A few words about Altona Test Suite 2 – Technical Page 2

Berlin, December 19, 2012:  Almost a decade after version 1 of the Altona Test Suite was developed, the European Color Initiative (ECI) began publishing version 2 of Altona Test Suite by making available Technical Page 2 in December 2011.

During the months since December 2011, a number of discussions around Technical Page 2 of the Altona Test Suite 2 have evolved, occasionally reflecting misconceptions regarding evaluation of real world solutions on the background of the Altona Test Suite 2. This article has been written to clarify a few aspects.

Description

The main purpose of Technical Page 2 is to exercise features in the PDF language that have become relevant on the background of the publication of ISO 15930-7 (PDF/X-4). Besides the complex area of rendering transparency, other features like OpenType fonts are included in the test page. In addition, a few test elements – for example for smooth shades or gray balance – are refinements of patches that already existed in version 1 of the Altona Test Suite.

Goal

Essentially in line with the philosophy for version 1 of Altona Test Suite, version 2 as well intends to provide a qualitative benchmark that reflects the minimum level of technical capabilities for processing PDF/X-4 files in a sufficiently predictable and repeatable manner. When version 1 of the Altona Test Suite came out about a decade ago, a substantial number of solutions in the market did not process all of the test elements perfectly. Nevertheless within one to two years, almost all professional solutions would readily process all test elements correctly. All in all the first version of the Altona Test Suite contributed substantially to a much higher level of quality in solutions – and interoperability between solutions – across the whole market. The ECI expects a similar pattern around the release of Altona Test Suite 2.

Misconceptions

Despite careful positioning especially of Technical Page 2 some users and organizations used it in a manner that was not intended by the ECI. Most notably, the ECI believes that it is neither possible nor reasonable to carry out an evaluation of output from the Technical Page 2 in a fully automated fashion. Any automated analysis of results can only point to potential problems, the actual analysis and evaluation will have to be carried out on a case by case basis by knowledgeable experts. Only if it can be proven without doubt that a given output result is not in sync what the PDF/X-4 standard mandates, is it acceptable to describe the output as not conforming. For any analysis it is important to understand that while the Technical Page 2 correctly describes output results conforming to PDF/X-4, there might be other slightly different ways to render the test elements correctly and in conformance with the PDF/X-4 standard. An example is rendering of spot colors on a device simulating spot colors through process colors, especially where overprints between spot colors or between spot colors and process colorants occur. From the point of view of the ECI nevertheless the expected output results per Technical Page 2 reflect the more desirable results, amounting to the highest degree of interoperability.

Further development

Besides serving as a benchmark for rendering transparency, Technical Page 2 of the Altona Test Suite 2 has also revealed a number of shortcomings regarding the transparency provisions in the PDF specification on which PDF/X-4 is based. The committee in charge of standardizing the PDF language – ISO TC 171 WG 8 – already decided in its September 2012 meeting in Berlin, that transparency related provisions in PDF 2.0 will be improved to be much more precise and clear, and also that a few changes will be introduced. These changes will also be summarized in a separate document, expected to be published as a Technical Report (TR), which could be used in conjunction with ISO 32000-1 (PDF 1.7) to define transparency rendering for PDF 1.7 files that will be in line with transparency rendering in PDF 2.0. None of this impacts PDF/X-4 – last published as ISO 15930-7:2010 – which continues to be based on PDF 1.6. The committee in charge of PDF/X – ISO TC 130 WG 2 TF 2 – is working on a next version of PDF/X that will be based on PDF 2.0.

At this moment it is open whether Technical Page 2 of Altona Test Suite 2 would have to be adjusted based on the modifications in PDF 2.0 or a next PDF/X version. On the background of PDF/X-4 though – on which Altona Test Suite 2 is based – no need has been identified so far to modify it in any way.

Whether a version 3 of Altona Test Suite will have to be developed once PDF 2.0 or a next version of PDF/X are finalized and published will have to be seen once these standards become available – which is not expected before 2014.

Summary

The printing industry is still in the process of adopting PDF/X-4 to its full extent. As with any change, also the transition from PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 can occasionally be difficult and painful. The ECI assumes that Altona Test Suite 2 aids in identifying pain points, and that these pain points will be cured within a year or two, leading to a situation in the print and publishing industry where files can be exchanged and output as smoothly as has been true for PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 files.

All PDF/X stakeholders – users and vendors alike – interested in discussing the Altona Test Suite 2 are invited to subscribe to the ECI mailing lists – available in English and German – and express their concerns, ask questions or share feedback.

Technical Page 2 of the Altona Test Suite 2.0 released

Berlin, December 21, 2011:  The Technical Page 2 of the Altona Test Suite 2.0 is available for download from this website immediately. Developed during many months of hard work by ECI, bvdm, FOGRA and Ugra, the Altona Test Suite 2.0 offers a unique method to test components and systems in digital prepress and print workflows for their capability to process PDF/X-4.

The Altona Test Suite 2.0 consists of several parts. At this time, only the «Technical Page 2» is made available. The remaining parts of Altona Test Suite 2.0 will be made available in the 2nd quarter of 2012.

The «Altona Technical 2» addresses transparency, OpenType fonts, optional content (aka layers), JPEG2000 compression, smooth shades, overprint, 16-bit images and more.

Extensive documentation explains the structure of the test page and offers guidelines for the evaluation of results achieved by processing the Altona Technical 2 page.

The only support option available for users of the Altona Test Suite consists of the possibility to subscribe to the ECI mailing list and submit any questions or feedback on the ECI mailing list which are monitored by the authors of the Altona Test Suite.

Please go to the section “Downloads” of this website to download the Altona Test Suite files.

Important notice: The Altona Test Suite may be used freely, but must not be redistributed without receiving prior permission in writing from the ECI. No guarantee is given that the Alton Test Suite is without error. Any use is completely under the risk of the person or company using the Altona Test Suite. There are no liabilities should the use of the Altona Test Suite lead to direct or consequential damages.

Altona Test Suite - Online Version 1.2 available for downloading

The new version 1.2 of the Altona Test Suite Online is available for download now in the download section of this website. The PDF files are identical with the respective data of the Altona Test Suite Application kit (www.altonatestsuite.com) for paper type one and two (gloss and matt coated stock).

Version number 1.2 stands for the use of the new ECI offset profile “ISOcoated.icc” in the pages “Visual” and “Technical”. This profile replaces the outdated versions “ISOcoatedsb” and “ISOcoatedbb”. As a consequence there is no longer a need for the distinction between versions of the Altona Test Suite using profiles based on color measurements with self backing (sb) and black backing (bb).

The page “Measure” remains unchanged in version 1.1 as it does not contain any ICC profile.

Altona Test Suite Application Kit – now available!

Altona Test Suite Application Kit: Valuable Instrument for Standard Process Control and Workflow Test

Wiesbaden, February 16th, 2004: Altona Test Suite Application Kit is now shipping. With the Application Kit important new tools and data are provided to the user for standard process control, quality check and and workflow test. The Application Kit contains reference prints, test suite files, characterisation data and ICC profiles according to the latest values of ISO 12647-2 for standard process control (offset printing). For ordering please visit the website www.altonatestsuite.com.

Altona Test Suite Application Kit is a joint project of German Printing and Media Industries Federation (bvdm) Wiesbaden, European Color Initiative (ECI), EMPA / Ugra St. Gallen, Switzerland and FOGRA Graphic Technology Research Association Munich, Germany.

The Altona Test Suite Application Kit is produced, published and exclusively distributed by bvdm. The Application Kit consists of of a set of PDF files, specially designed for testing digital output devices - in particular, proofing solutions, conventional and digital printing systems. However its use is not limited to output devices. The purpose of the Altona Test Suite is to check PDF/X-3 compliance and color accuracy for all software and hardware modules used in a composite PDF workflow for print production. Important parts of the Application Kit are numerous reference prints and color specimens (process color solids) which are carefully produced within very small tolerances (a total of 16 variations for offset printing and continuous printing). The Application Kit also includes a CD-ROM with the accurately created Altona Test Suite files, characterisation data and ICC profiles in accordance with the standard printing conditions under ISO 12647-2 [2].

A comprehensive documentation explains the elements of Altona Test Suite Application Kit in detail, instructions for use (according to the terms of use) and all necessary information related to the standardized process control.

The comprehensive Altona Test Suite Application Kit can be used for a variety of purposes: for process control, to check the PDF/X-3 compatibility of workflow systems, to adapt digital proofing systems to the standard process and as color specimen (process color solid). The central focus is on a visual comparison of the reference prints of the Altona Test Suite Application Kit with off-press proofs, on-press proofs and production prints in order to evaluate the color quality of digital proofing systems and the adaptation of production printing to the standard process. The Application Kit is documented in English and German and is available internationally. The Application Kit is the first comprehensive set of reference prints, data files, control wedges and information for systematic process control worldwide.

Altona Test Suite was developed, extensively used and evaluated in 2002 and 2003 at the Digital Proofing Shootouts organized by bvdm and ECI. In May 2003, the Altona Test Suite was the core element at the “digital proofing shootout” of the IPA in Chicago, and in September 2003 it was used at the “Seybold San Francisco 2003 PDF Workflow Shootout”. Altona Test Suite has gained a fine reputation - also internationally - and is now regarded as a standard test instrument.

The Altona Test Suite Application Kit project of bvdm/ECI/ugra/FOGRA was extremely complex to implement and required extensive preparations. Sponsors and project partners from the supply industry were gained e. g. for papers and printing inks used. There was close technical coordination with these partners during the project. The materials, data and systems used (prepress, printing form production, printing, process control, quality checking) were comprehensively reviewed, optimized and adapted to each other. New and additional systems for process control, measuring and control equipment were developed in the course of the project and used for the first time. Special test forms were developed for quality control in production printing and statistically significant print production control. FOGRA specialized in the subsequent quality control of production printing.

Extensive preliminary tests and harmonisation was carried out from the spring of 2003 onwards. A special challenge was to keep narrow tolerance limits for both tone value increase and solid tone values during the print run of the reference prints. The deviations in the color of individual papers from the paper types according to ISO 12647-2 and the printing inks according to ISO 2846-1 placed further high demands on the practical implementation.

Thanks to all participating experts from ECI, bvdm, FOGRA and ugra and to the experts from the sponsors for their great commitment. The project could not have been successfully completed without the untiring and often unselfish contribution of these experts over many months.

Altona Test Suite - Applikation Kit (with serial number) Art. No. 85230: 16 numbered reference prints (size 297 × 420 mm) in 4 envelopes 7 color specimens (process color solid) (size 190 × 260 mm) in 1 envelope 15 Altona Test Suite data files on CD-ROM 6 Characterisation data on CD-ROM 6 ICC Profiles on CD-ROM Documentation (PDF) on CD-ROM Documentation 132 pages DIN A4, 4-color-print, english and german All parts of Applikation Kit in black coverbox 245 × 325 × 25 mm

Regular price: EUR 480,00 plus VAT and shipping costs Special price*: EUR 240,00 plus VAT and shipping costs

*The special price applies for members of the Printing and Media Industries Associations (vdm) in Germany and for members of ECI, FOGRA and ugra.

Please order via website www.altonatestsuite.com.

Altona Test Suite released

December 6, 2002: The Altona Test Suite 1.0 (Note: version 1.1 has been made available for download as of September 2, 2003, which in turn has been replaced by version 1.2 in May 2004) is available for download from this website immediately.

Developed during many months of hard work by ECI, bvdm, FOGRA and Ugra and tested rigorously during this year's two «Digitalproof Forum» events in spring and autumn 2002, the Altona Test Suite 1.0 offers a unique method to test components and systems in digital prepress workflows for their capability to process PDF/X-3, all with relatively little effort. While initially targeted at digital proofing systems, the Altona Test Suite is equally well suited for evaluating PostScript and PDF RIPs as well as any other component involved in a digital workflow. Even for somebody not yet ready to use PDF/X-3, the Altona Test Suite allows to quickly and clearly identify weaknesses and limitations of currently used solutions with regard to processing PostScript 3 and PDF 1.3.

The Altona Test Suite consists of three DIN A 3 size PDF pages. The first page «Altona Measure» contains the new ECI 2002 characterisation chart as well as a couple of other color patches. The second page «Altona Visual» consists of numerous elements that make it possible to quickly judge the reproduction of the page in terms of color fidelity and correct imaging. The third page «Altona Technical» addresses overprint simulation as well as handling of all font types that are allowed in PDF 1.3 – and thus PDF/X-3 – files.

Extensive documentation explains the structure of the three pages and offers guidelines for the evaluation of results achieved by processing the Altona Test Suite pages. The only support option available consists of the possibility to subscribe to the ECI mailing list or the PDF/X mailing list and submit any questions or feedback on these two mailing lists which are monitored by the authors of the Altona Test Suite.

Please go to the section “Downloads” of this website to download the Altona Test Suite files.

Important notice: The Altona Test Suite may be used freely, but must not be redistributed without receiving prior permission in writing from the ECI. No guarantee is given that the Alton Test Suite is without error. Any use is completely under the risk of the person or company using the Altona Test Suite. There are no liabilities should the use of the Altona Test Suite lead to direct or consequential damages.