply a check box).

Once your printer settings are all set, you need to create your job settings. This starts with the General tab where I always set auto rotate and very high quality for my print quality.

The most important page in this dialog is the page settings, and in this dialog I just set the appropriate settings. It’s worth noting that the borderless checkbox just says listen to the driver and it isn’t going to force borderless. I was using 13x19 paper, so I just forced the size. If I was using a roll I’d choose dynamic height and if I wanted I could add a margin.

The last page, not shown, is just a way to add color bars and meta data for testing purposes. Generally you won’t need that page.

After you you’ve saved your environment you then move on to the color toolbar item where you set your color settings. The important thing to remember here is that all of this is ignored if you have created your image properly with an embedded profile. Be sure that use embedded profiles is checked and always make sure you embed them into your images when saving from Photoshop or Exporting from Lightroom or Aperture.

The Output Profiles portion of the color settings dialog is the most important dialog in the entire process. Get this wrong and you have a bad print – period. Here’s where you want to choose your paper profile. Ideally it’s one you have already created, but even if you haven’t you can use one of the vendor (i.e., Canon, Epson, etc…) versions here. You’ll have to locate the icc profile (not easy) and copy it to the Applications\Colorburst Overdrive\ICC Profiles directory manually for it to show up in this list, so be sure to do that before you start Overdrive.

Once your environment is all setup, then you just drag and drop your file into the window. It arrives on hold where you can take a last minute to check that status (like image too wide errors). You can choose to have a print preview which now thankfully appears to be better color managed in 1.2.6, where you can release the image after  you see the preview. Alternatively you can just leave that unchecked to skip that step.

When you click the image you can choose Activate to get it ready to print and then click RIP on to begin RIP’ing everything in the queue.

Once ripping begins you’ll see the status keeping track of the progress.

Once it is complete the preview window will pop up and ask for you to approve to release to the printer, or it will just start printing if you didn’t choose that option.

Once the job is complete it moves to the done list where you can drag and drop it back up to the top anytime to repeat the job with the same exact settings you had before (nice).

System Requirements

Printer

  • Must have a driver for Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6
  • Must have the ability to disable color management in the driver

IMPORTANT: If the print driver does not have a setting to disable color management, the printer is not compatible with Overdrive.

Operating System

  • Mac OS X 10.5 or later is required. Mac OS X Server 10.5 or later is also supported. (Windows is not supported.)

CPU

  • Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Intel, PowerPC G5, or Power PC G4 (867 MHz or faster)
  • Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard): Intel

Test Drive FREE for 15 days

Here’s a link to the tutorial and where you can get an evaluation version. You may also want to consider trying out the demo of ColorBurst® X-Proof or ColorBurst® Pro (Windows) for a more full-featured solution that includes ICC profile creation, layout, tiling, and other features that you would find in other competing RIP’s.

Pricing

Click here to get the latest prices for printers from 13” wide up to 64” wide.

Conclusion

The value of ColorBurst® Overdrive to me seems to primarily be in the group printing environment where you have staff workers who need to print and you don’t want to train them in proper color management and printing. With this in mind you can use the Hot Folders feature on your network where people can drop files and they will automatically be ripped and printed. They can also print with Overdrive directly from select applications so again they don’t have to deal with all the dirty details of turning the dozen knobs to make sure the print comes out properly.

Image quality-wise, Douglas Dubler claims there is a big benefit to using Overdrive over the Epson driver from Photoshop, but I wasn’t able to see a difference when I used the same paper profile in both products. On the Canon iPF6300 (same as the iPF6350 just without the hard drive) I was able to get a different result from the Canon Export module, but it is debatable if that result is measurably better. My net take here is that this product won’t make your images look better when you print from it, but it can make the print process simpler once you’ve built your saved environments. It also makes reprinting to get identical results much easier, and for portrait studios or commercial printers that can be a big win.

My recommendation is that you first try out the trial version and kick the tires yourself. See for yourself what the value of the features this product offers are and decide if it is right for you. For those with layout or advanced paper profile needs, I suspect ColorBurst® X-Proof or ColorBurst® Pro (Windows) would be a better choice. These products are more competitive with products like ColorByte ImagePrint, so I think that many will find they are closer to what they are looking for in a RIP.

Special Offer

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The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

2 comments:

Larry said...

I was reading an article from your blog about B&W printing w/ the Epson Advanced B&W mode.

Overdrive supports the use of the Epson Advance B&W (and I expect Canon's as well) with the ability to save all of the settings in the Environment file.

Erik Sawyer said...

I can't for the life of me figure out how this product would help a photographer at all. There is no layout, It just seems to be a front end to the Epson driver ?

am I missing something ? I just don't get it, Is there anything print wise that improves quality. I am interested if there is but what is it ?