producing documentary books

Producing Documentary Books: Submitting Mechanicals

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In this part of The Ultimate Guide to Producing Documentary Books, I’ll cover submitting mechanicals to the printer. When the book files are finalized and blessed by everyone involved, the designer (or the producer) will prepare PDFs within InDesign. Even though you’ll also send the printer the native InDesign files, the master PDFs will be used for post processing tasks including preflight checks, trapping, imposition and color separation.

As many as 5,000 people a day wait for a chance to gawk, shop and trade at Gold & Silver Pawn in Las Vegas. The family run business is portrayed in Pawn Stars, a History Channel reality show that first aired in July 2009. (Jain Lemos, Las Vegas, NV; 2014)
As many as 5,000 people a day wait for a chance to gawk, shop and trade at Gold & Silver Pawn in Las Vegas. The family run business is portrayed in Pawn Stars, a History Channel reality show that first aired in July 2009. (Jain Lemos, Las Vegas, NV; 2014.)

Before the submission, the printer will provide an ICC profile so that the output of your design files matches the printer’s specifications. Your PDF export settings must be compatible with their profiles and preserve various navigation elements such as the TOC and non-printing layers. While InDesign has several standard presets including one called High Quality Print, don’t assume these are the right presets. Each job needs to be customized based on the printer’s workflow. The printer will send either a preset file that can be uploaded into InDesign or provide step-by-step instructions for creating and loading a new preset particular to their plant.

Before bringing in any images to the layout the designer will convert the images to CMYK mode, not RGB. The resolution for each image has to be 300 dpi, and the representative size in the layout should not exceed 100%. I like to use TIFF formatting for all images. Any JPEG, EPS or PSD images are immediately converted to TIFFs. That’s because TIFF files are widely supported and import perfectly into InDesign. TIFFs also allow images to contain spot-color channels.

Image file exceptions are screen grabs and bitmap images. If your book has screen captures, leave the file at 72 dpi and you can bet the prepress department will flag it! But you really can’t improve a screen grab by increasing the resolution. Be sure to convert the file to CMYK, though. If you plan on having screen grabs, work with an expert to make them look the best they possibly can in print form. And get permission to reprint screen grabs as you would any other artwork.

Transferring the final files usually takes place via FTP and can take hours because the files can be 500MB or larger. In one recent project, I had two editions and there were eight separate PDFs, plus eight native file packages for each design:

  • MasterInteriorPagesALL
  • FrenchFoldJacketALL
  • CasewrapStandardEdition
  • CasewrapLimitedEdition
  • ClamshellLimitedEdition
  • VellumTipInLimitedEdition
  • InfoSheetLimitedEdition
  • MailingCartonLimitedEdition

Unless the printer provides another structure, I name the files by the author(s) last name. Using the title of the book in the filename is either too long or too general. For example: Author-MasterInteriorPagesALL-FINAL

In cases where the FINAL files are modified after submission (why does it happen?!) I rename the files using cx to denote correction versions of the FINAL file: Author-MasterInteriorPagesALL-FINAL-cx1

In a week or so, you’ll be receiving color proofs which require immediate turnaround. You will rarely see actual press proofs as the cost of starting a production run is costly. But with today’s technology, pre-press (or off-press) proofing is very reliable. There is a long list of check points for reviewing proofs. Study areas of registration and circle blemishes, flaws, broken letters and any other areas that need fixing. Look at whites, grays and blacks to make sure they are correct without any color cast. To gauge color balance, focus on colors you know need to be accurate such as blue skies, green grass and red tomatoes. Be sure everything else is applied properly and look at proofs in different lighting situations but make all corrections under one lighting profile.

If you will be Going on Press, the next topic in this series, you might be pulling an all-nighter or two. Until then, do you have a reality show idea? Head over to Scott Manville’s blog for some tips on creating and pitching reality TV shows and to find out why character is king.

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