April 5, 2006

The Biggest "Smallest" Announcement

Sometimes, major events change the way we work. Like when a new application hits the market, or when a new technology is released. These events are much hyped and are surrounded by fanfare and marketing. Then there are times when things happen quietly behind the scenes, without much noise or interest to others. Like when PDF was released. And no one really cared much about it. And now it changes the way we think about and do our work.

In the end, those seemingly smaller things end up making a much bigger difference as time goes on.

Well, earlier this week, Adobe quietly announced something new. Something revolutionary. Something that will change the way we think about doing our work, and how we actually do our work. And incredibly enough, to the surprise of everyone, that big thing is print. That's right -- not video, not web, not flash, not mobile. Good old fashioned print. Although it's not old fashioned anymore. No sirree Bob.

It's called the Adobe PDF Print Engine, and it's going to change everything. No, not today. Not next month. In fact, the Adobe PDF Print Engine is a technology that won't begin appearing in new products for another year or so, and even then, it will be a while before it becomes used in commonplace. But when it does arrive, and when we do start using it, oh how sweet it will be.

You see, it's like this. Adobe introduced PostScript many years ago. It was an awesome technology (and still is in many regards), and it was built into just about every professional RIP out there -- the software that is needed to take files from our desktop computers and translate it so that film, plates, or digital prints can be made of our wonderful designs. But since then, PDF has changed things. Changed them a lot. Especially so with Illustrator, as in version 9, Illustrator's own native file format became PDF-based.

The issue that existed in the world however was that you could create wonderful things in PDF, but that ALWAYS had to get converted to PostScript (EPS) in order to be processed by the RIP. That conversion process caused many issues within workflows, especially with regards to transparency flattening and late-stage editing.

Now, with the Adobe PDF Print Engine, a RIP will be able to process native PDF content without the need for any conversion to PostScript. That means flattening, as we know it, NEVER HAS TO OCCUR. That means you can add transparencies and effects at any stage in your workflow and keep them editable. It means you can make late stage edits to any part of a file with no issues.

And it means more as well, because the Adobe PDF Print Engine also incorporates the use of the JDF standard. JDF stands for Job Definition Format and contains information about the intent for how a file will be produced. That includes size, stock, inks, folds, trims -- the list goes on. Think of what this means to the publishing industry. Think of what this means to the print industry in general. It's HUGE I tell you. I've actually SEEN the Adobe PDF Print Engine in person and I have to tell you that words can't even describe how amazing it was to see this stuff happening on screen. Transparency, overprints, varnishes, dot screens -- oh it's all good. All so very very good.

So don't worry now -- just keep on doing things the way that you are now -- but soon -- sooner than we think, it will all change. For the better of course. And for all of those who thought that print was dead... well, sorry to have to break it to you, but it ain't over till the fat lady sings. And right now, the fat lady is on the dance floor and lovin it.

6 comments:

Newmango said...

Wow - no kidding. I'm ready for it now.

"won't begin appearing in new products for another year or so"

CS3? CS4?

Mordy Golding said...

CS3? CS4?

Oh, no, it has nothing at all to do with Adobe's applications, This is technology that will be built into 3rd party RIPs -- like imagesetters from Agfa, Heidelberg, etc.

Adobe doesn't "sell" this technology. Rather, Adobe will license the Adobe PDF Print Engine to OEMs -- those who create RIPs.

Newmango said...

Oh. Then is Adobe expecting all the prepress operations who couldn't keep up with upgrades to Postscript RIPs to embrace the new technology? I can only see this working if it can be demonstrated to them that all the headaches associated with running a huge variety of files and file types from a huge variety of sources through the same RIP pipeline will go away. Adobe might not sell the technology, but the licenses are not free, are they?

Mordy Golding said...

Oh, Adobe makes PLENTY of cashola through the licensing fees of course.

But you are correct -- the printers around the world will have to move to new hardware to take advantage of this technology. Which is why I state in my post that this isn't something that's going to happen overnight. In fact, it will be a year before we see RIPs that include this technology.

Over time, RIP vendors will most likely move to the PDF engine in all of their new products and so over a range of several years, printers will slowly start to adopt this new technology. But even so, you are correct in that printers will be required to upgrade their systems, which means that adoption will be dependent on that.

However, it will be interesting to see how this will affect the dynamics of the industry. If indeed there are some benefits that will prove to offer competitive advantages, then that might spur a faster adoption.

John Kallios said...

I know I can't wait for this.

BTW, there is nothing "small" about this.

I wonder if text can remain live under transparent elements?

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