Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Moving Ahead on the Drive-in Theater Book

We're going full speed ahead again to prepare for fundraising and production on the book version of my 15+ year project photographing drive-in theaters across the country. The design is essentially finished (though "detailing" will be a lot of work) and I've done a completely revised introductory text reflecting important changes that have affected the theater business in the past several years.

A tight estimate for production cost at the printing firm we select is needed before I can design the Kickstarter campaign. So the book design and specs have to be complete enough for accurate estimates. While working on the specs request, I'm also learning the Photoshop Duotone Mode. We'll do the book in tritone or quadtone (not CMYK monochrome) to have the most control over the look of the photographs. To make these, you need to take a file down to 8-bit grayscale, then open a Duotone dialog box. There you specify Pantone inks in addition to black, and you have Curve controls for each ink. There are dozens and dozens of canned duo, tri, and quad-tone choices provided by Adobe, which range from bland to hideous. But by studying the curves in the canned profiles you can get a feel for how the system works (backwards—because it's grayscale the curve top and bottom are reversed from what I'm used to in rgb). One tritone ink set that has nice color offers variations for soft, normal, and contrasty negatives. All three look bad, but the key information is that the variations are done by changing only the curve of the K printer. Compare the mushy "normal" K curve to the harsh chalk and soot treatment meant for a soft original, and you can begin to shape an intermediate curve that gives a good looking "print."

I've been using the preview feature and output to an Epson printer under CMS to get "duotone" proofs that begin to have the look of a direct print made from either my Epson or HP printers.


Scott Kirkpatrick said...

Glad to hear this is moving ahead. Will the book combine your color and your black and white work? What are the design and production issues of having both (if you do that)?


Carl Weese said...

Scott, I'm not going to mix color and b&w in the book. I want the book to be a big (thick, lots of plates) project based on my original theme of seeing theaters in all the characteristic regional landscapes across the country. Each theater is unique, no standard designs, the opposite of fast food chains or big box stores. But the common elements of a big white screen, the sculpted field, and other buildings buildings allow a variation and theme approach to viewing them in dramatically different landscape settings.

It will have a brief introduction with a quick overview of DI history, partly because a lot of what people think they know about drive-ins, isn't so. Just set the stage and then let the pictures play. Also an appendix at the back with a quick note on what is known about each theater that appears in the book—especially whether it is still operational.

I have a vast amount of interview material, not to mention color photographs, that I want to work up into a different presentation, quite possibly an ebook approach.

On the technical side, combining color and b&w would mean using CMYK-monochrome, which can look great when it works but can easily mess up, or a complex production combining CMYK and tritone or quadtone signatures. I don't want the mix on a purely aesthetic basis, so I don't have to worry about that part...