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This is a long historical tangent not directly related to DNG for photographs, but it explains the Abobe agenda in the broader graphic arts and publishing market. Skip this one Peter, it will just get your knickers in a twist..
Back in the 80s when vector based DTP typography was conceived it was Adobe which created the Postscript standard. If you are unfamiliar with the term "vector" it describes the outline of letter shapes in fonts and other objects as 2D coordinates of points connection lines on screen or paper. Fonts and shapes can be scaled to any size by just taking that list of points (contained in a very small computer file) and applying a multiplier. The illusion of 3D shape can be created on the 2D output surface by turning a flat looking square consisting of four dot coordinates into parallelogram that looks 3D by just moving the the dots to different coordinates to create near/far perspective seen in person with 3D shapes. Curves are defined in vector graphics via the angle and length of "handles" at the points, which you'd seen in Photoshop if you've created paths with the pen tool.
Postscript [tm] was universally adopted via licensing in other products you now rarely see it used, but it is incorporated into every application you use.
Score 1 for Adobe.
A few years later Adobe introduced the Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF file is a container for text rendered with Postscript vector fonts, vector art created in applications like Illustrator and bit-mapped files like photos. The PDF coding controls the layouts on the page. It solved the problem of sending a Word document to someone who didn't have Word and made the concept of an electronic book possible. In a calculated marketing move Abobe gave away the reader for free, but charged several hundred dollars for the application needed to create a PDF.
Everyone downloaded the free reader and anyone producing content bought the creation application. I was managing publication production at USIA when PDF was introduced and we were an early adopter, using it to distribute our publications via the Internet starting in back in the mid-90s. Unlike HTML it allowed the end-user to print the file on a laser printer (using Postscript [tm] ) and take into the crapper to read in the days before tablets.
Score 2 for Adobe's master plan to rule the world of publishing.......
On a parallel tracks digital photography was starting to get traction and DTP systems started to replace pasting columns of type on boards with wax and photographing them with litho film and "stripping" then into layouts. Nearly everyone in professional graphic arts used Apple computers for this in the late 80s through the early 2000s because PCs simply couldn't do it. Before profile controlled color the Apple Sony trinitron based monitor set to a "paper white" 5000K white point and 1.8 gamma like the original B&W Mac SE was, for lack of a better one, was the color management standard between computer users. But a file edited in a Mac in 5000K / 1.8 Gamma looked too flat and off color on PC adjusted to a higher white point and gamma of 2.2. That fueled a lot of the early PC is better because files created on Macs suck arguments in the late 90s.
How did we calibrate visually back them? With a utility that came with Abobe Photoshop called Adobe Gamma [tm].
Apple incorporated "ColorSync" ICC profile based color management into the old OS back in 1992. Microsoft didn't incorporate profile based color in Windows until Windows98. After a mis-step in adding ICC based color to Photoshop, Abobe created a new editing gamut it called "AdobeRGB 1998" in Photoshop 4 which was larger than the "sRGB" used in the first implementation and different than the native monitor gamut. As others have pointed out to me AbobeRGB was based on an existing gamut used for HDTV but they didn't get it exactly correct and gave it a different name. The differences editing in AbobeRGB vs sRGB are seen when printing. Back in 1998 printing meant offset in a magazine not ink jet next to the computer and AbobeRGB was a better match of color to the SWOP offset printing standard. The 3D shape of the sRGB monitor gamut and SWOP inks both fit inside AdobeRGB. So everyone at the time adopted AdobeRGB.
Part of the AdobeRGB and sRGB standard are a white point of 6500K. What that means in practical terms is the monitor calibration to 6500K made more sense on a computer monitor than the status quo of 5000K in use on Radius ColorMatch Monitors, the high-end choice at the time. It also made sense to change the standard for room lighting from 5000K to D65 (6500K) so a print would be a closer perceptual match to a screen image.
The AdobeRGB standard plus third part calibration devices changed the entire paradigm of color management on the desktop and put Radius, the maker of the best selling high end monitors, out of business. Camera makers responded to AdobeRGB as a new editing / color management standard and the wider use of ink jets for final output by incorporating the option for AdobeRGB encoding to JPGs (before the introduction of RAW)
SCORE A HUGE SLAM DUNK # 3 for Adobe
The gamuts of ink jets expanded as printers evolved from 4 colors CYMK, to 6, 8, and even 12 color output. The gamuts soon exceeded the size of the AdobeRGB editing space and the larger ProPhotoRGB became the standard at the high end of the market. That one caught Abobe napping which is why we are using open source ProPhotoRGB not AbobeWide 2003, a wider editing gamut carrying the Adobe brand. But the masses unschooled in the finer points of color management still shot and edit in AdobeRGB so the brand name is getting out there with every shot taken and edited by millions.
RAW capture makes setting of color space on the camera irrelevant, except for how the playback JPGs look. RAW shooters apply the editing space, usually ProPhotoRGB in the RAW editor bypassing the subliminal marketing burning the ABOBE brand into their subconscious. That is if they don't use an Adobe product to view the RAW file.
The solution to that marketing dilemma? Propose a new ADOBE capture standard called DNG format to replace RAW. The advantage in universal adoption of DNG as a standard for ADOBE, besides the world domination aspect, is that they'd only need to incorporate on decoding schema into the products.
The idea for DNG was likely an afterthought at the point Adobe created ACR and made the "rosetta stone" decoding incorporated in to Photoshop a modular, stand alone application shared with Lightroom. So creating a DNG converter wasn't a lot of work.
Adobe's oversight with DNG was a lack of foresight as occurred when ProPhotoRGB became the de facto editing gamut for savvy photographers. Had Adobe proposed DNG back in the late 1990s as a standard before Nikon, Canon and Minolta had marketed different RAW encoding it might have gotten more traction. Adobe also made a marketing blunder because there is no brand association as with AdobeRGB 1998 (tm). They should have called it ADBE (the Adobe stock symbol) which is an anagram for:
Advancing Digital Branding on Everything
That boys and girls is the background behind DNG. It hasn't caught on because there's no compelling reason to use it. Like ProPhoto editing space Adobe's market timing was off.
So DNG is a draw for Abobe so far.
It could if it wanted to change PS and Lightroom so they would ONLY accept SOOC files in DNG format. That would put pressure on camera makers to add DNG as an alternative to RAW just as with AdobeRGB vs. sRGB with JPGs. But that would piss off the user base and tip the hand on their plan to dominate and monopolize the technical underpinnings of all aspects of publishing.
There's another long term Adobe agenda in the publishing market photographers are totally unaware of, and need not worry about except to be more knowledgable and well rounded technologists - artists shouldn't even still be reading this...
In the realm of magazine production Adobe also has been working since the introduction of PDF on a plan to make PDF the universal standard for workflow for publishing in print and for electronic distribution of files electronically which can be printed and look similar on any printer because the color management is managed at the printer, not embedded in the files.
Printers would have built-in profile creation. They'd print a test on whatever paper is being used then create a profile on the spot that allows the RGB photo files in the document to be adjusted. Printer / Press would mange color dynamically.
That differs from the established high-end publication workflow established and entrenched in the 90s and early 2000s, a market Heidelberg / Hell dominated. Those brands aren't even familiar to most but over my career in publication production I bought or leased over 20 million of dollars worth of scanners, imagesetters, plate makers and presses from them. That a market Adobe saw back in the mid-80s and wanted to have a piece of and control via licensing of the underlying technology like PDF.
With a Heidelberg equipment based workflow our magazines photos would be prepared as two files: high resolution pre-separated in Photoshop (or Heidelburg Software) into CYMK channels, and an RGB file "for position only (FPO), file the designer would used and scale when importing it into the QuarkXpress layout.
When the Quark file was sent for output on the Heidelburg 8-page imagesetter the "FPO" RGB files are replaced with the high-res CYMK image parked on the server, and resizes to the dimensions of the FPO jpg in the layout per the encoding in the layout and output with the Postsript [tm] based vector into the page images burned directly into the plate emulsion with the laser in the platemaker.
Adobe's agenda in that market is to make the CYMK offset plate burner like an ink jet, or skip the standalone platemaker and impose the image directly to the cylinder of a "digital" press. Like printing one copy on an ink jet (with a laser beam instead of ink) then using it like a rubber stamp to print a million more copies (which is how offset printing works).
Instead of needing to edit separate high res CYMK everything stays in RGB in a Adobe PDF [tm]file format all color management to match press ink and paper is done in the plate maker with ICC profiles as with an ink jet. Adobe calls it a PDF workflow and it has gotten traction in part because it created a DTP layout program "InDesign".
From the standpoint of running an offset operation the PDF workflow is far more economical and allows better control of color because it is managed at the final step before printing. With the older Heidelberg workflow the technician making the High-Res CYMK file stored on the server for incorporation with the plate must know what press / paper / ink it will be printed on to apply the correct color management profile. A photo printed on a sheetfed press would need a different profile than the same photo printed in the text on a web press and different ink/paper. So the tech would need to save two high-res versions.
In the PDF workflow the technician would just need to edit one file in ProPhotoRGB space and save it as RGB. At the press the pressman presses a [profile paper] button and feed a test image printed on paper loaded on the press into a slot in he console. A green light comes on over the [prepare press] button and the 8 page imposed form store in the memory for the press burns the color managed page images onto the press cylinders. A green light comes on over the [run press - print perfect color) button. The pressman presses it, sits down and only need to get up to put more paper in the press....
What holds back the implementation of a PDF workflow like that is mostly the investment printing companies have in the legacy equipment for imposition and platemaking (which cost millions and last about 10 years) and the fact the replacement consumables are more expensive. A laser imaged printing plate typically costs 3x more than a convention. If you use several hundred thousand a year as we did it's a consideration.
In our publishing operation we started switching to the PDF workflow around 2005 and in 2007-2010 leased about $15 million worth of new toner based and direct to digital presses.
Score #4 for Adobe because all the page layout for the Abobe PDF [tm] based workflow was done in Adobe InDesign [tm] with Abobe Photoshop [tm] and Adobe Illustrator [tm] with photos archived in DNG format.
You might have thought in the 80s > 200n that Microsoft was the "evil empire" or that Google and Facebook are today, but by the evidence it appears the Jedi-like mind control of the Force via product development and brand placement was with Adobe
Why should you care about the high end stuff? Wouldn't you like a printer where you could put any paper in it and send any file to in and not worry about profiles. Some high end printer already do this. The barrier preventing it trickling down is the cost of incorporating a photo-spectometer into the printer.
It would work like this:
Insert paper - press "profile" button on the printer.
Printer prints target (as it does now when any ink cart. is changed)
On output path sheet passes over photo-spectometer which creates custom profile for that paper.
Profile is stored on printer and sent to Photoshop which automatically shifts into "soft proofling mode" as displays the file with the new custom profile. The profile is not used to manage the file sent to the printer, just to simulate how it will change in appearance when printed. To make this understood a dialog would pop up automatically up saying...
"Profiling of the printer for the paper being used is complete. The image seen when closing this dialog is an approximate simulation (within the gamut of your monitor) of how the file will look when printed. Areas outside the gamut of the printer are shown in gray and will appear less saturated on the print in those areas than seen on screen. Press the button (view out of gamut) button below to toggle out of gamut warning off for comparison and (exit) to close this dialog box."
Then because "Let Printer Manage Color" is the default all you you'd is select "print" and get a perfectly color managed image.
What a copy on matte paper also? Just put the paper in the printer and press the [profile paper ] button on the printer...
That was the vision for ICC profile based color management when it was created. If you were around as I was in the industry in the mid-90s it was touted as the Holy Grail. The technology has been available to make printing of a single photo on your desktop or an entire book "push button" simple but it just isn't economical yet on an end user scale, mostly due to the cost of the photo-spectometer needed to create the bespoke profile on the printer.
That's what I'm holding out for before buying a new printer. I just hope I live long enough