When clients are used to traveling for press checks of color-sensitive documents, then a global pandemic severely hampers business travel, how do you continue to meet the needs of these clients? You create a brand-new proofing solution. At least, that’s what you do if you’re Continental Web Press.

Continental Web Press (CWP) serves some of the most successful brands, publishers, and agencies in the world. Its state-of-the-art web offset and digital presses are fitted with the most modern press equipment and print to certified G7 color standards. As CWP serves major print buyers with critical print projects, press check visits have always been a vital part of the process.

Enter COVID-19. To assure that color-critical projects would remain uncompromised, CWP worked with DALIM Software to create a virtual proofing solution like no other. Called the CWP Virtual Press OK, the solution uses a highly technical process to provide a quantitative assessment of the differences between the press proof and the virtual proof already approved by the client. No time lost due to mailed press sheets. No surprises.

The solution was seen as so critical to the ongoing success of CWP that Ken Field, founder of CWP, expedited the solution. “Anything to assist our clients and help CWP weather the pandemic is beneficial,” he says.

Do clients love it? Yes, they do. “As a rule, we would attend press runs to assure color was accurate, especially with crossovers, and particularly for important and sensitive advertisers like paint companies,” explains Michael Fielding, creative director, marketing solutions at Hearst, who oversees production of Food Network, Pioneer Woman, and HGTV magazines. “Of course, with COVID-19, we have had to be more careful about travel. With CWP’s virtual press proofs, we can use a sliding tool to successfully compare the color we have already approved against the printed piece. It is the next best thing to seeing the job on press, and the final product is amazing.”

The ability to create such a system is a 25-year collaboration in the making. In North America, CWP was one of the first to install DIALOGUE and MISTRAL, the forerunner to DALIM ES. CWP has also used DIALOGUE’s color management for more than 15 years. It has even placed color-accurate monitors on its presses, where press operators refer to the approved proofs to understand the customer’s expectations and what to match to during a print run.

The CWP Virtual Press OK has two primary components: a high-end scanner and DALIM ES with DIALOGUE as a color management tool and collaboration delivery system. First, CWP makes a virtual color proof, which the customer approves before going on press. Then it produces a second set of color proofs. Once the press gets to color, the operator pulls the printed press sheets and scans them into the system to compare to the virtual proof.

“One advantage we have is that we still own and operate a high-end scanner,” explains Ed Zepernick, CIO and CTO/EVP of Continental Web Press. “A $200 scanner will not work. You’ll lose the color space immediately.”

Next, operators use the DIALOGUE compare tool to show the original proof and press sheet side by side.“With a slider, inch by inch, the customer can see if there are any variations, color conflicts, or anything else,” Zepernick explains. “If the customer wishes, we will re-impose the job and show any press sheet crossovers to assure color quality throughout.”

Is this process replicable by other printers? It would be a tall order. Not only does it require a very high-end scanner, but it requires extreme diligence in all aspects of color control. “To assure accuracy, unlike some companies, we still calibrate our monitors every day,” observes Zepernick. “You have to be engaged during the entire color process and manage it, on-site with the presses. Other companies, unless they offer full prepress services and have a high-end scanner—a rarity now—really are not equipped do this.”

The benefits to CWP’s clients are incalculable—absolute certainty of the color accuracy of their proofs, along with thousands of dollars saved in travel. For Zepernick, there is another: he can conduct press checks at any hour of the day without having to leave his house.

The result? A growing client base. CWP estimates that it has already gained new business thanks to the new solution. “Not only did it satisfy the needs of existing clients and win new ones, but it also gave us the opportunity to secure business and show clients that we have many more capabilities under our roof,” adds Zepernick.

Will the CWP Virtual Press OK outlive the pandemic? It’s certainly possible. Concludes Zepernick, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”