Friday, October 29, 2010

Extreme Color Management with the X-Rite i1XTreme and ProfileMaker 5 – Part 1 of 2

Earlier this year I introduced you to color management using the X-Rite ColorMunki which I love and use on all my computers. However, if you’ve been following my printing series you’ll notice that when I list out the gear that my featured photographers are using, you don’t see the ColorMunki mentioned anywhere.Instead you’ll often see the X-Rite i1iO Automated Scan Table or X-Rite i1iSis XL Color Calibration System mentioned along with ProfileMaker.

Why aren’t the top pros using the ColorMunki? Well part of it is because the ColorMunki is still fairly new compared to the i1 system, so many have been doing color management since before it came out. However, another important reason involves calibration on the next level – what I call “Extreme Color Management”.

Extreme Color Management

Extreme Color Management is when you use targets with a lot more than 50 (x2) color samples you get with the ColorMunki along with a high precision spectrophotometer and advanced software (ProfileMaker now i1Profiler coming soon) to create a much more accurate precision profile that is more accurate than what can be accomplished with the ColorMunki. Of course, like in all things in Photography, this means it’s going to cost you more money for that extra precision, but is it worth it?  Stay tuned and I’ll try to show you why you should care and who this configuration is intended for.

A good example of an Extreme Color Management Top Photographer is Douglas Dubler (also an X-Rite Coloratti). Douglas demands the best results and is willing to take the time to create the best profiles to get those results. The fruit of his labor are some of the most impressive prints I’ve ever seen, and ones that can stand the scrutiny of wall-size light boxes like the GTI VPI 52. It is for the most critical eye, yet the results are ones that even a novice can appreciate – even if they can’t quantify why Douglas’ prints are so much better than other master printers.

ProfileMaker 5

When using a ColorMunki or i1Basic, it will come with easy to use software to help you generate a custom profile for your display (and projectors and printers for the ColorMunki). ProfileMaker goes beyond the i1Match takes profiling to the extreme by supporting the generation of profiles for scanners, printers, displays, projectors, and even your digital cameras! This is an advanced end-to-end color management system not only for personal and professional printers, but also publishers CYMK printers! In short, if a device can take a profile, this software can be used to create a profile for it.

I will not do an in-depth review of this software at this time as it is due to be replaced in the near future.

i1Profiler

i1Profiler is the name of the current unreleased software which will replace ProfileMaker 5 at a future date. I hope to bring you more on this product as it becomes available.

i1XTreme


Photo Courtesy of B&H Photo
ColorChecker Targets Sold Separately

The X-Rite i1XTReme Color Calibration Solution (Product Overview) is a product designed to give you advanced color consistency between all of the devices in your digital workflow so you can achieve the best color management possible on the market today. It supports not only the obvious like computer displays and printers, but also scanners, projectors, and even digital cameras! The net result is a color managed workflow that goes beyond the basics that a device like the ColorMunki can provide.

This device and supporting software like ProfileMaker/i1Profiler are critical if you wish to generate your own profile for use with RIP software as you need the ability to print and measure outside of i1Match.

UV Cut or Not?

One thing that has always confused the heck out of me is why there are two different versions of the i1 spectrophotometers – one with a “UV Cut” and one without. Well it turns out that the “UV Cut” was introduced when papers with OBA’s came out as they apparently introduced problems. The Built-in UV filter prevents problems when measuring pigments that fluoresce under UV light or papers that incorporate artificial whiteners (source: Adorama).

Because I work with many papers which have OBA’s (like Canon & Epson papers with the word Bright as well as Metallic paper), I chose to get the UV Cut version. In addition, all of but one of my master printers and RIP software companies that I polled as to which version to get said to get the UV Cut version, so that was good enough for me.

The UV Cut has the same MSRP as the regular version, so the decision as to which one to get should really be based on your needs. It seems that if you’ll be doing a lot of measurements off of real life objects for obtaining color matching information, there are cases where the UV Cut would be a disadvantage. This is why both versions are offered, but sadly you have to pick one or the other – there isn’t an adapter that allows one device to do both (do I hear feature request???).

Using the i1XTtreme System

The ColorMunki is simplicity at its best – just plug and play and follow some really simple wizards. However, using the i1XTreme is a big leap from there as you’ll find yourself getting a lot of complex questions for which there isn’t a lot of useful help or instruction to tell you more about what you are being asked or why you should care. From this perspective, I was a bit disappointed in this system as it felt a bit like being thrown into the deep end of the pool before you know how to swim.

The good news is that I’m a fast learner, so I scratch and clawed my way through a bunch of confusing docs, web articles (some of which went back to 2004) and more to find out the information I needed to know. The question is, was it all worth it? More on that later…

Here’s how I use this i1XTreme system in my studio:

  • Display Calibration - All good color management begins with a calibrated display, so I use the i1XTreme to calibrate my display. The process isn’t as pretty, but it is very similar to how it is done with the ColorMunki in my Color Management article. You get asked a few more complex questions, but when in doubt just accept the defaults and move on.
  • Scanner Calibration – I’ve always been frustrated with the crappy results I’d get out of my scanner, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that I could simply scan a test target provided in my kit and run a simple wizard and voila – a nice scanner profile was created. Just as with printer profiles, the difference was like night & day and it was very easy to do. It was actually harder figuring out how to get my scanner software to actually use the profile than it was to create it!
  • Printer Profiling – Nothing is more important than printer profiling in my book, because without a proper profile your prints will look like crap. I’ve actually seen top tier photographers and print masters get lazy and not calibrate their displays because they could trust their printer profile so much that they simply needed to do a test print and put it next to their monitor to get an idea of how the colors would shift. You couldn’t do that the other way around without wasting a lot of time and paper, so this is why I think most people really buy this product.

In addition to the above features, you can also use this product to calibrate your projector (which I don’t own) and digital camera (which requires ColorChecker SG which I didn’t have included in my test kit).

Profiling to the Extreme

Bill Atkinson Profile Chart
Bill Atkinson’s RGB 800 WIR Eye-One 2 page target

Epson Stylus Pro and Profiling Guru Douglas Dubler recommends using the targets on Bill Atkinson’s download folder along with Profile Maker (currently only available i1iSis bundles) to create profiles.

Eye-One MeasureTool (included in ProfileMaker)

I was having trouble getting my ColorMunki to calibrate LexJet’s Sunset Photo Metallic (review and coupon code coming soon) paper for my Epson Stylus® Pro 3880 printer to get the same great results I was getting with LexJet’s profile for the Canon iPF6300. The ColorMunki got me close, but it was still too dark and the print had a green tint to it.  Using the i1 with the included Eye-One Match 3 software I was able to generate a profile, that when printed with the Perceptual rendering intent, gave me something that was much closer to the Canon print.

As happy as I was with my new profile, I decided to take it a step farther and try Bill Atkinson’s RGB 800 WIR Eye-One 2 page target to scan in 800 patches to create an even more accurate profile (profiles up to 5202 patches are available). This sounded great because the Eye-One Match 3 had only printed out 288 patches using the default settings (but more patches were available) and Douglas had recommended Bill’s patches.

Click here to read part 2.

Disclaimer

X-Rite provided a loaner i1XTreme color management solution for me to use so I could write this article, as well a dongle for use with ProfileMaker. If it were not for X-Rite’s generous support, I could not have brought this article to you.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

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

1 comment:

BRIANOGRAPHY - Brian Morgan Photography said...

Ron - thanks for your fantastic series on printing. If anyone is interested in serious printer profiling, Profile Maker 5 is an expensive piece of software. I have an unopened copy that I would be willing to let go for a great deal. I bought it just before I decided to go with the ImagePrint RIP and never used it. Normally it's $2500. If you're interested, please contact me (email and phone information listed on my website at http://www.brianography.com)