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filmscanners: Repro house skirmishing (long)

OK, here's a legitimate target for spite and bile, and it's decidedly ON topic. 
I have said some very bad words in their direction already, as I just don't 
know what to do about this.

My main use for scanning is so I can shoot col.neg. in uncontrolled conditions, 
then scan it and tart it up later on screen. This is an extension of what I 
have been doing with B&W in the darkroom for years.

However I end up with a digital image. That is when the trouble starts, because 
although the client(s) can cope, and the designers can cope, the goddam repro 
houses are stuck in 1985 and have no intention of changing to accomodate 
photographer-supplied scans which will rob them of their bread and butter.

This last week I have had 2 separate disasters because of this. 

The first was a set of live interview shots of an elusive MD, horrible room, 
rotten light. I shot it on CN, no problem. I explained this to the 
commissioning magazine and asked if they could cope with dig. They said yes, I 
shot it... and then they changed their minds and asked for prints. I got a 
bunch of prints done by my lab, and sure enough, they were not very nice. Sent 
'em off to client, but with a sample scan to prove the point. Client phones 
back, gosh, yes, the scan is miles better, stuff the repro house they will just 
have to cope, send us 8 scans.

I do this overnight (the whole job is now up against deadlines), send in bill, 
and 2weeks later client phones whingeing about the cost. Why have I charged 
15GBP/scan? He seems to have expected them to be 'free', since they are when 
done by their repro house. If he'd known he would have asked for the negs and 
had the repro house do it. Well, yes, except it was about 4hrs work for me, 
plus CD etc, and besides, what the repro house would do would be 'straight' 
reprography whereas what I am doing is interpretive. Client too thick to see 
the difference, now in my bargepole file.

The underlying problem (apart from the client - who had 2 weeks previous been 
telling me how he had just spent 14,000GBP converting his Ferrari to run on 
unleaded) is that many repro houses involved in UK magazine production are 
determined to hang on to scanning, and the standard contract now bundles 
scanning with everything else for a fixed cost.

It has other advantages for them too: they don't need to invest or train to 
cope with photographer-supplied scans. They can just stick their heads in the 
sand and lock me (us) out of a very useful *photographic* technique.

Like I say, I have another client who often messes about getting negs hand 
printed at vast expense to work around the obduracy of the repro house they 
actually pay tons of money too. He has his own reasons, reluctance to learn and 
fear of horrible mistakes.

And that was the second nightmare, a truly horrible mistake. Yet another 
client, whom I've been around this loop with previously - see my sorry tale 
about this at my website. They just relaunched a title, and, asked to produce a 
cover and inside shots during the usual 5min session in the rain, asked if dig 
was OK. Yes, said the designer - it's not First Impressions doing the repro any 
more. Did the job, did the scans, sent 'em off. Designer happy, client happy.

I got a copy on Thursday. Absolutely dreadful. God only knows how it got signed 
off and went to print like that. It's so embarassingly terrible I am ashamed to 
mention it - no saturation and just underwater/vile. What I supplied was a 
tagged TIF which looked great to everyone on calibrated screens. What came off 
the press was excrementally awful.

This client is mortified and embarassed too, but instead of bollocking the 
repro house (First Impressions, avoid at all costs), they have said they think 
they had better have prints next time.

Meanwhile I have other clients who have no trouble at all with this stuff. What 
the hell is wrong with the repro industry, and what can I possibly do about it? 
It no longer seems like leading edge tech, is standard practice in newsprint, 
yet magazines in UK are stuck in a timewarp because of it. In 4-5 yrs, there 
has been hardly any movement IME.

So the next question is : where can I get really good R-type or similar prints 
made from digital files, in London, often overnight? I'm not happy with my own 
Epson 1200 output (good though it is, there are spectral anomalies, and I don't 
know if the dither pattern will interact badly with a fine halftone dot 
screen). I can't find anywhere - I have tried dye sub (too soft) and a local 
co. who have a posh Noritsu dig printer which outputs onto proper paper, but 
that manages to posterise skin tones - an admitted deficiency of the printer 
according to the lab, not my scans.

It's all very, very frustrating:(


Tony Sleep
http://www.halftone.co.uk - Online portfolio & exhibit; + film scanner info & 


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