Tag Archives: feature

Back in the Product Saddle Again

Six years ago, I was hired by PhotoShelter to create “PhotoShelter for companies.” Five months later, we launched Libris, which has now overtaken the photographer-oriented part of the company in both growth and revenue. I stayed on for a couple years, and eventually parted with the company, although we have stayed on good terms. I’m proud of my DAM achievement there, and I’m happy to see it doing well.   

And now, I’m back, making web services again: this time at a new company. A few months ago, I signed on as the Chief Product Officer at Tandem Vault, and we’re in the process of creating a brand new version of their software, redesigned from the ground up. 

While Tandem Vault is not the most well-known name in cloud DAM, it’s an extremely capable service. It’s a rare product that allows both self-service startup and scaling to enterprise-level functionality. 

I became acquainted with Tandem Vault when I was working as the Director of Digital Strategy at History Factory, a leading national agency specializing in heritage-based storytelling and institutional archiving. 

We were looking for a service that would allow us to provide increased engagement with the brands we represented. In that search, I looked at a lot of different services, from the venerable old-line DAMs to the high-end cloud services, to buzzy startups. In the end, the decision to go with Tandem was not even close. The capability, value and responsiveness was head and shoulders above the competition. 

When I left History Factory, I kept in touch with the Tandem Vault team, and they hired me to help whiteboard a new version of the product. Many of their features had been added organically over the course of several years, and it was clear that they needed a strong product vision to help build an even better user experience. 

Our whiteboard session was a smashing success. We shared a vision of the challenges and opportunities facing media management in the coming decade. We were also able to solve some complicated problems quickly and with no rancor. I’ve come to value a good working relationship as a requirement for any possible employment, and we really clicked.

In the last several months, we’ve been hard at work rethinking the service from the ground up. We’ve included a number of innovative features that are not found in any DAM service at any price. We believe we will be market leaders in areas like collaboration, mobile functionality, crowdsourcing, machine learning integration and scalability, to name a few. (If you want a more concrete idea of what we’re building, pick up a copy of The DAM Book 3.0 – it’s really a blueprint for modern cloud services. It’s also available at a shelter-in-place discount of 50%.)

We’re almost done with the design and data modeling process. The wireframes are nearly complete, and the dev team has begun to wire it up. It’s coming along nicely, and we will have something to show early in Q3. 

It’s been a real godsend to have something to put all my energy into in this very strange time, and will be an even more important distraction moving forward. I know that new product announcements are not of much interest in the current situation, but I also know that we all need to be able to remind ourselves that the worst of this will be over one day.

I’ll do periodic posts outlining what we’re up to as we get closer to release. If you want to be notified of our progress, you can sign up for updates over at Tandem Vault.

Stay safe everybody, and keep in touch.
Feel free to ask any questions below.

Quick advice on storage and backup

Editor’s Note: Since I’ve turned Facebook comments off, I’m experimenting with turning them on directly in the blog. Feel free to ask any questions you may have about this subject at the bottom of the page. No log-in required.

I’ve given this advice several times recently, so I figured I’d turn it into a quick blog post.  If you know someone who is struggling with decisions on how to store or backup media files, please share.

For most people, reliable storage and backup has gotten really cheap and easy to implement, even for people with lots of photos and video.

The trick is to make use of the newer high-capacity drives and affordable cloud backup services. So here’s what I end up telling most people who ask. Note that this advice is designed for people with a data set smaller than about 10TB who don’t need multi-user access.  And, this advice assumes that you have a media collection you want to store and protect, and that it exceeds the capacity of your computer’s internal drive.

General Advice
This holds true for most photographers and (since everyone is now a photographer) also for “regular people”.

  • Use modern big drives – 10-14 TB drives are newer, better designed, more reliable and much faster than older ones. They are also very affordable. If you are using multiple smaller drives, it’s time to replace with a single larger one.  Even if your archive is only a few terabytes, go for one of the large drives.
    Currently, I recommend G Technology drives. 10TB is the current sweet spot for prices ($300). You can bump up to 14TB for a total of $450. (I’ve linked to the USB3.1 version of the drive. You can also get these drives in Thunderbolt, but it won’t be any faster with conventional spinning disks.)
  • Use as few drives as possible – If you can easily get all your stuff on one single drive, do it. It’s much easier to backup and restore than an array of older drives. You don’t need to remember what is where.
  • Get a drive to make a “twin” onsite backup – Again, simpler is better, and big drives are your friend. This is what protects you against drive failure. Much easier to make, keep current, and restore from a local backup than a remote one.
  • You also need an offsite backup to protect against fire or theft – There are two main method to do this. You can get a second backup drive and keep it offsite. You can also use a cloud service to make a 3-2-1 compliant backup. I do both, but let’s handle them independently.
  • Backblaze cloud backup – Backblaze is a great cloud service that I depend on for my own work. The personal version of the service offers unlimited file backup for $60 a year. Uploaded files are encrypted for privacy. You can add external drives to the backup, and it happens automatically in the background. If you are a Photoshelter Pro customer, you can also use their service as your cloud backup. Unlimited storage is included with the Pro accounts.
  • Additional drive for offsite backup – An offsite backup drive provides excellent protection, and quick restoration in the event of a problem. Store it offsite – in general, someplace easy is better than someplace really secure. If you are worried about the data falling into the wrong hands, you can format the drive with encryption. Keeping an offsite drive updated can be difficult, and there are almost always gaps between what’s currently on your primary storage and what’s on the backup. This is why I currently favor Backblaze, especially for working files.
  • Avoid spanned drive devices (like RAID, multi-drive NAS, Drobo, etc.) unless:
    • You really need them for a particular reason. Most people don’t really need single storage volumes larger than 14TB.
    • You understand how to maintain them or have a good tech service to use. These are little computers running Linux, and in general require maintenance, monitoring and updates. I know many people who have experienced total failure of spanned disk devices.
  • If you outgrow the single-drive units, get an additional set – This is getting outside the scope of this post, but worth mentioning. If you can’t fit everything on one drive (say you have 20TB data), then I suggest getting an additional set of drives, rather than going to a RAID device. In most cases, it’s easier, cheaper and safer.

This advice is drawn from content published in The DAM Book 3.0. If you’ve got a larger or more complicated storage and backup job in front of you, you’ll find a lot more discussion over there.

Petapixel Article on Megapixels and Camera Scanning

I wrote an article that has just been published in Petapixel. In the article, I offer some insight on megapixels and camera scanning, particularly for 35mm film originals.

We are hitting a point of diminishing returns on pixel density where going to very high resolution sensors like the Sony A7 RIV (61 megapixels) may actually get you inferior quality to lower resolution (30-45 MP).

If you are putting a camera scanning system together, you should carefully evaluate critical sharpness and make sure that you can get consistent sharpness across the entire frame.

What I did not say specifically in the article is that use of a rail-based system becomes even more important as you go to higher megapixels since it allows easier alignment of the camera to the film I stayed away from any specific hardware mentions in the article.

If you are interested in rails, which offer precise alignment of the camera and film, I’ve just produced a new batch of the PS-4 version, which seems to sell out as fast as I can make them.

New Rail Systems for Camera Scanning Available

I’ve just finished a new batch of rail systems for camera scanning and I have a few additional ones available. These are among the very best tools for camera scanning slides and negatives with a DSLR. You can use just about any camera and macro lens. Faster, better, cheaper than a conventional scanner.
I have 5 rails and four light kits currently available. Here is the order page.

More info is in my book, Digitizing Your Photos.

The rails are $400-490 depending on stage and rail length. light kits are $200.

After making 50 or more of these, I’ve finally gotten it down to an assembly-line workflow, best done with at least five units at a time.

Drill press time! I’ve created a jig here so that I can properly place the access hole in the cover plate repeatably.