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Software Reviews

Capture Pilot v1.1 review

Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen) on March 23, 2011


Keywords: capture, pilot, phase, software

Tethered photography has revolutionized the studio workflow by allowing photographers and clients to interact in ways never before possible. In today’s world, a photographer can take the photos, instantly download view them on the computer and have the clients make final decisions within a matter of minutes. Then, the photographer can copy the photographs to a hard drive, hand it to the client and move on to the next shoot.

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Conecting the iPad

Tethered shooting involves connecting your camera body to your computer system so that your images are immediately downloaded to your computer’s hard drive. The camera is usually connected to the computer via a USB cable or fire wire connection, but there are also wireless tether options available for many camera systems. In addition to the hardware, you’ll need a piece of software that provides the digital interface between the computer and the camera. Many companies make tethering software, but few do it as well as Phase One.

Phase One has been an innovator in the software and studio photography world for many years. In addition to creating state-of-the-art medium format cameras, they also produce professional caliber imaging software such as Capture One Pro 6.0 (www.captureone.com).

Capture One Pro 6.0 is designed to be an all-in-one workflow tool for the studio and location photographer. It allows a photographer to capture images in real time with a tethered camera, organize, rate, process and output images without ever leaving the workspace.

 

 

The software engineers for Capture One Pro 6.0 have recently developed a new product called Capture Pilot that allows remote viewing of images from the tethered photography session on an iOS device such as the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.  The interface allows multiple iOS users to view, zoom and pan high-resolution RAW, TIFF and JPG files in real time, while you shoot.

Capture Pilot is a free download from iTunes for your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. The software integrates with Capture One Pro 6.0, so you’ll need to also own a version of this great workflow tool ($399 USD).

 

Why Remote Viewing?

If you’ve ever shot in a studio or location environment with other people while tethered to a laptop, you know that everyone always crowds around the computer screen. For the people in the room, the most exciting thing is looking at the images on the monitor. Models, parents, directors and grandma all want to see the pictures right away!

When I’ve shot tethered sessions in my own business, clients quickly gather around my laptop and are literally tripping over one another to see the photographs. In some of my larger sessions, I would have five to ten people crowded around to see the screen. Of course, this chaos is occurring at exactly the same time I’m trying to take photos or review images on the computer. It always gets a bit close for comfort when everyone is gathered around the shooting space.

Now that Phase One has created Capture Pilot, anyone with an iPad/iPhone/iPod can literally hold the photos in the palms of their hands and I don’t have to play crowd control. The space around my camera gear and laptop is free and I don’t have to worry about power cords or USB cables being ripped from their sockets.

Letting people review the images at a different location in the studio gives me space to breathe on the set. Even better, my clients can make their “selects” decisions on an iOS device while having full control over zooming, panning, or reviewing any image taken during that session.


The first thing to know about using Capture Pilot is that it requires a wireless connection between the iPad and the computer. Capture Pilot directly interfaces with Capture One Pro 6.0 software which acts as a server for the images. In other words, the images you take with your camera are downloaded via Capture One Pro 6.0 to your computer’s hard drive. Then, Capture One Pro 6.0 acts as a server that the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch accesses remotely. Therefore, the images don’t ever exist directly on the iOS device, but rather they remotely access the images from the server.

The first time you try to connect the iPad to the server can be a brief challenge and is the only small frustration I had with the entire process. I had to search through the Phase One’s FAQ webpages and user forums, but I soon figured out the process. In all, the first time I tried to connect my iPad to Capture One, it took me about 2 hours of trial and error. Now that I fully understand all the steps, it only takes about a minute to set up the computer, software and iPad so they all speak together.

Here’s the process for the computer:

  1. Go to your computer’s wireless settings and allow Wi-Fi sharing. On my MacBook Pro,I also had to go to the AirPort icon and chose “Create Network.” Next, I allowed the Mac to create its own computer-to-computer network with itself.
    Create_Network_Mac Computer_to_Copmuter_Network
  2. Open Capture One Pro 6.0
  3. Start a tethered capture session
  4. Click on the Capture Icon (looks like a camera)
  5. Open the Capture Pilot menu on the bottom left.
  6. Click the Start Image Server button. This allows Capture One Pro 6.0 to act as a server for the download folder.

 

Start_Image_Server

Now, Capture One Pro 6.0 is set up properly for sharing its images with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. The next step is to configure the iOS device to access the server. Here are the steps I used to setup my iPad:

  1. Go to Settings à General à Network à Wi-Fi
  2. Now, you should see the new network that you just set up on your computer. In my case the new network was called “Mike Hagen’s MacBook Pro (2)”
  3. Choose this network from the iPad menu
  4. Press the iPad button to bring you back to the main app screen
  5. Launch Capture Pilot
  6. Choose the session name

Ideally, everything will launch properly and you’ll be able to immediately start viewing images on your iPad. If it didn’t connect immediately, keep trying. Sometimes it would take me two or three tries to get the connection started. Other times it connected immediately. Later, I found out that the Bluetooth radio on the iPad can cause interference, so be sure to turn this off from the iPad Settings menu. Since I turned off Bluetooth, I haven’t had any issues with connectivity.

By the way, Capture One has excellent user forums and help on their website. I referred to these forums a few times for assistance in synchronizing the Capture Pilot with the Capture One software.

 


The experience of working with the iPad as a real-time photo viewer is truly wonderful. The photographs look superb and I honestly liked looking at them on the iPad far better than looking at them on my laptop screen. You are able to intuitively zoom in and out and you can immediately swipe left or right to see other photos. At the same time, it is simple to quickly toggle to a grid view and select a specific image. The grid view has three different sizes of thumbnails so you can customize your viewing experience.

iPad_Small_Thumbnails iPad_LargeImageView
Thumbnailview Large imageview

Capture Pilot has an integrated a histogram function that overlays the lower left corner of each photo. The viewer can toggle the iPad’s histogram on or off depending on how much information they want to see on the screen. For a pure viewing experience, toggle it off. For a detailed look at the exposure, turn it on.

From a workflow standpoint, the best feature of Capture Pilot is to be able to rate and label the images wirelessly. Clients can hold the iPad in their hand and choose which photos they like the best by simply touching the star rating or the color label on the image itself. This metadata is then wirelessly transferred back to the main Capture One software in real time. Rating and ranking images has never been easier or more fun.

iPad_Histogram iPad_StarRating iPad_ColorLabels
Histogramview Rating Color Labels

Another very cool aspect is that changes you make to the images on your computer in Capture One Pro 6.0 are immediately viewable on the iPad/iPhone. For example, let’s say that you are at a fashion shoot and want to show the client some other looks for the images you’ve already taken. Perhaps you want to show what the images look like in black and white. You can easily make these changes in Capture One Pro 6.0 and they show up immediately on the iPad. Everyone can say “ooh or ewww” and then you can make new modifications based on the feedback. The cool thing is that you, the photographer, are now in complete control of the viewing experience and the viewers are active participants in the creative process.

But wait, it gets even better. Let’s say that the client tells you that they like a specific style you’ve applied to the photos and that they want all the future images during the shoot to be processed the same way. All you need to do in Capture One Pro 6.0 is to keep the “Copy From Last” feature activated and all future images will be adjusted with new settings. The iPad or iPhone will show the new style immediately after each photo is taken. The best part is that since these adjustments are made in Capture One Pro 6.0, they are non-destructive and can be reversed at any time.

 


While writing this article, I shot a few photographs in my home studio with still life images, but to really put the product to the test, I set up a studio in a hotel room while traveling to a wedding in Bend, Oregon. For the photo shoot, I asked a group of children who went to the wedding to pose for me while I photographed them with a Nikon D700 tethered to my MacBook Pro.

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Hotel "Studio"

I handed the group of kids the iPad and let them watch the photos in real time while I photographed them in the hotel room studio. Their reaction to seeing the images on the iPad was fantastic. In fact, it was probably the same as your reaction would be: excitement, wonder and enthusiasm. Without any input from me, they instantly understood how to navigate the Capture Pilot iPad software and began rating the images with stars and color labels.

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Kids rating the pictures using capture pilot on an iPad iPad and Model

Having remote viewing on the iPad made it easy for me to keep my computer and camera area clear and unobstructed. That allowed me to move around, change settings and make adjustments on the computer without having to move people out of the way. As I shot photos, all the kids and parents went ooh and ahh as each image displayed on the beautiful iPad screen. At any time, the group could go back to previous photos, zoom in/out or change their ratings.

 

 

An unexpected and delightful benefit of having the iPad was that it dramatically enhanced the whole creative process. We started out just shooting straight portraits of the kids, but when they looked at their images, they started suggesting great ideas for new photographs. Over the course of 30 minutes, we took images ranging from formal to silly to beautiful to dramatic. The best photos of the shoot came from the collaboration that stemmed from viewing the images on the iPad in real time. The iPad increased the fun factor by ten-fold and kept everyone completely interested during the entire shoot.

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T-Mobile_G2 0172_1200px T-Mobile_G2 0177_1200px T-Mobile_G2 0178_1200px
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Kids getting creative while having fun

On a side note, the folks at Phase One say that there isn’t a technical limit to how many i-devices can be used during the same session. In other words, you could have five or ten people in the same room reviewing the shoot from their iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. That got me thinking about all the photography workshops I run and how I might be able to integrate the iPad into the classroom environment. It would be great to shoot tethered photographs to the computer, and then have them download immediately to all the iPads/iPhones/iPod Touches in the room. We could then review, discuss and re-shoot pictures based on everyone’s feedback. This just might be a game-changer for my workshops!


A big part of a tethered shoot is making sure all your equipment is secure while taking photographs. The potential for a full-scale photo disaster is very real because everything is usually connected together with data and power cables. The camera and tripod are connected to the laptop with an USB/FireWire cable, which is connected to the wall with a power cord.

Invariably, someone is going to trip on a cord during a tethered shoot. At best, your cables pull out of the camera, which causes loss of data or a bent cable connector. At worst, someone trips over a cord, which pulls over the tripod, which causes your camera and laptop to hit the concrete.

There are lots of ways jury-rig your gear during a tethered shoot, but a company named Tether Tools (http://www.tethertools.com/) specializes in this type of equipment. Their products are specifically designed to securely mount laptops, monitors, hard drives and iPads to mobile stands so all your equipment is secure and within arm’s reach.

 

 

Tether Tools products work very well and are robust and strong. Their platforms are made out of T6 aerospace aluminum and will stand up to rigorous use day-in and day-out. Their signature product is the Tether Table, which allows you to securely place our laptop on a light stand or tripod. Additionally, they produce products like the JerkStopper which prevent wires from being dislodged from your computer or camera when people inadvertently pull on the cables.

Tether_Tools_Platform_hagen_110322_019 Tether Tools-iPad (2 of 3)
Tether Tools Platform Tether Tools iPad

Tether Tools has just recently started to produce platforms and accessories for your iPad. Within the next few months, they’ll start selling platforms and straps designed to hold iPads in the studio environment. I really like the Tether Tools products and can’t wait to get my hands on the new iPad solutions.

 

Summary

In all, I’m extremely impressed with Phase One’s iOS application Capture Pilot. It is an elegantly designed program designed to do a simple task – allow clients to view and rate photos away from the tethered computer.

I found the interface on the iPad to be simple to use and quick to understand. More importantly, the interface doesn’t get in the way of the viewing experience. In fact, viewing and reviewing photos is so simple, that it allows for the opportunity to have an amazing collaboration between photographer and client. It enhances the creative process in ways that you won’t be able to predict.

Capture Pilot is a great tool and I’ll be using it regularly in my photography business. I congratulate Phase One on creating such a useful and fun-to-use tool.

 

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Mike Hagen is a professional photographer and the Director of the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). You learn more about him at www.outthereimages.com/blog.

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Mike Hagen Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen)

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