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THE UBIQUITOUS QUARK AND Photoshop programs might soon be making room on the shelf for another essential desktop tool that's not only faster, but can hum along on a mere 18 megs of RAM.

Live Picture Network software, which was intr oduced at the Seybold computer show in Boston in February, is being trumpeted as the first product that works over a Wide Area Network (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN), making remote editing and creation of documents, not to ment ion image viewing and proofing, possible. Founded in '93 and steered by president/ CEO John Sculley, the Soquel, Calif., company is winding up its first beta test with J. Walter Thompson/New York, and, according to agency productio n people, speed is just one of its attractive features.

It can also support prepress functions, allowing the agency to save a week in turnaround time usually spent with retouchers and engravers, says Brad Mintz, JWT's manager of el ectronic production services. LPN software enabled JWT to handle those services in-house. Final images are output and shipped over phone lines to color separators, who are linked with LPN software.

This is how it works: Images are scanned into what LPN calls its IVUE format on an agency's server, which stores the original image and then produces resolution-independent subimages, which require less memory and are faster to access. (Mintz says these files are as easy to grab as if they were on your hard drive.) Resolution independent means that you can access the image at its originally scanned resolution, rather than viewing a low-res proxy of the image, a process that slows up other d esktop programs, explains Sallie Mars, director of administration at JWT. "That's the nifty edge," Mars says.

When an art director modifies an image, tweaking the shadows on a model's dress, for example, the changes are stored as FITS (Functional Interpolation Transformation System) files and made on the server later. "It's usually done at night and it's on our desks in the morning," Mintz says.

High-resolution images can be manipulated in real time, rath er than waiting for lengthy delays usually associated with Photoshop. For software features only available in Photoshop, LPN files, which are designed to work with Quark and Photoshop, can easily be transferred between programs. (A Quark extension is coming out when LPN 1.0 ships in May.) When an image is ready for a proof or final output, it's sent over the system to a prepress vendor, who makes all changes to the IVUE file and then outputs the final CMYK image or a high-quality proof.

There's also a niche for clients in this digital labyrinth. In JWT's case, Kodak's linkup allowed the client to review ads remotely. Aside from the cumbersome task of networking LPN with all JWT's vendors, Mintz says he was impressed with LPN's performance, especially in converting from IVUE formats to the final color prints. One of the biggest attractions for Mintz, though, was the savings in printing. To bring all the printing i n-house, he says, "I was looking at prepress proposals on equipment that would cost upwards of $300,000," noting that the figure does not factor in hardware maintenance and upgrades. With LPN, after the initial software purchase and hardware installation costs, the agency would only have software upgrades to worry about.

Some of the initial glitches, according to Cheryl Snyder, LPN's VP-network solutions, were found when configuring the server to handle JW T's complex work flow. "There was a lot more involved in setting it up to meet their needs than we anticipated," she says. The LPN server software and site license cost $53,500. The stand-alone software, which can hook into the n etwork, is listed at $995, and retails for $500 to $600. "We've saved a lot of time and money for our client," Mars says. "Now we're looking to see how long it would take us to

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