PrintMedia 10/20/00 Red Kite Studios shoots the breeze from a newly digital vantage.
If you were to model yourself after a famous kite flier, which would you choose: Ben Franklin, who combined silk and string with a metal key to conduct electricity in 1752, facilitating numerous enlightened achievements; or good ol' Charlie Brown, alleged blockhead and chronic victim of a kite-eating tree?
Good grief, Poor Richard, it's a no-brainer!
Agreeing that innovation always beats frustration, the three photographers and three stylists operating Red Kite Studios, Tampa, FL, recently "pulled a Franklin" of sorts, using digital photography to give their studio a charge.
Founded five years ago, Red Kite established itself as a successful film-based business specializing in jobs for small catalogs and advertising materials.
So, why mess with success? "We believe that digital is the wave of the future," declares Red Kite photographer Dave Spataro. "Our clients were looking for [digital], and we wanted to offer it before anyone else [in our area] did." By supplementing its proven capabilities, Red Kite expected to rise above the competition.
In mid-1999, Red Kite Studios began leasing a Sinar digital camera system—comprising a Sinarback digital back, Sinar p2 view camera and Sinarcam2 digital shutter—from Sinar Bron Imaging, Edison, NJ. The experiment worked.
"We were really impressed with the output resolution, and the final image quality we achieved as a result," Spataro relates.
That's not to say that digital is absolutely better than film (or vice versa), he notes: "You can't do a straight comparison. Each medium has its pros and cons.
"Digital affords faster turnaround, which clients love," Spataro asserts. "A client can look over my shoulder at the monitor and approve shots during the shoot itself, for example. We can also do a lot of on-the-spot editing, which saves more time."
"On the other hand," he continues, "there's a certain look you get from film." He wouldn't be surprised, however, by software developments that will allow digital to emulate film's look more closely.
Red Kite's photographers were pleasantly surprised by the artistic flexibility enabled and inspired by the digital system. "I don't think that people typically think of a digital camera as a creative tool," Spataro comments. "But, it is. We're not just shooting small products. From the start, we were actually producing creative images incorporating the camera software with conventional view camera techniques."
The Sinar digital camera system's versatility allows the photographers to capture a wide range of subjects, says Spataro. "[The camera] features a four-shot mode, as well as a single-shot mode," he reports, contending that four-shot exposure results in better color, compared with the standard three-shot mode usually used to shoot stationary images.
A consistent light source is additional insurance for quality color from a multi-shot system, Spataro remarks, noting that Red Kite counts on Sinar Bron's Broncolor lighting.
For images that require enhanced color and image manipulation, Spataro and his colleagues learned Adobe Photoshop. "We felt that we were better equipped to perform certain tasks, like unsharp masking," Spataro explains, "so we had computer experts and printing experts come in and train us.
"We also realized the importance of calibrating our monitors to our proofing device, an Epson 5000 with a Fiery RIP," he adds. He recommends that any photographer planning to go digital invest in color management and a good proofer. "If you give a client a CD of images without a visual reference, you can leave those images open to outside interpretation or manipulation," he points out.
Once Red Kite had its infrastructure in place, it began using digital for live jobs. Initially, the studio ran parallel workflows to give clients a safety net. "We'd shoot film, then roll in the digital camera so clients could do their own comparisons," Spataro recalls. "Before they saw the results, some clients worried about lower quality, but we told them to keep in mind that [the digital camera] is basically a drum scanner."
Spataro does advise graphic designers and production coordinators to be aware of the size of the files they're receiving, noting that the Sinarback produces 24MB files in 16-bit mode. "Some cameras may produce a smaller file," he says. "And some are deceiving: They claim to produce a 20MB file, but that's interpolated, so if you want to enlarge the shot, you can't."
The studio spent nearly six months using film to back up its digital efforts.
"We were probably too cautious," Spataro admits, "but it was really important to us that we and the clients feel completely comfortable [foregoing] film." Presently, Red Kite is shooting approximately one third of its work digitally, with some clients now 100 percent film-free. The camera is already paying for itself, Spataro adds. The studio sends images to clients on CDs or via FTP.
"Digital photography is great," Spataro declares. "You can upload images anywhere, it's environmentally safe, and it becomes even more attractive when the price of film and processing go up."