Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The dark side of color

Next year's session on the dark side of color in the Color Imaging XVI conference at EI has attracted what the French call la crème de la crème in color imaging:

  • Raja Bala on the color side of dark
  • Alessandro Rizzi on what a bad signal from this strange device
  • John J. McCann on HDR imaging and color constancy: Two sides of the same coin?
  • Jan P. Allebach on green halftoning: Can less be more?
  • Gabriel G. Marcu on can displays go wild?

Our more modest contribution deals with workflows and ICC profiles. The lack of any requirements on workflow has always been a nightmare for ICC users. Recently, as the printing industry is trying to make up for the shrinking profits in traditional printing by jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon as print service providers (PSP), this Achilles's heel of ICC has become a huge liability.

Although recent research by Phillips et al. in JEI 19, 011013 (January 2010) suggests most consumers do not care that much for color fidelity, the small minority that does care is very vocal. This means that commercial print management systems need to become much smarter about ICC profiles.

From the early days of digital color, there has always been a trend for preferred color reproduction, with colorimetric color reproduction mostly relegated to the Feds and their requirement for being able to make 7 copies of a document without visible degradation. When an image is enhanced, it is very important not to enhance it twice, so the algorithms have always had a pre-processing step looking at the histogram and the contrast profile to determine an existing enhancement, in which case it would back off.

Similarly, if an image has a custom profile, it is highly likely that it has been carefully hand-tweaked by an expert. Since ICC is not slated to encompass workflow any time soon, it is the responsibility of us workflow people to provide this functionality in our software.

The first draft of our manuscript is out as tech. report ICC profiles: are we better off without them? and we are grateful for any comments and suggestions. We are very fortunate to have such careful readers that can even spot a "dry" mistyped as "try."