Back in March a photographer by the name of Chase Jarvis posted a how-to video on YouTube.com, where he showed off his customized laptop case for location assignments. In the video, Chase and his assistant explain an easy way to set up a Pelican 1490 laptop case along with a 15″ MacBook Pro and two 160Gig LaCie Rugged external hard drives.
The end result is a pretty cool location rig, prefect for big production shoots where you might have to show off your work as you shoot to an art director or your client. Not only does the rig offer a nicely protected from the elements laptop solution, but it also offers the potential to have a mirrored onsite backup of your work as you go. This type of redundancy is essential on a big shoot like this, and it got me thinking. How could I set this up using Aperture?
So, take a look at the video above, read through his blog post, and be sure to check out Chase’s amazing portrait photography. When you are finished, come back here and finish reading my thoughts pertaining to Aperture. Of course, I have yet to actually set something like this up myself, so any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated!
Here is the link to the post on Chase’s blog. http://chasejarvis.com/blog/2007/03/photography-laptop-case-aka-pimp-your.html
One of the first things that came to mind when I watched this video was that Aperture really has no obvious means for importing a shoot to two different physical locations at the same time. However, there are a few ways around this.
First of all, you can use Aperture’s Vault system to backup your shoot. While the vault wont give you an immediate duplicate copy on import, you can update your vault as you work, without much trouble. If you keep the vault updated as you shoot, there shouldn’t be too much downtime while waiting for images to copy from one place to the next. Hopefully in the next version of Aperture, the vault will run entirely in the background, giving you the ability to continue working on your images while they import.
But lets, back up here a moment (no pun intended). How is our Aperture library going be set up in the first place? Well, for a big shoot like this, especially one where you might have a client leaning over your shoulder, it would make good sense to start with a fresh Aperture library. This has many advantages. Not only will your client only be able to view the images pertaining to the shoot at hand, but Aperture (especially on a MacBook Pro) will run a little faster.
If you set up your clean library on one of the external drives you will have plenty of room to work and when your assignment is finished, you can simply merge the shoot into your larger library back at your home or office, and then shelve the external drive as a permanent backup. Chase even mentions that he incorporates the drive as a line item on his invoice, and delivers the drive to the client for their own safe keeping off-site. Great idea!
So, with your Aperture library set up on drive A, you can easily use the Vault to create a mirror copy on drive B, so long as you are using a completely managed library. To me, this is the most elegant way to work. There may be a small amount of downtime while backing up your vault as you go, but I would think it would be pretty manageable. Just remember to keep an eye on the vault indicator and make sure it is “black” meaning backed up, at all times.
If the downtime IS an issue, here is a possible alternative. You can use another application such as Image Capture or PhotoMechanic to import your images to both hard drives at once. Once you have done this, you can have Aperture import the shots from one of the two locations as Referenced masters, leaving the original images in their current location. With this setup you can choose to keep your Aperture library on your laptop’s internal hard drive, or one of the two external drives. Now you have a duplicate copy on import, and your images are referenced in Aperture’s library.
The downside to this method is that it is sort of a two step process on import, and that could take extra time. Also, you will probably want to use the vault or some other backup application to backup the Aperture library in order to protect your metadata and any work you are doing on your images in the field. I also like the first method a little better because you end up with a single file containing all of your digital assets and metadata.
I had also thought about setting the two drives up as a RAID pair using Disk Utility, but this means that those two drives are paired together forever, and that would limit my ability to remove one for storage or delivery to a client. However, it would solve the immediate problem of backup on the fly. So, it is still something to investigate.
I would be really interested to hear if any of you have another solution, or have tried something similar in the field. I imagine there is someone out there who has a cool rsync command line figured out or a simple AppleScript or Automator workflow. Are there any other mods you might add to Chase’s case?