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Standards and Imaging Materials - Importance of Standards, Specifications, Test methods, American National Standards Institute, The Institute’s role, The Institute’s governance

ansi iso technical international

Rochester Institute of Technology

Importance of Standards

In today’s complex society, all industries and technologies must have a code of written and approved standards and specifications. It is absolutely essential if the products of this technology are to be widely used and if they are to make productive contributions. Such standards are required not only on the national level, but with the importance of world trade, they are equally important on the international level.

In the field of photography and imaging, standards take several forms as described in the following sections.


The interchange of photographic materials and equipment is the most obvious benefit to the general consumer of photographic materials. The problems resulting from an incompatibility in a media-equipment system were all too apparent with the 1980s Beta-VHS incompatibility in videocassette recording. This caused tremendous financial loss and inconvenience to the consumer, the retailer, and the manufacturer. The issue was finally resolved in the marketplace after these losses occurred, but they would have been avoided if industry standards had been written and adhered to.

As evidenced in the videocassette recording example, every photographic and imaging application requires functioning of media in various types of equipment, and their respective dimensional tolerances must be specified. For example, 35-mm motion-picture negative film manufactured by one company must be capable of being exposed to positives manufactured by another company on printers made by a third party. In digital imaging this is especially important, because there are continual changes in formats and systems. Standards are required for image manipulation and interchange.

Specifications for the sizes and dimensional tolerances of imaging media exist for all the major uses. However, in addition to sizes, format is also critical. Examples are the location and width of soundtracks in motion picture films, the positioning of images in microfilm, and the pertinent software considerations in CD/DVD players. Fortunately, the imaging industry has a good track record in avoiding incompatibility problems through standardization.

The dimensional tolerances and formats referred to above are one form of product specification. Media or equipment also must satisfy minimum performance requirements if they are to meet specific standards. Such specifications deal with product behavior under defined conditions, or passing requirements of physical or chemical tests. Examples are specifications for scale markings for photographic lenses, color encodings for digital image storage, and drop-outs and errors rates in digital recording.

Test methods

Many specifications include minimum requirements when materials are subjected to detailed and specific test procedures. Examples are specifications for color characterization of digital still cameras and methods to determine the effects of light and atmospheric pollution on the stability of digital color images.

  1. Recommended Procedures and Standard Practices. A third category of imaging standards includes the recommended procedures for proper performance or behavior, such as maintaining the proper storage conditions for photographic film, prints, plates, magnetic tape, and optical discs. Documents have also been written on the care and handling of tape and discs. These types of standards are very useful because they provide the user with the latest technical information, which has been digested and approved by experts in the field. The user thereby is freed from the necessity of keeping current with the technical literature and deciding which recommendations to follow when they conflict.
  2. Nomenclature and Definitions. It is essential that terminology used within a technology be consistent and clear, and that it does not conflict with terminology used within or outside the particular industry. One example is the glossary of terms used to rate permanence of imaging materials and the definitions standardized in information management.

American National Standards Institute

The Institute’s role

With the vast number of standardizing bodies in the United States, it was recognized early in the previous century that a coordinating body was needed. Accordingly, in 1918, a national organization was formed called the American Engineering Standards Committee. Subsequently, the name was changed to the American Standards Institute (USASI), and, finally, in 1970, to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Several salient points should be noted about ANSI:

  1. ANSI is the umbrella organization in the United States. It has the sole authority to designate a document as a national standard.
  2. ANSI has established specific procedures for input from interested organizations and individuals, openness of discussion, the balloting process, and requirements that a consensus has been achieved among the parties involved. Any organization or individual with a direct and material interest in the subject matter has a right to participate in ANSI activities. Documents are only accredited by ANSI as national standards of the United States when consensus has been achieved. This is determined by written ballot, and all ballots must be considered by the working groups and committees involved. Consensus is defined as more than a majority but not necessarily unanimity.
  3. As the national coordinating body, ANSI is the official United States representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). ANSI delegates to ISO and IEC meetings represent the United States and not a particular company, organization, or society.
  4. ANSI is a voluntary organization. Professional societies, technical societies, and trade associations are encouraged to submit their standards to ANSI for processing as national standards, but there is no requirement to do so. However, unless these documents are submitted, they are not considered national standards.
  5. ANSI is not a U.S. government body. However, government bureaus and agencies participate in standardizing activities, along with industry, consumer groups, and individuals.
  6. ANSI itself does not write standards. It approves standards, provided that its guidelines are followed. The actual document preparation is discussed below.

The Institute’s governance

ANSI photographic standards are prepared by either of two methods: accredited standards committees or accredited organizations.

  1. Committees . An accredited standards committee (ASC) is a group accredited by ANSI for the specific purpose of preparing standards to present to ANSI for processing as national documents. An ASC consists of a secretariat and the committee membership. The secretariat is frequently a trade organization that provides all the required administrative, legal, and financial backing. This includes distributing ballots, maintaining rosters, assuring that established procedures are followed, and providing the contact with ANSI.
    Committee membership includes manufacturers, government agencies, and consumers who have an interest in the subject matter and agree to participate. Membership is open, although it may be subject to a committee vote. However, it is very important that there be a balance of interests and no domination by a single interest category. An accredited standards committee elects its own officers and can organize itself in any way to expedite its work assignments. This includes the establishment of subcommittees and task, working, study, or ad hoc groups.
  2. Organizations . Standards can also be prepared by accredited organizations. Such an organization is usually an industry group, an association of industry experts, or an association of professionals. Its primary focus revolves around a particular technology and may involve exchange of professional or technical information, trade policies, or promotion of industry growth. The preparation of standards also may be one of its functions. To have these standards recognized as national standards, the organization must have written operational procedures and become ANSI-accredited. The prime criteria for accreditation are: recognition of its area of competence, agreement to use ANSI-approved procedures, and allowed participation of those with an interest in the field. Many of the imaging standards have been prepared by such accredited organizations.
    General photographic and imaging standards are written by the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A) which has been accredited by ANSI and replaces the now-defunct National Association of Photographic Manufacturers. It is composed of a number of imaging technology (IT) committees that deal with areas such as physical dimensions, image evaluation, physical properties and permanence, and guidelines and specifications for digital still cameras.
    Standards for the microfilm industry are prepared by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), which was accredited by ANSI in 1985. It deals with such diverse topics as dimensional requirements, formats, and requirements for electronic imaging systems.
    Motion-picture standards are prepared by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), which was accredited by ANSI in 1984. This organization is concerned with film dimensions, audio recording, television recording, and theatre projection.
    In the graphic arts industry, the standardization activities come under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Graphic Arts Technology Standards (CGATS). In the printing industry, there is the Association for Suppliers of Printing and Publishing Technology (NPES).
    All standard designations include the year in which they were standardized. They are reviewed every five years for reconfirmation, revision, or withdrawal.
    It is apparent that there is a very wide range of standards activities in the imaging industry. This requires coordination to ensure that there is no duplication of effort among the accredited standards committees and accredited organizations. In addition, there is the need to ensure that appropriate groups are working in all the required areas. This function is fulfilled by the Image Technology Standards Board (ITSB), which was established by ANSI. (This board was formerly known as the Photographic Standards Board.) In recent years, digital imaging by electronic means has become more important and consequently the scope has been expanded to include all imaging technologies.

International Standards Organization

The Organization’s role

While the importance of national standards cannot be overemphasized, in today’s world of international commerce, national standards are not enough. To facilitate trade between nations, international standards are required. The need is particularly critical in high-technology fields such as photography and digital imaging. Within the past decade, greater effort and emphasis in imaging technology has been devoted to writing international standards than to U.S. national documents.

The first international standards group was the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which was founded in 1906. Its scope includes all international standardization in the electrical and electronic engineering industry. Forty years later, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was organized. The mission of ISO is to promote international standards to facilitate international exchange of goods and services. ISO is a worldwide organization of nearly 100 national standards bodies; the work is advanced through the activities of more than 2000 technical groups. There is some overlap between IEC and ISO in the field of information technology. To avoid jurisdictional problems, joint technical committees (JTCs) were set up in 1987 by the merger of several IEC and ISO technical committees. Within JTC1, subcommittee SC11 has responsibility for flexible magnetic media for digital data interchange; SC23 is a parallel subcommittee for optical-disc cartridges.

Unlike ANSI, membership in ISO is through the national standards bodies or the organization in a country that is most active in standardizing activities. In the United States, all participants in ISO work are representatives of ANSI. Their responsibility is to represent the U.S. viewpoint, not necessarily the position of the manufacturer, agency, or company with which they are associated. Member countries are known as participating (P) members if they take an active part in ISO work. They are obliged to vote and, if possible, to attend meetings. Countries that only want to be kept informed of ISO work are observer (O) members.

The Organization’s governance

The technical work of ISO is carried out by technical committees (TC). Each TC is identified by a number (such as ISO/ TC42) and has a very specific scope that defines its work program. To handle the administrative functions, each ISO technical committee has a secretariat that is one of the national standards bodies within the membership. Technical committees in turn are subdivided into either subcommittees or working groups; the exact division varies with the committee. There are about 170 technical committees in ISO, and well over 2000 subcommittees and working groups.

In the field of imaging, the pertinent technical committees are:

ISO/TC 42 General Imaging

ISO/TC 36 Cinematography

ISO/TC 130 Graphic Technology

ISO/TC 171 Document Imaging Applications

As with ANSI’s standards, international standards can be specifications, test methods, recommended practices, and nomenclature. Consensus is determined by the submission of written ballots to the participating members, and ballots are involved at each stage of the standardization process. ISO documents are first prepared as committee drafts, and then become draft international standards. After consensus has been reached within the standardizing body, these documents are published as ISO standards and are readily available to those interested. ISO standards are reviewed every five years.

Each of the technical committees maintains ties with other technical committees or IEC committees with which it shares areas of common interest.

Organization of imaging standards

The technical committee with general responsibility for imaging is TC 42. The secretariat is ANSI, which has assigned this responsibility to I3A.

At present there are twelve committee members classified as P members. The countries and their associated national standardizing bodies are as follows:

Belgium— Institute Belge de Normalisation (IBN) China— China State Bureau of Technical Supervision (CSBTS) Commonwealth of Independent States, USSR— State Committee for Product Quality Control (GOST R) France— Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) Germany— DIN Deutsches Institut fuer Normung (DIN) Italy— Ente Nazionale Italiano di Unificazione (UNI) Japan— Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC) Korea— Bureau of Standards Industrial Advancement Administration (KATS) Sweden— Standardiserings—kommissionen (SIS) Switzerland— Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV) United Kingdom— British Standards Institute (BSI) United States— American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

There are also 18 O members.

ISO/TC 42 is subdivided into working groups, with scopes that include physical properties, permanence, sensitometry, and electronic still-picture imaging. To date, TC42 has published 174 documents.

Current trends

Traditional photography is a mature industry. Much of its success is due to the extensive body of standards that has been published by national and international organizations. There is still a need to update many of these documents and to prepare additional standards as new information is obtained. However, digital imaging is far from a mature industry—there are constant innovations and new products being developed. This has created tremendous interest in preparing appropriate standards to deal with product improvements and new formats, as well as recommending approaches to ensuring the stability of digital information.

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