MAC Address For Cameras?

MAC Address for a camera? I echo your questioning and feelings. And what follows below is my explanation for its necessity, advantages as well as disadvantages.

Take for example a normal, advanced amateur photographer or even pro-photographers – it’s not uncommon for them to have more than one camera as part of their arsenal. One for close-up/wide-angle shots, another for telephoto/zoom shots and so on. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that both those cameras are of the same type – say Nikon D200 (I have nothing against Cannon nor its users; the discussion applies equally well to just about any camera make and model). Let us further assume that after shooting a certain event, we have couple hundred pictures from each camera. Now comes part of the trouble (let us suppose that images are stored in RAW format):

When these pictures are transferred to the computers, it is quite possible that they have same names: such as DSC-0001.NEF, DSC-0002.NEF, …, DSC-0200.NEF That automatically prevents one from putting all 400 pictures into the same folder. If one were to make a folder by event’s date, say 20080328, then it must have two folders within: Camera1 and Camera2.

This can be easily avoided if, before starting to shoot pictures, one changes the filename convention in camera’s settings. For e.g., one of my Nikon D200 names its pictures as N2C-0001.NEF, N2C-0002.NEF, …. while the other one names them as N21-0001.NEF, N21-0002.NEF, … Then, all 400 pictures from the aforementioned psuedo-event could be put in the same folder, 20080328. But now comes another problem.

These advanced amateurs and/or pro-photographers shoot tons and tons of pictures. As soon as the picture count reaches N2C-9999.NEF, it starts all over again at N2C-0000.NEF. As such, if one’s archives contain 50,000 pictures, it is very likely that the same file name exists 5 times!

This can be easily avoided if one pays a little extra attention while transferring pictures from the camera to the computer. The first 10,000 pictures usually get created under a folder called 100 in the camera; next 10,000 under a folder called 101 and so on… This is something I like to call the Roll Index/Number. If I could somehow make this Roll Index/Number part of the file name, then each file name occurs only once in the archives! It’s easier said than done, especially if all one has access to is a Windows machine. For those with access to Linux and/or Macintosh machines, it’s relatively simple. I use the following home-made script to achieve this.

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#! /bin/bash
 
# I shoot in RAW mode and as such, pictures have an extension NEF
# Change it to JPG if you shoot in JPEG mode
 
#
# Part One: Convert filename to lowercase
#
for file in `ls *.NEF`;
do
  export lfile=$(echo $file | tr [A-Z] [a-z])
  echo "  Converting $file to $lfile"
  mv $file $lfile
done
#
 
#
# Part Two: Change their permission (optional step)
#
chmod 644 *.nef
#
 
#
# Part Three: Add Roll Index/Number to the Filename
#
# Camera One
export ROLL_INDEX="100"
 
for x in `ls n2c????.nef`
do
  if [ "${x}" != "" ];
  then
    echo "Working on $x"
    export IMAGE_NUMBER=`echo $x | awk -F 'n2c' '{print $2}'`
    mv $x n2c_$ROLL_INDEX-$IMAGE_NUMBER
  fi
done
 
# Camera Two
export ROLL_INDEX="100"
 
for x in `ls n21????.nef`
do
  if [ "${x}" != "" ];
  then
    echo "Working on $x"
    export IMAGE_NUMBER=`echo $x | awk -F 'n21' '{print $2}'`
    mv $x n21_$ROLL_INDEX-$IMAGE_NUMBER
  fi
done
#



So, after running this script inside the folder 20080328, all 400 images would have filenames like n2c_100-0001.nef, n2c_100-0002.nef, …, n2c_100-0200.nef and n21_100-0001.nef, n21_100-0002.nef, …, n21_100-0200.nef. All problems seemed to have been solved and world looks just fine? Not yet.

What if a group of photographers – who have similar, multiple cameras each and use the above technique to name their files – want to share files? A very common such scenario is a news paper or a journal or a magazine – say Sports Illustrated – which employs multiple photographers for a given event (e.g. Super Bowl or NBA Finals or something like that) and all photographs go into the archive. An event folder – 20080328 – in such an archive will have to have folders such as Photographer1, Photographer2, … and so on to avoid over-writing of files.

Even if the all the tens of thousands of photographs [Sports Illustrated shoots on an average 100,000 (yes, one hundred thousand) pictures during each Super Bowl] – named with roll index/number as part of their name – are put into individual photographer-folders, it is very likely that an image with same filename exists in multiple folders. This is where having a MAC address equivalent for a camera makes life so much easier.

Why not use the already existing Serial Number for this purpose?

Well, a Cannon and Nikon camera could have the same serial number and as such does not help in uniquely identifying a picture. The script that I used before could be modified to add serial number (and/or photographer’s initials) to the filename but it still wouldn’t be unique. Keeping in sync with the IPv6 revolution, it would be really great if all camera manufacturing ones (at least the leading ones to start with) can (keep aside their ego) and decide on this MAC Address Equivalent for Cameras. With this as part, an image’s filename may look something like

0012bfed4378_100-0000.nef, …, 0012bfed4378_100-9999.nef;
0012bfed4378_100-0001.nef, …, 0012bfed4378_101-9999.nef;
and so on.



What is the advantage? Unique identification of every picture that will ever be shot henceforth, making archiving and sharing pictures a very simple process. As not everybody has access to (or knowledge of) Linux/Mac machine, it will be lot less cumbersome if the camera itself generated such filenames to begin with.



What is the disadvantage? A rather long name for a simple picture. But hey, if we can remember Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck or Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger or Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, this is no different!



So, Cannon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony, Leica, …. I hope you are reading this and my comment-form (as well as the Inbox) is waiting for your comments/opinions.

5 Replies to “MAC Address For Cameras?”

  1. Gowtham – I couldn’t agree more. I was shooting two cameras (Both Canon 😉 ) at the NCAA tournement and the file number of the two camera overlaped. This drove me absolutely nuts once I got to post processing things. Also, I realized that one of the clocks was 10 minutes slower than the other, so I can’t even resort the images by date created. The Ipv6 is a good place to start, also manufactures could make the files names optional in a camera menu in case some people don’t like it. Also, why roll the photo numbers over at just 10,000? I would like to see that extended to a million or so, this way the numbering in each camera body would never roll over. Rumor has it some of the cameras where I work have over a million frames on them so maybe the numbering should go out the 10 million just to be absolutely safe. I figure that would be a pretty safe bet.

    Nice thoughts on the topic.

    -Tim

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