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A process camera is a specialised form of camera used for the reproduction of graphic material. Before the advent of color scanners, color process work was undertaken by the process camera, by a skilled operator. This was achieved by using various filters to produce a set of 4 film separations, cyan, magenta, yellow and Black (CMYK), this in turn was usually color corrected by another tradesman called a color retoucher (this was the era before photoshop). After the introduction of color scanners in the 1970s, the process camera was gradually only used for monochrome line-work or less often monochrome tone-work. The original artwork was photographed and the negatives produced were eventually used to production of printing plates.
This task was completed by another skilled tradesman called a 'film make-up planner'. Who would use a contact frame to photograph the various film layers they had created containing masked tints, text in film form and the separations produced by the process camera or color scanner. The final film sets would be used to produce printing plates, this job was done by a process called Stripping (printing) in a vacuum frame (the printing plate having a U.V-sensitive coating) and exposed to U.V. See offset lithography, process screen printing, Photozincography and Heliozincography for more information on this process.
Producing printing plates via photographic methods was pioneered by Ordnance Survey in around 1893. This process lasted around 100 years before digital technology made it become obsolete very quickly.
Process cameras were still widely in use until the late 1980s and early 1990s. By that time, a combination of digital camera, desktop publishing, and finally computer-to-plate technologies became economically viable and had significant advantages over the analogue process cameras. There was a reduced need for staff to operate the cameras and produce final film and this also meant that the chemicals and film and subsequent expense required for traditional methods were no longer necessary. In some industries, large production areas were replaced by one relatively compact machine — this also having a significant impact on the buildings used for graphic reproduction. As a result, the process camera has become obsolete and very few remain in use. However, some of camera operators and film planners (Strippers) moved over to the new technology of DTP and CTP, fundamentally doing the same job but using different tools!
- Jim Stone (16 October 2015). A User's Guide to the View Camera: Third Edition. CRC Press. pp. 108–. ISBN 978-1-317-42269-3.
- Harold C. Durbin (1 January 1994). Process Camera Comparison Charts, 1994-May. Durbin Associates. ISBN 978-0-936786-03-2.
- The Design and Construction of a Vertical Process Camera for Line and Halftone Photography. California State College. 1973.
- Michael Rizzo (18 July 2013). The Art Direction Handbook for Film. Taylor & Francis. pp. 95–. ISBN 978-1-136-06870-6.
- Multistate Academic and Vocational Curriculum Consortium (1999). Graphic Arts: Process Camera, Stripping, and Platemaking. The Consortium.