If the labs could conjure up a wish list for future monitor incarnations, both West and Bokland have some features in mind. "[It would be helpful to have] automatic calibration of a set point for color temperature, brightness and gamma, and to have the monitor self-profile on a set schedule," says West. "If a client who doesn't know the first thing about color management purchases a monitor, it would be nice if they could just pick a recommended color temperature from a list and everything else would fall into place. It would make all of our lives a whole lot easier. But this is only practical if the cost of these features is within a realistic price point for the consumer."
Indeed, cost is still a sticking point with Bokland, who acknowledges that there are higher-end monitors out there that could potentially meet all his needs but that remain out of reach for the commercial lab price-wise. "I know there are some out there that are higher resolution, but they have to be more affordable," he says. "The same goes for self-calibrating monitors-I know they're out there as well, but it would help if they weren't cost-prohibitive."BATTLE OF THE WORKSTATIONS Like many business and creative operations, commercial labs are still engaging in that ongoing debate of whether Macs are the masters of the workflow world, or whether PCs are the real powerhouses. West Photo Imaging weighs in mainly on the PC side. "We have several workstations, all except one being PC-based," says Richard West. "As we build our own computers from off-the-shelf units, we find that it's cheaper by far to make our own custom configurations to meet our needs than it is to pay somebody to do what we have the capability to do ourselves." Part of the appeal of PCs for West is plain old familiarity. "Having come from a PC-based computing environment, I've found it easier to stick with the PC platform," he explains. "I find the working space cleaner and less hassle compared to the Mac. True, the PC has its problems, but we're more familiar with it and its operating systems." That's not to say West Photo Imaging is Mac-less: "We have one Mac, which we originally purchased to write profiles," West says. "Seven years ago, profiling software was only available for Macs, so we got one. Now all our profile software is PC-based as well, so we use the Mac only for opening those customer files that are Mac-based and can't be opened on the PC, even with Macreading software." All the PCs at WPI have RAIDS for data integrity and speed, as well as separate drives dedicated for use as a scratch disk for those programs that will accommodate it. "All our RIP software is PC-based, so it makes it more convenient for us to linearize, profile and print all on the same platform," West explains. Bokland Custom Visuals, on the other hand, is taking advantage of Apple's advanced technology for their digital imaging purposes. "We have one G5 and 12 to 15 G4s, if you count the president's computer and the station at customer service," says Richard Bokland. "In the past we had used PCs, but now with the advent of Apple's new operating system (OS X), as well as some new tools and software, the very few jobs we get that are created on a PC, we can still handle them just fine." Some of the lab's workstations are still on OS 9, while others have already made the transition to OS X. "It's all about software availability," explains Bokland. "Some specific peripherals we have in place aren't ready for OS X yet." Like West, however, Bokland isn't totally reliant on one platform over another. "We do still have two output devices that are PCs," he admits. "That's what the RIPs were written for."