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1  DAM Stuff / Hardware Discussions / Re: Recommendations for good HD Enclosure with 2 Firewire ports? on: June 27, 2008, 08:42:41 AM
I recently purchased the 2-drive OWC enclosure from MacSales Andy mentioned, and purchased two 500GB Seagate drives. Assembly and installation was straightforward (I set it up as a JBOD, using one drive as my primary photo drive and the second drive as the backup, with Time Machine doing the backups). For under $400 total price, I'm pretty happy with this solution .I had been buying external drives before, requiring one cable per drive, plus one power supply per drive, and you have to replace the whole thing when you need more storage.

2  Software Discussions / Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications / Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application on: May 23, 2007, 05:27:54 AM
I figured I'd round out this post by describing the applications I use in conjunction with PSE. If you're starting from scratch, this setup saves too little money compared to the full PS CS3. But if, like me, you already have some of the pieces, then it might be a cost-effective way to add just the DAM- or RAW-related capabilities you need. What you really miss out on with PSE over PS is Bridge (for ratings and metadata) and its implementation of ACR (especially the ability to apply ACR settings to multiple images). For image editing, I have found PSE to offer everything I need, though this won't be true for everybody.

For importing, browsing, rating and metadata work, I use Photo Mechanic ($150, It works straight from (and on) the image files, so what you're seeing is the information in the file itself rather than catalog information that may or may not be synched with the underlying files. It's a very speedy way to review images, displaying the embedded JPGs in raw files (NEFs, DNGs...etc.) It also has powerful file renaming features, and has legendary customer support.

After doing a first pass of ratings in PM, I open the folder of images in Lightroom ($199 intro price; now $299). Since it is rendering raw files, rather than displaying the embedded previews, this takes longer. I determine the raw conversion settings based on the higher-rated images, and then sync the settings to the rest of the group of similar images. When I'm done, I export the XMP data, which updates the sidecar files with the ACR settings.

Then I run the free Adobe DNG Converter, which creates the DNGs from the camera raw files and their sidecar files. This, too, takes a bit of time.

I then look at the DNG files in Photo Mechanic to finalize the ratings based on the adjusted conversion settings. I could have done this while in Lightroom, and occasionally I do, but it's much faster to scroll through different images and make side-by-side comparisons in PM. When the ratings are finalized, I write the star ratings as keywords, and also use the Priority field so iView will read the labels.

At this point, the work on the images is finished. I transfer the images to the archive and import them into iView.

I already had PSE and Photo Mechanic from my pre-DAM (and pre-RAW) days, so what I was really missing was a catalog application and a way to apply ACR settings to multiple images at a time. For awhile I limped along applying ACR settings only to the higher-rated images. Lightroom, at $199, has solved this very nicely. It might also get you as much cataloging functionality as you need, but I also picked up iView (Lightroom wasn't out at the time, and even now I'd still recommend iView). 

That's my setup, for what it's worth.


3  Software Discussions / Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications / Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application on: May 17, 2007, 06:14:44 AM
Though I missed the announcement (if there was one), but ACR 4.0 is compatible with Photoshop Elements 5.0. This was surprising to me, since ACR 4.0 was announced initially as compatible only with Photoshop CS3. I downloaded the new ACR and installed it, and it has some excellent improvements that address many -- but not all -- of the issues discussed previously on this thread:

1. It provides the same new adjustment controls as in CS3 and Lightroom, including the "recovery" and "vibrance" sliders.

2. It will now embed and update the JPG preview in the DNG files, with options to embed a "medium" or "full-size" preview reflecting the ACR settings. Note: this is something Lightroom does not even do yet.

3. For proprietary (non-DNG) RAW files, it now gives you the option to write ACR adjustments to a sidecar file rather than to its own mysterious and undocumented database. You also have the choice of telling it to ignore existing sidecar files if it believes raw adjustments also exist in its database. (Hint: avoid the secret database at all times.) Testing confirms that updates to the ACR settings for a DNG file are written directly into the DNG file.

4. There is an interesting option to apply sharpening only to the preview image. It needs more testing to figure out exactly what it does, but I can see the advantage of applying sharpening only to the embedded preview for proofing work, but leaving the image unsharpened when it is opened into the photoshop editor (where better sharpening tools, including plug-ins, are available).

There is still one major drawback to using Elements in a raw workflow: the inability to apply the ACR settings to multiple images at a time.

Still, these are all excellent improvements -- especially since I had expected PSE 5 would languish under the old ACR version-- and give users many of the adjustment tools found in Lightroom and PSCS3, albeit for one-image-at-a-time use.


4  Software Discussions / iView MediaPro / Re: Would like to rename IPTC Document Title using Original Filename on: December 06, 2006, 10:38:11 AM
Funny how timing works, I just had to do this very thing last week.

One question and one suggestion:

The suggestion is to write an additional If statement that only performs the function if the title is presently blank. I do this by inserting:

If (Len(mediaItem.Annotations.Product) = 0) Then

before the statement to write the filename to title, and an "End If" afterwards.
You could save two versions of the script, one that over-writes existing Title values and one that doesn't.
Alternatively, you could just use iView to search for images in which the title is blank to define the group of images to which you will apply the script.

The question is whether anyone knows how to write this so the script copies the base filename (without the extension)? Sorting on the title would allow me to see all derivatives made from the same original, but I don't want the extension messing up the sort order.

5  Software Discussions / Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications / Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application on: October 11, 2006, 10:58:26 AM
To the best of my ability to figure out sidecars, PSE doesn't write to these, either. I tested by attempting to embed a new keyword into a DNG (as well as into a NEF) from PSE, and then used Photo Mechanic to display the embedded metadata, and the new keyword didn't show up. Also, I can't see any .xmp files in the file directory (or anywhere else). I may be missing the boat, but it's not looking promising.

6  Software Discussions / Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications / Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application on: October 11, 2006, 08:30:43 AM
No sooner did I write up my review than I found another significant drawback: PSE Organizer will not write tag information into raw formats, including DNG. This presents a major roadblock to migrating to another catalog program down the road, since all keywording (or collections) done on DNG files will basically be stranded in PSE.

I suspect it would be possible to generate JPGs with the same filename, write the keywords into the JPGs, and then use another application to pair up the raw and JPG files and synch the embedded metadata. Afterwards, the JPG can be scrapped. I know Photo Mechanic has this feature, and other applications may, also. I would want to test this workaround before putting any effort into keywording my DNG files in PSE.

This seems quite an important drawback to me, making PSE suitable only for JPG-based workflows.

7  Software Discussions / Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications / Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application on: October 11, 2006, 08:01:07 AM
Hi David,

I saw that post, and thought the topic deserved highlighting some of the other aspects of PSE that users should know about if they're considering the package. Personally I have not yet had the need for applying RAW conversion settings in bulk; I just don't shoot that kind of volume.

PSE's ACR does permit you to apply the settings from the previous conversion to an image. In PSE Organizer, you would CTRL-Click on, say, five images that should all get the same setting, and send them all to the Editor. Get the settings right for the first one, Alt-Click on "Update" to save the new settings without opening the file (this is similar to clicking on "Done" in the full ACR version). This will then load up the next image in the sequence. Select "Previous Conversion" from the Settings pull-down menu, Alt-Click "update" and so on through the remaining images.

While this isn't nearly as fast as what Bridge will do, it's a workable solution for small-volume or occasional needs.

8  Software Discussions / Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications / Photoshop Elements as a DAM application on: October 11, 2006, 07:30:41 AM
I wanted to supplement the information on this forum regarding Photoshop Elements (PSE) and its suitability for DAM. I have been testing it for several weeks now on an archive of around 10,000 images. PSE has two modules: the Editor for adjusting the image, and the Organizer for managing the image collection. The package is good, but lacking in some important ways.

First, PSE's Editor and, specifically, its Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) implementation, will NOT update the embedded JPG preview in DNG files, even in the latest PSE v5 release. This makes it all the more important that DNG conversion occur after you've made your raw adjustments, since subsequent changes won't be reflected in the embedded JPG. This is not a huge hurdle if you're also using PSE's Organizer for your catalog. The Organizer can be forced to rebuild thumbnails from raw images (DNG or other raw formats). It will, however, limit the use of other catalog products like iView Media Pro since, if the embedded JPG is not up-to-date, the catalog will show an out-of-date preview. Based on the user's manual (Appendix D), IVMP is not able to render DNG files on Windows (the Apple version can use Apple's own raw engine, apparently).

Second, PSE's Organizer is fairly limited in its ability to write IPTC data. Keywords (which it calls Tags) and Descriptions (captions) are about it. You cannot write City, State, Country, or copyright fields into your images from the Organizer. It can, however, read much of this information and even search on some of it. You just need to use a different application to get the data in there in the first place (I use Photo Mechanic, which is outstanding). PSE's Editor can edit several of these fields, but it's a poor choice since it requires re-saving the file. This either re-compresses (and degrades) a JPG file or reqires opening a raw file and saving in another format (TIF, PSD or new JPG). In any case, PSE doesn't seem to permit editing metadata on a raw-format file, and hence is not a workable approach.

Third, PSE's Organizer doesn't have a way to re-read the embedded metadata in an image. So if you update the keywords in a file, Organizer will be ignorant of the changes. The only option is to remove the file from the catalog and re-import it. Oddly, it is perfectly capable of showing the current embedded metadata in the "properties" section, but this is only revealing information in the file, not in the catalog entries associated with the file.

Fourth, there is no way to sort the catalog by filename. This is a major drawback if derivative files are identified by appending suffixes to original filenames, as per Peter's book. If you could sort by filename, you'd see the original first, followed by the various derivaties. No such luck in PSE, however.

Fifth, if you work with external hard drives, PSE Organizer is a bit clumsy if the disk is off-line. It will attempt to reconnect to the files automatically, though you can set it to not do this. Even so, whenver you want to see a full-size view of the image, and will attempt to re-connect with the actual file, triggering a search of the local hard drive (fruitless, since that's not where the image files live) that must be cancelled manually. Specifying the drive as "offline media" is no good either, since it then assumes the files can never be modified (i.e. as if they were on DVDs), so any attempts to edit the image (by, say, sending it to the Editor) results in a local copy being made. My approach is to just not ask to view images at full size unless the hard drive is online, and to uncheck the option to "automatically reconnect" to files. For best results, the media where the files live should be online.

These are the main things I've run into through actual use. I'm sure I've missed some.

Overall, Photoshop Elements works fine as a basic DAM tool if you use it in a "closed loop" -- using both the Editor and Organizer together, and don't need it to integrate or play nicely with additional applications. If you hope to use a full-blown catalog app like iView instead of PSE's Organizer, be warned that the embedded JPGs will show the raw settings at the time of DNG conversion, and will not be current if the raw settings were changed later. To update the embedded preview, you'll need the full Photoshop program or, perhaps, Lightroom. If you use Organizer as the catalog app, be warned that changes to embedded metadata made by other applications (including PSE's Editor) cannot be updated in the catalog except by removing and re-importing the changed file.

With all that said, PSE was more than enough to provide the eye-opening experience of being able to see and find all my digital images. It was able to help me identify inconsistent or missing keywording, and its Collections feature, though basic, was a far better way to organize and sequence a slideshow than what I was doing before (in Powerpoint). Keep an eye out in case PSE's implementation of ACR is changed to permit updating of embedded DNG previews; if so, then a full catalog app like iView coupled with PSE's good Editor will make an excellent solution for around $250.

9  Software Discussions / Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications / Re: applications other than photoshop on: October 03, 2006, 11:31:12 AM
I wanted to pass along an additional aspect of Photoshop Elements that I previously didn't appreciate. Apparently, the Camera Raw part of Elements will not update the embedded JPG image in DNG files if they are subsequently adjusted.  (This was confirmed by Thomas Knoll over in the Adobe Camera Raw forum.)

This means the catalog or browser thumbnails will not reflect the current RAW settings if they have been changed after the DNG was first saved. The one exception is if the Elements Organizer is used as the catalog application; it can be forced to "update thumbnail" from RAW files (DNG or others, as long as they were adjusted in ACR).

So those of us using Elements as our raw processor have a few choices:
1. Convert to DNG late in the process (as Peter advises), after you have settled on your RAW adjustments. This may mean rating images based on previews that may not show the image at its best.

2. Use PSE Organizer for cataloging. My guess is non-Adobe catalog apps like iView will not be able to render previews from RAW files directly, since they won't be able to interpret the conversion settings, but I could be wrong on this.

This is a bit of a bummer, since the combination of PSE (for RAW processing and occasional further image editing) together with iView (for robust cataloging) seemed an appealing way to set up a DNG-based workflow without breaking the bank. Without the full version of Photoshop, or until Lightroom ships, it seems I'm either tiede to using PSE for cataloging or living with potentially outdated previews of DNG files.

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