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Author Topic: Aperture workflow  (Read 8574 times)
andyj
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« on: November 08, 2008, 09:12:40 AM »

This isn't a very active sub-forum but I'm hoping that someone is interested enough to comment!  I'm not a pro-photographer, more of a very enthusiastic hobbyist.

I've just started with Aperture having had IView for many years coupled with Photoshop Elements.  I've followed the DAM workflow for the last year or so.  I bought myself a new iMac, upgrading my trusty old G4 finally and decided I'd like to simplify things a little.  It's not that iView has been a problem, nor PSE (esp. with Richard Lynch's excellent powertools) for that matter, it's just that I wanted something a little more integrated into the whole OSX toolset with batch capabilities - one of the irritating issues with PSE really for RAW processing.

Anyway, having played with it for a couple of weeks, it's obvious that it doesn't play with Peter's DAM approach that well.  But it did get me thinking how much of a problem that was.  If I could summarise the DAM workflow somewhat (well, quite a lot actually), it seems that it comes down to:
- organisation: buckets and naming
- rating and ranking
- metadata (as an addition to rating and ranking)
- cataloguing
- processing and mastering
DNG is at the heart of this.

The impression I have of Aperture is that it does cataloguing and mastering very well, with albums, smart albums, projects, RAW processing, plug-ins.  Rating and ranking is very good as well with stacks, picks and ratings.
Drawbacks in this area: roundtripping creates a new master (in the same location as the original) and re-imports.  It could use DNG but this seems to defeat the point of the software which is optimised to each camera.  Nevertheless, DNG is the file at the heart of the DAM workflow so this could be seen as a drawback.

Coming on to metadata.  Well, it does allow extensive use of metadata including a metadata editor/dictionary.  There do seem to be some drawbacks though: it doesn't embed into the files themselves, storing alongside as an XMP file.  It's also a little clunky for application of hierarchical taxonomies - each level having to be separately applied (I had written a little applescript that worked with OmniOutliner to allow the cut-and-paste of a full hierarchy into keywords box in iView).  I can live with the latter but I'm rather hoping they address the embedding of metadata.
It also seems to imply that importing new files that have embedded metadata it will ignore that metadata??

Buckets and naming:  this is a little more contentious I think.  Obviously it will work with referenced masters, so the original RAW files could be managed in buckets on the filesystem but Aperture hides this structure.  Is this a big deal?  At first I thought it might be a bit of a pain, but I did think about how I use the DAM now.  My RAW files are stored in a bucket system under "Working Files".  As they are converted to DNGs, they are stored in buckets under "Original files".  As I create Masters (PSDs, TIFFs, Jpegs), they are stored in buckets under "Derivative files". 
It would seem to me that these duplicates are easily reproducible.  RAW files come into a bucket system and imported, as references, into a "Working files" project, with folders to represent buckets (which could be named by DVD backup label).  They could be ranked and rated and duplicated into a new project named "Original Files".  They wouldn't be DNGs obviously.  Folders can represent the buckets on the hard drive, leaving albums to catalogue.  Actual Masters, roundtripped from PS or PSE, could be managed in their own folders although physically they would be stored with the original files on the hard drive.  A bit of a drawback, and a little clunky to manually relocated every so often.
I know Peter deletes his original RAW files as unnecessary, but I don't.  I know that John B likes to see his filesystem structure which is hidden in Aperture, but I'm not bothered: it seems to me that the point of buckets and catalogues is that we use the former to manage files and the latter to group irrespective of their location (i.e. catalogues hide the filesystem).

Naming doesn't work the way I want it to either.  I can almost get there, but the index portion of the name looks a bit of a pain.  I use iView to manipulate the original index in the filename removing the prefixes (e.g. R00100010) becomes 0010.  The name, date and importing metadata is easy though.
 
Drawbacks are that this is a little clunky.  Perhaps the answer is that initial preparation of RAWs and naming is performed with ImageIngester.

Overall though, it seems the biggest problems are the lack of embedded metadata and the roundtripping creating new masters.  Are these things I could live with?  I think so, I'm not a professional who needs to ensure the metadata sticks with their work, but I've only got going with Aperture, so i'm not sure I've uncovered all the gotchas yet.

So how to import all my currently catalogued pictures, complete with Metadata?  DAM, that looks nigh on impossible!

I'm interested in any thoughts, ideas from anyone who uses Aperture regularly.

Thanks for reading

Andrew
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andyj
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2008, 12:07:30 PM »

Well, I think I'm speaking rubbish actually!!

Masters and versions stick together like superglue - move 1, and all versions move together.  So working with different folders as buckets ain't going to work.  Looks like I could use folders to represent the bucket with projects inside those buckets to group, well, projects together.  This then forgets the idea of original files and derivative files (assuming I start with working files.)  I suppose smart albums could be used to segregate images through a workflow.....

Ok, so it appears that Aperture doesn't conform to any real notion of Peter's DAM workflow in terms of working files, originals, derivatives, buckets etc.  Shame.

I also had one other thought.  Because edits are performed on RAW files and are kept as non-destructive database "notes" in effect.  Any move from Aperture to another system would require one of two approaches:  (1) export as PSDs/TIFFS/JPEGS and re-import into new system.  RAW + derivative exists.  (2) import the RAWs into the new system and reapply changes.  Somewhat tedious one would have thought.

Now I TRULY understand why DNGs are worth having.  Once updates are written into their metadata, those edits are carried forward to any other DNG-capable program.  Much more portable and non-destructive editing...

Hmmm.  Could we rely on Apple to introduce the idea of DNG-exports of versions?  Would be nice to think so.  Could we rely on Apple to maintain the development of Aperture way into the future?  Who knows.

Andrew
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edward_brogan
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« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2008, 02:16:38 PM »

Andrew,

I am in a similar situation, being a very interested hobbyist but not a professional. I started migrating from Iview to Aperture last summer, but I haven't been able to do too much since then because I went back to college full time and I have been very busy.

The only thing I wanted to comment on is the idea that the image edits (color, saturation, exposure, etc.) that are written as metadata (notes) are portable, even in a DNG. When you make edits to a raw file, even a DNG, they are not going to be seen in any other raw application — they are not portable. Competing raw editors do not understand each others edit metadata.

In Iview the edits made in Adobe Camera Raw are seen only because Iview is showing the updated embedded preview.

If you were to try to see those edits in another raw converter you would not. So whether you do an edit in Aperture or Lightroom and for example decide you want to use Bibble, you would not see the changes that were made in either Lightroom or Aperture in Bibble or vice versa. For that matter Lightrooms changes can't be seen in Aperture or the other way around. This applies whether using a DNG file or not as understand.

Ed
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edward_brogan
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2008, 02:19:50 PM »

Andrew,

I am in a similar situation, being a very interested hobbyist but not a professional. I started migrating from Iview to Aperture last summer, but I haven't been able to do too much since then because I went back to college full time and I have been very busy.

The only thing I wanted to comment on is the idea that the image edits (color, saturation, exposure, etc.) that are written as metadata (notes) are portable, even in a DNG. When you make edits to a raw file, even a DNG, they are not going to be seen in any other raw application — they are not portable. Competing raw editors do not understand each others edit metadata.

In Iview the edits made in Adobe Camera Raw are seen only because Iview is showing the updated embedded preview.

If you were to try to see those edits in another raw converter you would not. So whether you do an edit in Aperture or Lightroom and for example decide you want to use Bibble, you would not see the changes that were made in either Lightroom or Aperture in Bibble or vice versa. For that matter Lightrooms changes can't be seen in Aperture or the other way around. This applies whether using a DNG file or not I as understand.

Ed
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andyj
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« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2008, 03:16:14 PM »

I had imagined that with an open file architecture, the metadata (i.e. image changes) would be pretty open as well.  I suppose that removes a concern because it doesn't work that way!

I'm still trying to decide which is best.  Work on the RAW files in Aperture and forget DNG.  Or, externally, convert the RAW files to DNG and import those into Aperture instead.  Do you know if Aperture is "better" at the original RAW file than a DNG?  Experimenting myself, I can't see much difference.  Having imported a RAW and DNG file of the same image, it seems that the RAW and DNG can be manipulated in very similar ways.

Regards

Andrew
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johnbeardy
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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2008, 04:02:56 PM »

If Aperture knows the DNG is a file from a specific camera, it processes it in the same way as a raw file. If not, usually because the camera is one which Aperture doesn't support, then it applies a "baseline DNG" conversion. I can't recall, but I think it can also process a known camera's raw file as baseline too.

Another point is about the processing data. Any ACR adjustments are visible to any other application because they are saved in a publicly readable format in the DNG. It would therefore be possible, but a lot of effort and imperfect, to translate those parameters into equivalent ones for Aperture. But remember DNG means Aperture is able to read other metadata such as keywords - it still fails to read sidecar metadata.

I'm letting this thread run without diving in - you know enough of my views already!

John
« Last Edit: November 09, 2008, 04:04:58 PM by johnbeardy » Logged
edward_brogan
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2008, 04:21:08 PM »

Andrew,


I couldn't see any difference in the conversion of the native raw file (NEF) vs. the DNG file. The only differences I found had to do with the display of exif metadata. I listed them them in a post this past summer.

http://thedambook.com/smf/index.php?topic=3448.0

Also there is an issue with the display of the date and time of capture which I don't believe has been rectified. If you read the previous post (just hit the link) I listed all the details.

I have decided for now to go with the original raw file, used in referenced mode, and then export the raw with a sidecar file which I will then convert to DNG which I will not re-import in to Aperture but will archive just for redundancy. I am also entertaining the idea of using other convertors, such as Capture NX, in addition to Aperture, so using the Nef files in the bucket system referenced in to Aperture is the way I am approaching it.

Ed
PS- You can see I made a typo two times trying to type the last line of my response to you. What I was trying to say was "This applies whether using a DNG file or not as I understand"
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edward_brogan
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2008, 04:33:28 PM »

John,

I wasn't aware that it was at all possible to make processing metadata available from one convertor to another. When you say a lot of effort and imperfect, how much effort are we talking about?
And would you say that for all intents and purposes is it fair to say that these applications can't make that leap on their own?
One more question, does Expression media 2 now read sidecar files or is it still also required to use DNG to let EM2 see keywording done in other applications?
I never really did look at EM2 before I switched to Aperture.

Ed
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johnbeardy
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2008, 12:09:50 AM »

Ed,

For example, let's say we have a certain white balance setting in LR/ACR which is in a DNG's metadata. With AppleScript, I'm pretty sure one can read those sliders' XMP data and then set that file's white balance values in Aperture, and vice versa. This would require working out how ACR's values corresponded to Aperture's, which would require some effort. You'd have a similar matching exercise for other parameters, and you'd always be facing problems such as how to translate ACR's red / orange / yellow / green ... slider hue / saturation / luminance values into Aperture's red / yellow .... That's why I say it would be a lot of effort and so imperfect I doubt if anyone will try it. The applications would also play safe of any legal issues.

iView/EM2 have been able to read sidecars for ages. There have also been scripts (not mine) for syncing  metadata directly between iView and Aperture.

Remember there should be no difference between the conversion of a DNG and a raw unless you deliberately choose the baseline DNG rendering.

John
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peterkrogh
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« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2008, 07:34:45 AM »

Ed and Andy,
Aperture is not really an open toolset, so if you want to use it, I would try and work with it as recommended, and not try to hack it.  Once you go of the reservation, you're completely on your own.

As a non-pro, who does not have large economic value tied up in your images, I think it's perfectly acceptable, particularly if it simplifies and makes more enjoyable the process of working with your images. 

The biggest issue for me is that the work you do in Aperture is more dependent on the program to actually exist, whereas almost all the work done in Lightroom/ACR/iView exists independently of the program, which could be an issue if any of these programs ever cease to exist.

If you decide to move to Aperture, I'd suggest getting a good Aperture bok and doing everything exactly how Steve wants you to.
Peter


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andyj
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2008, 03:21:22 PM »

Thanks all.

I had read that post Ed so was aware of the issues.  It seems, like Peter says, to not worry my brain so much about things that actually aren't likely to affect me.  In all the time I've been taking pictures, key to getting "clever" was the bucket system, keywording and cataloguing: that can still be achieved in Aperture without worrying about working files, original files, derivative files (in a similar manner to you Ed).  Smart albums are the best thing I've found about Aperture and a feature that has been sorely lacking in iView.  What I may do is Image Ingest as DNGs and stick with that format, exporting PSDs as necessary. 

My current combination of iView and PSE I find too clunky: PSE has no "batch" application so each image is loaded, adjusted and saved as DNG individually.  Even though I'm only a hobbyist, I still end up with hundreds of pictures after a trip out and this becomes a laborious task.  If I don't enjoy, I 'aint gonna be doing it justice!  I just can't justify myself the £500 upgrade to full PS - all the features are in PSE that I use so it's a lot of money for things I don't (although, I admit that sometimes it might be nice to work with channels, soft proofing - no more hair pulling when prints don't match - etc.)  Again, Aperture gives me (some of) that.

Incidentally John, I did import a RAW file from my existing set which had a sidecar and the keywords were recognised.  I suppose, looking back, they may have been synced to the file....Not sure what wasn't recognised.

I also thought I'd give Lightroom a go - it's free after all - and see how it compares.  I've worked my way through Apple's Aperture training book and will do the same with Adobe.  My current view is still to think of integration benefits of Aperture.

Cheers,

Andrew

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edward_brogan
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2008, 08:57:13 PM »

Andy,
Sounds like you have a solid base of understanding. I too am looking from a vantage of someone who wants to enjoy the whole process. I was finding myself using iPhoto to make use of Apple's other applications which I do make good use of for family and friends projects.

Thanks Peter, I don't have any plans to hack into Aperture. I certainly do not have the technical knowledge that John Beardsworth does. I just thought it was interesting from the point of interest that there are possibilities that I hope these software creators might someday make available to us. The only part of Aperture that I don't follow strictly according to instructions is the process to import images. I still rename with IIP and set up my buckets at which time I use the referenced mode of import. I also have my exit strategy set up so I may take my images out with at least keywording intact.

Ed
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