Producing camera-ready pages?

Subject: Producing camera-ready pages?
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 06:53:30 -0700

Sylvia Braunstein <<<...wants to print out our brochures with high
quality graphics and text. So far, we have been using Photoshop for
our graphics and Word97/Pdfs but we are not satisfied with the
results.>>

I think you need to provide more information on what part of the
results you're dissatisfied with (photos? text? cost?), and clarify
what you mean by "camera-ready copy". Traditionally, camera-ready
copy means laser-printed text and graphics or (not common anymore)
artwork pasted up on a backing board; you can also produce
camera-ready by outputting a "positive" on a typesetter, though if
you're going to all that effort and expense, you usually just output
film negatives and use them to burn the plates. In any event, the
reason it's called "camera-ready" is because you simply slip the
pages under a stat camera and photograph them; you then use the
photographic negatives to burn plates for the printing press.

My first reaction, missing these "facts", is that if you're
outputting laser copies, then you won't produce satisfactory results:
a laser printer generally lacks the resolution to produce adequate
halftones for use as camera-ready copy, though some (e.g., the
Lasermaster series) are pretty darn close. There are also problems
with halftone screens produced by lasers, but that gets complicated
so let's leave it aside for now. If you mean that you can't generate
adequate film from a PDF produced with your software combination,
then the problem is twofold: first, Word is not an acceptable program
for any form of sophisticated typesetting*, and second, there are
countless parameters in a PDF that you have to experiment with to get
the output you desire. Either might be the source of your problem;
the problem likely doesn't lie in Photoshop, which _is_ a
professional-level tool for producing film.

* Them's the facts; I enjoy Word as a word processor, but it simply
isn't professional caliber as a DTP application. Talk to any service
bureau if you want the full details. In my experience, I haven't even
been able to find one willing to output files directly from Word
using (say) a Linotronic typesetter's printer driver, let alone via
PDF. And forget about handling color in Word.

PDF itself might be the problem. Although the theoretical (and
increasingly, the practical) aspects of PDF-based workflow are in
place, in practice relatively few printers are equipped to handle PDF
files successfully because there are all kinds of rough edges and
"gotchas" in the work flow. This is changing, though not as fast as
you'd expect given the promise of the technology. But right now, the
bottom line is that you'll have a lot of debugging to do if you want
to produce quality files from PDFs if the files are at all complex.
You can get a good idea of the potential of PDF from recent issues of
_Publish_, but they tend to gloss over some of the real-world
problems many printers have been reporting with PDF files. See recent
issues of _The Graphic Exchange_ and _Inter:face_ for details.

<<I have heard of Freehand and PageMaker. Can anybody help me
understand the advantages and inconvenients of these applications.>>

Freehand would be the closest analogue to Photoshop in your current
situation, but that's not a good comparison at all because the former
works with objects (e.g., a circle is defined as a mathematical
equation and produced at the resolution of the output device) whereas
the latter works with bitmaps (e.g., a circle defined as a series of
points at a defined resolution, and prints at no more than that
resolution, and often less if the output device can't support that
resolution). I wonder if perhaps the problem is that you're using
Photoshop for objects (which can be done, but not elegantly)?
PageMaker, Quark, Ventura, and Frame would probably be better choices
than Word if you're really serious about doing typesetting; each is
well supported by one or more service bureaus in most large cities,
and the compugeeks at those places know the software inside out.

Please provide more details about your problem so we can provide more
focused feedback.
--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.

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