Sunday, May 1, 2011

Alert Diver - On press for Spring 2011 issue

I've just come back from another presscheck at the Quad Graphics plant in Sussex, WI, checking the color on the Sping 2011 issue of Alert Diver.

This is an important issue, as it is 116-pages, our biggest yet, and presents the results of our annual photo contest, run in conjunction with Nature's Best Magazine.

We arrived in the late afternoon on Easter Sunday, in preparation for our first color check at 3:00 AM. Barry Berg, our director of manufacturing, was on hand as well. Doing this same job for Surfing Magazine for more than 24-years, he's an experienced hand at this 24/7 immersion into the printing process.

The Quad Graphic plant is a massive 1.7 million square feet complex, although I can't say I saw much of it this time as we ran the covers on one press, and all the rest of the forms on another web press. We'd typically do 32-pages in one chunk, and thanks to our very talented and professional press professionals could check each of the 2 - 16 page forms almost simultaneously. That was a huge time savings, being consolidated like that. We've been on presses in the past that only ran 8-pages at a time and the whole process took forever. Despite the efficiency, we fell into a routine of an a few hours on press and maybe 3 hours sleep in between.

The whole manufacturing process is interesting to me. All the color is evaluated under carefully controlled lighting conditions, to standardize what we view in our computer screens, in my office, and in the prepress house when we evaluate color. This issue was further fascinating to me because we were printing on a new paper stock, 70-pound weight and from a sustainably managed forest with soy inks as per normal, but this time chosen for optimum whiteness. We can't print with white inks on a web press, so to achieve a purity of white in the photograph we have to depend on a white substrate ... the paper. We searched extensively for this particular stock and are thrilled with the opacity, whiteness, and gloss.

We have a fair bit of control over the final color even while on press. Not so much as we might have in the early stages of image processing in the computer and then when making the matchprints with the prepress house. But still, it is essential to be on press and see the ink applied to paper to achieve the optimal result.

After about 32-hours the last of the forms are signed-off as approved and the Spring Alert Diver is ready to head to the bindery and then the co-mail facility. Next stop ... our DAN member mailboxes!

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