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Rick Smolan is responsible for some of the largest photographic projects ever undertaken. A former Time, Life, and National Geographic photographer, Rick created the best-selling Day in the Life book series and many other large-scale photographic projects, such as America 24/7, 24 Hours in Cyberspace, and Blue Planet Run. He pushes the boundaries of technology with each new project while delivering inspiring books that tell masterful photographic stories. His projects have been featured on the covers of magazines such as Fortune, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers inside Rick's latest production, where he reveals his unique processes and shows how he reinvents himself for each new project.
(Music plays.) Rick Smolan: Caroline has got two screens here so,she can see the overview of our database. We've actually organized all the pictures into -- they're color-coded by which chapter of the book they're in. The online tool that we're using right now allows us to-- anywhere in the world we can tap into this tool and we could be writing captions or doing research or... Do you want to explain a little bit about how it works? Caroline: Yeah. So we collected all the photos from the different labels and agencies and we can now plug them here as a low-res and they get created a unique identity code, which is then our reference for finding the images and that's how we find them from all our team.
Once they go into here, they're then split into the various chapters of the book. At that point, we can then start to drop in any captions. All the metadata has been put in there and then no matter where anybody is, they can all go in and do their own thing. This has been customized from our colleague in France, Topher, to our specific requirement. So, we're finessing it and anything that we need, that may not be in any other kind of software, we're able to say this would be kind of cool if we could do this.
It's slowly developing into this sleek piece of software that is really, really cool. Not at the beginning but now like, it's great. Rick Smolan: I think when you look at the finished product, whether it's a book or a TV show or the website or exhibits or publicity or whatever, it all looks very buttoned-down and it's sort of like having the meal and the waiters bring out the food and it all looks very elegant and you don't actually go and look in the kitchen at the mess and the spaghetti on the floor and the meat sauce on the ceiling.
I think that this whole idea of customized books is definitely coming. I think we're early. I think it's the pioneers with the arrows in their backs. I think that's kind of true for a lot of earlier projects. But in terms of our reputation, Against All Odds Productions is aptly named, because a lot of our projects shouldn't actually work. We're usually ahead of the curve, both from the technology point of view and also from the money part of the curve. So, right now we have people that are providing us with technology and programming and resources, but no one is paying anything to speak of for this. Now, the real test is, are people going to buy the book or not? Female Speaker: Because we're sort of this kind of like a production company, like a movie production company that grows and then disbands, all of our tools tend to disband as well and we start over every time with a new set of tools, which can be incredibly frustrating, but at the same time can be extremely liberating, because we start fresh every time and you iterate on the ideas and know what worked before. But you're using newer tools, so you're not stuck with legacy software or legacy equipment and whatnot.
Our process for our workflow is always evolving and we're always trying to use the latest tools. In fact, ahead of the curve tools. When we have something that we're about to do and people go, wow, did you know you can do this with photos now? And we're like, oh, cool, let's try it out. Because we don't have this huge infrastructure that we have to always feed. Instead, we can start over fresh every time. What's cool is we get to share that with all of the photographers and editors and everybody that works on our projects, because we do a sneak peek into what's the latest and greatest way to do things. Then they take that away with them and take it to their everyday life.
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