Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Improving, Integrating IMAGES: AP Digital Photo Systems Prod Harris and Houston Chronicle

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Improving, Integrating IMAGES: AP Digital Photo Systems Prod Harris and Houston Chronicle

Article excerpt

Harris Corp.'s Image Management and Graphics Enhancement System (IMAGES) has been evolving as a part of Houston Chronicle's new prepress systems since that paper became and IMAGES beta site almost two years ago.

Addressing the American Newspaper Publisher Association's Pre-Press Technology Symposium in February, Susan Shows, Chronicle director of information and technology resources, outlined changes to the product and to its integration in the paper's "MagiChron" project.

Shows described the philosophy behind MagiChron as the creation of a system that integrates various software that adheres to standards, allowing the Chronicle to "build a system we will never have to replace in its entirety." When higher-performance models become available, older elements of the system can be used elsewhere for other functions.

IMAGES was selected for photo processing because it fit into the Chronicle's standards-based prepress project. It runs under Sun microsystems' version of the Unix operating system. The hardware utilizes RISC architecture, offers GPIB and SCSI interfaces, and supports X Windows (for consistent user interface and server access via X-Window terminals) and Ethernet networking with TCP-IP and NFS client-server functions (for distribution of functions throughout the network). Database management is from Informix. (See E&P, June 29, 1991; Sept. 29, 1990.)

According to Shows, the paper has been taking analog wirephoto input from Independent Network Systems and photo staffers' remote Leafax transmissions over phone lines. It began testing the Associated Press digital wirephoto feed last July. AP Photo Stream is now taken into one of two AP-Leaf fileservers.

Other input comes from a Sharp 600dpi flatbed scanner, two Sony Promavica still video cameras, a Phoenix system from T/One, and a Nikon film scanner. The system can import and export images in TIF format, which said Shows, "allows us to obtain digital information from all the major systems."

Color, she added, will probably come from a Sun-based Agfa system, which has been undergoing a three-month site evaluation and would be used for advertising and four-color IMAGES output.

Though "still in the trials," the color work was going well, said Shows two weeks ago, referring to Agfa's Catalyst, a part of its Colorscape color prepress product line. "We plan to be able to use it for all of our four-color output," both in advertising and editorial, where news photos will be dropped in and double burned with the black text.

Shows reported the Chronicle already had run several section-front pages successfully on the end of press runs, as well as some full- and tabloid-sized ads. For a 26-zone section, she added, the paper printed "an Agfa version full run in one of those zones, and it looked good."

Satisfied with the Agfa system, Shows said its configuration remains to be determined. A wrap-up visit to Agfa headquarters in Wilmington, Mass., is planned for later this month. The composing room, with a second IMAGES workstation, makes final decisions on picture work. With an Agfa system in place, said Shows, composing will be able to move beyond manual stripping.

The Chronicle has been processing PostScript output through Hyphen raster image processors and Bidco recorders. The marking engine in Bidco's Front Page 80C color imager was used in the BitSetter 2 from Camex, developer of the Chronicle's new editorial and advertising systems (see P. 28).

Since its installation, Harris' IMAGES software has gone through what Shows described as normal beta testing and debugging. She said the product was greeted with enthusiasm by the editorial department, and that the graphics design editor and systems editor "were actively involved in the decision making."

She added, however, that Chronicle photo editors came back from an AP familiarization meeting "with the feeling that the AP Leafdesk was by far more user-friendly that the Harris picture desk. …

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