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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Future Perfect - The Lab In The Digital Age

Once thought to be on the verge of a dodo-like extinction, labs have made a strong comeback as they gear up to serve photographers' digital needs

Future PerfectIn the extraordinary transition that has taken place as we evolve from film to digital, the lab, the mainstay of the photo community, is in the midst of a quiet revolution. While many businesses struggle to find their way, the leaders in the industry are interpreting the technology, advancing along with it, and staking out a clear path as they innovate services vital to the photographer in the digital era. It may be a quiet revolution, but that doesn't make it any less momentous.

On the East Coast, Baldev Duggal of Duggal Visual Solutions (www.duggal.com) has been at the head of laboratory technology and services for 40-plus years. “You know, a common customer thinks of a photo lab as nothing more than a place where you hand in a film roll,” says Duggal. “We can turn a regular snapshot into a work of art. If you give us a 35mm negative, we can turn it into wallpaper. You dream it, we can make it happen.”

Future PerfectAnd make it happen he does. Duggal Visual Solutions has wrapped large-scale graphics on buses and buildings, printed works of art for museums and galleries, and laid photographic images as carpeting.

Here on the West Coast, DigitalFusion (www.digitalfusion.net) is pushing the definitions of what it is to be a digital lab. Known for their excellence throughout the entertainment industry, execs Jon Moeller and Hugh Milstein are near completion on a brand-new, 5,000-square-foot, post-digital lab that they're hoping becomes a hub for an exchange of ideas within the photographic world. The excitement they have about their ambitious work is visceral, and they talk quickly and finish each other's thoughts (which is why they'll be quoted together as DigitalFusion).


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