Geo Week News

May 30, 2012

Where is my Latte?!

I was on a project last week at a car racing circuit. Working on these tracks is the dream of every highway scanner in the world. It’s a beautiful piece of road, well maintained in every way, and completely free of traffic! Scanning from the middle of the road feels like you are getting away with something slightly illegal. I love it.  

Upon arriving at the track I was informed that they had also leased the circuit to a crew shooting some sort of car commercial. At first I didn’t care, but by the time the job was complete I found that the commercial crew had really gotten in to my head. For some reason everyone involved thought that the commercial shoot was super cool and we were, well, not. I must admit I was completely caught off guard by this. Cameras are pretty much the same as they were 100 years ago, they didn’t have any celebrities or girls in bikinis in the shoot and they weren’t even driving the cars! They simply took footage of them in front of green screens or with track components in the background. They made a huge deal about needing to be in certain locations when the sun was at this or that angle so we were told that to work around them the entire time we were there. We are in pit lane scanning and they need pit lane; we pack it up and move to another part of the track. 

So, what gives?! Finally it hit me. They had a custom van plus several ancillary vehicles, a mob of 15 or so people, three pop-up canopies (God forbid the cameraman be exposed to direct sunlight) and the Pièce de résistance: a caterer. Obviously, they looked like a bigger deal, a more expensive production and as a result they were treated as such.

The real question is why is that sort of production not only okay but expected in filmmaking but not in 3D imaging? Surely it is not the value of the deliverable. The possible deliverables are so much greater and more varied with scanning than they are with a camera alone. That only leaves two possibilities: the perceived value and/or the perception that one is technical while the other is art.  

If the problem is perceived value, then we as an industry need to address this problem. I try to cover all of the possible uses of 3D data in promotional materials but perhaps that is the wrong place to drive the point home. I am thinking about inserting more of that type of information into our contracts. Perhaps if I make clients sign away their rights to the use of the data for anything other than the use that they have in mind at the time of the fieldwork, they will reassess the value of our services. If they do not want to sign away those rights then we will have to place monetary values upon them and nothing quickens the mind quite like money with some folks.  

If the issue is art versus technology we have a trickier problem on our hands. We all know that if everything goes right on a project, assembling the deliverables is simply a technical process. However, there is a real art to rescuing projects that have problems; and modeling is still an art form in my opinion. It is getting more technical, but I think we have a long ways to go considering all of the different platforms that models are expected to interact with through the life-cycle of a project. Promoting this is not in the best interest of those of us who spend a lot of time selling to engineering types instead of multimedia types. We may have to risk it. There are other disciplines that are technically based but reward artwork. Think of architecture, software development, or industrial design. They all have getting the job done as a priority but there is another tier (both in acclaim and pricing) that represents those that not only get it done but create something above and beyond the necessities of the scope. Perhaps the industry is too young for such distinctions. I know that how I judge a house is quite different now than when I bought my first home. It took some experience with bad design to appreciate the good. I hope we find a way to promote this distinction in 3D imaging as opposed to a race to the bottom in pricing and quality; and not just because one comes with catering. 

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