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Monday, April 28, 2008

Working The Flow

Whether on assignment for National Geographic or managing his massive stock archives, Frans Lanting's studio is constantly adapting to handle extreme challenges in digital-asset management

On some remote shooting locations when there's no power available, it's just not practical for Lanting to carry a laptop. In those cases, he makes do with an Epson P-5000 acting as a viewable hard drive. In rare instances, he may not even be able to download to his P-5000, so he'll simply conserve space on CF cards until he's able to offload them.

“There have been a few times,” Lanting says, “when either because the situation is much more photogenic than I envisioned or for other reasons, I ended up having to do a pretty serious edit on the back of the camera, and I really don't like to be in that position.”

Because he typically captures RAW and JPEG files simultaneously, Lanting is able to quickly build an index of highlights as he shoots and send single images to his picture editor or others who may need instant access.

“When I'm two-thirds into the fieldwork,” he says, “I have a really good idea of what I have and what I still need to work on. By the time I'm done with the fieldwork and back in the studio, I can send an iView [MediaPro] edit of the highlights to my picture editor, who has that on his or her desk as a reference. The great majority of the highlights that end up in the final edit are already represented in my initial cull.”

frans lanting
frans lanting
TOP: Walruses off the Russian coast in the Chukchi Sea. BOTTOM: Hippo yawning at twilight, Luangwa River, Zambia.
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Once he's back in the studio, Lanting and his team get to work merging the shoot—often 5,000 to 10,000 images—onto the studio computers.

“He literally plops the drives on my desk and says go,” says Lanting's Digital Imaging Manager Anthony Fendler. Any photographer on assignment for National Geographic

magazine must conform to a specific set of criteria for handling digital images—not the least of which is turning over every image from a shoot.

“The Geographic treats digital shoots as basically the equivalent of a film shoot,” Lanting says. “For many years, they'd have film processed and edited in-house. There are a couple of reasons why they continue this in the digital era, one of them being that they really want to see whole sequences because what a photographer picks may not be what an editor picks. Also, because of some incidents with contrived shooting situations, they really want to verify that the top frames are the result of an authentic shooting situation.”

Before a take can be sent to National Geographic, Lanting and his team must bring the shoot into their studio system—which includes Apple Xserve RAID 5 storage and multiple programs for archiving, indexing and handling the image files. The first step is to check the drives to ensure they are, in fact, exact copies, then import them into the studio system. Files are then culled to eliminate redundancies, errant nonimage files and general housekeeping before the RAW files are sequentially renamed.


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