The Sochi Winter Olympics have been absolutely stellar (aside from the poisonous water / feral dogs), and every moment of action has been documented by professional photographers at The AP and Getty Images. It takes these photogs mere minutes to upload their pictures on servers for art directors and editors the world over to download for publication. How do they do it?!
The AP’s deputy photo director Denis Paquin tells Gizmodo that speed is key — it’s vital that they get images out “almost as quickly as you would see them on TV.” It goes without saying that a huge amount of both infrastructure and planning are needed to achieve such high speed communication, and both Getty and The AP mapped out the technicalities of their Olympic coverage years ago. For their part, Getty setup a network connecting all Olympic venues with 22 kilometers of ethernet cable. “You’re always at the risk of something happening with the elements, or a snow tractor running over your cables,” says Getty VP of sports imagery, Ken Mainardis, “But our technicians can deal with that pretty easily.”
The process of uploading images is simple and astoundingly fast — despite how much planning goes into coverage of the games. A photographer simply snaps his picture, a JPEG arrives at Getty’s office in less than 2 seconds, editors work on the photo in less than one minute, and then the image hits data servers less than 90 seconds later. All told, photos are ready in three minutes or less. Then there are the photogs themselves. These intrepid folks go to dramatic lengths to get their shot, and some even ski to their shooting locations carrying up to four cameras with them!
Gizmodo notes that though The AP and Getty have similar processes, they aren’t competing with each other. The AP primarily serves news outlets, while Getty serves editorial and commercial clients with somewhat showier photos. “I’m pushing my photographers to innovate,” Mainardis tells Gizmodo, “And they’ve never let me down yet.”
Olympic coverage from both Getty and The AP has been exceptional, and you better believe these photo agency giants are already thinking about 2018’s game plan, which Gizmodo says will be even more impressive and high tech.