Greensboro, North Carolina-based Viewpoint Studios is one of the largest home fashions photography studios in the U.S. Founded in 1993, Viewpoint converted from a traditional film-based workflow to a full digital capture studio last year. SP&D recently spoke with Viewpoint staff to discuss the challenges they had to overcome, workflow changes brought about by the transformation, and the business and creative advantages the conversion has produced.
Taking a studio from large-format film capture to full digital capture is a daunting process. Today, Viewpoint is an ultra-modern studio, with over 50 room sets and prop galleries, in a 147,000-square-foot space, plus a 3,000-square-foot pre-media center.
What’s most impressive is that the 115 Viewpoint staff—photographers, interior designers, set designers, stylists, carpentry and paint personnel, grips, set-up staff, warehousing staff, sales group, and production coordinators—are already reaping the benefits of the conversion.
Making the Move to Digital
Key to the transformation’s success is the equipment they selected for the task. The studio’s director of technology, Stewart Fortune, explains:
“The home f ashions photography industry has been slow to engage digital imaging because of the depth of field—swings and tilts—needed to hold perspective on-camera. We were looking for a product that would support our use of long exposures and multiple pops on the strobes to hold the required depth of field. After testing the top high-end capture devices, we found that Phase One outperformed them all. Their backs have no appreciable noise and seemingly unlimited multi-pops! The quality is just unbelievable.” The units were purchased from and installed by Capture Integrations of Atlanta, which also conducted in-house training on the new system.
Viewpoint now has the largest Phase One installation in the country. Each of their 50-plus architecturally distinctive 1,800 sq. ft. studio sets is outfitted with a Phase One H 25 camera back mounted on a Fujifilm GX680 or Sinar A1, f1, f2, or p2 (using Phase One Flex adapters), with Rodenstock digital lenses. Each back is supported by a G4 1.25 GHz eMac.
Each eMac runs Phase One’s CaptureOne software and is connected by Firewire 400 to the camera. Images are inspected for exposure, light balance, composition, and the set and lighting are adjusted accordingly. Xserve and Xserve RAIDs help manage the high volume of files produced and archiving.
Using Speedotron Blackline strobes, Viewpoint creates its signature realistic lighting effects, from open and array to directional and dramatic.
Full digital capture requires a brand-new workflow. The company’s Digital Media Center supports the capture process with an integrated workflow driven by Apple Power Mac G5s with 30” Cinema Displays, Power Mac G4s with 22” LaCie monitors, and PowerBook G4s. For color consistency, the studio uses X-Rite’s MonacoOPTIX XR colorimeter and Optix PRO software and recommends that clients do the same.
“Our greatest challenge was getting the staff on-board and up to speed as quickly as possible,” adds Larry Boyd, vice president of operations. “With training and onsite support, the transition has been much smoother than we expected. We’ve gained speed and our staff is more engaged creatively. Having instant feedback on lighting and camera angles, they can spend more time on the look and feel of each shot from a creative standpoint.”
The Digital Edge
Previously, there was no way to know how the final images would look until the set was complete and lit. Even then, photographer and client could only speculate about the effect of adjustments. “Now we’re able to pull the trigger and see an image on screen in a matter of seconds,” says Fortune. “We can make design and lighting changes on set immediately.”
Full digital capture has also enhanced client involvement. “Clients can be onsite, or we can email images from our system for their approval,” says Fortune. “Once the final images have been selected, they’re posted across our network to the Xserves, then moved to the pre-media division for pre-press or other post-production work, before delivery to clients.”
Clients now leave a shoot with a variety of items in hand: RGB, lo-res FPO files, contact laser prints, and files written to CD. End products include RGB, CMYK color-corrected files with Fujifilm final proofs or digital photo continuous tone “C” prints and CMYK lithographic HP Indigo prints.
The studio’s digital workflow also has been a boon to sales and marketing. Account executives can create “digital portfolios,” on-demand marketing tools, by taking images reflecting a certain industry off the Xserves, burning them to CDs and DVDs, and sending them to potential clients. “It saves time and advertising dollars compared to the cost and time required for printing brochures and catalog sheets,” says Gary Hair, vice president of marketing.