More notes about the Costume-Con 26 Photography Office.
We had a flood of photos come in. In broad terms, 4000 of them were turned over to us Friday, 4000 on Saturday, 8000 on Sunday and 4000 on Monday. I made an unfortunate choice of laptops to develop my software on (it had slow USB1 ports) and the software wasn't finished and ready-for-prime-time enough to run on anything else. Instead of spending a couple of hours figuring out why it didn't work on computer #2, I just continued to use computer #1 -- which may well have cost me a dozen or more hours waiting for it to finish the work. (I didn't realize I was making that trade-off at the time, though.)
So me and my equipment had our hands full just trying to keep up with copying photos off of memory cards. I'd whipped up a little program to look for subdirectories under "DCIM" on the various drive-letters that the camera memory cards used on the system. (Many thanks to Pat for loaning us her multi-card reader, that combined with the built-in readers did the trick.)
The program was very brittle, however, and was easily flummoxed by: photos being copied onto CD or lipstick drive and not using the DCIM directory structure; media containing photos from more than one camera; and lightly Photoshopped photos that had lost their EXIF data.
The EXIF data were important to the program, that's where it looked for the camera's timestamp. And it could correct times by adding/subtracting hours -- but I didn't finish the feature to semi-automate that initial calibration, and it couldn't handle gracefully the clock being corrected mid-stream either. On the whole, not my best piece of work, but the program worked well enough to copy all the photos onto the hard drive.
The timestamps were important because I wanted us to be able to group similar photographs together. For the sake of this discussion, I'll define "similar" as "the same subject or group before they changed their clothes again." If you look at a dozen galleries from Costume-Con -- and there are at least that many already up and announced, including a few that have also donated their photos to this project -- and just start paging through all of them one after another, you'll step through Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then back to Friday again, and you'll be seeing the same people. (Like missmea
in her red flapper "shimmy" dress.) Multiply that by a dozen photos per subject and a dozen photographers, and your eyes will surely glaze over before you're through.
So what we're doing is grouping all of the photos by day and hour (or two-hour), then by photographer. All of the "Friday, 8 o'clock" pictures from all of the photographers will be together, followed by all of the "Friday, 10 o'clock" pictures. (I used 2-hour periods for the evenings. If I had it to do all over again, though, I would have just gone with 1-hour slices all day.)
The program I whipped up would consult the EXIF data to make a guess at the photographer (by looking at the camera make and model and consulting its database), and rename the file to include the photographer and the date & time when it copied it to the hard drive into a subdirectory for that date/photographer/hour.
That's all it did -- but because it was so slow on the machine I used, two photographers who had given me their camera memory cards on Monday had to take them back and go home before I could get the last gigabyte or two of photos from them. (I hope they'll get around to sending me CD-ROM or DVD-ROM copies soon, so I can complete the set!) It also meant that we didn't have a chance of getting the backup copy made before leaving San Jose. The backup is safe and sound down here, and will soon be heading back north for the DVD-ROM burning project so that the photographers get copies of the photos.
If I could do it all over again: Multiple computers. Lots of them, as many as I can round up, so that we can copy a memory card onto whatever computer is free, and sort them into the cumulative collection after we hand the card back. Some simple time trials to figure out which computer is best suited for primary use, and for hosting the big external hard drive.
If we had a suitably fast enough computer (or network drive), we would have been able to run a slide show all weekend of the photos we'd accumulated. Couldn't do it, though, because of bandwidth limitations. We also could have had a simple browser interface in order to find photos that you wanted to get a print from -- couldn't do that either, because of the root problem of the slow computer/USB/drive combination we were using. (More in my next update!)