Field Review: Inovativ DigiPlate Lite for Location Photography

Field Review: Inovativ DigiPlate Lite for Location Photography

We shoot almost all our work tethered (i.e. directly to a laptop, on location). It’s not just a great way of making sure that we have everything right on location and that everything worked, but it’s also become an indispensable part of our workflow and creative process. When a draft of the image we’re producing comes up on a big, bright laptop screen, it’s a good way to get other people on site involved.

We love this kind of on-site collaboration—there have been many, many images that have been made so much better by us lining up an image, and an architect or interior designer noting “hey, I have an idea for making this even better”, us putting it in place together, and then making a few more creative improvements to really make the image sing. At the end of the shooting day, everyone knows they got the images they need, and we all go away happy. It’s a win for everyone.

But there’s one little problem: we like to move pretty quickly on site, and because we often work in small spaces (it’s Vancouver, after all…), lugging a laptop around on site can be a real pain because there’s nowhere good to put it. The standard solution to this has of course been TetherTools’ plates that are designed to mate your laptop to a lightstand, but this doesn’t make the problem go away: in fact, it makes it worse because when you have to move that lightstand around, that’s more opportunity for your expensive laptop to come crashing down, ripping the wiring out of your camera and causing everything to come to a screeching halt…a risk we really, really don’t like. (Thankfully, it’s never happened, but it’s a fear we live with).

Surely there has to be a better way: why can’t someone come up with a way to securely hold a laptop, and ideally do it in a way that we can just attach it to a tripod and get on with life? You’ve been able to do this with an iPad or Surface for ages, but we wanted the speed of wired tethering (scratch the iPad), and didn’t really want to deal with administering a finicky Windows machine that’s going to decide to install updates in the middle of your shoot. (scratch the Surface).

While we’ve for years suffered with dragging a MacBook Air along in a Thule semi-hard case to protect it from the elements (and since I’m usually in socks on location, hitting shortcut keys with my toes), when Apple came out with the 2018 MacBook Pro’s, we decided it was time to upgrade to a 13” MacBook Pro, which is both physically smaller than the old Air was (it positively swam in the old Thule case), and approximately the same weight. Chalk one up for Apple’s thin-and-light obsession.

The only thing left was to find a way to rig this onto a tripod securely, so that when you move the tripod, the laptop comes with (and you don’t have to get your assistant to move the extra stand around). In an ideal world, the laptop rig should be relatively light, easy to grab and pull off the tripod where necessary, and be riggable with inexpensive grip—ideally, stuff that’s already in the gear crib so we’re not out a bunch of cash if it doesn’t work.

 The DigiPlate Lite (photo: Inovativ)

The DigiPlate Lite (photo: Inovativ)


Enter the Inovativ DigiPlate Lite, which seemed to tick all the boxes. That, plus a Magic Arm and a Mafer clamp (both of which we had in the gear crib), and we should have a tethering system that works, right? Asking Inovativ about this via email yielded dead silence, and the DigiPlate Lite is new enough that our friends at Capture Integration, while they list it as something they’d soon carry, didn’t have any information on it yet…so the only option was to go buy it and try it out. The idea is solid: take a film-style “cheese plate” design that’s customizable, and put solid clamps on either side so that your laptop is firmly supported to the plate, and then mount the cheese plate itself onto your choice of mounting arrangement. Inovativ gives you two “preferred” mounting arrangements, the DigiBracket (which hangs off your tripod), and the DigiBase, which gives you industry-standard 3/8 (or 1/4x20 with the usual reducing bushing) and baby-pin mounts. While in theory the DigiBracket is made for our usual use of direct tripod mounting, it mounts on the tripod by friction, which means you have to pull your laptop off it when moving your tripod around…and we move the tripod around a lot on location. The DigiBase got the nod, begrudgingly, because we figured that what we’d really want to do is just screw it right into the top of the Magic Arm and get on with life. We bought the DigiPlate Lite kit from B&H in late August, since they were the only ones who seemed to have it in stock.


 DigiBase (photo: Inovativ)

DigiBase (photo: Inovativ)

 DigiBracket (photo: Inovativ)

DigiBracket (photo: Inovativ)

Assembly

The DigiPlate arrives as a “kit of parts” vaguely reminiscent of a kid’s Meccano Erector set. Unfortunately, the kit we ordered from B&H was defective: we got no DigiClamps, and two DigiBases instead. So we got the RMA and, with the Jewish holidays approaching and B&H showing no other stock available, we reordered directly from Inovativ instead, shipping it to our US package drop. Thankfully the second kit showed up complete (as well as giving us an opportunity to order and try out the DigiHanger for extra cable support; B&H didn’t stock this either). You get a box with a lot of parts bags (which include various hex screws, thumbscrews, hex keys, washers, stick-on rubber shims, etc) and a few little sheets of documentation to get you on your way. The documentation for individual parts is just barely adequate, and a bit of extra guidance—possibly on video—would be really useful for getting everything put together quickly and giving you an idea for what you can customize. If you’re mechanically inclined, a lot of things are fairly obvious despite minimal documentation and assembly is a fun challenge, but if you’re the sort of person who has trouble assembling Ikea furniture, you’re going to want to give yourself some time to build everything. It took us an hour to get everything all set initially, with a few little tweaks after our first test run on location.

The plate itself is designed to easily handle 13” and 15” laptops, and the clamps include a set of shims to deal with thicker laptops, and a set of rubber pads to hold everything in place. Inovativ intends for you to either keep the shims stacked up under a longer thumbscrew (which we’d do if we were teching and didn’t know what laptop would live on the stand at any given time), or use the smaller supplied thumbscrew and leave the extra shims in your gear crib (which is what we do). For a MacBook Pro 13”, the clamps are actually slightly too large to begin with, so we installed all the rubber pads, which locked the laptop down nicely. You have to install the supplied rubber padding on both the inside side, outside, and inside (two pieces go on the inside top, because the MacBook Pro 13” is thin). With all this installed, we’re pretty confident walking around holding the DigiPlate and knowing that the laptop is unlikely to slide out of its mount (and if it does, it won’t slide far anyway). One little quibble: that the clamps stick up a little high, so if something forcibly closed the laptop (or it dropped) and landed on the pads, we’d be very worried about a bent/broken screen. Inovativ stocks a set of ‘MacBook Air’ clamps, which with a shim or two would possibly be a better option for the new MacBook Pro’s. There’s no documentation on Inovativ’s site in this regard, so we don’t know for sure. (We’d be happy to test them if Inovativ shipped us a set, of course).

With a 13” laptop, the ‘ears’ of the DigiPlate actually stand proud by a few cm’s on either side, which gives the impression that the plate is oversized for the job, which it is—making it more likely to bang the corner of the plate into something on location accidentally. Everything is very solidly built from hard-anodized aluminum (in fact, it’s a little heavier than we’d have expected it to be) and inspires confidence that it’s going to survive many, many years of getting banged around, dropped, and otherwise will survive the abuse that we routinely dish out to grip equipment on location…and probably look fairly new when it’s finished.

In an ideal world, Inovativ would supply a set of ears just for 12”/13” laptops that are a bit more…form-fitting. However, the extra space gives you a good place to hang a DigiHanger, an accessory we’re glad we got. Since all of our tethering cables have Velcro straps, we’ve taken to hanging the Velcro straps off the DigiHanger, providing some strain relief, a very neat install, and drastically reduced likelihood of ripping a cable apart if something bad happens. (Inovativ shows a carabiner hanging off the DigiHanger, which we’d recommend if you aren’t already using Velcro ties on your cables). Sometimes we’ve just pushed the end of a USB tethering cable through (it fits, just), connected to a USB-A/USB-C dongle—which means that if the cable rips out, the dongle should take the force leaving the MacBook Pro’s USB-C port intact.

Underneath it all is the DigiBase, a solid block of aluminum with a twist-preventing stud. This gives you a very deep baby-pin mount as well as 5/16 and 1/4x20 screw holes. It’s intended to be installed atop a light stand. There’s a major annoyance: the security screw seems to be placed too low for this to work well. On most of our stands (even the ones with built-in 1/4x20 screw tops), and on the Magic Arm, you have to lift the whole assembly up in order for the security screw to lock onto the thinner body of a baby pin spigot, which means it’s less secure and very prone to working itself loose. We’re constantly checking and retightening this screw as things move around on location. If we were using the plate atop a lightstand that doesn’t move much, this wouldn’t bother us nearly as much, but we’d very strongly recommend installing a spacer of some sort (a round rubber adhesive ‘foot’ or two carefully inserted into the bottom of the baby pin receiver would probably do it) if you run into this problem. We’d probably install one ourselves if we planned to keep using the DigiBase, but more on that later.

On Location

With everything assembled, did it work as planned? In a word: absolutely! Our current tripod is an older Manfrotto 055XPROB, which will happily hold a Cambo Wide RS (or DS) atop an Arca-Swiss C1 Cube. We’ve equipped it with a Matin Tripod Butler, which we’ve found is a near-perfect (and foldable and almost weightless) tray for holding things like LCC plates, filters, and flash triggers. That lives on the tripod at almost all times. Adding a Mafer Clamp to that whole rig is a bit Macgyver-ish, but it gets the job done…especially since we already had a Mafer Clamp and a 10” Magic Arm hanging around. Here’s what it looks like in use:

Inovativ DigiPlate rig in use

It’s a nearly perfect one-tripod tethered capture setup. The 10” Magic Arm is a bit bigger than we’d like, but it provides a lot of support and means we can move the laptop to either side (or behind) the tripod easily and securely, making it easier for us as well as our clients to see what’s on the laptop. Clients have also noted how cool and convenient everything is, which is always a plus as well.

We’ve been using this rig for both interior and exterior work on numerous locations for the last month, and it’s performed beautifully. Finally, we have a setup that puts the laptop at a good working height, holds everything securely, and really speeds up tethered capture on location because the entire laptop is within easy reach. Most importantly, the whole thing can be easily moved around by one person. I often find myself grabbing the tripod by one leg and the Magic Arm. This grip lets one person get around a floor, up and down stairs, and through some fairly marginal outdoor terrain (‘tis the season for wet dirt in landscape projects!) without any risk of pulled cables, and providing a lot of safety for all the gear.

We love the solidity of the whole rig, and the fact that the plate is also very easy to carry and store (it nicely slips into a flat area in our grip case). It’s also incredibly cost-effective, even considering the extra Customs fees because none of the local Canadian distributors seem to carry it yet. The “cheese plate” design is awesome, because you can customize it to fit your workflow easily—Inovativ offers a variety of clamps for dealing with cables, external hard drives, etc., most of which can be installed anywhere on the flat plate that happens to fit the way you work. And did we mention it’s really secure…outside of the issues with the DigiBase? (Inovativ actually shows laptops being held upside down from light stands on their Instagram feed—go check it out!)

Places For Improvement

All that said, there are a few things we’d love to change.

1. Inovativ needs better pre-sale support! When you sell a system that’s this customizable, it takes a bit of research (and some “local knowledge”) to get the system you want (and for non-US folks, cross-border shipping and returns are a real pain so it’s important to get things right the first time). Most suppliers in both the photo and design industries (including us!) are happy to answer questions and make sure you get what you need. Inovativ didn’t answer email or phone calls, which meant we were on our own to figure out what was likely to work. Go hire some good people for this, Inovativ! You have a great product, and people are going to need a bit of hand-holding and documentation in order to get the best bits that will fit their needs.

2. We’d like slightly less tall clamps. The current clamp arrangement works, but we’d like about 1.5mm less risk of bending/bashing a screen in if the rig falls screen-side-down. This might mean either Inovativ providing slightly shorter clamps as their regular Universal clamps (which, given the shim arrangement they use, would make things much more friendly for new MacBook Pro users without making things much more difficult for others), or providing a custom version of the MacBook Air clamps. (We’ll happily beta-test).

3. It would be really nice to have shorter “ears” available for us users of 12”/13” laptops. The plate ears could easily be a few cm’s shorter on either side without losing functionality, and it would make things more flexible, lighter, and easier to deal with for those of us using smaller laptops.

4. We really dislike the DigiBase. As we mentioned, it’s too deep on a stand to be securely attached as shipped, and on a Magic Arm, it’s even harder to attach securely and be confident about its attachment. It’s also heavy and awkward. While we could easily remove the DigiBase and just screw the DigiPlate into the top of the Magic Arm, we’d lose the ability to leave the Magic Arm on while removing the DigiPlate from it, which we find ourselves doing a lot.

What would be ideal: screwing an Arca-Swiss plate to the bottom of the DigiPlate, and screwing an Arca receiver into the top of the Magic Arm. If Inovativ offers an Arca plate (perhaps with the same anti-twist pin that the DigiBase has), we’d love to try it; otherwise, we’ll probably buy a generic Arca plate and receiver and re-rig this part of the setup; thankfully, with the ‘cheese plate’ design this is trivial to do and will give us an even more usable rig than it’s providing us now.

TL;DR

This setup has very rapidly become indispensable, and apart from some quibbles, we’re keeping it and recommending it to others!

GVHBA members: Make A Better Awards Entry. Earn CPD Points!

GVHBA members: Make A Better Awards Entry. Earn CPD Points!

It’s a week off the Georgie Awards deadline, and we’re completely slammed putting together awards entries for many of our clients’ amazing projects, and it seems too early to be even thinking about the GVHBA Ovation Awards. (What’s that you say? There’s a world after 8:00PM on October 1? Yeah, we don’t believe it either).

Yet here we are, and as some of you know, every year or so Lynn Harrison of Harrison Marketing Resources, our very own Susan M. Boyce, and I get together and present a couple of hours of tips, tricks, traps, and goodies for making stronger entries in our local building awards programs. The course we delivered last year is up on GVHBA’s e-learn, which means you can take it it and get your CPD points on a gray, rainy weekend without even having to move your pet out of the way and get out of your pyjamas. If you register before the end of the day this Monday, September 24, and use code FALL18, you’ll get 20% off this and other courses on e-learn. So, if you need those coveted CPD points and you want to improve your business and your building, go check out the other courses on e-learn as well.

https://elearn.gvhba.org/courses/ovation-awards-workshop-2018

We’ll also do a live, updated version of this course later on once the Ovation Awards call for entries is up. If you want to go to the live course instead, it’s on October 31 over at Schluter in Burnaby. That’s Halloween, so we put together a Halloween-themed marketing blurb…which the GVHBA sadly didn’t use:

Think it’s scary putting together an Ovation Awards entry for your not-so-haunted house? Treat yourself to this course—it’s sure to fill your skull with knowledge. We’ll give you a cradle-to-grave look at the process so you can ghost smoothly through, demystify ‘witch’ categories you should enter, dress your project description up, and give you some good tricks so you’re more likely to end up with a whole bag full of honours at the end of awards night. Give it a boo!

Go register here.

Free Webinar! Georgie Awards: Steps to Success

As of this writing, it's a month and a half until the Georgie Awards deadline. Which means...it's a great time to get started on your entry so you can beat the last-minute rush. Particularly if it's your first time entering the Georgies, the whole process can seem more than a little daunting. There's figuring out which of 40-odd categories you want to enter, getting the photography together, writing your entries, and then wrapping everything all together and getting it to the CHBA.

We'd like to make that process a little less overwhelming for you...and give you some great time-saving tips on the way. Join us for a free webinar, Georgie Awards: Steps to Success, where writer Susan M. Boyce and I will walk you through the process. The webinar is on August 23 at 11am...so grab your lunch a little early and join us online. Or, if you can't make it, sign up for the webinar anyway and we'll send you a replay afterwards.

 

P.S. We also offer full service awards entry packages that include both writing, photography, and an extra hand in getting everything all packaged up and uploaded properly. Check it out!

5 Tips for Getting Published, from GRAY

Yesterday at the AIBC Annual Conference, Spaces Between, GRAY Magazine's Chief Creative Officer Stacy Kendall and I closed out the conference with a presentation The Spaces Between Projects: Getting Published, Winning Awards, and Finding Your Next Project. We had a solid crowd at the talk--which is always a good thing, particularly when you're those last 1.5 Core Learning Units Standing Between You And Happy Hour.

After the conference, she put out a list of her top 5 takeaways for increasing your chances of getting published on the GRAY e-mail list. They've graciously allowed us to share it with you, so check it out!

Our top five tips on how to get your project published in GRAY

One of the points we made was that the work you do in commissioning architectural photography  and thinking through your project's story will help you across all your media, whether you're entering awards, putting together case studies, pitching your project for print, getting things on Instagram, or writing blog posts. And to help you out with that, here's our 6-step guide to commissioning better photography:

6 Steps to Distinctive Architectural Photos

It Takes A Village: Introducing the Contributor Program

It Takes A Village: Introducing the Contributor Program

It takes a village...of trades, suppliers, consultants, and other expertise to build a great project. And the work of all of those people contributes to making a great project exceptional. Everyone takes pride in a job well done, so why not share your costs of photography with everyone on your project as well?

Right...because that's a lot of work you probably don't want to deal with right at the end of the project. We get it.

That's why we're introducing the Contributor Program. The Contributor Program makes it easier to share the costs of your photography, make sure your trades and suppliers get photos of their work as well, and share the costs of photography fairly across all parties--because while an architect might need five images, the builder might need ten for a contest, the flooring supplier needs two images, and the interior designer might want twenty. Our pricing has always made that possible, but we're taking it one step further.

To participate, all you need to do is share your supplier contact list with us when your project is complete and we're setting up photography. We'll make contact with as many as we can (and you're comfortable with), and do all the legwork to get people on board. Do you have a project that we've recently photographed where you have suppliers interested after the shoot? We can work with that as well, and you'll get a discount on the next project we photograph.

Check out our infographic on how it all works, and on your next project, involve your suppliers early on!

Congratulations on your Georgie, Hayer Builders Group!

Congratulations on your Georgie, Hayer Builders Group!

One of our most widely awarded projects this year has been Hayer Builders Group's Summit townhome project in Surrey's Panorama Heights neighbourhood. Providing uniqueness in high volume building is, as you might imagine, a tough design problem--but tough design problems almost always lead to good projects and often even more interesting photography. 

We photographed a lot of multifamily projects last year, and it's always fun to see what little touches our multifamily builders put in in order to make each project special. Hayer's Summit was full of all sorts of special touches (built-in wine fridges, kitchens overlooking living areas on a lower floor, those fabulous rooftop balconies...to name but a few), and the judges in the Fraser Valley Housing Awards, the Ovations, the CHBA Nationals, and the Georgies agreed.

Congratulations to Hayer on your Georgie for Best Multi-Family Kitchen! This is a kitchen I'd love to work in: it's perfect for parties, well-planned, takes full advantage of its space, and is full of all sorts of great creature comforts and Midcentury Modern-inspired glam. Check it out:

It's a Standing Ovation!

It's a Standing Ovation!

We often remind our clients that coming in as a finalist for a design award is, to the general public, indistinguishable from coming in as a winner. Sure, we all love to sip that extra glass of champagne--and being a winner gets you a nifty award for your brag wall...but for the purposes of your marketing, you get to use the awards logo on your PR, put out the same press releases, and promote your accomplishments whether you're bringing home a piece of hardware, or whether you're bringing home a piece of paper you can frame.

One of many cool innovations in the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association's Ovation Awards is the recognition that being named a finalist also...gives everyone a good excuse to get together and party. Twice: because there's a soiree for the finalists, and then a gala in another month and a half for the winners. (That's not counting next weekend's Georgie Awards reveal, which we always look forward to! You know it's coming when 'iron tux' suddenly appears on the regular to-do list in addition to 'clean sensor dust').

We had a crop of eleven projects come up in the finals last night, spanning the entire gamut of categories. Congratulations to Rembrandt Renovations, reVision Renovations, Kerr Construction, Project Mint, Holson Construction, Janet Scagel Design, Essence Properties, Alabaster Homes, NWI Construction, and Platinum Group of Companies for making it into the finals!

We'll spotlight a number of them in upcoming blog posts, but here's a taste of what's to come:

Meet our Georgie Finalists 3: Gold Edge's Whidden 18

Meet our Georgie Finalists 3: Gold Edge's Whidden 18

We're on a mission this time around...no, wait. We're off to Mission, BC for this week's instalment of Georgie Awards finalists: Gold Edge Properties' Whidden18. As with our last two blog highlights, Gold Edge is another first-time entrant. This was one of the year's most surprising projects, both in its level of detail as well as in its location. It's hard to think of Mission as a destination for a luxury home project, but TJ and his crew at Gold Edge seems to be doing a fine job of changing that perception. This project featured both extensive and thoughtful interior detail, as well as one of the best outdoor living spaces we've seen all year. This project came in as a finalist in the Custom Home $1.3-1.9 Million category, as well as Best Outdoor Living. Having photographed all sorts of projects up in West Van and Langley, it's easy to think we've seen all the good tricks, but this one took full advantage of its hillside location in Mission. And we do mean full advantage: they even framed a view of Mount Baker if you look across the yard at the spa pergola from the dining area. The kicker? The whole outdoor area is reverse-terraced, so you can watch your kids use the (lit) putting green after dark, while sipping wine and enjoying snacks--which we did after shooting finished!

Meet our Georgie Finalists 2: Essence Properties' Evolve

Meet our Georgie Finalists 2: Essence Properties' Evolve

This year was a big year for multifamily developments, and we had a number of Georgie Awards finalists in the multifamily categories. Located in the Morgan Crossing area of south Surrey, Essence Properties' Evolve was a fine example and, as good townhouse projects like this are wont to do, is now sold out. When we first walked through this project, after blowing the drywall dust off our boots and heading back to the office, we kept remarking on how clever the kitchen and overall interior design was (right down to the crazy wallpaper and built-in bookrack in the master ensuite!). The judges seemed to agree: Evolve is a finalist in the Best Multi-Family Kitchen - New and Best Interior Design Display Suite categories. Congratulations!

Meet our Georgie Finalists 1: JBR's Nelson

Meet our Georgie Finalists 1: JBR's Nelson

The Georgie Awards finalists are out, and we have more finalists than will fit into a single blog post and still have you be able to read it. So, this year we're spreading it out and highlighting projects over the course of the next few weeks.

We'll start off with one of our Custom Home finalists: JBR Construction's Nelson residence up in West Vancouver, designed by Mcleod Bovell Architects. It's JBR's first time entering the Georgies, and we're always extra proud of projects that win on their builders' first time in. (We often hear things like 'we're not going to bother entering because the usual suspects always win', and we've taken it as one of our missions to put a stop to this thinking, because it's absolutely not true).

This stunning modern house features a number of sweet architectural surprises: first, the best implementation of 'bringing the outside in/bringing the inside out' we've seen in ages. The "deck" extends, fully covered but with a skylight, out of the kitchen and dining room with a set of stacking glass doors that allow you to either completely separate or completely join the two spaces. The cherry on top? A long linear fire feature that visually merges the two spaces and let you actually use the conversation pit outside, even on a depressingly grey and rainy day like today. It gets better: the master bedroom is cantilevered over a pool, and the ensuite features an aperture carefully positioned to let you enjoy the view over the city while bathing...in case playing with the reflections in the mirrored tile wasn't enough. That's just the start of it. Enjoy!

Using Your Georgie Entries for the Ovation Awards

Using Your Georgie Entries for the Ovation Awards

The GVHBA Ovation Awards Call for Entries is out, and the entry form is open starting today. A lot of our clients enter (and win!) the Georgies, and if you've in Greater Vancouver and you are a GVHBA member, you qualify for the Ovation Awards as well. (And if you build/renovate/design residential projects in Greater Vancouver, go join the GVHBA so you can enter!) While you have until January 22 to get your entry in, if you've already entered the Georgies, you have a big head start on getting your Ovation Awards entry in way early. (If you're in the Fraser Valley, the Fraser Valley Awards of Excellence are on, and end November 15). Over the last few years, all the local housing awards have worked diligently to harmonize their entry requirements, and this makes life a lot easier for everyone.

We recommend entering as many awards programs (and categories) as you reasonably can, because that's more opportunities to win. One of the questions we're consistently asked is, "I put my project in for the Georgies. What else do I have to do to put my project in for the Ovations?".

The answer is: it depends on what categories you entered.

Out of all our local homebuilding awards, the Ovations have the widest selection of categories (a whopping 51 this year). That's a good thing because there are lots of cool boutique categories that you can enter (sometimes with less competition), but it's a frustrating thing because...that's a lot of categories to sift through, and it's easy to get confused.

There are three questions you need to ask and answer when you're repurposing your Georgie entry:

1. Is there a category that closely or exactly matches what you entered in the Georgies? 

A number of categories in the Ovations match the corresponding category exactly (most of the 'whole house' Custom Home, Single Family, and Multi-Family categories do). In that case, you're good to go! Just copy your photos, text, and budget from your Georgie entry, get a fresh consent form from your client (and submit one yourself, as the builder), and you're off to the races!

 Saint Construction's Ross Street, Ovation Renovation $400-$699K winner (and CHBA National winner) last year

Saint Construction's Ross Street, Ovation Renovation $400-$699K winner (and CHBA National winner) last year

This can go the other way as well. If you're a new home builder and you entered the marketing categories in the Georgies, you might end up being disappointed as the Ovations have but one marketing category--Best Marketing Campaign. You can't enter your logo or your sales centre in the Ovations. Similarly, the Special Achievement categories in the Georgies and Ovations are different beasts, so read the requirements carefully as you might fit easily, or you might not fit at all.

2. Is there a better, more fitting category than what you entered in the Georgies?

You have some additional categories that you might want to consider entering as well as your Georgie categories--or instead. This is particularly the case for renovation projects, because the Ovations have different cost and square footage breakpoints, as well as some more options that let you be more strategic and specific about what you enter.

One case we see frequently is in kitchen renovations. Say you renovated a kitchen and a greatroom. In the Georgies you have to enter the kitchen in a Kitchen category, and the greatroom in the Any Room category. We often see projects where the greatroom is a good piece of design, but it's not quite enough to be awards-worthy in its own category--but the flow between kitchen and greatroom is.

 A fine candidate for Kitchen and Greatroom

A fine candidate for Kitchen and Greatroom

If you just read that and said "Hey, that's my project!", then you might want to consider entering the Kitchen and Greatroom Renovation category rather than simply repurposing your Kitchen entry. Doing this is going to likely require some rejigging of your marketing text, as well as a few changes in photos to include the greatroom.

If you had us do your photography and/or writing, we can often do this for a nominal charge to cover reworking the text and licensing an extra few photos.

3. Are there additional categories you should enter?  

As I just mentioned, the Ovations have some excellent 'boutique' categories. Did you renovate a character home, or do a predominantly exterior+landscape renovation? Check out the Best Heritage/Character Home category, and the Best Exterior Reno categories.

If you're a new home builder, there are some goodies for you as well. Laneway projects get their own category this year (Best Small-Scale Home < 1000sqft). We've photographed some fantastic laneway projects this year, and it's great to see this category come up.

For the volume builders among you, look particularly at the Best Residential Community categories, which take a more holistic look at your development, including your amenity spaces and how your community fits into its surrounding. If you have great amenity features, these categories could be for you.

In these cases, you'll likely need some new writing as well as licensing some extra photos from your Georgie Awards entry, so give us a call and we're happy to help.

And if you didn't enter the Georgies, it's worth remembering that you can often use your Ovation Awards entries for the Georgies next year. Because of some quirks with the entry form, it's much easier to take an Ovation entry and reuse it for the Georgies than it is to go the other way around...but as they used to say about voting in Chicago, "enter early and often!". We have packages to help you out with your writing and photography, and we're looking forward to seeing the wonderful things you're building.

Good luck in the Ovations!

Pareidolia! (Or: Who Put The Doggie In My Driveway?)

Pareidolia! (Or: Who Put The Doggie In My Driveway?)

One of our favourite projects this Georgie Awards season was a house that features a smooth architectural concrete driveway with a lightly swirly finish that looks absolutely fabulous when wet...in addition to some lovely landscape lighting. When I edited the image, I noticed something a bit 'off' in the reflection but couldn't put my finger on what or why...and nobody else noticed anything either. I chalked it up to too many long days on location and too little sleep.

Mission driveway pre-edit.jpg

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and we get a message (on Friday the 13th, no less) forwarded from the client's graphic designer. "I was placing one your images and I noticed what looks like a ghosted image of a dog, or racoon, in the foreground.". Well, now that you've pointed it out...I can't unsee it! Let's zoom in to make it clearer. It sure looks like there's a ghost of a dog emerging from the reflection!

Doggie Pareidolia

 

So, I fired up Capture One and went back to the original image files. It sometimes happens that pets, people, or other things do run through images unintentionally, particularly if we're doing long exposures (and this was about a 20 second exposure), but this wasn't what's going on here. This image is stitched from two perspectives to get a wider angle, and the reflection pattern was present in every version of the image.

What's going on, then? Hallowe'en is coming up: did we catch the ghost of an old Mission dog that once roamed the site long ago? Unless our client reports that their client hears strange howling noises in the middle of the night: this is an instance of pareidolia. Say it with me, so you can impress your friends at your next cocktail party: pair-eye-DOH-le-a.

Pareidolia, according to Merriam-Webster, is the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. We've all experienced it: the Man in the Moon, the Face on Mars, certain rock formations, even...Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun, and Snack Food Jesus. In this case, the "doggie" is due to the reflection of the landscape and window lighting on the wet concrete. Speaking of cool words, those of you who do film lighting will observe that the front foliage is behaving as a cuculoris and hard-shaping the light in the reflection, creating the effect.

Blurring out the reflection in Photoshop made short work of it:

goldedge-whidden59257 1.jpg

 

And that, as they say, is a dog gone bit of post!

Happy Vernal Equinox, folks!

As of today, it's officially the First Day Of Fall. Pagans get to celebrate this with Mabon, but we architectural photographers have our own observance: the noting that between today and the Spring Equinox, Mother Nature will no longer be providing direct light on north-facing elevations. Bummer.

We really need our own festival to mark this, but there are so few of us and we're so geographically diverse, good luck with that. Maybe someday...

We love fall light (it's lower, more direct, and emphasizes those lovely fall colours), but the lack of direct light can make photographing north-facing exteriors a bit more challenging. Thankfully, there's lighting, and of course, shooting at twilight to get around this problem. So, when a client calls and wants photos of a north-facing exterior, we get to be a bit more creative with timing (because shooting directly into the sun causes all sorts of problems of its own) and lighting to get the job done. Or, some combination of both, as we did when photographing this nifty laneway house from the crew at Lanefab, which was recently also on the Vancouver Modern Art & Design Tour:

Lit twilight laneway exterior

The upside of the days getting shorter is that we can shoot twilight exteriors earlier in the day. In Vancouver, midsummer days last so long that we're often photographing well past 10 or 11pm, and packing up at midnight. Being a night owl, I rather relish this (especially because you get good twilight for almost an hour), however, for homeowners--particularly those with kids--this can be tough because it's "way past everyone's bedtime". With twilight happening closer to 6-7pm, this makes things a lot more convenient for everyone, at the cost of...fewer twilight images to be had before losing the light, and a bit more planning on our part to get everything in.

So, if you have a north-facing exterior, and you need natural direct light on it, we're happy to schedule you in after May 1. Otherwise, grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte and enjoy the fall!

Capture One 10.2: Go Home, You're Broken!

Those of you in the mostly-wonderful and sometimes-exasperating world of capture, teching, and editing with Phase One's Capture One (like myself) probably noticed that a new version of Capture One, 10.2, dropped earlier in the week. I've just finished one of the busiest weeks of the year (10-12 hour location days, at different locations, every day!) with a combination of the late 10.2 betas, for which I'm a tester, and the release version of 10.2, and...I'm uninstalling it and going back to 10.1.2. Phase, you let this one go half-baked. (And before you asked: yes, all of these issues save one, which is new in the 10.2 release version, I've reported to Phase, on the last beta release. Hopefully they'll be fixed in 10.2.1, whenever it comes out).

What's busted?

  • Undo/redo on dual monitor Macs. I edit with the Browser on one screen and the Viewer on the other. Undo and Redo only work on the Browser window's screen (and focus), not on the Viewer. In past releases, key combos including undo/redo would work on both screens; having it work on the browser screen only is exactly bass-ackwards because that's the window you will probably be most unlikely to use. (Note that if you've turned off 'Displays have separate Spaces' in your Display Preferences, this works fine; but that's not the default for most of us).
  • Custom key combinations randomly don't respond. On my laptop, I have Live View mapped to the forward slash key, which I can usually hit with my big toe if I'm in socks on location and my laptop is on the floor (both of which are often the case). During this morning's shoot, about half the time, this didn't work...causing me to have to bend down and hit the Live View button on the Camera tab. Ecch. (10.1 broke the ability to map Space in live view to take an exposure, which is annoying enough, particularly when you're one-handing your laptop because your other hand is steadying a pole with your camera flying 16 feet above you).
  • No forward slash in watermarks. I run a business called Martin Knowles Photo/Media. This one's a near deal-breaker. I can work around it by using the Unicode fraction slash, but still...
  • Sleep/wake tethering instability. I shoot a P45, tethered to a MacBook Air 2011 with the Thunderbolt-FireWire dongle. It may well be time for me to replace the dongle (but given that C1 shows the same misbehaviour on both my dongles and on my main and backup cables, I'm given to think it's a software issue). Back in the bad old days of C1 7, you'd have to be very careful to disconnect your camera before closing your laptop's lid, because you'd often cause CaptureCore to blow, leaving you with no other choice than restarting Capture One in order to re-tether. Guess what annoying behaviour is back in 10.2? It gets worse: half the time when this happens, I actually have to reboot the entire machine. I've sometimes even had this happen when I pull the dongle before closing the laptop lid, which is doubly horrible when you're running outside because you're in the last few minutes of usable light at dusk, and Mother Nature won't wait for a reboot.

So, my conclusion: unless you need to be running 10.2 because your camera isn't supported in 10.1.2, skip this update and wait for the next one to come out. They've fixed a number of niggling annoyances (zoom controls in Live View being one, which I've reported in every single release since the 10.0 betas), but at least three of these issues are major showstoppers in my workflow. Thankfully, Phase makes it really easy to downgrade to previous releases.

...And Another Awards Season Begins

Sometimes award seasons get off to a slow start. This isn't one of them, particularly if you're an interior designer or builder. The IDIBC, PIDIM, and IDA are all running design awards at the moment. For builders and renovators, the Georgie Awards requirements are out, and you'll be able to enter beginning early July.

So many design awards. So little time. But...so many opportunities to win and get good PR! You can't win if you don't enter, and the only way to become an award-winning designer, builder, or architect is to win awards.

What to do? Take advantage of the opportunities to make your entry succeed, of course! And there are several ways to do just that:

The Georgie Webinar: Steps to Success

On Thursday, June 22 at 10am, writer Susan Boyce and I are presenting a webinar: Georgie Awards: Steps to Success. We'll break down the process and give you a roadmap (heck, a whole cruising guide!) full of local knowledge, tips, things to think about, and ways to streamline your entry. We've aimed it towards builders and renovators, but those of you entering interior design and architecture awards will probably find lots of good things to learn as well.

You're probably thinking: "I hate webinars! They're all 10 minutes of good information and 40 minutes of pitch". Me too--which is why this webinar won't be that! We promise no more than 10 minutes of pitch, if that. So sign up, get your notepad, and prepare to have a good plan for moving ahead.

Awards Roadmap

Almost all building and design industry awards have common requirements: there's usually a set of written statements, a number of photos, some forms, and some prep work. If it's your first time putting together an awards entry, this can be a bit daunting. We feel your pain, and we're here to help...yes, we've seen those short deadlines, specific requirements, the rush to get that half-dozen perfect photos together, and not to mention the terror of a blank page that has to be filled with 300-some words of goodness. All of which you're of course having to do when you have designs to finish, people to call, problems to solve. 

Susan and I have put together a guide to help work you through the process, and you can download it for free. Check it out!

 

 

An Award Season Ends...

It's as reliable as flipping the calendar to a new page: just as we finish congratulating our clients for winning awards last season, it's time once again to get another awards season under way.

We'll start with kudos to a couple of our architect clients. First up is Proscenium Architecture + Interiors, for the heritage restoration and bell spire addition at Christ Church Cathedral. Proscenium brought home an AIBC Special Jury Award at the Architectural Institute of BC's annual awards, as well as a City of Vancouver Heritage Award, carrying on a fine tradition as the 2004 renovation phase at Christ Church was also similarly awarded by the City over a decade ago. We were involved in both the construction progress and final photographs of this project (on both the 2004--before I was photographing full time--and 2017 renovations!). Check out the video if you're curious.

Christ Church Cathedral AIBC Awards

The BC Wood Awards are always a particular favourite, and we've had several projects win over the past few years. We get to add another to the pantheon: Urban Arts's Engineering Student Centre at UBC.

Our clients made a fantastic showing in the GVHBA Ovation Awards, with many of our finalists making it into the winner's circle.

First off, first-time entrant Mulberry Property Group's Eyremount made a solid showing, including in the Best Kitchen category...with their three-part kitchen that I'd love to cook in:

Mulberry Properties kitchen british properties eyremount

 

Congratulations to first-time entrant Saint Construction's stunningly modern Ross Street, bringing home the Best Renovation $400-$699K Ovation:

Vancouver Modern Wood Renovation

Hayer's Summit led off the Best Townhouse/Rowhome Development - Production > 1,500 Sq Ft and the Shaw Viewer's Choice Award:

Hayer Summit Langley Townhouse Ovation Georgie

Project Mint, another first-time entrant, got to take home an award in both hands as well this year, with their Pender Duplex getting honours in Best Townhouse/Rowhome Development - Infill, and Best New Kitchen Under $50,000, with a tip of the hat and an additional award to...another first-time entrant, Designs by Katerina and Silvie, for the fantastic kitchen:

East Vancouver Modern Kitchen Georgie Ovation

We often hear the excuse "we're not going to bother entering because 'the usual suspects' always win". We say: bollocks! This year, all of our first-time entrants did well--in fact, almost all of the projects Susan Boyce and I worked on in last year's awards season came in as finalists and/or winners in one or (often) more local awards programs. Sure, 'the usual suspects' do well, but that's because they enter all the time, and you can win as well if you enter!

 

The Final Batch Of Finalists!

The Final Batch Of Finalists!

Somewhere out there in the hallowed halls of CHBA National, and the equally hallowed halls of the GVHBA, someone decided that March 29 Shall Be Housing Award Finalist Day, and an elite cabal sprang into action, bestowing finalist awards left and right, blasting off press releases, and churning out posts on social media.

Or not.

It's probably purely convenient coincidence that the list of finalists for the CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence dropped on the same afternoon as the GVHBA Ovation Awards Finalist Soiree. We'd love to believe the former, but we figure that the latter is more likely. Speculation aside: on with the honours.

Project Mint's East Pender, which led off our Georgie finalists, showed up again in the Ovations: for Best Interior Design Display Suite and Best Townhouse/Rowhome Infill:

Vancouver modern duplex Project Mint Pender ovation georgie

 

 Another Project Mint project, a lovely renovated 'atomic ranch' in Deep Cove for which we had to hose a substantial amount of snow off a big courtyard area during the shoot with hot water (that's a first) showed up as a finalist in Best Kitchen/Greatroom and Best Reno $200-399K:

North Vancouver Atomic Ranch Ovation Georgie Midcentury

Saint Construction's East Van Heritage, a Georgie finalist, was a finalist in the Ovations-only Best Heritage/Character Renovation, as well as the CHBA National Whole House $500-$1M category:

East Van Heritage Saint Construction Vancouver Heritage

 

 The other Saint project we photographed, Ross Street Modern, was a finalist in Best Reno $400-$699K at the Ovations, and the Whole House $250-500K category at the CHBA Nationals.

Ross Street Modern Vancouver Renovation Georgie Ovation

 

Linhan Design (and 3 Dimension Construction)'s Family and Formal, another Georgie and CHBA Fraser Valley finalist, was also a finalist in Best New Kitchen Under $50K.

 

Mulberry's Eyremount picked up a goodly stack of finalist honours, including Best Special Feature (for the uber-cool car turntable, packing at least 4 parking spaces into the space of two), Best Custom Home Over $3 Million, Best Interior Design Custom Residence, and Best New Kitchen Over $100K. 

Mulberry Special Feature Ovation Awards Car Turntable British Properties

Hayer Builders Group and Fifth Avenue Marketing have been on an absolute tear this awards season as both finalists and winners at the CHBA Fraser Valley Awards, and the Georgie Awards. They continued it tonight with their Summit project, which was a finalist in the CHBA National Awards for Attached Homes – 1,500 square feet and over, and in the Ovations: Best Townhouse/Rowhome 1,500sf+, Best Interior Design Display Suite, Best New Kitchen Under $50K, Best Residential CommunityMulti-Famly Home Builder of the Year:

Summit Great Room double height Surrey Ovation Awards

One of the things we love about the Ovation Awards is its long time horizon: this year, projects completed in the last three years are eligible to enter. This sometimes means some cool surprises as projects we've photographed in the past for other awards programs suddenly pop up again at Finalists Night. This happened tonight: Tien Sher's Balance micro-loft project is a finalist (and since it's the only one, it's likely a winner by default) in the BC Housing Award for Innovative Choices) and Best Multi-Family Low Rise:

Tien Sher Balance

Another Tien Sher project, Jade, was a finalist in Best Townhouse/Row Home Less than 1,500 sqft. 

Tien Sher Jade Ovation Richmond Townhouse

Are you looking to join this list next year? We're here to help. Check out our award resources...and get started!

Learn how to improve your marketing and award entries

We're big into sharing knowledge, especially when it helps you build your business. And with the weather getting marginally better (but still keeping a lot of us mostly indoors most of the time...), it's a perfect time to start thinking about those upcoming springtime and summertime photo projects when winter is finally gone and we start getting landscapes that start looking less dead. That's going to mean that awards season is also right around the corner, and it's never too early to start thinking about it!

Ovation Awards class on e-Learn

If you're a GVHBA member, you might have seen an announcement for the class that Susan Boyce, Lynn Harrison, and I did on Ovation Awards: Tips and Strategies last October cross your desk. We're jazzed that the class is now available online on the GVHBA's newly minted eLearn platform. You won't get the class exercises, but the content is now available in the comfort of your very own office (or at home, with your pets trying to shove your laptop off your lap...), and you even get 2.0 awesome Group B CPD points if you're a builder member who needs to keep your license up.

Almost all the points we make about the Ovation Awards also apply to the Georgie Awards, the CARE Awards, the Fraser Valley Awards, and most of the rest of the local housing awards, all of which have very similar entry requirements.

As part of their introductory special, eLearn classes are 50% off for another few days, so if you're interested, get on it quickly.

eLearn: Ovation Awards Workshop

Cookbook: 6 Steps to Distinctive Photos

If it's your first time getting a project photographed, you're probably wondering what you can do to make sure that your project looks the best, and you get the photos you need to propel your marketing and PR efforts. We're here to help you out with that. Check out our 6 Steps to Distinctive Architectural Photos cookbook. It's free!

Awards Roadmap

Is it your first time entering an awards program? Wondering what to expect, and what to have in place so you have the easiest and quickest time getting to a successful entry? There's a roadmap for that too!

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Congratulations Georgie Winners & Finalists

Congratulations Georgie Winners & Finalists

Our clients always do well in the Georgie Awards, and this year was no exception. In the small pantheon of housing award programs, the deadline for the Georgie Awards is usually first (as the deadlines for the CHBA National Awards, the Ovation Awards, and now the CHBA Fraser Valley awards, among others, happen in subsequent months), so we usually recommend people enter the Georgies first, and then use your Georgie entry to enter everything else, because it means you've already done about 90% of the work to a successful award entry up front.

First-time entrant Mulberry Property Group's Eyremount took home the gold in Custom Home Over $3 Million, and Best Master Suite. This is one of the few cases where good real estate photography will serve you well--almost. While we didn't photograph this project, Susan Boyce and I project-managed the entry, and we provided fill-in photography to cover their excellent kitchen, which their real estate photos didn't do justice (and we subsequently entered in the Ovations). 

Infinity's Heritage took home the gold for Multi-Family Townhouse Development and Grand Georgie for Marketing Campaign of the Year. Besides featuring what has to be the cutest little repurposed heritage home sales centre I've seen in ages (now being repurposed for their nearby Belmont phase), if you've been following press coverage of the Georgies, you've probably seen this photo already:

Infinity Heritage Langley Multi-Family Townhouse Georgie

Just add a bottle of wine and some cheese, a few of your favourite neighbours, and...perfect place to spend a summer evening! (We'd have staged that up, but the Georgie photo requirements don't let you show people). When it gets too cold, just retreat to the exquisitely appointed clubhouse to party the night away.

We're especially proud when companies who have never entered before enter and make it to the finals--because for most people outside the building industry, finalist is just as good as winner--you don't get the nifty gold statue for your wall, but you do get the bragging rights and the ability to market yourself as a Georgie finalist, which could well lead to your next project that does bring home a gold statue.

We had a plethora of finalists this year. Project Mint's East Pender gets finalist honours in Best Multi-Family Townhouse - Infill and Best Multi-Family Kitchen. This was Project Mint's inaugural project, and judging from what we've seen from them so far, they're definitely One To Watch.

Project Mint East Pender Vancouver multi family townhouse kitchen Georgie

South Ridge Developments' Life Above, which took home a Custom Home $450K+ a month ago at the CHBA Fraser Valley awards, took home finalist in Best Single Family Kitchen Under $100,000.

South Ridge Langley Life Above barn single family kitchen Georgie

There's just something about Fraser Valley kitchens! Linhan Design's Family and Formal placed in the Best Single Family Kitchen Under $100,000 category:

Linhan Design traditional kitchen Family and Formal Vancouver Fraser Valley Georgie

Another first-time entrant Saint Construction landed two projects in the finals. Ross Street Modern placed in Best Residential Reno $300-$499K with one of those projects where you see the "before" images, and you say to yourself: Wow--way to create something awesome out of a 1940's teardown!

Vancouver Modern Ross Street Saint Construction Georgie

Another saintly Saint project, East Van Heritage, landed in Best Residential Reno $500-$799K, with a sensitive addition and refit to a heritage project off Commercial Drive (no, that's not a trick of the lens: the fridge really is that big. We're told they entertain a large family, frequently):

Saint Construction residential reno Georgie heritage Vancouver

A Best Condominium Renovation Over $250,000 final went to NWI Contracting, another first-time entrant, for this lovely downtown condo:

NWI Condo Renovation Georgie vancouver modern

Finalist honours for Best Master Suite went to the stunningly modern and very cozy Pacific Spirit by Reid Developments:

Reid Developments modern Vancouver master suite Georgie

Hayer's Exchange, a multi-category winner in the CHBA Fraser Valley awards, placed as a finalist for Best Landscape Design--packing a number of lovely features such as rain barrel irrigation, community garden plots and a lot of green onto a dense space, as well as a Grand Georgie - Best Residential Community finalist:

Hayer Exchange landscape design residential community Georgie

Congratulations, everyone! We're looking forward to seeing many of you at the Ovation Awards in a month, and as this endless winter finally comes to a close and your projects get complete, just remember: starting early for next year is always a good idea! The scheduling is easier, it's cheaper, and we can put you first in line for finishing your writing and awards prep as well as photography the earlier you start.

And if you're one of those who always says "why bother entering, because the usual suspects always win?", we say bollocks! With the large number of first-time entrants doing well, the only way to become an award-winning builder is to go enter and win something, and: you can't win if you don't enter!

You have a stack of photos. Now what?

Imagine this: you've built that wonderful project. You've called us and you now have a set of photos that make it look even more wonderful. You've submitted them for your award, or put them on your website...and because you're busy, you've moved on and all that work is sitting in a folder somewhere. You'd love to get it out, but how and when--and how do you get it into the right hands?

You're thinking to yourself: I wish I could get more out of that! More...good press, clients, cool projects, likes on Instagram...whatever. Right?

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Introducing GetMore! We've teamed up with PiTCH PR to help you get more from your marketing efforts. Efficient and cost-effective marketing and public relations takes careful planning, good contacts, and a variety of strategies to do well. Jenn and the PiTCH team bring their substantial experience doing PR strategy, print/web/event marketing, and organization to help you get your firm's projects and your brand out into the community. 

You're ready to GetMore! Let's make it happen together.