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A Look at the Future for PantonLIVE with Dr. Francis Lamy

Published on March 6, 2012

Andy Tribute interviews Dr. Francis Lamy about their new breakthrough product, PantoneLIVE.

Andy Tribute:  I’d like to open this discussion - this is Francis Lamy, who is the Chief Technical Officer of X-Rite and who’d previously discovered the launch of PantoneLIVE, which is the new color database for, initially, the packaging industry, which we’ve covered in the publication.  But I’d just like to ask Francis some key questions for the future. 

Francis, the database you’ve built with PantoneLIVE at the moment is aimed at packaging, but the whole structure is such that, when you add more to it in terms of appearance, models and things it will go in a much wider space.  Where is the real future for PantoneLIVE?  

Francis Lamy:  Actually, what we have built was PantoneLIVE.  It’s a cloud-based DM and infrastructure.  Basically, it’s a set of tools and a database depository that enables to connect very easily and unobtrusively to a packaging workflow today.  But in general, it’s aimed at ambitions is larger than packaging because actually address a great variety of connected supply chains where color matters. 

So we have spent a great deal by working with partners, but also by working on the infrastructure, too, that enables this coexistence of - not coexistence but the circulation of value along the supply chain from designer to producers and make sure that the various actors along the supply chain can actually compare measurements amongst them.  

Andy Tribute:  Okay, now what we’ve seen in the first implementation is packaging.  However, if you look at today where more and more things are bought over the Internet and we’re looking at how we buy on the Internet, how we trust the Internet, and we then look at the potential problems we have with products such as the usual mobile phone, such as this, yeah, and color management in these is not there at this sort of stage and we can't trust the color we see on them. 

Once someone like Apple and Google with Android and Microsoft add much better color management into their devices, color is going to become far more valuable in terms of appearance.  Where is that  - 

Francis Lamy:  Yeah, actually, color .  Actually, the effort that we have made with PantoneLIVE actually consists of, first of all, finding a language to digitize color.  And by defining this language i.e. IXF we actually have sort of enabled color to be communicated along a supply chain.  We are doing a very similar effort to try to encompass in a single and similar way other attributes than just color, i.e. texture, gloss and subsurface.  These four or three attributes of appearance really will enable us to not only measure but also encapsulate in a digital way and communicate and visualize remotely appearance characteristics, and therefore also, we no longer are limiting the PantoneLIVE infrastructure and DRM to the graphic arts supply chain.  But, basically, we are addressing a far bigger and far more interesting market where appearance matters and we believe that appearance is a driver for every design decision or every purchase decision where a person feels smart.

Andy Tribute:  So on the basis of that, in future I will be able to go, or anyone will be able to go on their phone, on their pad or whatever and buy something over the Internet, looking at it to assess the texture, they can assess the color and buy with a guarantee that, when the product’s delivered to them, it’s what they expect, in the same way as in the shop.  

Francis Lamy:  I think this is also a very important and interesting point that we haven't talked about yet.  But I think PantoneLIVE is a really post-PC infrastructure.  What we mean post-PC is that we are no longer addressing the consuming experience when you're sitting at a computer or on a desktop environment or on a laptop. 

What we are really addressing with PantoneLIVE is the connectivity to the mobile environment, because actually mobile, environment mobile displays, sensor enriched mobile displays, actually enables color and appearance to be consumed where actually customers need it.  For instance, if you buy a carpet, if you buy a tile, if you buy laminates, if you buy a countertop for your kitchen, it really is important that you can assess the varieties of substrates, the varieties of stones, of granite or whatever at the place you actually want to use it. 

So a mobile platform through the enriched sensors and cameras and gyroscopes today that they feature it actually enables to simulate materials by the way materials actually reflect back light, by the texture and by looking at the materials from different angles using the gyroscopes.  You actually can compute the rendering of materials on a tablet in real time.  

Andy Tribute:  On the base of that, my assessment from that is that, potentially, you have what could become the most valuable cloud-based database in terms of if your database owns all the information in terms of presentation, color, viewability, et cetera, that's incredibly valuable and it must make X-Rite a very, very key player in the cloud future.  

Francis Lamy:  I think about the technical vision, certainly.  I mean, what we are trying to address is really to try to substitute by current means the exchange of physical samples and this addresses, as you said, a very vast variety supply chain and not only graphic arts supply chain but and easily applied in every decision where tastes matter, be it in a buying decision for the consumer or an industrial design situation for a car manufacturer or for form design in appliance design.  

Andy Tribute:  Francis, thank you very much indeed.  I think the vision of that is phenomenal.  I’ve been privileged to work with you for years and years in terms of seeing your thoughts on this.  And I think this is brilliant and I’m just looking forward to seeing just where it goes in the future.  Thank you very much.  

Francis Lamy:  Thank you very much.  

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By Erik Nikkanen on Mar 06, 2012

I don't get it. I must be missing something.

To specify colour, why not just use Lab values?

Hopefully more details will come out on this system but it is hard to see the advantage now.


By Peter Mynsberghe on Mar 07, 2012

Lab is indeed sufficient to specify a color. But it is inadequate to specify a printed ink (or combination of)

Even with a clear definition, the designer's color might be out of gamut. So impossible to print on this press with that substrate. (or mobile device, according to this video)

As a result, brand owners sign in on an unrealistic design. Printed colors don't match the concept that was presented. And prints on different substrates don't even match each other.

PantoneLIVE overcomes this, everybody in the supply chain use the same ink/color definitions.

For a small offset printer with in-house repro this is not a revelation. For brand owners with global business, the advantage is obvious.


By Erik Nikkanen on Mar 07, 2012

One could specify, that the colour of a printed ink on a substrate, be some Lab value.

When working at a plastic food container supplier, inks were formulated in house to match Pantone on the printed substrate. It could have just as easily been formulated to match a Lab value. In some ways, it might have been easier since the Pantone guides had some variation from year to year and with time and with customer.

At this time, I do not see the issue about what the substrate is, as being relevant. The "printed" colour should be the specification target and of course not the ink, since transparent inks do not have a specific colour.

The real test will be to see how PantoneLIVE is accepted in the market place. The market knows best or at least it should. It will be interesting to see how things turn out. I am curious to find out.


By Andrew Tribute on Mar 09, 2012

I think the market has already spoken. At the launch of PantoneLIVE, Chesapeake, one of the largest folding carton manufacturers spoke of their adoption of PantoneLIVE. TetraPak has adopted it for worldwide use, Proctor and Gamble is about to use it, and Heinz is using it in the UK initially to ensure all its beans labels and packages are of the same color, and plan to use it for other products in the future. All have achieved major benefits and savings in terms of quality, cost and time to market.


By Erik Nikkanen on Mar 09, 2012

Andrew, thanks for the update on the market response.
A product just launched and then a claim of market acceptance in such a short time seems to be premature but hopefully is a good sign.
I will be interested in following how the long term acceptance works out.


By Dr. Francis Lamy on Mar 15, 2012

i think that it is worthwhile to re-expose a key concept of PantoneLIVE : the concept of “dependant standards”.

These represent the “basic” records of the PantoneLIVE database and consist of the association of a “root” color (its PMS+ name, or a brand color, e.g. “Coca Cola red”) and its “rendering” under various scenario- see more below on our approach and how and why it is different from the mere abstract (and idealized) color definition of Lab or other.

These ( Lab) tri-stimulus or even spectral color definitions are “intents” or said differently, designate targets that represents what a reflectance curve might look like…in an idealized, abstract world.

The PantoneLIVE approach is different is that it takes into account the “real world color” , in other words , it expresses what an “intent” is becoming when MEASURED on REAL MEDIA , substrates, printed by means of real inks thru a real printing process: all these concatenated define a so-called “printing scenario”, digitized by means of REAL (color measurement), controlled and standardized instrumentation.

PANTONELIVE defines and manages an associated STATISTICAL MODEL that quantifies and caps (bounds) all the fluctuations of these (substrates, inks, process, measurement devices) and maps and correlates the different, respective probability density functions of each of these fluctuations to enable to better predict the compounding yield of these fluctuations, compounding that corresponds to the traversal of the whole supply chain (from “abstract” to “real” color) so that the “effectively” observed fluctuations can be kept at a minimum.

This approach as well as the mathematical (statistical) foundation is fundamentally new and will enable a new degree of predictability across the supply chain –along with other sophisticated tools that have all the objective to decrease (and not to negate or ignore) the relative measurement and rendering errors (NetProfiler, XRGA, etc)

To that end, PANTONELIVE differentiates between

(1) the “abstract color “ (represented by its PANTONE NAME and/or by a brand color name),
(2) the effective color - the reflectance curve shone back from the media expressed as the spectral energy distribution.
(3) the measured color
(4) the perceived color

the a.m. various “colors” that correspond to the instantiation (or the rendering) under different “printing” scenarii are linked to the “root” PANTONE name and cohesively maintained and transported within the PantoneLIVE database and system architecture and exposed through a distributed DRM (digital rights management) at various nodes in the graphics arts supply chain by means of NOM (non – obtrusive –middleware) that consists of extensions, plug-ins and other add-on that coexist with leading desktop design and print control applications.

Currently, the PantoneLIVE database corresponds to the (around 1500 or so ) “root” PMS colors expressed under various “scenarios” and bespoke Brand colors, that yields to more than 250’000 discrete colors….
I hope this adds clarity to the understanding of what PantoneLIVE is and is NOT.


By Erik Nikkanen on Mar 16, 2012

Thank you Dr. Lamy for your description and background info on the PantoneLive technology. In some ways it helps me to understand what is being done but of course it can not be enough to appreciate the whole approach.

The description, if I have understood it correctly, brings up some issues that I think are problematic.

When you say that 1500 root colours can yield 250,000 discrete colours, that is a bit scary. That is a factor of about 166 to 1 and if this means that a root colour of say Coke red will result in 165 other colours of Coke red, that are not Coke red due to differences in substrate, printing processes etc. then what is the point.

If one has a data base created from mapping a root ink colour to other colours that are not the desired colour due to the processes etc, I can see that that might be a problem.

On the other hand, if one has a data base and picks out a desired colour say with the Lab values and then works back through the process, etc to an ink formulation, I can see that might be useful.

If I have misunderstood the concept, I am sorry. The benefits will be determined by the market. I tend to worry about complicated systems that might not always deliver what is promised and that are pushed onto groups that do not have the capability to comply.

Hopefully PantoneLive provides benefits that can be realized.


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