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Thread: For Professionals: Using a Macbook Pro as workstation + Discussion on photo back-up and redundancy

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    For Professionals: Using a Macbook Pro as workstation + Discussion on photo back-up and redundancy

    I made this thread after hearing people talk about the pros and cons of using a laptop as their primary editing suite. I made the switch to solely using a Macbook Pro for editing as my photography job constantly takes me around the world, but with a difference. The other issue I would like to discuss is the increasing need for data back-up/redundancy after a court issue with a colleague in the wedding industry in Adelaide.

    Firstly, below is my workstation at home, Ive posted up the specs and reasons for doing so down below. But would like to mention how great the Matrox products DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go is for laptop users wanting to connect more than 1 external monitor to their laptop for editing purposes. They are able to run 2 to 3 external monitors at once, and the laptop monitor as well at a resolution of 1920x1080, for 1080p and perfect for affordable but nice monitors like a Dell 2311H Ultrasharps or the more expensive U2410. It only costed me $320 delivered from a company in Sydney, it can be bought a bit cheaper from the US on Ebay. They come in VGA analog model, Digital for DVI connection, or DisplayPort edition I am using here for the highest resolution possible for the Matrox. The screen shot below shows CS5 opened on the left and Lightroom 3 opened on the right, with the laptop screen for miscellaneous stuff. I dont experience any input lags for this kind of work at home, and the Matrox recognizes it as an external screen extension so it drags all the way to the left or right, not 3 separate monitors. But I had no problems calibrating it. Just make sure you use 2 or 3 exact monitor models for uniformity of colour and results. Highly recommended to anyone using laptops!

    The other more important issue I want to raise is how we as professionals, even amateurs and hobbyists alike - back up our data for security and redundancy. I have just heard of a photographer in Adelaide being taken to court with a $15,000 dollar lawsuit, plus a return of the wedding fees and all court expenses, at nearly $30,000 in damages being sought by the bride and groom

    The aforesaid photographer lost the majority of photos on the memory card, and cannot seem to recover them even after employing data recovery experts and hardware etc. Very sad and major bummer for the bride and groom, and possible career suicide for the photographer. I do not know what the full story is, but after hearing that it kinda scared me into reviewing and foolproofing my back up methods more.

    Since switching mid last year from using 1D bodies to 5D2s, I have lost the ability to use 2 memory cards at once for data mirroring. As I strongly believe the first back up you do is in the camera not when you get home. But since the change I have started using at least 1 or 2 photographer assistants on the day, no matter how big or small the wedding is, that way they can keep going if I suffer any problems. Having a back up camera helps tremendously too in case.

    On the day, during down times - ie. driving to another location or lunch or dinner or short breaks, we use the opportunity to back up the cards onto the Solid State Drive on my laptop - better security than using a normal HDD as I dont have to worry about mechanical crashes/data corruption as much, and also a normal portable hard drive.

    End of the day, go home and upload the photos to 2 drives from a RAID array, and keep the external portable drive at the office and off-site. What has been on my mind lately is the idea of using a fire-proof safe to store the drives and some equipment in. Does anyone currently use these or something similar?

    I guess what Im really trying to say is that it is paramount for professionals to have safety nets in place, especially when shooting something like weddings which is big money for both sides and cannot be re-shot again.




    My portable editing suite at home - this set up is geared at maximum portability for usage whilst traveling and on locations for shooting tethered, processing and editing and miscellaneous stuff with maximum security and data redundancy - thanks to solid state drive

    1. Macbook Pro i7 with 8GB Ram, 128GB Solid State Drive for ultra fast loading time and data access and impossible to suffer from hard drive crash by mechanical means. Screen is 15 inch Hi Resolution option with Matte for non reflective surface for temporary editing - colour and brightness calibrated by Color Munki spectrometer at 120 cdm/2 at D65.

    2. Primary monitors - twin Dell Ultrasharp 2311H IPS with laptop via Matrox DualHead2Go unit. Both colour and brightness calibrated by Color Munki spectrometer at 120 cdm/2 at D65. Great IPS monitors and affordable and with very good colour accuracy as tested around the world. One panel can be detached easily and taken for traveling and on locations for accurate editing.

    3. Data Redundancy - Primary - 4TB RAID array at RAID 1 set up for data mirroring at 2TB each on 2 drives. Connected to Macbook via Firewire 800 for ultra fast data access. Secondary - twin Western Digital external HDDs at 1TB each. All drives can be unplugged and pulled fast in case of emergencies. With an external drive at the office for off-site security.

    Half of this set up is able to be easily transported in luggage to be flown on planes and used on location anywhere. I could easily go for much faster Mac Pro desktops and better monitors, but they are not as portable and much more expensive. So I think this is a good compromise between fast efficient speed and power, data access and security.

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    jm, grest write up thanks. sad to hear of the wedding issue. i don't know if its enforceable but my contract absolves me of liability due to card or image loss for whatever reason.
    Darren
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    jm, grest write up thanks. sad to hear of the wedding issue. i don't know if its enforceable but my contract absolves me of liability due to card or image loss for whatever reason.
    Yeah thats a pretty good clause to have in the contract I reckon! Think I will add that into mine from now on.

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    i guess there would have to be cause for negligence if you had that clause anyhow. it also highlights the importance of professional indemnity and liability insurance i guess

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    I agree, good discussion and not just for professionals. Backing up is important to everyone, from students to CEO's, whether that be photos, essays or any other data.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    yip, i was involved in a civil legal case awhile ago (something to be avoided at all costs) and the litigant could not prove their case as they couldn't locate a vital email from a couple of years prior.

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    Good info JM and thanks for sharing it.


    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    ...we use the opportunity to back up the cards onto the Solid State Drive on my laptop - better security than using a normal HDD as I dont have to worry about mechanical crashes/data corruption as much...
    SSDs are great, and I use them myself, but I don't know that they are more reliable overall at this point than spinning rust. Some brands have had a very high failure rate. I use them because they're fast, not because they're more reliable, but no doubt Apple use good ones. When choosing 3rd party, it's important to only use the best if you care about your data. I've had good results with the Intel drives.


    What has been on my mind lately is the idea of using a fire-proof safe to store the drives and some equipment in. Does anyone currently use these or something similar?
    There is a mob called ioSafe that produce a fireproof and waterproof external drive. There is a review of it here.

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    For professionals, off-site electronic data backups are possible through a number of services these days. Lanserve in Melbourne is one such service and there are others I'm sure. Note that I am NOT recommending this company or any others, just pointing out the option.
    Waz
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    Quote Originally Posted by soulman View Post
    Good info JM and thanks for sharing it.


    SSDs are great, and I use them myself, but I don't know that they are more reliable overall at this point than spinning rust. Some brands have had a very high failure rate. I use them because they're fast, not because they're more reliable, but no doubt Apple use good ones. When choosing 3rd party, it's important to only use the best if you care about your data. I've had good results with the Intel drives.


    There is a mob called ioSafe that produce a fireproof and waterproof external drive. There is a review of it here.
    The reason I mentioned SSDs for protection is not for actual data storage, but during operations and times when you are using laptops on location or whilst traveling - a data corruption or mechanical malfunction can easily occur when the drive suffers from knocks and bumps or is dropped, losing part or all of the data on it. I occasionally freak out friends who have never used an SSD by either shaking my laptop a lot during file transfers, or use them upside down or throw it onto cushions

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    The RAID array is a fantastic idea and anyone series about redundancy and getting out of scenarios like the photographer mentioned should all employ some sort of redundancy.

    Depending on what type of RAID you use of cause

    during my Network Engineering studys we pretty much had it drilled into us as......RAIDS are fantastic for redundancy but they do and can fail. Your task is trying to eliminate the impact that it has on you and your data.

    NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices now days are fantastic small and energy efficient and allong with a RAID array can give you that extra layer of protection should something go disasterly wrong.

    One setup i know of just as an Example

    Mate of mine has a RAID 5 array ( RAID 5 you need 3 disks) he then has a NAS at his parents place. He backs up new stuff on his RAID array to his NAS everynight so if his RAID was to die he had only to go back to the previous backup that was performed. It emails him when the backup is done so he knows that it went successfully.

    A good example...and something that you can go to bed at night not worrying about your data going kaboom in a cloud of smoke (yes ive seen it happen....smells terrible)

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    Jackie,
    I have the new 2011 MBP, and the new Thunderbolt port (Intel lightspeed) is the answer to some of these issues and the main reason for me upgrading from my 3 month old 2010 MBP. Just waiting on Lacie to release their little big disk product which should be anytime now.
    Check it out..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
    Jackie,
    I have the new 2011 MBP, and the new Thunderbolt port (Intel lightspeed) is the answer to some of these issues and the main reason for me upgrading from my 3 month old 2010 MBP. Just waiting on Lacie to release their little big disk product which should be anytime now.
    Check it out..
    oh I know all about Thunderbolt and the opportunities and doors it can open, but currently there are no cameras or many devices that has Thunderbolt so its just a matter of waiting and waiting I guess.

    Would have loved to used the Pentax 645D with a major commercial shoot last week shooting tethered, but after using one for work untethered, a 10 shot sequence on location took over 3 minutes to finish on the card, that was with one of the fastest SD cards around too. The stupid thing about the Pentax is that it has only USB2.0 for shooting tethered, I cant imagine making the magazine editor, designer, make up artist and hair stylist sit in front of the comp and wait god knows how long for at over half a gig from 10 shots to finish loading onto Lightroom! But in the future, high end cameras with Thunderbolt data transfer would be a godsend for pros and amateurs alike, hopefully filter down onto lesser models too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    ..... a 10 shot sequence on location took over 3 minutes to finish on the card, that was with one of the fastest SD cards around too. The stupid thing about the Pentax is that it has only USB2.0 for shooting tethered....
    * The card transfer speed is an issue with the card type, not the camera itself.
    if the card specs only allow for a slower(than CF card) transfer rate, then the camera really only need to comply with that rate of data exchange.. and not really any faster(although a faster camera transfer rate would be an advantage from a future proofing standpoint)
    * To me this is perfectly understandable from an engineering standpoint.
    ALSO!! You really need to take the amount of data available in each file into consideration as well! A 645D DNG file is over 60Meg large!! Even the jpg files it generates are nearly 20Meg, so this notion that it took over 3mins to transfer 10 images and that it seems to be slow(jpg shooting or raw?).. put that into perspective.. that's 600Megs of images being transferred via SD card transfer rate technology.

    * While we know that a D3s or a 1DMk4 will always have an advantage in terms of transfer speeds, this is not only attributed to the camera alone. The use of SD card is the real culprit.
    * Maybe Pentax should have used a CF and SD card slot format? Makes the most sense to me, as any professional currently using a large sensor DSLR and thinking of migrating to an even larger sensor format at a reasonable cost, woudl have many CF cards at their disposal. Pentax's reasoning is introverted and convoluted! They should have been also marketing themselves to the CaNikon pros as well!

    * As far as I'm aware, there are no cameras with any port type that is significantly faster than USB2.
    That is, I know of no camera, video nor still, that uses either eSATA or USB3 port types. And look at firewire and what happened to that! What joke that was.

    * The Thunderbolt has to also be taken into context as well. While it sounds really uber chic and cool to read the specs and think of a better/brighter future, I'm sure the reality will be more like halve it and then halve it again for real world use.
    The real way it works is:
    Manufacturers keep adding needless and uneccessary pixels onto their camera's sensors at the design stage, with the end result that each image carries far more data than the previous generation technology did.
    So by the time this Thunderbolt IO port becomes a reality, and mature enough to actually work at this half and half again transfer rate, a camera's image file is going to be upwards of 100Meg anyhow, thus offsetting the shorter time requirement in transferring to the PC, with more data being transferred.
    If it takes 3mins to transfer a single 30Meg file at 1Gb/s, then transferring a 100Meg file at 3Gb/s will still take 3mins!

    I'm afraid that your editor, MUA, hairstylist, designer and barista are all going to still require some level of patience for the files to transfer across to the PC.
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    * The card transfer speed is an issue with the card type, not the camera itself.
    if the card specs only allow for a slower(than CF card) transfer rate, then the camera really only need to comply with that rate of data exchange.. and not really any faster(although a faster camera transfer rate would be an advantage from a future proofing standpoint)
    * To me this is perfectly understandable from an engineering standpoint.
    ALSO!! You really need to take the amount of data available in each file into consideration as well! A 645D DNG file is over 60Meg large!! Even the jpg files it generates are nearly 20Meg, so this notion that it took over 3mins to transfer 10 images and that it seems to be slow(jpg shooting or raw?).. put that into perspective.. that's 600Megs of images being transferred via SD card transfer rate technology.
    you forgot to mention the size/speed of the camera buffer as well Arthur, the Pentax has an abysmal buffer and also hampers the data write speed.


    Maybe Pentax should have used a CF and SD card slot format? Makes the most sense to me, as any professional currently using a large sensor DSLR and thinking of migrating to an even larger sensor format at a reasonable cost, woudl have many CF cards at their disposal. Pentax's reasoning is introverted and convoluted! They should have been also marketing themselves to the CaNikon pros as well!
    I definitely agree 200% with you on that, I saw no reason why Pentax limited itself to dual SD card slots when the camera is for pros, and we all know that CF card is way faster. Shot themselves in the foot with that one.

    As far as I'm aware, there are no cameras with any port type that is significantly faster than USB2.
    That is, I know of no camera, video nor still, that uses either eSATA or USB3 port types. And look at firewire and what happened to that! What joke that was.
    a lot of the older higher end DSLRs such as 1D bodies and some recent medium formats have firewire capability and is greatly appreciated by users and myself.

    BUT, the best thing about your post - is that it finally has dot points/proper paragraphs, and is more concise and easier to read! YAYYYYYYY! hahahaha

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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    you forgot to mention the size/speed of the camera buffer as well Arthur, the Pentax has an abysmal buffer and also hampers the data write speed.
    Memory buffer is trivial compared to the max speed of the card interface.

    That is, if the card supported maximum speeds are only 10Mb/s, then having a larger buffer still means that the card will take those 3mins to write too!
    Buffer is only a factor for when shooting quickly, not writing to card. Buffer has no impact on card writing performance.

    That's why I didn't mention the buffer size and speed.

    The buffer only has to handle as much bandwidth as the sensor can push out for a given timeframe.
    Again, while the specs may read 'abysmal' sounding from a marketing guff point of view, the reality is all that really counts.
    If the camera can only sustain 1fps then the buffer really only needs to be capable of clearing 60Mb/s(which is actually quite a lot of data really!)
    Silly Pentax should have gone with a SD + CF card format, migrating to this new CFast format as it eventually evolves.

    Anyhow.. simple maths shows up that even with an even slower than 60Mb/s buffer bandwidth, the SD card's current max write speed is still a major bottleneck, not the buffer itself.


    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    .....
    BUT, the best thing about your post - is that it finally has dot points/proper paragraphs ......
    who me? .. now why would I do such an obviously silly thing like that?

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