The old grainy wire or radio pictures that used to peer blearily out of our newspapers in the days of hot metal are a thing of the past, and photographic film for news cameramen is going the same way. The new news cameras are all digital, using tiny floppy disks or memory chips in place […]
The old grainy wire or radio pictures that used to peer blearily out of our newspapers in the days of hot metal are a thing of the past, and photographic film for news cameramen is going the same way. The new news cameras are all digital, using tiny floppy disks or memory chips in place of film – no developing required, just dial the office and shoot the picture down the wire, straight onto the disk of the page make-up computer.
But if the freelance news photographer is to be sure that the hot exclusive photo he or she grabbed in some distant trouble spot is to glow as the centrepiece of tomorrow’s front page, regardless of the equipment used in the news room, standards are needed. The International Press Telecommunications Council, comprising members from the newspaper industry and photographic equipment manufacturers, is hoping to establish new standards that should ease communication between the various pieces of equipment used to transmit, receive, manipulate and store digital photographic images. The parties, which include Eastman Kodak Co, Nikon Corp, Hasselblad GmbH, AP Leaf, Crosfield Ltd and Sinclair Imaging Ltd and representatives both from the British press and Newspaper Association of America agreed on several points at a meeting last October. These should be should be published around Easter this year, pending final US approval. For a start, the Council worked out default values for the parameter sets used to describe photographs including the scanning angles and compression fields under its News-Photo Common Parameter Set – or NCPS – Guidelines. These have been grouped under the following categories: monochrome uncompressed; monochrome compressed; colour uncompressed; colour planar compressed – for three or four planes; and colour composite compressed. Adopting these values will ensure compatibility at application level although the electronic mismatches resulting from using different types of equipment have yet to be dealt with. Satellite transmission protocols from Crosfield and Hasselblad that compensate for a lack of direct exchange between transmitter and receivers have also been accepted. And it is hoped that Joint Photographic Experts Group compression algorithm known as JFIF – the JPEG file interchange format, used commonly on the newsroom’s ubiquitous Apple Computer Inc Macintosh machines will eventually be adopted as standard. How quickly the new guidelines come into force depends not only on rubberstamping in the US but on the enthusiasm of the various manufacturers for adapting their existing products. An encouraging sign perhaps is the enthusiasm with which the proposals have been greeted in Japan where they seem likely to gain widespread acceptance. The International Press Telecommunications Council, meantime, is now about to tackle setting similar parameters for text and graphics.