I believe virtual proofing is at the same cross roads ink jet proofing was around 2001. I am both hearing and observing information that provides growing support in my own mind for this position. First, I am not going to name any names in this post. Why? Because gut feelings and intuition are not fact.
Think back to 2001 and earlier as it relates to ink jet proofing. For a frame of reference think Print ’01 in Chicago, just try not to remember that 9/11 fell right in the middle of the show 🙁 We finally had a good stable pigment based printer. We had a few good RIPs emerging from the pack, but you still really needed 3rd party color management software to make the whole thing work. Of course there was the nightmare of the day which was trying to find a suitable media for Graphic Arts proofing purposes.
The reality was if you understood all the steps involved (or hired a good color management consultant) you could make decent ink jet proofs that rivaled the standard analog and digital proofs of the day.
Now think about virtual proofing today. While I believe there are at least two (and quite likely more) solid products capable of producing virtual proofs rivaling the ink jet proofs now carrying the standards flag; getting even those two systems to work in multiple locations can and does prove tricky at best. This is no knock on the virtual proofing software vendors, but instead really an issue of hardware.
Putting together a solid ink jet proofing system requires an end-user to source a printer, media, a RIP, a computer to run the RIP, and probably a good color management consultant as well. Putting together a solid virtual proofing system requires sourcing a display…let’s stop right there. There is more to it, but the display is proving (at least my gut tells me this) to be a huge thorn in the side of virtual proofing working in multiple locations.
I am hearing some crazy numbers like less than 1 in 10 “qualified” displays can be used in a 2 or more location virtual proofing set-up. If this is true (and I am starting to think it is), than it is no wonder virtual proofing is being used more and more for intermediate color (as I predicted in a previous post) and good old reliable ink jet proofs are still being produced as a final contract proof.
I still believe virtual proofing will continue to make gains over hard copy proofing. I just think it may be a little slower than we thought until this display issues gets worked out. Part of the problem is that measuring displays is not the easiest thing in the world to do….but that could be a whole post or even a complete white paper.