At at the Blink Inc photo studios our primary requirement has been to get images from a full-frame camera with high-quality lenses to our photo processing software in Amazon EC2 and then to Amazon S3 in under 7 seconds so that customers can see their images during their shoot.
Since we are using Canon pro gear we have had to figure out how to get Canon’s cameras to play along with our processing software using FTP. Judging by the amount of frustration vented in some of the forums about this there is a lot of frustration our there about FTP configuration. Not surprising – FTP has many different options there are quite a few ways to screw this up. Also Canon has gone with the option to provide every FTP option possible in their user interface on the camera, so a person that is not intimate with FTP is going to have to do a lot of research just to get a basic setup going to transfer their images this way.
The Canon 1Dx can be configured to use the WFT-E8A wireless transmitter. This setup is actually really nice for a lot of reasons – our previous cameras were 5D Mark IIs using WFT-E4 IIA wireless transmitters and these did not support 802.11 ac. The performance of the newer transmitter is noticeably better (we have benchmarks, if anyone is interested we are happy to share in another blog post). Also, the attachment to the camera itself is much more secure, since there is a big thumbscrew that allows for a very secure attachment point to the camera body. I also think that the position of the transmitter is ideal because it is out of the way of the photographer.
The software configuration in the camera however is not that much better in the 1Dx – in fact it I am documenting it here because it is so hard to figure out all the options that need to be set, and where the settings are! There are also a lot of options as far as what sorts of images the camera will send to the FTP server when the shutter is triggered.
At Blink, we deal only with low-compression JPEG files. For some photographers RAW will be preferred however this will add an enormous transfer time penalty since RAW files are huge. More on this later.
FTP Server Setup
Our FTP servers live in Amazon EC2 – we use VSFTP and there are FTP servers in multiple regions for redundancy. Amazon Route 53 provides us with a way to effectively load balance upload requests between FTP servers from multiple studios (since we now have 4 and more on the way).
Our FTP servers use passive FTP since we are behind a NAT firewall and there is no way to NAT ports through Route 53. Additionally we have DNS round robin set up in Route 53 – which means the cameras have to be configured to use DNS. Thankfully Canon added this to the WFT-E8A firmware – older versions of Canon hardware did not have a way to configure DNS! If your cameras are sending images to an FTP server on the internet, there is a very good chance that you will have to use passive mode FTP.
Screw the WFT-E8A transmitter to the camera body. The camera should have a CF card inserted otherwise the camera will complain when you try to capture images. The CF card needs to be formatted if it is not already.
Set the camera up to join a wireless network. At Blink all images are shot hand-held so the camera is not tethered to an ethernet plug.
Set the DNS settings for the wireless network.
Set the FTP server settings.
Make sure the camera settings have the color space settings you want. The 1Dx enforces an image name format based on the colorspace of the images. At Blink we use the SRGB color space.
For Blink, we want image names that are formatted like:
IMG_[CAMERA ASSIGNED NUMBER].IMG
For any other colorspace the 1Dx will not let you set this format!
Lastly, you will want to tell the camera how to transfer images once they are shot. By default the 1Dx firmware is set to not transfer images on capture. At Blink we want automatic transfers, so the last step for us here is to set the camera to automatic transfer.
Once this is all set up, you can shoot some test frames to make sure images are being sent. Unfortunately if something goes wrong, Canon does not make it super easy to figure out what has gone wrong. This is a topic for yet another blog post: Troubleshooting 1Dx FTP Transfer Issues.