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
But the single most important thing a digital lab can do is give customers their lives back. The digital photographer has been delineated into the postprofessional, the colorist, the webgineer, the retoucher. The immediacy of digital has led to a situation where not only does the client expect instant results, but he or she gets a heavy hand in the post-production of the image itself, often expecting this work to be included in the job, and sometimes even the price.
An ultra-efficient workflow is the lab's key to operative success and, especially considering the overwhelming amount of excess that digital can allow during a shoot, it can provide the job turnaround that the client wants and in less time. Why waste an entire day editing on a single workstation when that day could be spent shooting?
As DigitalFusion explains, “The photographer says to himself that I shouldn't be processing my files because it's dangerous and takes a lot of time, and I'm losing sleep and losing work. Hey, go home. Get some sleep. Go on the job tomorrow. You can go online, do your edit, and we got your back.”
Adaptability Innovation, with little exception, is a combination of know-how and resources, which a digital lab has in plenty. Says Baldev Duggal, “Instead of saying, Gee, we've never done it before, we stick our neck out. And while we're solving the problem, we're coming out with a new product. We're an innovative company, we're not just a production house.”
Innovation is closely related to evolution, of course, and evolution doesn't always mean a step forward, even in an industry based on the future. It could mean a step to the side.
Software solutions by the people who actually use the software have begun to proliferate. Popular labs are staffing programmers full-time to develop new ways to streamline the business, such as new online file transfer systems and complex organizational programs. DigitalFusion has plans to offer a pro membership as well, which will provide members with online and physical access to their computers, with high-speed online connectivity and special tech assistance.
Alternate sources of revenue have led to a merger of other business templates, as well. Solution-based sales, for instance, have begun to supplement income. Labs are offering the latest in equipment, flash cards, hard drives, even computers to rent and to own.
Most importantly, at the same time that production houses are beginning to move into post-production, post-production houses are beginning to move into production. Forward-thinking companies like DigitalFusion are beginning to offer their services long before post starts. Equipment and computer rental packages include Hasselblad cameras and up-to-date Apple computers. Nowhere to shoot? There's a dedicated shooting space within the same building. Need some advice? They're glad to send along a postproduction advisor who can help you avoid postproduction problems before they happen. They can even start on the postedit right there on the set.
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