The tech behind the cameras The added value of "machine-learning" taken to the extreme

Photo: Splento/Bogdan Maran

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Ai backed cameras, machine learning editing, automation and smarter tools, at a touch of a finger on your phone. On-demand-editing, on-demand-photography, on-demand-videos and Ai powered drones to follow you around taking photos from every angle. 360” photos and immersive AR & VR headsets and cameras, that

All of the above are the new trends and main talking points around visual content nowadays.

I do believe that they are very important. What we need to talk about more, if not as a priority, is the machine learning that happens at the back of the camera.

You have a “machine” that has spent years on improving countless procedures, from understanding colours & light to building to predicting movement and understanding triggers in the human behaviour to optimise communications and understanding of the output. It is a painstakingly long process, where tons of data, from daily routines, are constantly analysed, tested and filtered, sometimes for a fraction of improvement.

All this data is then processed and applied to the technology used at any particular time. And not just that, but it needs to create formulas and improve back process as soon as another tool is used and/or new technology provides a solution to reiterate and improve a workflow that has been used previously.

But the tools used are only an excuse because truly advanced “algorithms” can and will use them just to enable certain outputs, not as the main driver of the process. They are, by the end of the day, only tools, that used correctly can optimise a workflow.

Almost every time a new “tool” appears on the market, we will hear a variation of the phrase from the producer: “This new (put here the name of the latest phone, camera, retouching app or software, lens, etc) will revolutionise the photography/videography world”

I am not saying that technology has not helped advance and push the visual industries to new heights. On the contrary, I strongly believe that the democratisation that happened around photography and videography, and will happen around VR & AR, in terms of access and ease of use of equipment has helped push visual communication to levels early pioneers in the field would not even dream about. But this does not mean anything more than they have facilitated the movement.

The mass spread of this tools and the democratisation of this communication channel, has helped the professionals in the industry in a number of ways. With everybody having access to good equipment and using it on a daily basis to communicate with the world around them, the appreciation for good, if not amazing visual content grew. On top of this, it offers a very big platform on which future professionals can and will grow, test and improve their skills and craft.

I really need to underline the difference here between professionals and normal daily users. As in any mass used communication systems worldwide, there are certain levels of “usage”. The simplest example is language. We all speak to communicate, but there is a certain number of people who are using language as professionals. From journalists to PR professionals, from poets to novelists. They all use the same basic tools. But the output is very different. It is the same with everything else, from music to painting and so on. Nobody in this world become a professional anything by holding/using the best tool in the world.

It is all about the “machine learning” behind the instrument. Playing a Stradivarius will not make the user a maestro. It cannot and will not replace years of practice and raw talent. It will, however, enhance a skill.

As a “toolmaker”, the ability to understand how to make products that enable people to use their skills better, faster, more efficient and easier is the secret of success. And this is a value applied by most of the brands out there when it comes to the engineering part at least.

Some of the communication teams, on the other hand, use an iteration of the phrase that started the conversation. The effect of this is the one that annoyed me to bits. They re-define a professional by the tools they are using. They also enable individuals that use that equipment to think they are professionals. It also defines the expectations of the visual curators (clients) on what they would want. And it is an about the tool used, rather than the output.

I probably have countless examples of clients being more worried about the camera I am shooting on, or about them having a VR headset on a stand. Their main focus should be on what is the experience behind the headset, or how do they use the content I shoot to added value to their event. Both the pro behind the tool and the client should be focused on what they need to achieve and how the tools available enables them to do that.

“Value” is the key element here. The question should always be, how can I add value to what I do, with the tools I have.