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2014-Digital-Epigraphy-cover

The Oriental Institute has released a new book titled Digital Epigraphy, a manual for the methods that they are using to record items found in their Epigraphic Survey.

During the past several decades the Epigraphic Survey has refined its conventions and recording methodologies to fit with the widely divergent nature of the inscribed surfaces we record and the changing conditions in Egypt that are resulting in the accelerating decay of those inscribed surfaces. For the past two years we have been experimenting with new digital tools, software, and equipment that have allowed us to streamline our recording process while still achieving the highest degree of accuracy, the bottom line of any scientific documentation. It has always been our aim to share these conventions and methodologies with our friends and colleagues, and it is our great pleasure to present the initial results here now. The digital formats in which this manual is made available are particularly appropriate and will be updated and changed regularly, since the manual will always be a work in progress. The possibilities are limitless.

The free volume is available from their website as either a PDF or ePub book.

Much of the volume is a primer on the use of Photoshop for photo manipulation, and Illustrator for the final vector drawings. They cover layer structures, brush selection, curves, manipulating vector paths, pattern creation, and more.

digital_epigraph_epub_p108

Screenshot from p. 108 of Digital Epigraphy

In short: this is essential and the manual that I wish I could write for those creating digital drawings in the field or in the research lab. I plan to make it required reading.

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Sophie Graham photographs part of the site

Image tagging has long been one of the least efficient areas of our workflow. In previous years, photos of the site during excavation were taken with digital cameras. At the end of the day the trench supervisors were expected to upload the digital images to a computer, rename the files and add captions to the photos’ metadata with Adobe Bridge, and store them on the server. In the best of circumstances this meant that an image taken early in the morning would be tagged 9-10 hours later, likely after numerous other photos had been taken. To make things worse, as the season progressed and the trench supervisors became busier they tended to defer these tagging processes for a day or two. By that time they often had difficulty remembering exactly what was intended by the photo—even for archaeologists, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between two photos of dirt.

This year we decided to move the captioning process out into the field. One of the key pieces of technology that enabled this was the Eye-Fi Connect X2, a camera memory card with built-in Wi-Fi. This card allowed us to continue to use dedicated digital cameras, which currently produce images of a much higher quality than the cameras built into many tablets and mobile devices, and to operate away from existing Wi-Fi networks. Using Eye-Fi’s Direct Mode we paired each card/camera with one iPad. After a photo is taken the card automatically broadcasts a Wi-Fi network to which the iPad connects. The card then transfers images to the iPad, putting the photos directly into the Camera Roll. The Eye-Fi app on the iPad does the actual transfer, but it can run in the background. The entire process takes from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on the number of photos.

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Field projects generate a huge number of photos. Those photos are also used at every phase of the project: writing field reports at the end of the project, research during the off-season, presentation of preliminary results in lectures, illustration for publication, and finally repository in (hopefully) some useable searchable form for others to use.

Too often projects rely on their own folder techniques. That is, someone creates a series of folders and sub-folders to hold the images and that folder follows them wherever they go. There are obvious problems with this approach. The most unfortunate is that the images never get cross-indexed. Whether you file things by date or subject, you often end up wanting a particular photograph for a different context. If you file all photos by trench and photo date, how can you find all photos of water pipes, for example? The second most obvious issue is that, if the photos are organized by subject, who does the organizing? I have worked on projects where the trench supervisors organize their own trench photos and then hand them in at the end of the season. The result is a series of folders with idiosyncratic organizational schemes that promises time wasted looking for a particular photo.

I have worked a long time to get a technique that fixes all of these problems, including the archival issue, and while it might look complex at first, once set up it is fairly painless. And it allows you to search for an image that you want without a database. Read the rest of this entry »