Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More from Behind the Scenes

Kanopolis, Kansas

In comments, Scott asked about tracking and indexing the material from The Giant Road Trip, and I thought it might be of interest to expand a bit on the subject. The system I use centers on something I learned from an Adobe Tips 'n Tricks video I saw way back in 2004 when I first began to do commercial assignments with digital capture. The two parts of last year's drive-in theater expedition accumulated something like 18,000 captures (weirdly close to the number of miles traveled) and the approach served well.

The system centers around filenames. At the end of each day, I download the SD cards from both digital cameras into a newly created folder inside the DI Expedition folder on the Captures external hard drive. Then I navigate to the new folder in Bridge (other browsers will have similar abilities), select the full set of files and then go to View-->Sort-->by Date. This actually sorts not just by date but by time down to the second, so if the two cameras' internal clocks agree, you have a perfect chronological sort. Then I go to Tools-->Batch Rename and set things up so that the new name will be in the format yymmdd_0001. Make sure to check the "preserve original file name in exif" button.

So, now the file name of the picture above is 120526_0384. This does a couple of things. First, any files, in any selection or grouping, in either the finder or a browser that sorts on date, will automatically arrange themselves in chronological order. So will any groups of derivative files like JPEGs for this blog, or .psd files prepared for printing. Also, I know immediately that this was the 384th file shot on May 26, 2012.

Kanopolis, Kansas

That's 120526_0285, shot in the evening on my way from the hotel room I'd secured in Wilson, KS, back down to the Kanopolis Drive-in. When I finish shooting at a location, as soon as I'm back in the car I make a note either by hand or with a voice recorder, with any relevant data about the location, plus the last digits of the last file number for each camera. Just noting the exact time works pretty well too. As soon as these notes are typed up I can quickly look up information about any picture by picking up the date from the file name and then jumping to that date in the text file.

Also, as soon as the information is available (which may be from memory, right away) I select all the shots from a specific location, hit Command-I to bring up the file info dialog, then type the name of the town, along with other things like a theater name, in the Description box. From then on, any time I look at a picture in the browser, again including any derivative files, a quick Command-I shows me the identification info. If there's some confusion about, say, some pictures made from the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere, in Bridge I can look at the File Properties pane and see the Preserved Filename as the second item. A quick search in the notes document will turn it right up. Since for more than forty years I've always titled my pictures with the place name where they were made, nowadays I just hit a couple buttons on the GPS unit in the car to come up with the info to record. One thing I like about this is that I don't need any additional tools or programs. I'd imagine any decent browser will have some sort of batch rename function and of course any word processor will do for the notes. A final touch is that my little Olympus voice recorder shows the date and time of each MP3 recording on the LCD panel, so even if I haven't typed up the notes I can quickly locate the relevant recording based on the date in the filename.

For the large format negatives, I've always used a simple indexing system, so that 12.717.043 is the 43rd 7x17" negative made in 2012. How to keep track when accumulating scores of negatives on a long road trip? I keep an older digital camera in the 7x17 case. Each time I finish a shot, I get that camera and shoot a few frames of the setup, including from behind the camera so I can see which format I used, then record the last digits of the final capture of that setup, along with any other relevant notes. Once again, after the notes are typed up they can quickly be correlated to the date/time-stamped digital captures.


Scott Kirkpatrick said...

This sounds really well organized, especially having the discipline to caption your shots. But who types up all the notes and when? That sounds like a place where you could fall behind.


Carl said...

Well, it's not like I have a staff, or interns, or anything. Luckily I'm a fast typist and can usually keep up with short entries without having to pause the playback. A nice thing about the voice recorder is that, even though I don't try to keep up with everything on a long trip, I can back up all the MP3 files to the MacBook. Having the recordings on a single fragile micro-cassette, or a notebook that could, after all, get lost, always made me nervous. The log from the main loop of the trip runs about 17,000 words and as I recall I keyed it in over the course of several mornings the first week after I got home.