Culture Comes to Life: A Behind the Scenes Look
I've always wondered what happens the moment layouts for culture leave the confines of my computer, on their way to becoming a glossy magazine. The journey started three months ago with a lot of brainstorming and planning. Today is press day and I'm about to learn how culture becomes a magazine in my "behind the scenes" press trip at Lane Press in Burlington, VT.
9:00 AM—I arrive at Lane with a cup of coffee in hand. "Red", the press manager, greets me in the lobby and ushers me to the customer lounge. The room is comfortable with a sofa, tv, stereo, and snacks to keep me going. I smile, seeing cheddar bunnies in the mix, which is a favorite snack of the culture crew during our gatherings. I've been instructed not to eat too much chocolate as Theresa, our customer service rep, tells the story of how another individual, in my situation, mistakenly used sweets to pass the time and settle her nerves...I think I'll manage to refrain.
10:00 AM—Red pops in with a "roll-up". A roll-up is the first printed sheet to emerge from press while the plate is still being inked. I'm looking at a roll-up of the first signature, which is a 16-page form of the magazine, on one single sheet. I review the signature for general color and consistency, making note of what adjustments need to be made. Red and I then take a trip through a series of closed doors onto the press room floor. The noise and smell of ink is a sensory overload. We weave through a maze of machinery and towering rolls of paper to make our way to the press culture is on. The first 16 pages of the magazine are running faster than my eyes can focus. From floor to ceiling they move through compartments, as the black, cyan, magenta, and yellow inks are applied in individual layers.
I move over to the boards where proofs of the pages, coming off the press, are stacked up. Together with the expert pressman, we review page by page and talk about ink levels. I'm amazed at how the pressman can target subtle changes of ink value to individual pages. We check and re-check pages to confirm our adjustments have been made and I keep a close watch on the "culture orange" which is used throughout the book. Once we've made all the adjustments they are locked-in and I take a pen and initial the proof we agree on.
11:00 AM—Returning back to the lounge, I wait for the next signature to be delivered. The day will continue with the same cycle of approximately one-hour and ten minute intervals. It takes about 40 minutes to print 50,000 copies of one signature and about 30 minutes to switch over to the next. There are 8 signatures of culture being printed today. If I do the math I'm pretty sure I'll be here well into the evening.
I've just been notified that our cover is about to start printing on a different press. The cover prints separately in a 4-page form and will meet the other pages at the bindery. On our Spring issue, we are using a 5th ink color. The color of the culture masthead will be a solid Pantone ink color that is applied separately before the other ink. This allows for a vibrant, bright color that will stay consistent throughout the entire run.
12:00 PM—The afternoon unfolds much like the morning. I revisit the press, checking for color and ink balance. On my way, I notice the steel plates that are being photo-etched with the layouts. The ink is later applied to the plates and transferred to the steady stream of paper.
Over the next 5 days, culture will continue its journey until it reaches newsstands and mailboxes across the country. Tomorrow the pages will be visiting the bindery and inserts will be applied. By early next week, the magazine will be put together and getting poly-bagged with a special insert. Come Wednesday, culture will finally be on its way to all who are eagerly awaiting the word on cheese.