International Standard Provides a New Color Management System

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has announced the completion of the development of ISO 20677, Image technology colour management — Extensions to architecture, profile format, and data structure. The ISO Technical Committee 130, Joint Working Group 7 (TC130/JWG7) that developed this international standard works closely with the International Color Consortium (ICC) on standards focused on color management.

The Association for PRINT Technologies (APTech) administers TC130 JWG7 and coordinates the activities of the U.S.-based representatives that are members of this group. In addition, APTech acts as Secretariat for the ICC, the acknowledged leader in color management.

While the current architecture has worked well and meets most user requirements, new potential applications are emerging, and tomorrow’s color communication requires a more flexible and extensible system. ISO 20677 addresses these new requirements.

This international standard describes an expanded profile specification, with profile connections that permit greater flexibility and functionality. Central to the new architecture is a move from a fixed profile connection space based on D50 colorimetry, towards a much more flexible PCS definition, including support for any illuminant, any colorimetric observer and any number of PCS channels – enabling both spectral and multiplex PCS connections. Additionally, minimum structural and operational requirements for writing and reading ICC profiles are defined.

“ICC Color Management systems have been reliable work horses behind color reproduction systems in the graphic arts,” says Dr. Max Derhak, ICC Co-Chair, Chair of the ICC Architecture Working Group and Principal Color Scientist at Onyx Graphics. “As a color technologies developer, I realized long ago that there are limitations to what can be done with ICC color profiles. Therefore, I have endeavored to provide leadership in pioneering new approaches and technologies that have become part of iccMAX.”

Value added through using ISO 20677 within business process resides in functionality, connectivity, and computational efficiency. A wide range of functionality can be implemented through the much richer set of processing elements and connection spaces. The framework for implementation is provided license-free in an open-source reference implementation (RefIccMax), significantly reducing the cost of implementing the new transform functionality. The ability to convert between binary and XML representations of the profile, and to call text data files at profile creation time, also simplifies the profile-generation process. A further enhancement is the ability to provide run-time input to a transform using environment variables. Using these features, end users will be able to perform a range of tasks that were not previously possible without specialist or custom software.

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“Display technology has been evolved and emerging at a very fast pace during the last couple of years, and the trend will continue to go on,” says Chris Bai, Vice Chair of the ICC Display Working Group, and Senior Color Expert at BenQ Corporation. “OLED, Quantum Dots and Laser Displays are widely available now, but people also see all sorts of color issues due to the narrow bandwidth. Fortunately, with the publication of ISO 20677, as known as iccMAX, color technologists can now have a better way to tackle the color reproduction problem. As a professional display company, we are very glad to see its coming and we are willing to adopt the latest ISO Standard.”

ISO 20677 preserves the core ICC concept of a well-defined connection space for profiles, while simultaneously supporting connection to compatible iccMAX profiles using highly flexible connection spaces, and legacy v2 and v2 ICC profiles. Developers can focus their effort on the specific element of the workflow that adds value to their product, without the need to build a complete transform pipeline from original to preview and output. End users will see a more seamless connection between different elements of their workflow, especially where those elements require processing not supported in ICC v4.

The use of functionally encoded transforms carries a potential run-time computation cost, though the extended function set provides wider opportunities for optimization. Developers can choose which features to use; those that reduce profile size (e.g., lossless compression of elements, sparse matrices, transforms by reference, enabling local caching of selected transforms) and subsequent costs of network transmission and storage; or features that optimize computational efficiency.

Implementors can eliminate the need for large libraries of profiles and the problem of profile selection by providing a single profile for a range of conditions, which is configured at run-time. In addition to the greater flexibility, end users should see an overall reduction in computation time and communication bandwidth as software providers are able to match requirements more directly with a wider range of processing elements.

ISO 20677 is available for purchase from APTech and ISO member national organizations. For more information visit the Standards Workroom on the APTech website. An equivalent version is also available on the ICC website, www.color.org.

Contact Debbie Orf  dorf@aptech.org, Senior Director, ICC and Standards, for more information on the ICC and, especially, if you have an interest in participating in TC130 or the ICC.

About APTech

The Association for PRINT Technologies is a purpose-driven organization dedicated to supporting the entire commercial print value chain. We believe in helping our members maximize alignment with their value chain partners to be more effective and competitive. Printing has been vital to communication for decades; today, the digital culture has heightened our industry’s complexity and reframed its relevance. The Association’s signature event—PRINT®—answers the call by bringing the boldest and brightest innovators, influencers, and newest technology together to create connections that showcase and advance our industry. For complete information about the Association, its programs, and its member companies, visit: www.PRINTtechnologies.org.

About the ICC

The International Color Consortium was established in 1993 by eight industry vendors for the purpose of creating, promoting and encouraging the standardization and evolution of an open, vendor-neutral, cross-platform color management system architecture and components. The outcome of this co-operation was the development of the ICC profile specification.

The ICC is comprised of members from all key companies with color management products across the entire spectrum. From specification and measurement through to cameras, displays, print, and especially software.

ICC develops and maintains the international specifications for color management, and related resources. It has relationships with other international standards bodies including ISO, IEC and CIE that give it the primary role in color management. Its experts also participate in other standards bodies to ensure that international standards with a color management component are technically correct and appropriate from a scientific, commercial and user perspective. ICC color management meets the goal of creating, promoting and encouraging the standardization of an open, vendor-neutral, cross-platform color management system architecture and components.