Vincent Laforet began in photography like many of his generation: a 15-year-old in school, shooting film, one camera with one lens. Even back then, Laforet was experimenting with 3D on his Commodore Amiga and becoming proficient enough with Photoshop to give lessons to his instructors. Only five years after graduating from Northwestern with a Bachelor's of Science, Laforet won the Pulitzer Prize as a member of The New York Times staff for its heartrending portrayals of wartime life in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Laforet started at the Times as one of its first digital photographers, shooting with Canon's 2-megapixel DSLR. With the move to digital came an entirely new workflow. The long processing times for film were out; broadband-era transmission and distribution straight from the field were in. The speed of work accelerated.
"When I was in Torino during the  Olympics, as I was shooting, the images were being processed into low-res JPEGs and transmitted to New York," says Laforet. "The editor actually made selections based on that. He pulled the hi-res images off my computer live as I was shooting. The digital medium has always pushed me and others into new workflows, inventing the book as we went."
How can pros like Laforet keep a grip on the demands of real-time photography? Often, it comes down to having equipment able to keep up with a constantly evolving and accelerating workflow. This means more functionality and higher performance without sacrificing reliability.
Vincent Laforet carries a reputation throughout the pro world for being something of a supergeek. By his own admission, he has "tested just about every single wireless card you can imagine." The same is true of Mac laptops and his list of storage devices reads like an encyclopedia entry, spanning floppy disks, SyQuest, Zip, Tape, Flash and hard drives.
"It's always about staying on the cutting edge of technology but not letting it take over," says Laforet. "Storage should help you do your job better and ultimately becoming secondary. That's one of technology's key goals: evolving a workflow that works so well that you don't have to focus on much. It just works. Because if you're focusing too much on the technology or your workflow, you're not doing your job, which is either create great imagery or make films that have relevance and some sort of emotional connection with your audience."
Laforet's need to update his tech arsenal largely stems from leaps in what and how he's shooting. Obviously, the move from photography into video required great jumps in data bandwidth and storage capacity. Most recently, Laforet's move into shooting with RED cameras only compounded these needs. As he started detailing on his widely read blog in June 2011, shooting RED Epic with HDRx can yield a data stream of 6GB per minute. Laforet notes that it's not uncommon for him to use 100GB of storage for one hour of footage.
Traditionally, the storage scaling involved in keeping pace with improvements to video technologies was fairly linear. As resolutions increased, storage needs increased at a commen-surate pace. More recently, though, particularly with the adoption of 5K resolutions and frame rates of up to 120 fps, Laforet has found his storage needs rising exponentially. Moreover, older workflow methods of handling storage are no longer acceptable.
"My workflow always involves backing everything up to a G-Technology RAID drive and having a second G-RAID drive on-set. When we leave a commercial job, we have two different people on two different flights in case luggage gets lost or something gets dropped by the TSA. Having a commercial job in one wallet on a bunch of Flash cards is not an acceptable risk. How could I justify to a client that they just lost a $600,000 shoot because someone dropped a wallet? Or we find out there was a bad card? That's why we're checking data files as we progress on-set. Whether it's photo or video, people are downloading and checking from the very first thing we do to make sure there's no gremlins on the camera or the card and the levels are OK. The idea of storing anything on cards and checking it when I get back is almost anachronistic to the entire advantage of digital".
While on-set, Laforet uses G-Technology G-SPEED™ eS external eSATA drives. With a four-drive capacity (16TB maximum) per enclosure the G-SPEED eS can realize write throughput of up to 158 MB/s in a RAID 5 configuration. (This increases to 208 MB/s in RAID 0 and 355 MB/s when teamed with a second G-SPEED eS enclosure in RAID 5.) So while a staggering 6GB per minute load yields a 100 MB/s throughput stream, the eS drives handle it easily. Slower storage systems will simply grind to a halt when confronted with scrubbing timelines of 5K footage.
All told, Laforet now has roughly 40TB of data at his office, and he has evolved a tiered system for migrating infrequently accessed files from online (RAID storage) to offline media (LTO tape). He keeps one LTO backup on the West Coast and another on the East Coast, just to be extra cautious. Also, when Laforet needs to send projects out to clients, he uses G-Technology
G-DRIVE® minis - lots of them.
"We actually need a logging system to keep track of these drives, because otherwise they tend to disappear," he says, chuckling ruefully. "It's not uncommon for me to get them back six months later from clients. Do they try to keep them for personal use? You know, some questions I don't want to ask."
In case profiles such as this one, it can be dramatic to show-case a problem that was resolved. But with Vincent Laforet, there are no horror stories. He has never had a major data loss. He never erases a card until that card's contents are on at least two other drives. He never allows himself to be in a situation where a data emergency can happen. Part of this strategy involves using G-Technology drives.
"The nightmares I've heard of other people having with other products, I haven't had with G-Technology," he says. "The number one thing you must have is reliability. You just want drives that work all the time. That's what G-Technology has been to me. I've worked with a lot of others in the past and had problems with all of them."
Reliability and performance are at the core of Laforet's technical ability to thrive and innovate in today's videographic world. Bulletproof, lighting-quick storage remains para-mount in everything he does. Laforet already has his eyes on upcoming G-Technology designs, and he's confident that when his craft is ready to take the next leap ahead, G-Technology will have him covered.