Custom camera-mounted device lets Toronto Star photographers file direct to live blog

The Canadian Journalism Project

It’s hard to file photos from Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, Toronto Star visuals editor Taras Slawnych tells Mark Taylor: “There are lights around the arena and every time these neon lights and billboard signs go on it creates a lot of interference. Traditional ways of submitting with a WiFi card or some other way just didn’t work.”

So the Star built its own device, called AWAC — for “Automated Web Access Coupling.” It sits “on the hot shoe mount,” Slawnych says, and “basically provides the Internet connection, the routing of it, and then sends the picture to an FTP site. There’s a (HTML) script here that handles it and then there’s another script that sends it to a ScribbleLive blog and the (Toronto Star) archive at the same time.”

Slawnych says he’s not sure whether the Star will patent the device — other reporters “are trying to figure out what the hell we’re doing,” he says — but did allow that it was 3-D printed and that the Star has spent about $2,500 developing it. The device solves a workflow problem other technical solutions to filing in the field don’t, Slawnych says:

Traditional wire agencies have a whole bunch of things to do this as well. The problem is the traditional workflow. Let’s say it’s a wire photographer shooting the game like we did. He sends the picture, and he’s probably sending it just as fast as we are. The picture then goes to headquarters and is then put on the wires. There’s probably a minute delay, maybe 30 seconds even. The picture is then sent out to an FTP to newspapers around the world. Then you’ve got a processor from your archive that is picking up these shots every 30 seconds, every minute. To put that picture online, you have to publish that picture onto your pagination system and wait for it to appear there. That’s probably another 30 seconds and then you have to move it onto your online Content Management System, which is probably minimum 30 seconds. And that’s if everyone is watching everything and has the time to do that. So that’s at least two, three minutes if every step worked out perfectly, which I doubt because there’s going to be other pictures moving on the wire. The editor that’s pulling that picture might not be paying attention because he’s doing other stuff at the same time. Our picture, without anyone having to touch it here, is on our blog within 45 seconds.

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  • http://www.thestar.com Taras Slawnych

    The Toronto Star tried the eye-fi card years ago but experienced too many problems. Such as not always having a hot spot, too much interference from billboard lights and they eye-fi card doesn’t work with the Canon 1DX or the Nikon D4. The AWAC has it’s own internet source and doesn’t need to be tethered to an Iphone or a hotspot. We also wanted the photos posted within the same Scribblelive blog that the reporters use and the AWAC solved this problem.