SilverFast DC Pro Studio 6.5: ColorServer Hot Folder Speeds Up Image Processing
Wouldn't it be nice if you could just drop your Camera RAW digital photographs in a folder, start an application and have your RAW files automatically converted and adjusted to whatever format and adjustment parameter you want? Yes, it would. SilverFast DC Pro Studio does that with its new ColorServer feature. ColorServer is workflow automation for RAW photographers.
Workflow automation with SilverFast DC Pro Studio ColorServer is quite easy to set up: the first thing you'll do is set up some frame options, perhaps with image corrections saved as well. Then you will set your preferences and save those in a settings file as well. The next step is to click the ColorServer icon. What happens then, is that the ColorServer interface is opened for you. You'll set up folders to drop files into and have them processed automatically.
Through the saved frame settings, you can now enable ColorServer to apply specific corrections to the images, and through the saved preferences, the settings that you apply in general to all of your photos. ColorServer has built-in archiving capability, which is simply another folder where you will save a copy of your processed and original files. An error folder completes the picture.
Unique about the ColorServer concept is that you can save not only to JPEG and TIFF, but also to JPEG 2000, both losless and lossy. JPEG 2000 allows you to save photographs in High Dynamic Range format, with 48-bit data intact.
ColorServer is part of SilverFast DC Pro Studio. I reviewed DC Pro earlier and was not particularly enthusiastic about it, because I reviewed it back then from the point of view of a pure Camera RAW solution. However, while using ColorServer, I realised DC Pro is actually a lot more than just a Camera RAW solution. Its user interface may look a bit dated, but when you consider the capabilities of SilverFast DC Pro in the area of processing images - both positive and negative - from scanners as well as from cameras, the unified SilverFast interface suddenly becomes much more logical.
Experiences with ColorServer
In fact, while I still think the whole SilverFast range of products could do with a "blitzier" interface, it makes a lot of sense to not change what users expect in a sudden urge to become "fancy" - as most Mac users will agree, this is what made working with Apple's applications such an adventure not long ago. The question, though, is whether you experience that adventure as a positive or a negative one. When you're working in a production environment, a sudden change in user interface may disrupt your workflow considerably. People need to be trained again, etc, etc.
So, while the interface may look a bit dated, it makes sense to leave it as it is, at least for some time to come.
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SilverFast DC Pro Studio comes with a Virtual Light Table. You won't find the ColorServer icon there, as the VLT only serves to show you image files that are already on your disk. The ColorServer icon is available only from the toolbar in the SilverFast main window. Except for my initial - and now rectified - criticism of the interface, I do have one point of critique with regards to the VLT. LaserSoft Imaging's developers should ensure Mac-like navigation through the folder structure.
As it is now, the folder structure is a one-on-one copy of the Windows structure, with the Desktop at the top, and the disks sitting right below the Desktop instead of below the "Computer" element. ColorServer is touted as a solution for workgroups, and so I tested it in a very small workgroup environment.
Is ColorServer Suitable For Workgroups?
This environment was made up of 3 computers, with a Mac OS X Server computer at the centre, and 2 clients. The Server computer was set up to serve applications, web services, WebDAV services and everything else a common workgroup admin might allow.
With full-scale workflow automation tools such as Gradual Software's FullSWITCH or PowerSWITCH products, there is a server component and a client component which communicate with each other, so that the admin does not need to set up shared folders, or allow clients to mount disks that are connected to the server station. The disadvantage of this concept is that you always have a server component and a client component. The benefit is robustness: as you don't have a disk mounted on a remote station, there's no risk of users overwriting each other's files and work.
ColorServer works without server component. In fact, it is a hot folder concept, where the folder lives on your file system or on a mounted disk's file system from a remote computer. There's no check-in check-out functionality built-in. ColorServer therefore is efficient only when the workgroup members can communicate with each other physically.
Having said that, ColorServer does well what it is supposed to do. As soon as you drop files into it, the application starts working and processes them according to your preset instructions. When the workgroup is small enough, you can have your folder sitting on a mounted disk, but once your workgroup exceeds 5 people, this is no longer feasible.
So, who is the target group of ColorServer then? In my opinion, if you have a photo studio or a a small ad firm, or you are an individual image consultant, you will find ColorServer a very useful new feature that makes you work more efficiently and much faster. Especially its automated HDR capabilities are a worthwhile feature.
An additional plus that speaks in favour of SilverFast DC Pro and ColorServer is that you can activate the optional PhotoProof. PhotoProof enables a user to immediately see a CMYK simulation of the image by means of RGB softproofing on a calibrated monitor.
Photographers are thus capable of creating a colour accurate contract proof on any suitable, calibrated output device by using another feature in SilverFast DC Pro: the PrinTao print dialogue. All you have to do is select the ICC- profile for the printer and the FOGRA media wedge to be embedded. Embedding this media wedge is necessary to have a reference for a true-to-color proof.
By using SilverFast PhotoProof, the image data does not need to be converted to CMYK.