THE DIGITAL ARENA, AH WHAT A PLACE.
You know of it, that place where your files disappear to the instant you hit the shutter release. Once the realm of the true geek, an area of mystical unknown to most creative souls. This pixilated babylon where anyone can substitute their Metallica T-shirt for a polo shirt and call themselves a digital tech. However, is that accurate? Does anyone with drag and drop skills become a digi-tech?
WHO DO YOU TRUST?
At it's base level the job of a Digital Tech is one based on trust. Photographers and their clients hire a tech that they can rely on to handle the digital media that comes from their camera. As cameras evolve this task becomes increasingly difficult as file-size's increase and buffer sizes (and therefore shooting speeds) grow. Trusting that the tech can manage this data efficiently on and off set is crucial.
I often receive phone calls with the question; are you a digi-tech? My response is always "yes" however Digital Decaf is much more than that. Here's a good comparison: a client needs a simple image of a beach at sunset, they either send an intern from their office or hire a professional photographer. If all goes well for our young intern, he/she goes to Miami snaps a few shots and comes back with a great image and hopefully a suntan. But what happens if there's a tropical storm or you're required to get a permit to shoot on the beach? What if your camera gets lost by the airline? Well a professional photographer would have correct permits, backup cameras, insurance and all the tools required to guarantee delivery of an incredible image with options and backups.
The big difference being professionalism, accountability and infrastructure.
I am sure that you can trust most tech's with the simple task of transering files from camera to laptop. However the task of managing the digital media from a shoot that could span days or weeks often requires much more than simple file transfer. This is where Capture Companies and their technicians excel. Usually fully insured and responsible business entitities, capture companies shouldn't be confused with one person running his business from the back of a pickup truck. Capture companies can be trusted in all situations to deliver your media efficiently.
BUT I TRUST MYSELF, CAN'T I GO DIY?
It is possible with the right connections (and time) to hire a freelance tech and equipment from your local pro shop. However this is the equivalent of hiring a lab technician and renting an E6 machine (remember those ?) to save 50 cents a roll. It also puts all of the responsibility squarely onto your shoulders. The beauty of hiring a capture company with a full package is that, their tech's take the responsibility away from you the photographer, leaving you to concentrate on creativity. Also every piece of their equipment fits into a workflow, it's calibrated and color managed to work together as a whole and is real-world tested on a daily basis.
I can't tell you the number of times I've been given equipment to work with that is run down or simply not maintained. From ports on the camera that are fried to out of date software on the computers to hard drives that are literally grinding! I once spent all morning cleaning up a photographers laptop by backing up to his ipod because he didn't have a backup drive. What was I backing up? Family pictures, "shared" music, movies, even errr... "grown up" files ! All this while the shoot was in progress.
So here's a list of differences between a tech and a capture company. Remember, the few dollars you may save in the short term are definitley not worth the price of losing the whole shoot.
- Capture companies are fully insured both equipment and liability
- They have offices which you may set up an appointment and visit any time
- On set RAID 1 back up
- Off set/Backend RAID 5/0 archiving
- I've got your back, backup. Capture companies are full talented individuals that can help troubleshoot problems
- Online image selection service
- Fully licensed and updated software not hack-n-crack
- Owns and maintains equipment
- Color managed nondestructive workflows
- Flexibility to come up with budget based solutions for your creative needs
The bottom line is, you have to trust your files to someone, either yourself, a tech or a capture company. As with everything, you get what you pay for and although you can only earn trust, hiring a capture company gives you and your clients the ability to trust that your shoot is delivered on time and in-tact.