Workflow and Asset Management
Sitting next to me is the one and only Brett Wilhelm. I'm gonna sort of describe Brett, because if you listened to segment one, one of the things that I said is, "My philosophy is surround yourself by people that are smarter, more talented, better looking, funnier." And this guy has all of those qualities. Yeah, that's right. No, Brett is a guy that I've known for a long time. Gosh, I think over 15 years.
Sounds about right.
But Brett has this unique combination of he is a very talented guy, he is very technically oriented, meaning he's not afraid of technology. And that's a skill set that not everyone has. He's organized, and he also has this amazing ability to be totally unflappable. Even in really stressful situations, he's the guy that keeps it together, and does not let stress get the best of him. In the photography world, Brett, for the first half of his photography career, worked with a legend in the photography business named Rich Clarkson. Who is kind of more on the mainst...
ream sports side. But a decorated photographer. And Brett helped support that company. Both as a photographer, but also doing IT within their office. Also, for almost the last ten years, has worked as a photographer and editor for ESPN's X Games. So Brett has spent a lot of time in the varied environments that we're talking about, and shooting during this creative live class. A lot of what Brett has worked on is deadline oriented. Meaning shooting at an event, where it's a real competition. You get one chance to make the moment. And then you need to get it out to the world as quickly as possible. So I think Brett will do a great job in this conversation and workflow. Kind of putting his foot in the deadline world, but also stepping out into the commercial world, where you're not under that deadline pressure. And I think the format that we wanted to use is keep it conversational. Brett is the expert here. Brett has actually written the guidelines that we use in our office when we're dealing with workflow. That is downloading images, how we manage our assets, what types of hardware and tools we actually use. I feel like this is the least sexy thing we're gonna talk about during this class. But it's maybe the most important. In terms of if you get your act together on the workflow side of things, and the process. When you manage that process well, it allows you more time to do the things that you love later, right? Being sloppy in the beginning equates to enormous amounts of time later when you can't find files, the amount of data's not correct, you piss off your clients because they can't find the files. So, this is all about not being sloppy. And, on that note, I will let Brett take the lead. And feel free, interrupt, I'll look at you guys a lot. Put your hands up, let me know if you have questions. If you're sitting at your computer at home, let us know, we can, at any point, we can get into the weeds a little bit if that helps. Or just answer questions that might not seem as obvious to us.
Thank you Corey. And I appreciate being set up here as the least sexy element of the weekend.
Or the next couple of days. So, I've spent a lot of time wearing both the technology hat and then the photographer's cap. And trying to meld those two worlds. And so while, as Corey said, this isn't always the most fun element, it's really, really critical. Especially as you step into the professional and the working world. Where you're reliant on not only getting the work done quickly and efficiently, but also maintaining it over time. So that you're not the one losing files. You're not subject to disaster. And that's one of the things we're gonna talk about. So my workflow really begins in camera. There's a few things that we're gonna talk a lot in the field about taking pictures. But there's a few things that you can do to speed that up. If you are on the competition side on some of Red Bull's events, or any of the other competitions within the action sports world. One is, a lot of professional level cameras offer in-camera tagging. And what that is, is in those down times as you are reviewing your images, you can actually start tagging files that you like, before you've ever left the field. And what that translates to when you get back to your computer, is that immediately you're looking at a subset of maybe your favorite 5-10%. And it cuts down on a lot of time because a lot of the programs also prioritize bringing in files that you've locked in the camera. So that instead of waiting for an entire 32 gig card to download, you're immediately looking at the ones that you liked on the back of the camera in the field. And you're back at your computer and you're getting them up that much more quickly.
And maybe add just one more foreword to this whole thing, which is a lot of what Brett is gonna talk about whether it's touching the camera, or on the computer, it's process right? It's figuring out what is the process that you're gonna use and then you commit to that process and you use that process repeatedly. I think the goal in this, and this just helps from a context perspective, of course what we're really here to talk about is how to make great pictures. Once you've made that great picture, you're job is to create the goods, bring those goods back and protect those goods, remember the details, right? That's part of our job. It's what actually happened. The who, what, when, where, how, why. And preserve that information. Deliver those files to a client in a format that they can also find those files in the long term. And of course, free up as much of your time because your process is tight. So that you can be out shooting pictures more. So everything that he's saying goes to, everything might not apply to you, but this is a process that collectively we use that's pretty darn efficient. And you can modify it for you own use, case.
For sure. Jumping back, the other is, I actually use the voice tagging features of these cameras. And again, at the professional level, the top bodies usually have some sort of voice tagging. And what that is is out in the competition environments, if there's 20 athletes going by in a given set, sometimes you're far away, sometimes you're not gonna have identifiable information after the fact. Like the X Games they're wearing bibs with numbers, but they're wound up at the peak of that action. You're not gonna see that number. They may be turned away from the camera. So, the key to that is that by voice tagging after a given run, you can say into the back of the camera, "That was Mark McMorris, slope style finals, X Games." You know, whatever other identifying information. And when you get back to the computer, you're refreshed, you can play that back to yourself. And you can use it in your captioning. So those are two tips directly in the camera. This conversation's starting to get a little dated, but there's still some talk about the benefits and drawbacks of RAW versus JPEG. RAW allows shooting RAW, be it Nikon, or Canon, or Sony. It gives you greater latitude. It's not a free pass. It's not a free pass to just ignore a lot of other settings. You still want to get it as close as you can in the camera. It's going to save time after the fact. JPEG is a smaller file. It immediately has a better look to it because you're able to adapt settings in the camera and actually bake those into the file. So that if you want to have a black and white look, if you want to have a more vivid look, if you want to control shadows in a different manor you can bake that into the file for immediate delivery. But RAW will give you a better latitude after the fact. There's troves of information on that. It's kind of outside the scope of this.
And I think, and maybe this is the next thing you're gonna say, but the idea of shooting RAW plus JPEG, there's a lot of application for doing that. And if you are doing straight commercial assignment work, where there's no immediate need for those images, shoot RAW. Shoot the highest quality of RAW content that you can. If you are shooting on deadline, there's a lot of appeal to, as Brett described to RAW plus JPEG. That's a functionality of most high-end cameras today. And that allows you to pull out immediately an image that can get uploaded. And we're gonna show you how to do that when we're at Nord Star tomorrow. We're gonna pretend we're at an event. We're gonna shoot on deadline and then pull an image as quickly as we can. Get it to our client, to Red Bull as though it's a mock assignment. The other great scenario or application for shooting in both RAW plus JPEG is actually if you're utilizing social media. Even you're on a commercial shoot, but you want to be sending images to the web, this platform for sharing with your audience. Going through the process of converting a RAW file to a JPEG, it's you shoot RAW plus JPEG, and allows you a much more rapid process for efficient process for getting that content online more readily.
For sure, for sure. Another note on that is that a lot of people default to a lot of the auto settings, especially when they're in RAW mode. Because they feel like they can fix it after the fact in the computer. The reality is, you wanna spend less time doing that and also these cameras are amazing, but no amount of hardware I think will ever replace what we joke about as "Wetware." And if you can tell the camera that you're shooting in full sunshine, or you're shooting in a very weird, mixed lighting condition like in the inside of the hangar. If you can set that in advance, the camera works better. The audio exposure functions work better. If you tell it deliberately your best estimation of it. And then again, getting around the camera leads to more time taking pictures and less time sitting in front of the computer.
Not that sitting in front of the computer isn't fun.
Oh yeah, it's a blast, it's a blast.
That's why we all get into action sports photography.
So, jumping over to hardware, I'm not gonna really talk about cameras, it's outside of the scope of this. There's myriad of resources. We're both Nikon shooters. We love Nikon's technologies. We feel they're one of the leaders, but we're not gonna get into depth on that. But I do want to talk about some of the other assets that you use as a photographer. First is cards and card durability. CompactFlash cards have been one of the defacto standards along with SD cards for a number of years. They're relatively durable. They are more durable than most people think. It's solid state media, which means there's no moving parts. I know plenty of people that have had this in a pocket, sent their card through the washing machine, freak out accidentally, and then they're told, "Hey, just let it dry out and see what you have." And more often than not, if given time to dry out, or other damage, or they're stepped on, or they sit out in the snow for a month, you can still get media off of these. They're very durable.
And it's work pointing out CF cards, there's no guarantee that will happen. They're not waterproof. SD cards on the other hand, are actually waterproof. You could store them in a fish bowl, or fish tank if you wanted to. They're 100% waterproof. But, what you get on the scale of speed SD cards tend to be slower than CF cards. And now we have XQD cards that are faster than CF cards. And so, we're seeing in the world of Nikon cameras, and Sony cameras, XQD is becoming the new standard. Because it saves time. It's all about efficiency. You can shoot longer bursts. And I just saw some numbers on this. On a CF card, on a D5, you hold the shutter down, and let's say you get 36. I don't want to give you specifics, but I think you get 33% more frames in the buffer on XQD. So it's the varying cards actually affect your ability to shoot great pictures. And so goes back to his hardware drive conversation.
And the other side of that, is that when you get it done with a day of shooting and you have 32 gigs, or 64 gigs, or especially if you're in the video world, that's equal time on the download side. And that's time you save, the quicker you get them into your system, the quicker you're looking and reviewing. And if you come in with a stack of them, you could end up sitting there for an hour. What if that hour is cut to 30 minutes? Or 15 minutes? These will only get faster. We've reached what we believe is the theoretical limit on a lot of the CompactFlash and even SD technology. That the interface can't be sped up much more. We'll see how that pans out. But again, I think XQD are the future, and we'll be using that in a few minutes when we sped our download. The other is, I don't know how many of you guys have a card recovery software solution already in place. Do you all do? (class murmuring) Yeah, there's a multiple of manufacturers, but one of the things I like to explain to people is that be it an error when you're shooting, or if you accidentally reformat a card that you've already shot. The best advice is to immediately stop shooting on that card. And then when you get back to your computer and you have a card recovery software, use a very good chance if you've immediately stopped shooting that you'll be able to recover a number of those images. And the reason for that is that these cards, I like to make it akin to a book, and the table of contents of a book. At the head of this card in the header, is a file allocation table. And it's like the table of contents. It tells your computer or your camera, "Hey if you want image one, go to this section of the card and start reading, and then when you get to this section stop reading, and that's image number one, or image number 27." When you reformat a card, or more than likely if you have a card error, the error is in the table of contents. It's in the file allocation table. Meaning that if you go back to that specialty software, the software goes and rereads the pages of the book, and recreates the table of contents. So that's why it's key to not continue to shoot on a damaged card. Because that's when you actually start overwriting and deleting previous data. Even if you just reformat it, all you're really doing is emptying out that table of contents and saying, "This card's now available for use."
And I'm stating the obvious, but starting your shoots with clean, formatted cards, it's a starting point's baseline thing that you can do to make your workflow more efficient. Versus, don't shoot on the card, take it out, download, leave some images on it, start shooting again. It's just confusing. It's confusing, and it's not efficient. And you'll see why as we get deeper into this sort of thought.
And I know that's below a lot of you in the audience that are watching online, and certainly the team sitting here. But we're sort of stating the obvious because that can save huge headaches.
For sure. Quick note on hard drives, this is a traditional spinning hard drive with spinning media. It's a 7200 RPM drive. A Thunderbolt and USB3 from Gtech. This has been the standard for quite some time. What we've been seeing in the last few years is the rise of solid state hard drives. They're not as cost effective per gigabyte right now. The prices are dropping. But again, anytime you move away from moving parts, there's less things to break, you have faster write speeds. They're generally more durable. And so, we're in the middle of that shift right now. They're a lot cheaper than they were even three or five years ago. And they will only continue to drop in price and even shrink in form factor. Because one of the reasons these drives are this size is that some of the spinning media required a certain form factor to get a certain amount of terabytes or gigabytes under the drive.
And to qualify that, what I'm finding is I'm now bringing two solid state drives into the field. Frequently using those solid states to do the download. Because it saves time and it's safer. And then eventually when we get back to the office, we move it onto spinning drives because it's more cost effective and onto our server. But that is now the travel set, is solid state drives. So you invest in two or three solid state drives, you don't get new ones for each job. But that's your working set in the field. Because, again, it comes down to how do you do it more efficiently? Right? How do you save time so you can have more time for shooting pictures and the other things in life that are more fun than sitting at your computer?
For sure. Another note on that is connectivity. Right now the two standards, at least on the Apple side, USB3 and Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt, there's a lot of sex appeal to Thunderbolt. Because it's faster. But the reality is if you're still shooting on spinning media, the spinning media is the limiter. Thunderbolt might be two or three times rated as fast. But if you're still writing to our spinning hard drive that can only handle 120 MB a second, it doesn't matter what you connect it to. One of the reasons that I do tend to shy towards drives that have both connections on them, even though you're paying a premium, is it's redundancy. If USB3 goes out of my computer, or USB3 goes out on the drive, I still have a way to pull data on and off the drive. So again, we wanna live in a world of redundancy. We wanna have backup solutions. One of the reasons it's worth paying for the extra expense of a drive that does both, is that you have a built in set of redundancy. Real quick on hard drives, memory, and processor speeds. I get a lot of questions from a lot of friends of, "Oh, it's time to get a new computer, what computer should I buy?" That's a difficult question. It really depends on what you're gonna use it for. How I like to describe the relationship among the three main decision factors in buying a computer, hard drives or storage, memory, and processor speed. And it's like, "Well should I get the faster processor? Or should I get the memory? Where do I put my money?" And the general response is that they're all important. You want to purchase the best that you can at that time that you can afford. Because if you're computer is running well, it is your most reliable employee. It will work for you 24 hours a day. You can set it to do a process whether batch converting files, or sending things overnight. It's not gonna complain, as long as you take care of it. But the way I describe it is that your storage is kind of like your cereal box. That's the amount of food you have on hand. The memory is your bowl of cereal. How much you can have in front of you for a short period of time. No one stores their cereal in a cereal bowl full of milk. 'Cause it's gonna get, you can't do that long term, it's gonna get kind of gross. And then the processor speed is the size of your spoon. How quickly you can actually shovel it into your mouth. And so the relationship of those three things is, man, you can have the most enormous cereal box on Earth, but if you're eating out of a thimble, if you only have so much memory to deal with, your computer starts to choke on, well it takes time to stop and refill the thimble, or refill the teacup full of cereal before you start to take your next bite. Conversely if you have an enormous spoon, but you're trying to get it out of a tiny cup, that's how those three are related. And hopefully that's helpful to people when they're trying to figure out which one is most important. They all relate.
And I think it's important, on that front, we in the action sports world, we tend to be on location a lot. So laptops tend to be the solution. You're not commonly bringing a desktop computer, a Mac Pro with a big monitor. It's just not practical. I mean that's more equipment than your camera bag. And so, processor speed is pretty important, right? We can attach lots of hard drives. You can attach lots of cereal boxes to that machine. So getting fast machines, because it comes down to that how quickly can you work, how quickly can you meet that deadline, how do you save time so you can spend more time taking pictures? And I don't like that answer because we call Brett every time we want to buy a computer. And his answer's always, "Yes, get the best computer you can buy today." And turns out that's not the most cost effective computer to buy, but it's the best solution.
Computers, well everything within this industry, there's a law, and I can't remember what it's called. But every 18 months it's going to double. And that's what we've seen. And so, whatever, best thing you buy today, you're gonna start thinking in two to three years, about buying the next thing. Because the speed bumps will be worthwhile. Lastly on hardware, monitors, profiling, and your workspace. Whether you're on a laptop, or you're on external monitor, do all of you profile your monitor? Do you know what profiling a monitor is? Awesome.
Know what it is, but don't frequently do it. It's something that should be done, obviously.
Sure, sure. So for those that don't know what profiling is, it is a way with a hardware utility, we often call it a puck, that sits on the screen of your laptop or your cinema display. And then a software algorithm projects a known color. This is absolute red. This is absolute blue. This is absolute yellow. And that lens, or that color sensitive eye, can detect shifts away from red. Shifts away from blue. Shifts away from every color under the sun. And what it does is it builds a table that helps translate that data in the future. So that every time it sends it to that display, which has a yellow shift, so that reds look orange, it knows to add a couple points of blue into that signal. So that the red appears red. That's something that I tend to do it more often when a laptop or a monitor is new. During that three month break-in period. After that, every three months. If you're super color critical you might do it more often. But I feel like every three to six months is usually fine after you've had something for awhile.
And Brett probably hates it when I say this, but if you're on a Mac, which is kind of the standard, you probably can get away without profiling. If you're trying to save time.
I didn't actually say that. But, bottom line is one thing that is happening is we as a society view photos on tablets, iPhones, laptop computers. And depending on how critical you really are, it turns out this device, the MacBook Pro, is the number one tool used today, by photographers to process and retouch images. And it turns out the number one viewing platform is either this screen, your mobile device, or a tablet. So if you're in that ecosystem, short of your technology having serious issues, you're at least 90% there.
So, anyhow, if one thing you're gonna leave behind if you said, "Boy this is overwhelming." It might be the color profiling. But it's important when you're operating at the high level.
Yeah, if you're distributing files and you want it to look the same for them, a professional printer, or even if you're making prints. If some of you do a lot of printing in your home offices, something looks great on screen, you print it out, it looks completely different. It's probably because either your screen's off, or your printer's off, and you can profile them both. So that you increase the efficiency of that workflow.
There's something that I typically say to some of my clients, or the people I'm working with, that every monitor's different. And not everybody's gonna have it calibrated. Everybody has different phones nowadays too. So the surfaces, the monitors, and things that they're looking at, aren't gonna be identical. So you can't really get too technical with it. There's some leniency, I think, at that point, where you just have to do the best you can in your own situation, but know that somebody might be viewing it on their TV at home. Or on their Samsung phone.
I think it's just doing the best you can to assure that the color leaving your workflow looks as good as you can. And then finally, is the actual workspace you're in. Obviously, this workspace isn't ideal. But we would hate to be facing that window where the sun's blasting into you everyday. Or if someone had come in and painted all the walls ruby red. The human eye starts to readjust and it starts to skew the way you can perceive color. So you're looking for a space that is limited lighting, covered in neutral colors. I mean, even if you just, right behind you had a big bulletin board full of photos, that's going to start to affect the way that you perceive color on screen. Because the human eye is all about perception. So the more neutral you can make your surroundings, the better off your perception of color will be over time.
And this goes back to the action adventure sports world so often, and you'll see it tomorrow. We're gonna be sitting on the side of the terrain park. It's bright. The sun's in our face. Or it's going to be raining on us. One or the other. And yet you still have to deliver a photograph on deadline. And so then by having that system, if we start making adjustments to that photograph in the field, in a very less than ideal environment, which is action adventure sports. It comes back to this idea of having a baked in look in the JPEG, allows you to do as little as possible in the field. In less than ideal situations.
For sure, for sure. Okay so, moving forward to the idea of redundancy and backups. I'm a big advocate about being maniacal about backup. And I'm the first person that every time I talk to someone in the staff at his office, just, "Hey, how's the backup system doing? Is everyone plugging in their Time Machine drives?" 'Cause the reality is, is that most people don't learn to backup things until they've had their first loss. And as working photographers, we don't ever want to be faced with that scenario. And we never want to have to turn to a client, or a friend, or whoever we're photographing for and say, "We can't go back and recreate that moment, and now we have a problem." That really goes for everything. It's having backups as cameras, like he talked about. It's having backups on your accessories. I mean I carry spare phone chargers. I carry spare cables for everything. So if a cable dies, if you lose your phone charger, you have backup ways to achieve numerous things. I have different types of card readers. So that if one connectivity fails on my computer I can still download those cards. And then finally on data. And so the goal is to always have data in multiple places. To have it in at least two, if not three or more places. It goes back to that saying that ... Bringing that redundancy to bear is part of being a working professional. And when they make that old saying that hiring a professional can be expensive, but hiring an amateur can cost you a whole lot more. We're providing a certain guarantee that we've made plans to insure the safety of the data and the images that we're being paid to produce.
And I'd love to give an example of that. When you're not traveling alone, let's say you're shooting and you have an assistant. Or it's your spouse or your friend is with you. Or it's just you and an athlete. We will, after shooting, the cards stay on my body. So once the cards are shot, we're going out to dinner, it hasn't been downloaded, the cards stay on my body. Because there's no duplication at that point. As soon as we duplicate, we download and duplicate the drives, one drive will always come into the restaurant with us, while the other sits in the car. If we're traveling with drives, we'll FedEx one back, and then we'll fly with the other drive. Or if we have three, we might send one with one client, one person on the plane, one is in my backpack, and one goes via FedEx back. With the rationale that there's that one in a thousand chance someone's backpack gets stolen, you forget it on the plane, the FedEx package gets lost. Shoots get really big. And it's not just about value, it's not just about how much money was spent. It's recreating that moment, is impossible. It turns out most action adventure sports moments. It happens once. It's a fleeting moment. And there's no recreating it. So, redundancy is absolutely critical.
Yeah, I had a theft just two months ago. Where a car was broken into. Obviously they go after your computer bag, 'cause that's where the expensive stuff is. And the simple and religious decision to always keep my Time Machine backup and one copy of my drive in my suitcase, people aren't as likely to steal your suitcase, cause it's full of clothes. And it saved me. I didn't lose a thing. Had I lost both, I might have lost a little bit. Because I was on the road. But those simple decisions to keep them separate and to make multiple copies, are a lifesaver. So, we're about to move into sort of import, and we're gonna finish with kind of long term backup aspects. What you do after you're back from a shoot. But any questions so far, before we move into actually importing?
Those new faster cards you're talking about, do you have an adaptor for your body? Or are they a different size?
So the new Nikon D5, for example, is now, you make a decision when you order the camera. You either get CF card slots, two CF slots. Or you get two XQD card slots. So it's a decision, because we're all so entrenched in the world of CF cards. But the engineers at Nikon stepped back and said, "Wait a second. We're gonna start hitting this wall of the buffer maxes out, just takes forever to download your cards." So, I think we're seeing a glimpse into the future with XQD. Whether that format sticks, who knows? But yeah, when you go out to buy that next D5, you'll make a decision. What do I want? Do I want XQD or CF? And of course what professionals complain about, and I'm one of them, "Well I own 50 CF cards, 20 CF cards, I don't wanna switch." But, when there's a really compelling reason, which is, I can get more of my life back and be more efficient, I'm willing to switch.
Yeah. And the D4S actually took both. CF card and XQD. And a note on the D5 is that you can order it one way, and send it back to Nikon to have it switched out. So if you want to start with dual CF cards, and then you decide six months from now, "Okay, you know what? These things are revolutionary. I'm gonna switch to this platform. It's time for me to invest a bunch of these cards." You'll be able to send it in, I don't know what that cost is. But it's pretty reasonable. Because it's gonna basically be an interface that they can bolt on and off. And so I think you'll see it from the other manufacturers as well. Because, again, these are gonna be the future.