Poster for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, c. 1994One of my favorite stories arose from my experience  working with Insight Communications and Denise Minobe of Minobe Designs when we were producing the home entertainment campaign for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This was a major release for an A-title film during a time when studios threw tons of resources at home video marketing. The campaign went on for many months, and Insight was the exclusive prepress vendor.

After locking in the finished version of the packaging key art, Denise latched onto a master set of proofs which became the gold standard for every item produced; and she insisted that everything be a “perfect” match. Now anyone who’s worked on the production side of this industry knows about the many challenging variables that affect calibration and repeatability—especially during those early days. Nonetheless, Denise insisted on exact matching—and she had an eye like none other!

Well, three months into the project she became dissatisfied with the repeatability of our Matchprint Proofs, which eventually lead Insight to call upon 3M (now Imation) to bring in their national research team to analyze the problem…

At that meeting, I laid out a series of over 40 proofs and began explaining the problem. Their lead technical scientist just stood there with his mouth open. As he compared the proofs he said “I can’t see any difference in the color among any of these proofs; you have got to be kidding me, right?!”

I carefully explained that our client was not satisfied and showed him areas that she had called out: “notice how in the clouds and lightning there is a slight variation in the highlights…” The color scientist then asked over what time period we had produced the materials. When I answered that it was over  three months, he nearly fainted! Unable to making any kind of determination of error in our processes or procedures, he finally declared that the only thing he could do is take the samples back to the lab.

We got a phone call a couple weeks later. Using advanced spectrophotometery at their national lab, they had been able to determine a variance of 2% among the yellow plates in some of the proofs. He told us “we have never seen any shop even come close to this level of consistency and repeatability.” Insight then became one of 3Ms model shops where they would bring their regional customers to demonstrate the superiority of their products for color proofing consistency.

Although it was a painful experience at the time, I am forever indebted to Denise Minobe for her perfectionism that led me to be a master-level retoucher, and an expert in color print reproduction.



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