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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2009-04-23

Photographer's Toy Box: Wiring Up The Final Four
USA TODAY used Live Ingest to make their tethered transmissions at the Final Four faster and easier.

By Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

Photo by Sean Dougherty / USA TODAY

Photo by Sean Dougherty / USA TODAY

Bob Deutsch testing the system courtside in Detroit.
While 30 of the top college basketball players were shooting jump shots, throwing down slam dunks and running up and down a temporary basketball court in the middle of the home of the Detroit Lions football team, little did they know that beneath and around them were thousands and thousands of feet of wiring carrying image files of every little thing they did.

During the 2009 Men's Final Four at Detroit's Ford Field, USA TODAY used cameras tethered to the digital editing workroom, as did several other organizations. The reason is speed! Photos are delivered back to the editor on site in a couple of seconds, rather than having to wait on time outs and shipping cards with messengers, then ingesting manually via card readers into the laptops.

Eight cameras were connected using Nikon's WT-4a wireless transmitters, via Ethernet cable, to network switches at courtside, one on each end, which were then connected to a 1,400-foot fiber optic line.

The fiber was necessary because of the long run back to the edit room, too far for just Ethernet. My colleague Bert Hanashiro and I each had two handheld cameras, and one floor remote, all connected. We also had two remotes set on the side of the court, also connected to the system.

We brought 1,000 feet of Ethernet cable, and needed 1,004 feet... but some fudging made it work. Bob Covington of Getty Images supplied the fiber cable, with use and costs shared by Getty, McClatchy and us.

We started the installation Wednesday morning at 8am, running all the court wiring, attaching dozens of 8-wire RJ-45 plugs, several hundred feet of zip wire to trigger remotes, and finished the network, the edit room connections, and remote cameras late Thursday, with some guidance from MCT's George Bridges and Getty's Anthony Jacobs.

Friday is a practice day for the teams and we used that time to test the system and also produce stills and a video for daily online use. Saturday was the semi-finals, Sunday more video features and then the Championship game on Monday.

One difference from other coverage was that we used a new feature in Photo Mechanic (4.6.1) that eased the workflow significantly: "Live Ingest".

The photos are sent as they are shot, full-res, via FTP over the hard wire network to an incoming folder on a MacBook Pro laptop and we set up Photo Mechanic to "watch" that folder for incoming files. When a photo moved into the folder, PM copies the file to an edit folder on the desktop, and puts a full caption on the photo, even picking up the photographer's name from the camera info.

Photo by
Our picture editor on-site in Detroit, Sean Dougherty, was then able to see all incoming images in one folder, with a boilerplate caption (except for the actual players name), with the correct photographers info already applied. All he had to do is crop, add the player ID's, and send via FTP back to our office.

Everything we did was with speed and eliminating as much unnecessary time as we could

PM's preferences can be set to show extra info in the browser under the thumbnail, and we used that ability to display at a quick glance which camera any photo came from, the photographer's ID, as well as the exact time it was shot.

Sean said: "We programmed our eight cameras (four remotes and four hand held) to the correct local time, and set the PM browser to sync by "Capture Time", so each play came in as a group, giving us several looks at the same play from several different angles. This also saved time editing since there was no back and forth reviewing of photos. I basically updated the live ingest and scrolled through the incoming photos, added a quick caption and sent without toning, and repeated.

"Our sports front main photo was shot, edited, captioned and in our photo server in less than five minutes. Our ability to get the photos back to the paper quickly, gives us a better chance of getting the latest photos in the paper, especially when one edition's deadline is five minutes after the end of the game."

Another feature we figured out and utilized was Bert being able to shoot the jubo and trophy ceremony and instead of searching the floor for a messenger or racing back to the digital workroom to ingest cards, he just plugged his cameras back into the system after the trophy and all the photos started moving back to Sean in seconds automatically. While they were moving, he also shot the net cutting from that same spot and those files also moved at the same time.

Photo by
We were able to have one editor send 115 cropped and captioned photos during the game.

Tethering isn't new, but Live Ingest makes the process even faster and easier so we could make tight deadlines and beat the competition.

Equipment needed for this setup:
• 1400 feet fiber cable
• 2 fiber transceivers, to connect fiber to Ethernet
• 2 fiber patch cables and 4 ST to ST barrel connectors (for fiber)
• 3 8-port Network switches
• 1 router
• Several Ethernet patch cords
• 1,004 feet Ethernet cable
• RJ-45 ez plugs
• Cable stripping tools, for making the Ethernet connections
• Ethernet network tester (so easy to mess up the 8 wire plug installs)
• 4 or 5 power strips
• 2 25-foot AC extension cords
• 8 Nikon WT-4 wi-fi transmitters with either AC adapters or several extra batteries
• 500-feet zip cord for remotes
• 6 Nikon motor drive remote cords
• 4 floor plates and low, small ball heads


(Robert Deutsch is a staff photographer with USA TODAY based on the East Coast. He shares the same birthday with other luminaries like Jack Nicholson, Queen Elizabeth II, Andie MacDowell, Tony Danza, Tony Romo and Iggy Pop.)

Related Links:
Bob's member page

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