St. Galler Tagblatt AG, the largest media company in eastern Switzerland, publishes daily newspapers as well as professional journals, weekly magazines, customer magazines and electronic media. Ronny Bleichenbacher, who is head of Production IT Support at St. Galler Tagblatt, learned about ELPICAL's Claro Premedia Server software solution when he chanced to pick up a company brochure at Ifra 2006 in Amsterdam. The headline, "automatic image enhancement based on comprehensive image analysis", caught his eye.
Bleichenbacher wanted to switch the group's Macintosh-based workflow to Windows and had been searching for an image correction and automatic retouching solution that reduced the number of image management processes currently in place. When he learned more about the Claro Premedia Server's capabilities, it was a 'eureka!' moment of discovery – "I said, this is it!" recalls Bleichenbacher.
Ronny Bleichenbacher reports that the investment is delivering strong return on investment in the form of productivity, ease of operation and improved image quality. "The Claro Premedia Server provides us with more possibilities for automatic image enhancement than we had ever dreamed of," states Bleichenbacher.
The Claro Premedia Server solution replaces a previous program for image correction and automatic retouching that was Mac-based. When the company converted to a Windows workflow in 2003, the Window's version of the former program still didn't have the right capabilities to handle St. Galler Tagblatt's demanding production requirements. "Prior to installing Claro Premedia, our images went through eight different production workflows before finally being printed. Now we are able to condense these image management processes into a single workflow," explains Ronny Bleichenbacher "All processes from copying, transporting, proofing, retouching and final image checking –run in the background and are fully automated."
Claro Premedia analyzes each image based on parameters like sharpness, brightness, contrast, color balance, natural greens, skin tones, IPTC information, etc. Depending on the sharpness and noise levels of the original image, the unsharp masking process varies in terms of intensity, radius and threshold. The solution's special contrast algorithms modify the contrast wherever necessary in an image, making it possible to enhance definition even in dark areas.
As an option, images can be sorted by quality criteria and checked manually. Ronny Bleichenbacher is particularly impressed that the original image and the image edited by Claro Premedia can be compared side-by-side and further retouched. His verdict: "Since Claro was installed in March 2007, our image enhancement results have improved significantly and become more uniform." In turn, the time required for image enhancement and data handling has been reduced by some 15 percent. St. Galler Tagblatt AG has converted one of its publications to the Claro Premedia workflow almost every month since the initial installation. Thanks to the freed-up capacity and improved image quality, prepress production activities for the company's own publications are now handled in-house again after having been outsourced. The new capabilities are also opening the door to increased business with existing clients and the possibility to attract new customers.
Another key advantage is the ability to connect Claro Premedia with the K4 editorial system from SoftCare, a popular industry standard. According to Bleichenbacher, one of the main advantages is the central settings option for the image workflow.
He can now centrally control changes or individual pre-settings for automatic image enhancement for all networked editorial departments within St. Galler Tagblatt's group of publishing houses. "I never would have believed how few buttons are required for the high-quality enhancement of an image," concludes Ronny Bleichenbacher.