Profile Mechanic review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: 135 . 140

  • Pros: An easy-to-use and efficient program for calibrating your workflow. Profile Mechanic is simple to set up, good value for money, and reliable.

  • Cons: Multiple monitors are only supported on the Mac – Windows users can only colour-manage one monitor. You’ll have to buy a separate colour target for the scanner version.

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Profile Mechanic consists of two independent programs, sold separately. Profile Mechanic Monitor can calibrate and write ICC correction profiles for CRT and LCD monitors. It provides a small USB colorimeter sensor with interchangeable supports for both types of monitor. Profile Mechanic Scanner creates correction profiles for any flatbed or transparency scanner, as well as digital cameras.

The manufacturer, Digital Light & Color, only sells directly through its Web site, with no UK distributor. Shipping from the US adds at least £28 to the price, but costs are still reasonable compared with rival systems sold in the UK.

The Monitor program works much the same way as its many rivals. When you launch the program it temporarily disables any existing profiles, and then takes you through a series of on-screen actions to select the colour temperature and target Gamma (1.8 or 2.2 are the Mac and PC standards).

First, you calibrate the sensor against its supplied ‘dark current’ reference holder, and then attach it to the monitor. The program runs through tests for the overall luminance and colour balance – it displays the results so you can reset the monitor controls if they are out of acceptable range.

Next it runs through a series of colour and grey patch readings, and uses the result to calculate a colour-look up table for your monitor, which is written into an ICC profile. This profile is automatically selected as the default for your system.

After the measurement run is complete, the software displays a CIE chart with a central triangle showing how closely the red, green, and blue responses conform to the ideal values. You can switch to a graphical display that shows the same data for curves. A text report can be saved with all the values and corrections as numerical values. If it’s obvious that the calibrator is having to put big corrections into its colour lookup table then it could be an indication that your monitor is past its best.

The Windows version installs a small application called CLUT Loader that launches on start-up. The Mac version profile loads its CLUT invisibly.

Multiple monitors are supported for Macs. The Windows version can only support one monitor – you can run more than one, but only one is colour-managed. Windows 95 and NT aren’t supported at all.

That’s all there is to using the Monitor profiler – you should repeat the process every few weeks for CRTs, or every month or two for LCDs.

The Scanner program is also easy to use, with more or less the same user interface. You just scan a colour target image, then import the scanned file into Profile Mechanic Scanner. The target is supplied with a reference file that defines the original colours, so you load this too. Profile Mechanic compares the original values with the scanned values, and writes a correction profile that you can name with the scanner type and date. Next time you use the scanner, you should embed that profile with the scanned files.

Advanced theory

If you know a bit about profile theory, Profile Mechanic supplies an advanced options menu too, where you can alter the parameters for regression, target contrast, and Gamma curve smoothing.

Digital camera calibration works the same way, except you need more care at the shooting stage. However, unless you shoot in a studio with constant lighting, there’s little point in profiling a digital camera anyway. You need a matt-surfaced target to minimize reflections, and the target should occupy around 1,000 to 2,000 pixels within the shot. You don’t have to shoot it exactly head-on, as the Profile Mechanic marquee can be distorted to fit the shape.

The Scanner program doesn’t include reflection or film targets. It works with IT8, HCT or GretagMacbeth targets. Some scanners are supplied with these, but if you need to buy your own, Digital Light & Color sells IT8s for reflection,
film and camera at very good prices compared with some UK suppliers we’ve seen. A flatbed-only IT8 reflection target is £12 (compared with £85 in UK), a pack of 35mm transparency film targets plus flatbed is £46 (£135 in UK), and a camera-only target is £23 (£85 in UK). Individual shipping costs will add to the cost, so make sure you order your targets at the same time as the main program.

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