Shiraz helps postgraduate artists create crowning work at Royal Academy

Shiraz Software supports Royal Academy Schools postgraduates with donation of RIP Server package to drive Epson digital print suite

Following the endowment of grant and equipment provided to the Royal Academy Schools by Epson in 2008, an expansive and versatile RIP system was required to take full advantage of the suite’s five high-quality wide-format printers. Shiraz Software stepped up to the mark by offering the prestigious establishment its RIP Server package, thereby giving students the benefit of continuous software development undertaken with fine art applications in mind, plus central server control for the Epson suite’s versatile printing machinery.

Barton Hargreaves is the Epson Print Research Fellow at the Royal Academy Schools, forming part of a team of art professionals who guide postgraduate students through their interdisciplinary education. The Epson suite is a vital part of their journey in print, and Hargreaves combines his own technical background in traditional and digital print methodologies with his experience as an artist to help students achieve the ambitious projects they present for their interim and graduation exhibitions. Only 17 postgraduates are accepted from some 800 applications every year and, for both them and Hargreaves, RIP Server is a vital portal to experimental and creative final pieces – as is the relationship with Shiraz Software itself.

“Students from the Royal Academy Schools run trials on non-typical media on a weekly basis, outputting to anything from fabrics to animal skins,” says Hargreaves. “My role is to help the postgraduates fulfil their endeavours, whether that’s using a standard photographic or display material that will be applied in an unusual way, or printing to a Financial Timessupplement. Shiraz RIP Server allows us to prototype, to explore, and to produce excellent photographic output for final pieces – all of which are possible on an exploratory course such as the Royal Academy Schools’.”

Recognising the value of the artistic and experimental angle in the research and development of digital print, Shiraz Software also helps Hargreaves and the Royal Academy Schools postgraduates by co-developing media profiles. “I’m in regular contact with the Shiraz Software team, producing profiles for non-standard or unpopular media, which gives our students a wider range for their research,” Hargreaves adds. “The remote management capability of the programme is also vital, meaning that a Shiraz expert can take over my machine if we are resolving a tricky situation together.”

Shiraz RIP Server demonstrates the company’s understanding of both industrial processes and artistic reproduction, incorporating as it does key aspects of each to offer a powerful yet versatile solution. “Whereas before we weren’t able to apply certain effects because either the computer or the printer couldn’t handle the file size, we now can within Shiraz RIP Server,” explains Hargreaves. “We can engineer complex processes, such as overprinting, without limitation, so our students can explore the whole capacity of the digital print process. For us, the software’s key benefit is its versatility.”

While Hargreaves is the only operator of RIP Server at present, students will in the future be able to investigate more of the software side of digital printing technology, helped in no small way by Shiraz’s accessibility. In the meantime, Hargreaves can exercise the control he requires to ensure that media costs are kept to a minimum with advanced tiling and nesting features, despite the experimental nature of his department. Because of his own understanding of print, he can also use the Focus module of the software – which can also be supplied to photographers and fine art users as a standalone application – to design his own templates, allowing even more advanced trials to find new and unusual print formats.

“We’re also learning a lot from our relationship with the Royal Academy Schools, and it’s also important for us to have innovative users who want to push the limits of what digital print can do,” comments Ramin Shahbazi, business development director of Shiraz Software. “Digital print as a discipline advances because of experimentation and invention, and we have always believed that our customer-first relationships with our users help us remain at the front of that trend. We’re delighted to be integral to such an investigative department and look forward to continuing our work with the Royal Academy Schools.”