After upgrading from CS3 to CS5 we have had random problems with placed .ai files not outputting correctly.
Very rarely some random .ai file will be output as either a square gray box. OR as a "crossed out" transparent box with black frames. Are anyone else seeing this?
It is a nightmare as it does not happen very often - I would guess maybe one in every 4-5000 output .ai files. If I just export again without changing anything the PDF is OK and will probably be OK for the next hundreds of PDFs made.
Some common denominators:
* Seen this on all CS5 versions. Currently at 7.04. (Not tested on 5.5)
* Output is 'convert to destination, keep numbers.'
* I think it only happens when target ICC-profile is a CMYK profile, not sRGB nor AdobeRGB.
* All bitmap images used are 97% jpg and 3% tiff in Adobe RGB 1998 format, and InDesign converts to assigned profile.
* placed .ai files are either made from CMYK or PMS colors. Never RGB.
* the failing .ai files are usually very, very simple. Ie a simple logo with very few paths, neither transparency nor placed images.
* PDF target is usually PDF/X-1. (Maybe [And also with] PDF/X-4 or PDF v1.6 (custom setup), but I am not 100% sure it has happened with these two formats)
* One repeating .ai logo may be used 50 times in a document - and only one of them may error. (next export it will be OK)
* I have seen an instance with an .ai logo placed on the middle of a spread and output as single pages. On the left page of the PDF the logo was OK, and on the right page it was only a gray box.
* All linked files reside on Helios servers, using AFP.
* When the error occur InDesign does not log any error or give any warning. The PDF files are valid, so I cannot flight-check them for errors.
* I think it only happens when using background export
* The failing .ai files may be saved from different versions of Illustrator (CS5, CS4 and CS3)
* I have never seen it on similar .eps files from Illustrator (we are slowly converting our old .eps logo archive to .ai)
* some InDesign files are constructed as Layers. Master layer with all images and logos. Then 10 text-only layers, (think "local price"). When output (by script) as 10 different PDFs all sharing the same images and logos from master layer. I may then find one PDF with one bad .ai file. All others are OK. (Next output and everything is OK)
* Mac OS 10.6.X.
* FontExplorerX Pro Server and plug-in. No other 3.rd party plug-ins for InDesign
* I am very sure it is not some "bad" .ai file. Some of the failing ones have been used thousands of times.
* Seen this from several workstations, at least 7.
* all files have very strict file names and folder names. Only lowercase low ascii used.
* all InDesign files are only handled by the Mac version of InDesign.
* no traces in console when error occurs.
* We output a fair amount from Indesign, over 30.000 individual tabloid pages printed yearly - with very few errors.
* I consider the production environment strict and fairly controlled.
What I have tried:
Export to IDML and reimport. Does not solve anything.
Put ai-files on another server. (From Helios on Solaris to an Apple Xserve afp). No difference.
* Convert all .ai files to ... EPS? PDF?
This might work. It is quite a lot of work, and EPS are sooo 1995.
PDF are not optimal as they are hard to distinguish from non-illustrator PDFs.
* Not using background export (by script). Not optimal.
As the problem seems completely random it is hard to troubleshoot. Anyone else seen this?