FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Edited January 2009

Older reference file date

Q: The HCT web site says "Actual measurements are made as near as possible to the shipping date." but my brand-new HCT has a reference file dated several years ago. Did I receive an old target by mistake? How will this affect the quality of my profiles?

A: HCT targets are measured as near as possible to the date when they are shipped TO THE WHOLESALER, but we cannot control how long a target will sit in the wholesaler's inventory.
Recent tests on a selection of control targets that were NOT REFRIGERATED produced a PEAK (worst case) error after more than three years of LESS THAN 1.0 DELTA-E(ab) from the original reference file. This is well within the tolerances of a good spectrophotometer, and approximates the error produced by reading the same target twice on the same day.
Although these tests indicate a very long shelf life, unshipped HCT targets are still kept in refrigerated storage until they are shipped, just to be safe.

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Does my software support the HCT?

Q: I have (or am thinking of buying) software called (insert your software name here). Does it support the HCT target?

A: If you do not see the software listed here, it may support the HCT but we may not yet be aware of this.  Please ask the software manufacturer directly, and if it does, let us know and we will up-date the HCT web site accordingly (after testing the software).

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Grainy or noisy scans

Q: Upon enlarging the HCT target scan I notice a lot of grain in the patches. Should I attempt to smooth out the grain before creating the profile?

A: NO! Any grain you see is a normal product of film emulsions and/or the scanner, and is actually valuable in helping an 8-bit per channel scanner "see" more that the normal 256 tone levels. Good profiling software will integrate (average) the grainy pixels to produce an RGB value with better than 8 bit precision. If you try to smooth the HCT target scan (or even a live original) for example with a noise filter, you will actually be reducing the precision of the profile.

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MonacoPROFILER rejects the target scan

Q: MonacoPROFILER tells me there is a problem with the target scan and refuses to build a profile. I have scanned and cropped the HCT correctly. What's going on?

A: This was the result of a slight change in the target design. The problem has been solved in MonacoPROFILER 4.7. Earlier versions of Monaco software rejected any target scan whose gray scale RGB values were outside a certain tolerance. In the latest HCT design, some of the gray-scale patches have been altered to be slightly pastel-colored, which improves profile accuracy in near-neutrals, but this puts the patches over the RGB tolerance limit expected by MonacoPROFILER 4.6 and earlier.

The best solution is to upgrade to PROFILER 4.7 or later

If you cannot upgrade to MonacoPROFILER 4.7, the solution in Windows is to modify the "neutral ramp bumps error maximum:" value. On the macintosh you need to alter the "maximum initial Delta-E error maximum:" limitvalue.

You can get full instructions on how to do this from Monaco support, but here are some suggestions.

NOTE: These instructions MAY NOT BE ACCURATE, and may not work, or be necessary, as the software evolves.

In Windows;

Go to C:\ Program Files\ Monaco Systems\ MonacoPROFILER 4.6.1\ Preferences\ ScannerData.rtf

... and make a note of the NEUTRALRAMPBUMPS value.

Now modify the registry key;

HKEY_CURRENT_USER/ Software/ Monacosys/ MonacoProfiler/ ScanLimits/ NEUTRALRAMPBUMPS

... to be greater than the value found in ScannerData.rtf.

In Mac OS X;

Go to Library\ Application Support\ Monaco\ MonacoPROFILER\ Input Statistics

... and note the "maximum initial Delta-E:" value.

Now go to Library\ Application Support\ Monaco\ MonacoPROFILER\ Input Limits

... and increase the " maximum initial Delta-E error maximum:" value to 1.0 greater than reported in the statistics file.

If you still can't build a profile, contact Monaco Systems for help.

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Gray patches not neutral

Q: Some of the patches in the gray scale seem to have color in them. Won't that upset the balance of my profile?

A: No. So long as the reference file contains the actual CIELAB value of each patch, the software should make a good profile. In the latest HCT design, some of the patches that were originally 'gray' have slight pastel-color variations, which seems to improve profile accuracy in near-neutrals.

Dark 35mm profiles

Q: Why do all my 35mm slides look too dark? I followed the instructions exactly.

A: Relax. This is quite normal and no, it is seldom a failure of the target or even the profiling software. There are probably several factors at work.

First of all there is the problem of flare. If the darkest patch in the target produces lighter-than-normal RGB values due to optical flare from adjacent patches (very common in 35mm scanners), the resulting profile will add density to live images in which flare may be less active or nonexistent. An 'extended range' profile may solve density problems caused by flare but see 'Scanner flare' on the Instructions page for other suggestions.

Secondly, 35mm transparencies submitted for reproduction are usually selected under non-standard viewing conditions that make them appear lighter than they really are. So a scanner profile that works well for 4x5 or 8x10 inch transparencies will usually SEEM too dark when used on 35mm transparencies. In this case the simple solution is to make a modified profile just for 35mm scans with a built-in lightening edit. See 'Lightening dark 35mm profiles' on the Instructions page for more details.

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HCT profiles darker than IT8 profiles

Q: My HCT profile makes images look a little darker and 'flatter' (lower contrast) than my IT8 profile. How can that be an improvement?

A: This is a normal and intentional result of the HCT having a lighter white patch and darker black patch than a typical IT8. The HCT's extended density range creates a profile that accurately captures the very lightest and darkest tonal values that might ever be encountered in any original, but this of course means 'average' originals with less extreme end densities will start out looking a little flat. The problem disappears after setting highlight and shadow, for example with Photoshop’s Levels control.

IT8 profiles generate more apparent contrast with less editing because most IT8 transparent targets start out with a lower contrast (lighter black patch and darker white patch) than the HCT. While images will often look better with no edits using an IT8 profile, there is a real danger of losing extreme highlight detail in extremely light image areas (for example metallic reflections) or losing deep shadow detail in extremely high-density originals or under-exposed transparencies.

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Lost catch-light detail

Q: When I scan some 35mm chromes with burnt-out highlights, why do I lose the very lightest tones?

A: Although we work very hard to ensure the HCTís white patches represent the lowest possible D-min, some originals may have an even lighter D-min, which may not be recognized by some profiles. This may be caused by varying thickness or different plastics in the base. You can solve this by extending the highlight range of the HCT target scan prior to making the profile. See 'Extended-range profiles.'

Missing reference file

Q: Why doesn't the CD that came with my target contain my target's reference file?
What if Iíve lost the CD?

A: Your target was measured after the CD was produced.
Go here and download the file with the same number as your target. If itís a 35mm target, download the file whose two code numbers encompass yours, eg. 35mm target 6018 uses '6000-6028'.

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Software won't accept reference file

Q: My profiling software refuses to accept (or produces bad results with) the supplied reference file.

A: Some very early reference files had an error in the file format. Corrected files were uploaded on 08/29/01. Please download a new copy of your reference file.

Which reference file?

Q: The CD that came with my HCT contains many reference files. Some produce good results but some make awful profiles. Which one should I use?

A: Every HCT comes with a numbered sticker attached. The reference file with exactly the same number is the only correct file for your target. Some other reference files may happen to produce reasonable results while others will be very unacceptable. The reasonable results indicate targets from the same batch as yours. The unacceptable ones came from a different batch.

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35mm reference files

Q: Why can't I find a reference file with the same number as my 35mm target?

A: 35mm targets are produced in small batches of about 25 at a time, all cut from a single sheet of 8x10 inch film. Use the reference file whose two code numbers encompass yours, e.g. 35mm target number 6018 uses reference file number '6000-6028'

Really weird results in any software

Q: Why are my HCT profiles giving weird colors and/or a high error report?

A: Sounds like you cropped the target wrong in the profiling software. Nothing spoils a scanner profile quicker than incorrect cropping. Newer targets have little arrows pointing to the crop points.

Maybe you used the wrong reference file. Go back and create the profile again. Pay close attention to cropping and selecting the correct reference file. If that doesn’t solve the problem, check your scanner settings. Did they change between capturing the target and scanning live work?

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ColorBlind software problems in saturated colors

Q: I made a profile with ColorBlind Professional software but it seems inaccurate in saturated colors, and/or in extreme highlights or shadows. Is this a fault in my HCT or the reference file?

A: Neither. It’s a fault in the ColorBlind software. Whether you profile with the IT8 target or the HCT, ColorBlind scanner profiles often exhibit reversals or false color if presented with RGB values outside the range of the target scan. This can be shown by assigning the scanner profile in Photoshop to the RGBXPLORER test image available free at www.hutchcolor.com/ Images_and_targets.html/.

The problem can be reduced by lowering the ColorBlind quality setting from 4 to 3 or 2, but this will also reduce accuracy. For best results use another profiling software.

ColorBlind software problems in grays

Q: How can I reduce the gray balance error I’m getting with ColorBlind HCT profiles?

A: Switch off Gray Correction in the dialog just prior to saving the profile. To see the dialog box in versions prior to 4.0, hold down Control + Option before clicking Create.

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Patches with a checkerboard pattern

Q: Upon enlarging the HCT test scan to check for dust I noticed a faint pixelation pattern in some patches. Should I send the HCT back for replacement?

A: No, everything is normal. Some HCT patches may contain a low contrast checkerboard pattern, noticeable under magnification or in the test scan. This pattern is INTENTIONAL and in no way affects the target’s performance quality. Do NOT try to eliminate the pattern by blurring or cloning as that will reduce the quality of the profile.

Digital camera problems

Q: Why can’t I get a decent camera profile?

A: The most likely causes are reflections on the target surface, or uneven lighting. Take great care to light the target evenly and make sure there are no reflections on its surface. An easy way to test this is to place a mirror or piece of shiny black plastic in the exact position and orientation as the target. Look through the lens or make a capture of this ‘reflection tester’ and move it around till it shows no reflections, then replace it with the target.

If this doesn’t work you may be experiencing metamerism failure - a largely unavoidable problem in digital photography that stems from differences between the colorants in your subject and the dyes in the target, combined with camera filtration and lighting issues. Try profiling and shooting under tungsten illumination. It may be hot and slow but tungsten usually reduces metamerism problems.

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