Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Mid-Week Update #21(b): Lebonfon Responds!

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read  on...

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Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.


Anonymous said...

Lebenfon is playing serious hardball.

Because apparently there are only two possibilities:

1) Pay for a finished job their way.
2) Pay for an unfinished job.

They are building an argument against Dave, namely, that it is, in their view, Dave's intransigent adherence to outdated technologies (FAX machines, zipatone) and a lack of technical know-how (his admissions here to that effect, Dave's repeated and failed modifications of the source files, the switch in quality of paper). They are placing the entire blame on Dave for each and every problem.

It's Dave's fault for submitting art that is not properly prepared for printing. The source material is Dave's problem. They print using modern technology, just like every other printer does. The problem is with Dave, who is out of step with modern technology.

This blog is not helping Dave either. Dave has admitted that he does not want to fix his FAX machine in this blog. He has admitted that he doesn't understand the problems with the printing. Dave has looked to an online debate between warring commenters to influence his printing approach (no offence guys).

Dave has also announced that he will not use a lawyer. I mean, it should be screamingly obvious that calling a lawyer does not equal a commitment to litigate. Obviously a lawyer can also help you negotiate or just give you some good advice. It was extremely unwise to not even call a lawyer.

Lebenfon is, without much doubt, setting up the groundwork for a lawsuit, or at least a serious threat of a lawsuit, if Dave doesn't agree to their terms.

They have talked to their lawyers, you can believe that.

So Dave, you SHOULD TALK TO YOUR LAWYER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I'm not saying start a lawsuit. The lawyer can help you avoid this.

- Reginald P, PART I

Anonymous said...

But if not (sigh):

Dave should at least keep in mind that it will cost Lebenfon a fortune in legal fees (they will hire an expensive lawyer) to get Dave to pay them. So, should they reach an impasse, he should negotiate to pay them some reduced rate. Do not pay what they ask because they at least share the blame. It is possible they are entirely to blame.

They are highly experienced professional printers. And professional printers deal with works printed on older technologies all the time. Lebenfon should have had the experience and technical know-how to have ascertained whether they could do the job and the limitations of that job from the beginning. They should have been able to give professional advice from the start as to the outcome of their work. They should have outlined those limits with Dave from the beginning.

I think you can potentially make a few arguments to reduce the price:

1) Whether you communicate using FAX is irrelevant to the printing job that they agreed to do.

2) Lebonfon has known from the beginning that your work used halftones that are from the source material. If this is the first time that they have told you that "the nature of the files you used cannot be corrected", then this is not your fault, it's theirs. If it is the first time that there is any record of them mentioning this, then this works against them. I mean, why did they go forward with this job if they knew from the beginning that the source material created an irresolvable problem?

3) They admit that their "proofs" don't match the printing. Again, I think that in combination with not mentioning that the job was, y'know, impossible from the beginning, if they also didn't take time out to mention, before they ever started, that the proofs would also not match the final print, then this seems, at best, awfully amateurish on their end, and at worst, a misleading attempt to get you to commit to a job that you would not have undertaken had you been informed.

- Reginald P, PART II

Anonymous said...

4) They argue that the Moire problems are created by digital manipulations on your end. However, I think that once they initially represent to you that they were able to do the job, and then they admit here that they cannot, it is a bit absurd to try to blame you for failing to fix a problem that, according to Lebenfon, cannot be fixed.

This goes back to the proofs as well. Because the "proofs" are inaccurate, Lebonfon has given you an inflated sense of the quality of job that they can produce for you. You have no ability to decide not to work with them from the beginning because they have no ability to show you the kind of job they can produce.

So, to me, this is an unprofessional mess on their end. You have warnings that were never given, a job that they never believed that they were capable of doing, and proofs that prevented you from knowing that you should have walked away.


- Reginald P.

Anonymous said...

I really can't add anything to Reg's post. Reg, good job.

I've had (VERY) limited experience with printing- I was learning about it just as the analog stuff was going out- but it freaking amazes me that (as Lebonfon says) a 'proof' is nowadays not an accurate representation of the final job. How is that even remotely possible? It's not like you're getting this shit printed up by Lulu or something (hell, they'd have probably been much easier to deal with).

Dave, I hope you kept the contact info for IDW's printers handy.

- Wes Smith

Sandeep Atwal said...

Since Lebonfon has admitted they cannot provide accurate proofs, the working relationship should be brought to an end as soon as possible. Take option 2) from Lebonfon and call IDW or someone else. Reginald's suggestions seem hyperbolic.

Anonymous said...

@ Sandeep

I have suggested making a telephone call to a lawyer to get advice -- Dave can probably do that for free. As I have said, I believe that talking to a lawyer can actually prevent conflict and confrontation.

I have suggested that if Dave walks away, he should negotiate a lower bill, as Lebonfon is at least partially responsible for Dave wasting his time and resources.

This is all perfectly reasonable and good sense advice. This is the kind of advice your uncle gives.


- Reginald P.

Eddie said...

Regarding Moire: "We can not create this phenomenon. Only a file modification can cause this."
I may be missing something here, but doesn't the fact that the 'Crisis on Infinite Pixels' post showed that the Moire problem increased or got worse between the proof copies and the printed copies prove that, actually, they ARE creating (or at the very least exacerbating) 'this phenomenon?'

Travis Pelkie said...

OK, if I'm understanding correctly what he's saying:

Lebonfon is saying that the files have been changed since the first try at ... proofs, I guess? And another go round was printed on different paper.

Because the files were given as finished and not treated by Lebonfon, all the dots that are printing will have the dot gain due to being part of the original image.

This doesn't show up in the "proofs" because the proofs are basically now just showing that yes, there are files received and this is approximately what they look like.

The moire came from scanning the original art.

Because High Society used different % tone on different images of the pages, the moire effect is more prevalent there, and needs to be fixed on a page by page/image by image basis.

So if I'm understanding correctly, here's the summation. The moire and any blurry printing come from the original page being scanned but not necessarily "tweaked" in such a way to keep the moire from occurring. Also, a different paper was used at one point, which introduces other issues to how the print will look. And the "proofs" are essentially meaningless because they are only an approximation of how the files look on a computer screen, not how the pages will print.

So it seems to me that at some point earlier in the process, Lebonfon didn't explain to Dave that what he would see in the "proof" stage wasn't what the final print would look like.

Which seems...odd, to say the least. "Oh, you want to know how the finished product ACTUALLY will look? Now you tell us!"

But let's consider -- it's possible (even probable) that if Dave scrapped everything with Lebonfon now and tried to start over at another printer, he'd get the same results, because they're saying that the files are to blame -- from their point of view, that's the only change occurring. Taking the same files to another printer may just result in the same problems.

Thought -- if Lebonfon is saying that the files sustained changes, do they (or you, Dave or George) have the "original" files still?

So while I'd want to go somewhere else myself, it appears at this point it may be just as fruitful to continue working with Lebonfon.

If they only wish to communicate by phone, might I suggest that either Dave records the conversations (as I assume that Dave's reluctance to negotiate over phone is due to not wanting to commit to something verbally and have it come out later on that "oh, no, I said xxx"), or that as soon as something is agreed upon over the phone, the LBF rep emails say, Tim here, and Dave faxes Tim as well, and Tim can post the two versions of what was said and agreed to, and create a written record of what is being agreed to.

Crazy oddball idea: is there a newspaper local to where Dave or George is that might be able to plate up and print a signature of 16 pages to see if there is something not working with the files as is? They'd obviously have newsprint, and could at least give an idea if it's the files or not. And I'm sure, particularly if it's a relatively small paper, they'd like having a commercial job of some sort ;) Probably couldn't handle printing the whole book, but I dunno. Just spitballin' something -- even if it's stupid, you can just tell me that, and if it's not, hey.

So overall, it seems still working with Lebonfon is going to be the easier solution -- perhaps someone there can make suggestions as to how to prepare the files to print the way Dave wants (perhaps they print other B&W comics?). But I think it's smart to press the point that the notion that the proofs don't (and can't) match the final printed product should have been pointed out earlier on and should be taken into consideration when negotiating how much Dave might still have to pay.

Another idea would be to ask IDW what printer they use and/or what issues crop up for them in printing tone.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Dave had ever considered this, and I know he wants to keep them as close to the original as he can, but has he considered touching up the scans my eliminating the tones? I know that things other than Cerebus use them, but would it be practical to bring them in say, Photoshop or something and go in between the tone and make the object a solid gray? With a transparent overlay like that, the ink under it would still show through, as would the detail underneath the original tone.

Cerebus TV said...

The recurring broken fax situation is a very frustrating one that every one of the CerebusTV team experienced as well... unfortunately it is not that fax technology is bad but that the Bell Canada telephone wiring into the Off White House is ancient - causing line problems.

We don't use actual fax, but fax to email gateways, and email to fax
gateways, which might work for Dave, too.

M Kitchen said...

For those dealing with doing the digital work on these Cerebus pages: One thing I've discovered while working on my own comic project is that if you do a hundred percent high contrast on dots that are at an off angle (as you often get with letratone dots) you'll start seeing moire patterns.

My work-around, that has worked with my books printed by Lebonfon, has been to NOT do a high contrast on any "off" dot patterns, gradients, etc.

This has given me much better results on SPY GUY.

George Peter Gatsis said...


A brief recap of my experience with Lebonfon.

1) the original plan was for Lebonfon to do all the scans for High Society Digital... that didn't turn out well at all. So I suggested that Dave get his own scanner and do his own scans, by way of Sandeep.

2) When it came time to package up Volume 1 and 2 for print... I suggested to Dave to clean up and remaster them... He approved and I asked Lebonfon for accurate proofs and several stages of approval to make sure everything is done properly... that didn't go well, when we got unbound printed copies, which didn't reflect what was on the proofs.

3) lots of time pass and I took the step to go to Kinko's and do hirez proofs for myself... and THAT went VERY WELL... I quickly discovered that the files had to be printed at the optimum resolution of the printer... otherwise you get crap.

4) I inform Dave with mailing him evidence of what happens when you print out NOT OPTIMIZED and what happens when it's OPTIMIZED... which means you have to actually change your settings from the default setting.

5) I inform Lebonfon on what I discovered and asked them to print out at the optimum setting of 600 dpi.

6) Lebonfon says they only have a 300 dpi proofing method.

7) Dave suggests ( in his dry humor ) for Lebonfon to go and do their accurate proofs at Kinkos.

8) After which, Lebonfon informs us that not only do they have accurate proofing methods... THE HAVE 3 OF THEM!!!

9) Big question that is never properly answered is... Why didn't Lebonfon offer this in the first place?

10) I ask for a cost for the 3 different accurate methods.

11) Time passes, no progress.

12) I send a strongly worded email to Lebonfon ( specifically Patrick ) that what they are doing is not customer service, it is customer contempt. Dave approved the email before I sent it.

13) We get the price list.

14) I finally was able to adjust the remaining problem pages through their accurate proofing.

15) And I approve for Lebonfon to go to the next stage.

16) We wait some more.

17) Lot's of talking on AMOC, all of which boils down to people suggesting how about you do this or that... and I repeatedly saying been there done that... You see at this point we are months pass the the point ALL THE PAGES have been approved for printing.

18) Finally a letter from Lebonfon.

19) My opinion of the letter is the same as the correspondence with Lebonfon prior to it... NOT GOOD! Lebonfon has not acknowledged that IF THEY PROVIDED US ACCURATE PROOFS, I would have been able to adjust the pages accordingly and we would never had all this time and energy wasted, with nothing to show so far.

20) And... this letter from Lebonfon is pretty much pointless, because Lebonfon presented 3 different accurate proofing methods to Dave and I, LONG AFTER THE SHIP HAD LEFT HARBOR and we had gone to press with inaccurate proofs... BUT, these methods come with an extra cost.

21) Another opinion regarding the different paper... Printer's by trade have control of the amount of ink that falls on the plates and how much pressure the plates make contact with the sheets of paper... so different paper is controllable.

22) Out of the 1000 plus pages... approximately 100 pages had a problem... and these pages were proofed by the inaccurate proofing method.

23) Then after Lebonfon's accurate proofing method was used... the problem pages wittled down to 50, then 24, 12, 1 and FINALLY all pages were ready for printing.

24) Since I suspect that Lebonfon has consulted their lawyer(s) to write the letter here, which talks about facts of process, and not about the customer service I have experienced... I started my post with "WITHOUT PREJUDICE."

25) And a few more things... Lebonfon has all the files ready for printing. I am very busy producing a feature film. My communication will be less than Dave on a island that has no internet. :)


George Peter Gatsis
The Black Diamond Effect Inc.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

This whole letter is clearly a signal that Lebonfon has determined they don't want your business, and that they might need legal assistance in extracting full payment from you for your services so far.

I would strongly suggest you go with another printer, and begin the process of negotiating down some of the fees for these problem printings, which have been exacerbated by their obvious disinterest and neglect of this particular printing job. See Eddie's example last week of their handling of a similar matter for another cartoonist.

As for the files, I am ready and willing to do the remaining pre-press for them as soon as you give the go-ahead and George sends me files, and you've flagged pages for any special attention. Very glad to see your post on Years Have Pants this week, and glad you're seeing proof that digital printing can yield great results even with older source material.

The CD/remaster analogy from earlier this week is very apropo. Early CDs sounded so terrible not because the CD medium itself is terrible--they sounded terrible because of poor analog to digital conversion, combined with people not being careful in the way they treated (or even reworked or remixed) their masters. So you have an entire generation of sensitive listeners who wonder what's wrong with the medium, when the real problem is how the medium was being used and abused. Take a listen to the recent Beatles reissues--they sound amazing, much better than their vinyl counterparts. As opposed to the early CDs.

George Peter Gatsis said...

to SMR...

There is no remaining pre-press work.

Point #17 and #25... all the files are at Lebonfon, ready for printing.


Jeff Seiler said...

Just my two cents' worth: I completely and wholeheartedly agree with Reginald P. and did so from the beginning. Given your track record with Wilf, Dave, I think that at the very least he would and could give you advice about this after you lay out the facts and ESPECIALLY if you show him the recent letter from Lebonfon's president. I seriously doubt Wilf would steer you wrong and would give his professional advice for free or at a reasonably low price. Forewarned is forearmed, right? I think it is also ludicrous, Dave, that the letter includes a thinly veiled threat to sue you for payment, given what I can only assume is a spotless record with paying them over the years, as I assume (based on your decades of spotless professionalism) that you would treat any outstanding costs of the failed venture (if that is the case) as you would any other debt. I think that actually should go without saying about someone of your ethical standards, Dave. I am actually offended on your part for you, Dave, that they would see fit to even include such phrasings at this point.