Glyphs of Time :: a blog by jarvis grant

May 18, 2011

Technology vs. Marketing


The KODAK-Q-60-Color Standard

The other afternoon, I watched a webinar from a company I respect a lot, but won’t mention here. They have developed a new “technology” of color management. This technology is software based, and does a really amazing job of creating a complete and cohesive workflow of managing color from initial capture to final output. Now what I found interesting about this hour long webinar was it spent roughly 30-35 minutes marketing the product. It disguised or maybe cloaked this market hype in techno-babel. This techno-babel was used to give the audience “background” on the importance of color management. Okay. I guess?

My problem with the introduction was that, this technology was touted as a professional level tool. If that’s the case, then everybody tuning in knows that color management is. Right? OK, so after the intro, the software & its hardware components were explained, again. We were about 40 minutes into the webinar and the presenter ask moderator if there were any questions. The collective question was, What is the “best” or most practical way to operate the software and its hardware components? So, after 40 plus minutes of presentation the main question is, “How ya use the thing?” And why is that? Because the presenter used 35 minutes selling the damn thing!

This is my main concern with “Technology”. The company’s marketing department gets their hands on the concept and dumb it down to bullet points for PowerPoint presentations. Then they’ll express the concept’s innovation as price points. So, in the case of this webinar, the beauty of this software wasn’t made clear until the last 15 minutes of the presentation. And if not for the collective “What?” from the audience, it may have never come to light. As an educator for over 30 years, I believe the presenter could have been of better service to his audience by telling or teaching them why this equipment better serves their color management workflow. Yet this is the trend when speaking to photographers about anything “digital” or “high tech”. Toss them a bunch of tech-babel at a high enough price tag and they’ll bite. Why? Because if the concept is just barely comprehensible and cost enough it must be good. Thus placing one on the road to fame and fortune! Oh well.

I learned a long time ago that there’s a difference between technology and instrumentation. Technology is the concept or system behind an activity. Instrumentation is the tool for producing the results of that system. The technology of photography hasn’t changed much since 1840. The instrumentation and equipment on the other hand has. The aesthetics of photography and art in general are constantly in flux, yet the principles of design still hold true, for the most part.

So, what about the technology of color management and why one needs it? I think Andrew Rodney, gave a great example of it a few years ago at Photoshop World. He stated that color management is; “The ability to accurately and predictably control the reproduction of images from beginning to end of the imaging pipeline.” Color management is not, “Fixing bad color, especially bad originals.” The technology fixing incorrect color is Color Correction. Color management will ensure that “…even ugly color will be faithfully reproduced.”  So, the old adage still remains true, GIGO – Garbage In – Garbage Out.

So again, technology is a system or concept, not an instrument. I feel the presenter and the company could have explained their product without all the marketing hoopla.  If they would have done that the innovation of their product would have really shined. Here’s a very visual example of the technology of color management, and why you can’t trust your eyes alone to “manage” color. ©Edward H. Adelson