Thursday, April 24, 2008

Post Production Workflow Follow-Up

I've had a few questions about my previous entry about my Post Production Workflow, and thought I'd take a few minutes to address them here.

Josh, thanks for your excellent write-up. I'm also looking for ideas for a rating system & your mention of being critical with ratings caught my attention. I'm sure you apply strict criteria for the 1-5 star ratings ... wonder if you could share that :)

I do indeed have a reasonably strict rating system I use, though I haven't actually sat down and written it out, so I'll try to here...

When I rate images during ingestion process, I only use 0, 1 or 2 stars for my images. Images that are pretty plain, boring, and otherwise uninspired get 0 stars. Anything above this, that I think has value to me gets 1 star. If there is a stand out in a series of images, it gets the second star. Some shoots gets a few one star images and nothing more, sometimes I'm passing out 2 stars like I'm a kindergarten teacher. Though I try to resist at this point, if I see an image that looks like a portfolio piece, it might get a 3rd star. If I'm shooting for a client, 1 star images are ones I will show to the client from a job, and 2 star images are the best of the shoot that I would recommend to the client.

Once ingested, processed to DNG, and added to iView, I'll re-sort the 2 star images into 3 or 4 star images, but only if they warrant it. Even with my growing archive of about 30,000 images, I'm still reserving the 5th star for down the road, and currently only have six 4 star images. I try to follow Peter Krogh's suggestion to have the number of images that get each additional star rating be 10% of the rating below. For example, if I have 10,000 1 star images in my archive, I try to have 1,000 2 star, 100 3 star, and 10 4 star images. This will keep the rating system working like it should. If you're passing out high ratings to too many images, the point of having a rating system at all goes out the window...

I'm also looking for ideas on how to manage offline backups. I appreciate that hard disks are getting cheaper everyday but so are file sizes as new (camera) bodies come out. The other thing is that hard disks can fail ... which is why we burn to DVDs etc. Could you also share how you catalog offline images?

As this topic can get pretty in-depth, I'll split it up into two sections for clarity:

1) Backups of my images

All of my DNG images are saved to a 500GB drive in an old Dual G4 PowerMac I'm now using as a file server/backup machine. This is the primary place my images are stored, and are "online" (as in accessible from my workstation) at all times, or at least when I'm in the office, and connected to the network. The files are always available to me to work on, view etc. I make a backup of this drive to a 500GB external drive every time I add new images to it (this is the 2nd copy of the files). I use a cool little app called ChronoSync to do this. You can have it do all sorts of cool stuff, but I use it to make an exact copy of this drive, so that if the internal 500GB drive fails, I can just hook up the external and get on with life (and eventually replace the internal drive and copy all the images back to it from the external).

As I am using the "Bucket System", I burn a DVD of each bucket as it fills, which becomes my 3rd backup copy, and I store this off-site. DVD's are an essential part of a good backup system because a) they can't be overwritten, and b) they aren't susceptible to viruses. DVD's are not an option, the are a requirement.

I backup my Working Files (images that are in the process of being ingested/rated/adding metadata, etc) in a similar way. I have another 500GB drive in the ol' G4 that is specifically for these files, as well as holding most of my other important files (Word Docs, etc). As these files change often, I have another 500GB external drive I leave attached to this machine all the time, and again use ChronoSync to make backups. You can schedule ChronoSync to run as often as you'd like (the options are near limitless), and I have it run a backup of this drive every evening. I have it set to move deleted/altered files to a special folder called "Archived_Files", so that if I accidentally delete a file from this drive, it will still be recoverable (as opposed to my main image backup, which is an exact mirror of the internal drive) from the "Archived_Files" folder.

(As the question was about offline images, iView will allow you to view offline images in an iView catalog. It even will allow you to store a screen res preview of the image in the catalog file itself. You can view all metadata, and even edit it, without actually being connected to the image file.)

2) Backups of my computers

All this image backup is great, but what happens if your main boot drive in your machine spins down? If you're working on an assignment and your computer goes kaput, how will you finish the job? I use another cool app called Super Duper that is capable of making bootable backups of your computer's hard drive. I have a 200GB external drive (lots of drives involved...) that I've partitioned to allow me to make bootable backups of all the machines in the office. If you have a boot drive failure, just plug-in the drive, press the Option key (Mac, of course) while you press the power button, and you will now be able to choose this drive to boot from. All of your e-mail, applications, preferences, fonts, etc will all be where they should be, just like nothing happened. Back to work you go, and deliver the job. Then you can replace the internal boot drive, copy the boot volume back to the internal from your backup, and it's as if nothing ever happened...

Bottom Line: Not cheap, not (super) easy, but absolutely necessary. Go run your backups!

Questions, Comments? Fire 'em below.

Cheers, Josh
Copyright © 2008 Josh McCulloch.


Blogger Josh McCulloch said...

Hi Everyone,
Had a few more questions roll in about setting up a DAM system, so here is yet another addition to the series. Enjoy!

Q: I see that within your RAW folders (the buckets) you have named folders according to subjects etc. Is this necessary?

A: Naming folders with the subject matter is totally random, and does not have any effect on the DAM system, provided those subject-named folders live inside of your RAW Folders (aka Buckets such as RAW_001, RAW, 002, etc). You can call these folders whatever you want, it really does not matter. You could just add image files straight into the RAW buckets, but I think it is a little tidier to separate them into sub-folders, usually based on date taken, but it is up to you how you name them.

Tip: Make sure to follow a rigid file re-naming system as I explained in my blog post. It is extremely important!

Q: When you take a particular RAW file and work on it, it now moves in a new form into a new folder, correct? Here's where I get confused. Where do these files go?

A: When you open a file into Photoshop (or any other program) and change it in ANY WAY, it now becomes what I (and Peter Krogh, author of the DAM Book) call a DERIVATIVE file. Do not just save and close this file after making changes to it. This image will now enter a separate workflow from your RAW/DNG files (Note that DNG files are essentially RAW files, and many people interchange the terms. DNG is just Adobe's RAW file format. DNG's will always live inside of your RAW_001, RAW_002 buckets, and are not considered derivative files.) Say you open a DNG file with the goal of making a master TIF file that is ready to go to print. You open it in PS, make your adjustments, crops, etc. When you are done, choose "Save As..." (NOT "Save"), and save it with an appended file name. For example, if the RAW image I opened up was named McCulloch_080617_2247.DNG, I would save it as McCulloch_080617_2247_MASTER.TIF, if I was making a master TIF file as noted above. It is important to keep the "Root" of the filename constant at all times. Additionally, I save this file to a new location, NOT back into the same RAW_ bucket the original DNG file lived in. I have a whole separate set of buckets called DRV_001, DRV_002, etc that are specifically for storing my derivative files. It is important (for your sanity!) to keep RAW/DNG files and derivate files separate.

Q: How do you associate these Derivative files to the old metadata?

A: As to keeping metadata intact, this is where a good database driven DAM software is essential. (Note that Lightroom, while it does use a database, is not a true DAM system). Microsoft Expression Media v2 is currently the best DAM software available. It is based on iView MediaPro, which originated as a Mac-only program way back, and Microsoft recently bought iView. Expression Media becomes your center for doing everything with your images, and is essential for a proper DAM system. You can't really skip this one. Expression Media uses catalogs to archive your images, and I have two main catalogs, one for all my RAW_ buckets/images, and one for all my DRV_ buckets/images. Again, here is where keeping things separate makes life easier. If you are adding metadata properly to your RAW/DNG files, it will carry over to your DRV files and catalog. Before you open your file in Photoshop to work on it, in Expression Media you will need to Choose "Sync Annotations..." from the Action Menu, then choose "Export Annotations to original files". This will push all of your metadata into the DNG file, and will ensure it all comes along for the ride to Derivative land...

Summary: Basically, you need at least two pieces of software, Bridge CS2/CS3, and Expression Media. I also use ImageIngester Pro (which is a cool app specifically designed for importing images), and highly recommend it. It saves lots of time, and can replace a lot of the work you need to do in Bridge (like file renaming, bulk keywording etc.), as it does it right when the files come into the computer. Check out a video Peter Krogh did on using ImageIngester: Here (note this video is based on Version 2 of II, but version 3 is now out and much easier to use and understand. Much of the concepts remain the same).

Cheers, Josh

June 17, 2008 at 3:38 PM  

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