Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Be Thankful You're Not

     ...Not in my line of work at the GOP convention in Cleveland!  Engineering heard from a News Photographer (videographer)  at the convention yesterday: he'd broken the write-protect tab on one of the (mildly proprietary, they use some sooper-sekrit formatting) memory cards for his camera,* and did we know of any secret way to make the card writeable again?

     Sure we did.  They all involved tools.  There are not a lot of tools inside the secure perimeter and the ones that are on there are closely guarded by the people who cleared them through.  All you need is a solid thing in the "unsafe" position, and that only if the interface is designed to sense write-protection, which is ("Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.") optional.  As far as I know, no memory cards have an actual internal switch; the switch is in the reader.  Yes, the fancy pro gear we use is all about write-protection; nobody wants to record over important material by mistake.

     But if you don't have a penknife, if you don't have a source of hard-plastic scrap (business card material will do, but it's iffy) and cellophane tape, you're done.  The card will not be being written on.  When last heard from, our guy was hoping to find the on-site support from the manufacturer of the equipment (common at big events -- Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Fuji and the specialized battery and lighting makers usually have a tech-support presence), and had moved on to his next memory card, leaving one not five percent full as a problem to be solved later.

     Reaching out to geek peers who I knew were likely to be engineering inside the convention didn't turn up anyone who'd been allowed even a pair of blunt-end scissors inside once the pre-convention setup was complete. For the media, not even cigarette lighters had made it in (as reported by a very annoyed smoker, who was presumably having to bum lights from delegates and political hangers-on).

     The inside of a high-security event is a very strange place -- and that's well before you get to the actual event itself.  I wonder if anyone at the Constitutional Convention back in the 18th Century saw this coming?  It seems unlikely.
* Videotape is dead, dead, dead and we opted for no-moving-parts recording media.  Naturally, the photogs have come up with new ways to break it.  This is not so much a measure of carelessness on their parts as it is of sheer hours on the equipment: you take snapshots on vacation; a serious-amateur still photographer like Tam may shoot an average of five or six pictures in a day; a news photographer will generate three or more hours of video in an average day and the camera will only leave his or her hand while driving, eating or editing.  In the heyday of print journalism, newspaper photographers put similar hours on their still cameras, with similar wear on the equipment.  Photogs working big news events go through film/tape/discs/memory cards at a staggering rate.


Anonymous said...

My take would be to overnight him a replacement. Assuming that the memory card isn't something he can pick up at Walmart, Best buy or Staples. Better yet. Overnight 15 of the cards. The GOP convention only happens once every 4 years after all.

Roberta X said...

He had plenty -- in his hotel room. Getting cleared in through Security has been preposterously slow. I'm sure he won't be caught short again.

Nik said...

It's been a decade, but I can still remember my daily routine -- check to see that every camera has a card; that the primary wallet with more CF cards is in my front pants pocket, that there's another wallet with four cards in my center belt pouch with the teleconverters, spare camera batteries and note book and pens; and finally that there are an additional 2 wallets in my primary camera bag. Then a quick look to make sure that there were no batteries left in chargers, or if I was leaving my house cards in the card readers attached to the computer.

Forgetting cards was one of my nightmares. I also shot each job on a fresh card; and really important jobs with two cameras or a card switch half way through. Why? Well, once in the film era I shot a job, only to discover at the next assignment that I never loaded the camera with film....