DIGITAL LEADERS: Seta Corp.

As a producer of syndicated jewelry catalogs for the likes of J.C. Penney, Spiegel, Sears, and the Home Shopping Network, Seta Corp. needs to be able to repurpose photographs and modify layouts in a flash. Thanks to digital production, the Boca Raton, FL-based company can — saving money to boot.

Recently, for example, a client needed to change the merchandise featured in a catalog spread. The 8.5″ × 11″ spread used two full-bleed background photos of merchandise and eight product insets, displaying a total of 26 products. Seta had to replace 12 of the items from the original spread; nine of these appeared on the full-bleed backgrounds, and the other three appeared on insets.

If done in the traditional way of catalog layout, Seta would have had to shoot new background photos as well as new inset shots, explains Dennis Worth, vice president of marketing. “Now we can just take out the old items, put in new ones, and run the revised page,” he says, without having to lay out the entire page all over again. And because digital photography is key to this sort of shortcut, Seta switched to the method from conventional production in 1996.

COST AND TIME SAVINGS, DIGITAL VS. CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTION
CONVENTIONAL METHOD DIGITAL METHOD
Time Cost Time Cost
Revise layout 2 hours $100 2 hours $100
Shoot new product 8 hours $1,500 2 hours $375
Get film 2 days $125 not applicable
RGB to CMYK conversion:
Color separations
2 days $300 15 mins. $13
Retouch images 6 hours $300 1 hour $50
Load images,
place callouts
2 hours $100 1 hour $50
Create PDF/inkjet proof
Output film/matchprint
2 days $100 30 min. $10
TOTALS 8 days $2,525 1 day $598
SAVINGS 7 days $1,927
SETA’S PRODUCTION TIMELINE
1985 1986 1988 1994 1996 1999
Bought typesetting
computers
(savings of $9,120/year)
Began retouching
inhouse
(savings of $60,180/year)
Began building pages
with hires images
(savings of $211,680/year)
Began outputting film
and matchprints inhouse
(savings of $355,968/year)
Switched to digital
photography
(savings of $852,768/year)
Went completely
direct-to-plate
(savings of $1,585,140/year)
Note: Savings per year are cumulative

“We silhouette every piece of jewelry in our catalogs, shooting each piece individually,” Worth says. The images are captured through PhaseOne Lightphase single-shot cameras. “We’ve used Dicomed [scan back] and Leaf DCB II Live camera backs,” Worth says, “but prefer the PhaseOne Lightphase because it’s faster than the Dicomed and gives us larger, sharper images than the Leaf DCB II Live.”

Because digital cameras capture images in RGB (red/green/blue), while print images need to be CMYK (cyan/magenta/yellow/black), Seta uses ColorSync 3.0.2 and PressView software to create custom RGB- to-CMYK conversion tables.

Seta designers then use QuarkXPress and PhotoShop running on Macintosh G4/500Mhz computers to remove certain product shots from a layout and load in replacement shots. With a few keystrokes, designers can also easily substitute backgrounds. “If just a few background images are being replaced, we simply select the box containing the image, then hit ‘command e’ and select the replacement image,” Worth says. All retouching stations and both digital cameras use calibrated PressView monitors for proofing color images.

From $2,500 to less than $600

In all, the revision took just one day and cost less than $600. In the predigital days, Worth says, recomposing the spread would have taken eight days and cost more than $2,500.

Digital photography isn’t the only way Seta cuts production costs. In 1999, the company went completely direct-to-plate, which Worth estimates saves Seta more than $700,000 a year. Combined with savings realized during the years from switching to digital photography, outputting film and matchprints inhouse, and other production upgrades, Seta saves nearly $1.6 million a year in production, Worth says.

Seta does complete reshoots of its entire catalog three times a year. “In between these reshot catalogs,” Worth says, “we relay out pickup pages and introduce about 20% new product on these pages.”

Using digitally photographed product silhouettes also makes it unnecessary for Seta to rephotograph its products for its Website, www.palmbeachjewelry.com.

“We were able to easily apply our print catalog images on our Website because all items that we intend to run on our site are on white backgrounds with drop shadows,” Worth says. “Other companies either reshoot every product for their Website or just slice images from their catalog and place them onto their site, creating an odd assortment of backgrounds. And with the Web’s lack of sharpness, these sites have very busy images that make it difficult to distinguish the product from the background. We instead are able to have a uniform look to our pages.”

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