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Automated Devices for the Modern Studio with Mark Duhaime of Orbitvu USA

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester

From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester. And this is The E-commerce Content Creation Podcast.

I think I've been pretty clear on this podcast, that in the past, I've had a pretty healthy sense of skepticism around over automation of studio functions. Don't get me wrong, I geek out on all kinds of automation. It's a familiar rabbit hole for me to get totally absorbed in ways to do some menial, annoying task, faster and more efficiently. But when it comes to some automated imaging devices on the market, I tend to find myself wanting to dumb it down, so to speak, and not use them to their full potential. The truth is that automated imaging devices have come a long way in a short period of time. Both in terms of capability and the organizational understanding that these devices need to function as part of a system of tools and technology.

Joining me for this episode is Mark Duhaime of Orbitvu USA. Mark's roots in our industry go back to the days of medium-format film cameras. But his purpose now is working with studios to automate the parts of the process that can be automated, and help studios invest more time into the truly creative aspects of creative production.

Mark Duhaime

When we work with clients, and we're very consultative, so we try to understand with each individual client, "What are the problems that you're having? How can we address them?" And we understand all studios are different. The type of product they're shooting is different, the market they serve is different, so their needs may be different. But at the end of the day, Orbitvu's philosophy is, "Look, we need a system that's very flexible."

Daniel Jester

Before we jump into this episode, I want to say that Mark is genuinely one of the nicest people in our industry. He is totally sincere in his desire to help studios work faster, while keeping people creatively fulfilled. If you don't know, or aren't connected with Mark, find him on LinkedIn or check out his showroom near Atlanta. It will be well worth your time.

This is The E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. I am your host, Daniel Jester. Joining me for this episode, Mark Duhaime of Orbitvu USA. Mark, welcome to the show and how are you?

Mark Duhaime

Thank you. I'm doing great, Daniel. Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

Daniel Jester

It is our pleasure to have you on the show, Mark. You and I are no strangers to one another. We've shared the stage at no less than two different Pixelz FLOW events this year alone.

Mark Duhaime

That's right.

Daniel Jester

Which feels like such an extravagance after several years of everyone looking at each other in tiny, recorded boxes like we are now.

Mark Duhaime

Yes, exactly.

Daniel Jester

Also, I'm coming off of something like our seventh straight day of 100 degree weather. So if I'm a little weird and sweaty, don't hold it against me. I don't... I mean, I do know exactly what's going on. Global warming, thank you. But this is unusual even for my geographic region.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah. I'm with you though. I'm down here in Atlanta and it's summertime. So I feel you.

Daniel Jester

Yeah. And you guys have the humidity on top of everything else.

Mark Duhaime

Yes, we do. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Daniel Jester

No, thank you. No, thank you. I'm a cold weather guy, I think. Although I'll still find a reason to complain about the cold weather as well. No shortage of things to complain about, that's for sure.

Mark, we invited you on the show. We're big admirers of Orbitvu on this podcast. Orbitvu makes a great... For our listeners who may not be aware, I can't imagine that you aren't aware, but if you aren't aware, Orbitvu makes an automated imaging device, that is a self-contained unit for product photography of all different types. Orbitvu has multiple different units. Everything from tabletop photography, on-model, flat-lay, even a device specifically designed for shooting with jewelry. So what we're talking about is not automation in the broader sense of connections between systems and automated moving of things and workflows, but a device that is self-contained, can do all of the shots that you want them to do.

Why am I explaining this Mark? I have the expert on this podcast.

Mark Duhaime

You're doing good.

Daniel Jester

Why don't you? Yeah, not bad, right? I mean, keep me in mind for-

Mark Duhaime

It's pretty good, I'm impressed.

Daniel Jester

Yeah, but Mark, I'll let you explain, the expert on the things.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, no, [inaudible 00:04:13]. Not at all.

Daniel Jester

And tell us what Orbitvu is, and then why don't you walk us through a little bit of the... Last time we talked, we chatted a little bit about the history.

Mark Duhaime

Sure.

Daniel Jester

Your history with Orbitvu and the history of the company, I think are both very interesting.

Mark Duhaime

Sure. No, but yeah.

Daniel Jester

Walk our listeners through that.

Mark Duhaime

Like you were saying, Orbitvu is a manufacturer of automated photography systems. We primarily focus on the e-commerce photography studios, but our objective is to have a system that will improve efficiency, speed, productivity of that imaging process. And like you said, we have several different machines for several different markets, small ones for jewelry to large ones for fashion and on-model work. And we continue to evolve the technology.

But I think automation in general, it's really been around... Actually really was developed in Europe, is where the technology comes from. And actually the US, actually has been a little slower to adapt. I've been working with automation for 10, 12 years, about, when it really started to come out here in the US. And it's been a very interesting process to see the evolution of where it was 10 or 12 years ago to where it is today.

Daniel Jester

Absolutely.

Mark Duhaime

And I know we've talked about this. I mean, back in the day, people building their own systems. Everyone had the same problem. Everyone was trying to figure out, how do I get consistent? How do I get productive? How do I keep up with demand? So they'd make their own jerry-rigged home systems and do whatever they could to improve their workflow. And I think this is where automation came from.

But give you a little history on the company. The CEO of Orbitvu, Tomasz Bochenek, really interesting guy, his family had a photo dealership in Europe. They're European and based in Poland. And this was back in the '90s. And Tomasz was a engineer. So he went to engineering school. He was an engineer by nature. And like I said, family had this photo dealership. And as time went on, his father unfortunately had passed away, and Tomasz came home to say, "Do I want to get involved in the family business? Do I want to continue to be an engineer? What do we do here?" And he decided to get involved in the business.

And with his engineering expertise, he started looking at issues that studios and photographers were having. And he kind of evolved the company into what it is today. And he recognized the fact that especially in the e-commerce studio space, people were having issues with speed and productivity and trying to keep up with demand. And the big issue was a lot of times, not necessarily how fast you could take a picture, it's how fast can you get that image to the website? And there's a lot of things have to happen with in between there. And a lot of that stuff is post editing, post processing. And large portion, even to this day, it's doing background removal, doing clipping path. People want to get that background removed.

So they're either doing it in house, which takes a lot of time, or they're suddenly it off somewhere to be done, which again is time and money. So he developed the first algorithms to do automatic background removal. And that's how he started the company. And then from there, he kind of built around software. He built hardware. So again, with that engineering background, they literally build. And I think it's what makes Orbitvu a little bit unique in the space, is that they build and manufacture lighting. They manufacture turntables, electronics. So it's not just background-removal software, it's a whole, integrated system. And at the end of the day, I think that's what has really caused Orbitvu to become really the global leader in this type of technology and the things that it can do.

But it was really his vision. And when I first met him, he told me, which just impressed me, he's just like, "Look, I'm not a salesman. I'm an engineer, I'm a problem solver." He's like, "I like to solve problems." And he realized when he got into the family business, people say, "Man, this background removal, this is really a bottleneck for us." So he went out and he solved the problem. And from there, like I said, he built the company and started manufacturing the hardware around the system. And now it's, like I said, we've got, I think, I want to say eight different systems now. And we continue to evolve from there.

So it's an interesting story. He's a really interesting guy and they just make a tremendous, tremendous product.

Daniel Jester

Yeah. Mark, I got to tell you, I, like probably many people who've spent their careers in e-commerce product photography, we've tried everything short of buying an automated device. And not even short of. I've worked in plenty of studios, and you and I, Mark, we've talked at length about this. I worked in a studio that had two different automated imaging devices from two different manufacturers that you have worked for both of them. And I think you probably sold both of those devices to that studio.

Mark Duhaime

Right. Yup. Yes. Yup.

Daniel Jester

And I actually had the benefit of very having a very clear experience of where Orbitvu was early on in the product and where it was in, I guess this was probably mid 2019, or it might have already been into 2020 when I got connected with your team at Orbitvu to get updated and reach in. But basically, we had neglected to update the software side of our Orbitvu device. And when I came on in the studio, I spent a lot of time looking at it, and we had this conversation.

I'm the same way when I work with data and numbers. I'm like, "Give me the raw inputs, because I want to chop and screw this the way that I want to look at it." And so I was really pushing against the Orbitvu device at first. I like the lights. I like the self. I like how compact this unit is. It's a very well-designed set, but I just want to shoot into capture one. I just want to shoot into capture one, because it's what I know it's where I'm comfortable. And I know how to feed those images into my pipeline, because Orbitvu has to exist, in my studios, it has to exist as an ecosystem where we might be able to take advantage of some of the automations, especially the post-production type automations. But we still have to feed this into an ecosystem, because we've got a lot of other things that our customers are expecting from us.

Anyway, we reached out to Orbitvu. We said, "I feel like there's something missing here." We reached out to your team at Orbitvu. We realized we were several updates behind and had your team sit with us for about an hour. I can never remember the guy's name, if you want to shout him out, Mark.

Mark Duhaime

Diego. Diego Castro.

Daniel Jester

Yeah, it was definitely Diego.

Mark Duhaime

Diego's the man. Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Jester

Yeah. He sat with us and man, what a revelation getting trained on how to use some device was for me. Like, "You mean you could show me how to use this thing and I don't have to just try to figure it out, and it actually does a lot that I'm unaware of? Okay, if you say so." I'm the guy who doesn't read the instructions for anything ever.

But I had that very distinct experience of looking at a very early iteration of the Orbitvu software. I feel like there's a lot of software in photography studios that you can kind of mark the years by the moment at which they switched from a light color scheme to a dark color scheme.

Mark Duhaime

Yes. No, exactly.

Daniel Jester

Because Capture One did that, Photoshop, every major software has had that. In the late '90s, early 2000s, it was the light color scheme. And then at some point everybody just shifted to the darker color scheme. And so upon installing that update, it was like, okay, now we're on the serious Orbitvu software. We went from light gray to dark.

Mark Duhaime

Yes, exactly.

Daniel Jester

This is where we need to be.

Mark Duhaime

And it was right around that time, actually, that I got involved with Orbitvu. Or a little before that. So we had both experiences, some of the older iterations of the software to when they made a major software update. But I think what's really nice about Orbitvu, it's when you look at their interface and you look at the hardware and you look at the integration, it's so important that those things work well together. So it's not just software, hardware has a big part of making it work.

Daniel Jester

I want to come into that and explore that a little bit, because there's a distinct line of thinking that you can... When you think about an Orbitvu device and you not exactly reverse engineer it, but I'm approaching it from the perspective of a photographer who has tried to jerry-rig something like an Orbitvu device together for my own purposes. And one of the ways that I did that...

And I think we should take a moment on this episode of the podcast to acknowledge how far imaging technology on the software side has actually come. Because it really was not that long ago that it was very, very hard and/or expensive to get something as simple as your product isolated.

Mark Duhaime

Yes, exactly.

Daniel Jester

Even at the beginning of the pandemic, even at the very beginning of 2020, still now Photoshop, even shooting something on a plain white or gray background, Photoshop still would have a very difficult time in its own software, with its own algorithm, isolating the product there.

And I stole an idea that I got from Orbitvu, which is like, "I don't have an Orbitvu device in my studio for this art project that I'm using to keep me from going crazy because the world is collapsing and it's March of 2020." So I designed a set that allowed me to flip some switches and it took me from shooting my subject... My project at the beginning of COVID was shooting clippings from plants that were in my garden. And I wanted to isolate them. I wanted to be able to change the background color. My goal was to make these look like vintage nature illustrations from a nature journal, that kind of looked to them.

And so I built this set. And I designed it in a way to flip switches, so that one light setup would give me the light that I want for the plant. And the next light setup was designed just to give me a silhouette so that I had something that Photoshop could really bite into, could really... Because at the time I wasn't working, didn't have a lot of extra cash. I wasn't going to send these out. This is just something to keep me busy, so I'm just kind of dinking around seeing what I can do.

And yeah, I mean, you can start to trace the sort of engineering problems and solves that come up. Like, "Okay, we can make this a lot easier to isolate the background, and we are already in control of the lights. So let's, as part of the process, let's shoot an extra image," or whatever it may. I might be way off base on how Orbitvu even works behind the scenes. But at the very least, you've got the product, you're in control of the light, and in a split second, without the people operating the device even knowing it, you can shoot the extra assets that you need to help your algorithm achieve what it needs to achieve for that final product.

Mark Duhaime

Right, yeah. And basically that's how the process works. But basically what we're doing, is we're kind of creating a mask on the fly. We're able to instantly do background removal. And again, there's tools out there to do background removal. Some are decent, some are not good at all. But I think what Orbitvu does different, because they manufacture the hardware, because they manufacture the lights, the software-hardware integration is so good, that not only can it do that back removal that quickly, gives you as a photographer and operator of the system complete control over how that's done. Because not all products are equal when it comes to doing background removal, right?

Daniel Jester

That's for sure.

Mark Duhaime

If you're shooting something that has a lot of reflection, for example, a lot of what I would call fixed background-removal systems will mistake that as background, try to remove it. Then what happens, you start defeating the purpose of automation. You start spend more time in Photoshop, more time in post. And at the end of the day, what gains you are really getting?

So Orbitvu, again, I think a lot is because they make hardware and softwares integration as tight. The software's really good. They give you control over how that's done. So even with the most difficult things... And I like to tell this story. We had a client that's a fishing-equipment manufacturer. And they came to us and they said, "We're going to send you some samples, and we really are struggling with background removal. It really slows us down." So they sent us fishing hooks with monofilament line attached.

Daniel Jester

Yeah. Okay. No problem.

Mark Duhaime

Of course. So they said, "Look, we need you to remove the background behind the monofilament line." And they said, "Look, if you did-"

Daniel Jester

Which, by the way, I have to point this out. Professional (beep) photographers... Excuse me. Professional photographers and stylists use monofilament explicitly because it disappears quite easily, right?

Mark Duhaime

Correct. Correct. And they want to keep it.

Daniel Jester

That's why we... I have a little role of it sitting right here in front of me that I use on set all the time.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly.

Daniel Jester

Because you can hang things with it and it disappears most of the time.

Mark Duhaime

It disappears. Yeah, and literally they did not want it to disappear. So we're able to do it. So we're able to do it, no problem.

Daniel Jester

I have to say that for me, having been in the room with an Orbitvu device, I got to tell you, Mark, it took some guts. And it made me realize in February of this year, February of 2022, when we were at the FLOW event in LA. It took some real guts to stand up there with your device, with a piece of glass stemware, and actually run it in front of an audience and be confident that it was going to do what you expected it to do.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly.

Daniel Jester

Because that's another one of those extraordinarily challenging things to shoot. I mean, even the difference between what it could do in 2019 when I hooked up with Diego and what it could do in 2022, was several iterations, several generations of improved performance. Because it genuinely blew my mind that you stood up in front of a room full of people and shot a glass piece of stemware and dropped out the background and ended up with a perfect shot of a wine glass without having to really do... I mean, other than taking the time to set up the shot.

Let's use this as a segue to get into the next part of the conversation, because Orbitvu does have a philosophy about this type of automation.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, no, absolutely.

Daniel Jester

Orbitvu understands that you can do a lot. "We can do a lot for you. We can leverage the technology. We can leverage the relationship between the software and the hardware and all of those things." But Orbitvu also is aware that, I think one, and we touched on it a little bit earlier, I think the US market and US studios are quite skeptical of automated devices. I know that I was and had been for a long time, and I've worked with a lot of Amazon's homegrown, automated devices, I've worked with Orbitvu. But there's a little bit of skepticism in the US market. I think that you've probably experienced this. We've talked about this concept.

But at the end of the day, there is a philosophy that Orbitvu understands that photographers and stylists still drive this process. You can give them excellent tools to get them farther along in the process than they thought, but there is a philosophy around how much do we do and how much do we need to integrate with the surrounding tools in a photo studio?

Mark Duhaime

Correct. Definitely that. And I think also, when we work with clients, and we're very consultative, so we try to understand with each individual client, "What are the problems that you're having? How can we address them?" And we understand all studios are different. The type of product they're shooting is different. The market they serve is different. So their needs may be different. But at the end of the day, Orbitvu's philosophy is, "Look, we need a system that's very flexible." And a lot flexibility sometimes comes to the extent of who's going to run the system? Because in different studios, there's different levels of expertise. There's different skill sets. And you have to be able to have a system that's adaptable. I mean, some systems out there, they're pretty fixed. It's like, "Look, we could really automate, but you can't move the lights, don't touch the camera," that kind of thing.

So as soon as you start putting the handcuffs on a studio, you potentially remove creativity. You remove the possibility of getting the quality that you want or the look that you want. So we're very aware of that. And when you look at our system, we can adapt. Again, I think it's because of this marriage of hardware and software. There's a lot of things. And this is, I think, what surprises people, when they see the system. They're like, "Well, I did not realize I have that much light control. I did not realize that I could actually control the mass to do the background removal. I didn't realize that I can actually template workflows for repeatability and consistency." So photographers love this system because at the end of the day, it makes them more productive. They can shoot more in a day, they can meet deadlines.

And then management loves it, because it scales as volume grows. If you shoot X amount of images this year, what are you going to shoot next year? And if you're increasing volume, it keeps the cost of imaging fairly flat, because the automation keeps up with the volume increases. So from a financial standpoint it makes sense, but from a user standpoint, we always feel that you got to have that flexibility in the system. And it's adaptable depending on who you have using the system.

And I think that's quite unique for these type of systems. And that's where I think we really recognize that. And I think it's one of the reasons we've grown like we've grown and we have the position in the market that we do. It's kind of fun to work with the product, actually.

Daniel Jester

I've been thinking a lot about this in of my own thoughts on the dream studio in particular for a retailer, as we've prepared to have this conversation with you today, Mark. Because to me, something like an Orbitvu is a absolute slam dunk for a certain type of retail studio, when you have a lot of varied things coming in. Brand studios, I'm not saying that they don't have a place there at all, but it's just, there's other considerations. But my background has been in house and actually mostly on the retail side, where we never knew what we were going to get. And when I was managing MyStudio for Amazon, there was something like 70% of our volume went through our two automated devices. And that allowed us to push a lot of imagery through very quickly and get things online very quickly. That didn't even have any of the built-in, post-production steps that an Orbitvu in particular has.

But when I think about I'm new to some retail company, who's just going to be getting boxes of stuff, "We don't know what it is. We're whoot.com." It could literally be anything. It could be a pack of spark plugs, or it could be a stuffed monkey, you never know. In my mind that studio has multiple Orbitvu devices, and then you still have a traditional set available somewhere for oversize items, for things that are just a giant thing that's very reflective. Something like a rotomolded kayak or something. Those are things that some studio out there has to shoot those things.

Mark Duhaime

Sure.

Daniel Jester

You build yourself a set that is flexible for the unexpected things that come up all the time. And then you have these. You've covered 80% of your volume that you can deal with very quickly, and the 20% you have to do it kind of the old-school way.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly.

Daniel Jester

But one of the things that I want to point out, and it's kind of a dumb thing that I think we all innately understand, all of us who've spent time in these studios, but it's interesting to point out. One of the key challenges in training photographers and stylists, in a studio in particular that has a lot of placement guidelines... And so really what I'm talking about is the idea of more of a hard goods studio, maybe. But even a fashion studio for accessories, even hats and shoes and all of those things, show me a studio that for one thing, their main shot of a shoe isn't just perpendicular to the camera, because that's easy to solve for, but show me a studio that wants to show their catalog shot for a shoe at a 40-degree angle, that doesn't have a challenge with product placement. With that product being placed exactly in the right place with consistency.

Mark Duhaime

With consistency, exactly.

Daniel Jester

And that's definitely true of studios that shoot hard goods things. And honestly, this feels like one of the evolutionary things of just what a hard goods photography set should include. One of the key things that an Orbitvu device has, is a laser guide to place your product and a platform on a motor to move it exactly where it needs to be.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, exactly.

Daniel Jester

It's not even a consideration anymore. And thinking back to my time at Amazon, a significant part of my job was training my new photographers on how to suss out what this product is, how it's supposed to sit on the table, and then making sure that you're consistently placing on the table properly. And that was one of the things that we had to work on for weeks at a time, because style guide research was hard. Most style guides at most studios are not very smart. There isn't a way to take a product and just look up how it's going to be shot very easily. You have to have a lot of knowledge ingrained. And then you have to make sure that your camera is in exactly the right position, and the tabletop placement is exactly right. And Orbitvu actually solves for both of those things beautifully, with almost no thought from the photographer.

Mark Duhaime

That's example of the hardware part of what we do. It's not just a software. The hardware design, the tools we give you, like you said, laser positioning. The other thing we can do, is we could create a ghost image of a product and use that as your alignment tool, things like that. So there's ways that you could very quickly repeat a process.

And at the end of the day, like I tell my clients, well, like you said before, we have some clients who we'll say, "Look, we're not here to automate your entire studio. There's certain things that we're not going to automate." For example, maybe we run this all the time. Studio's like, "Look, we need to be doing more lifestyle stuff. We need to be getting out and doing things. We don't have time. So let's automate what we can. Let's find the products and the workflows that we could automate." And then that's just what you're investing in, is time. Right?

Daniel Jester

Yeah.

Mark Duhaime

When we have time, you could do these other things that you just can't do right now.

Daniel Jester

I mean, ask any photographer, if they went to photography school, many of them do, some of them don't, everybody's got a different path, but ask any photographer if their favorite part of photography is spending time making sure their product is placed 40 degrees.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly. Exactly.

Daniel Jester

Or if it's actually shooting the product.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly.

Daniel Jester

That's a level of automation that I think it's one of those things where, again, without having control over the hardware and the software in the way that Orbitvu does, I could go buy a motorized turntable on Amazon today and try to build this out myself in a way so that I can still have the lights that I want to use, and I can have the set that feels familiar to me. But it's one of those things where you're actually literally reinventing the wheel, because there's companies out there who have already solved this problem of how to create a dynamic set that can templatize these things for you in a way that removes the need for your team to do it.

Mark Duhaime

Right. Exactly.

Daniel Jester

And exactly the other thing that's interesting about this, is the barrier to entry to work with an Orbitvu. With the lights being controlled the way that they are, obviously the results that you get from putting a seasoned professional photographer of 10 years on an Orbitvu device are going to look different than the results that you're going to get from a day one, the new samples assistant. Somebody called out sick and the new samples assistant, the third day in the studio, and you're like, "Guess what, man, you're on the Orbitvu, go for it."

Mark Duhaime

Right, exactly.

Daniel Jester

Those results are going to be different, because there's still a lot of the photographer that goes into that process. You're not taking away the analytical problem solving around, "How should my light look on this? Where should I hit? Where do I need to make adjustments?" Because at the end of the day, photography in its purest form is making that light interact with that product.

Mark Duhaime

100%. It's manipulation light.

Daniel Jester

Yeah. The difference between a seasoned pro and somebody who's relatively inexperienced, is the seasoned pro understands that slight angle adjustments, slight output adjustments, the balance between highlights and shadows. Those are the things that take an image from 80% to 100%, or from good to great.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly.

Daniel Jester

It's not the fact that you had to set up the C stand or fire at capture one, any of that stuff.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah. That's right. That's right. And that's where our template thing is really powerful. Because we have a lot of studios where they'll have a photographer with the most skill, most experience, he's building these templates. So everyone is working off his eye. So he's creating the template that other people can use.

Daniel Jester

Or their eye, just to not genderize it for the purpose of the conversation.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, their eye. Yes, very good. And it's, again, just another example of how to be more efficient, how to be more consistent. Because that's the other problem people have. Okay, background removal's one thing, consistency's a big deal. How do we maintain consistency? How do we maintain efficiency?

And then the other thing you had mentioned, we are just part of this ecosystem. We're the capture part of it. But these studios have other downstream issues they're dealing with that really relate to the same thing, which is time. Right?

Daniel Jester

Yeah.

Mark Duhaime

So what we try to do is, we work with companies that provide other solutions downstream, for example, and we look to do integration. We have ways to connect to other pieces of the ecosystem. We can't solve everyone's problems in the whole studio, but we can certainly solve the capture problem, the image-creation problem. So we really look to partner with other vendors in that ecosystem and work with them. And it ends up just at the end of the day, the studios just get the best of everything. It's like, "What do you like as far as software or solution and certain parts?" And just pick and put that system together. And the better that these vendors can work together and integrate together, it solves the problem. It solves all these problems that students you're having.

Daniel Jester

Absolutely. Let's look toward wrapping the conversation by just talking about what's next for Orbitvu or Orbitvu USA?

Mark Duhaime

Yeah. Yeah.

Daniel Jester

What do the next five years look like? Or whatever you can share about Orbitvu.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, no, I'll tell you this, it's been exciting. I come from many, many years of providing technology and selling and supporting and marketing technology. And this, I'll say in my 35 years, has been the most exciting product and niche to be in. The growth is explosive. But what we're doing here in the US, we're growing tremendously. We literally just opened, or I should say moved, from our existing office or studio space. We opened a state-of-the-art, 5,000-square-foot showroom outside Atlanta. And in this showroom, we have all the different Orbitvu devices. We do a ton of training and demonstrations, and it's really a learning center. So we're out there, honestly just trying to teach and expose people to what this can do.

Because honestly, a lot of people, like I said, they hear about automation and they might have an idea of what it is, but when they really see what we can do and how it's done and how it could help them, it opens their eyes quite a bit, actually. So I always encourage people. It's like, "If you're looking at automation, make sure you experience it and see it and understand what it can do." Because a lot of people walking into it... We get this all the time and I get slightly offended. They'll go, "Oh, that's just a light box, right?" It's like, "Oh no, no, no. It is not a light box. It's much, much more than that."

Daniel Jester

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It really, truly is impressive. Again, I've shared this with you before, Mark. I have been somebody who's been driven a lot by skepticism and fear.

Mark Duhaime

Sure, sure, sure. Yeah.

Daniel Jester

Because I like shooting product. I like doing it the old way.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly, yeah.

Daniel Jester

I'd probably abuse myself and be shooting them on film if I could still do it. I mean, all of our listeners are calling bullshit on that, because I'm not quite old enough to have been a film product photographer. We were squarely in digital when I started, but I do occasionally shoot film. I'm just being silly. But yeah, it's definitely not a light box. And I feel silly for having tried to make it one when I was in my early days at the studio in LA. Literally trying to use it like a light box. I think it makes a ton of sense.

Before we wrap, I just want to ask you couple of random questions.

Mark Duhaime

Sure, sure, sure.

Daniel Jester

I meant to ask you this last time that we spoke. Do you remember something? This isn't exactly an automated thing, but it was a shooting table that was lit by fluorescent light tubes that had a dimmer panel and you could turn individual ones and it had a sweep. And it was covered with acrylic, so you could light from beneath the table. And then it had a dome piece over top of it. Not a dome, it was more like a half-pipe piece that was over top that also had lights. And that whole thing lifted up, and you could put stuff in there. And that literally was just a light box, but it had all these dimmable sections. Do you remember what that thing was called?

Mark Duhaime

I don't remember the name. I know exactly what you're talking about, though, because-

Daniel Jester

My first studio had one and I actually sold it to Sammy's Camera. They loved those things. And this is back pre... It may not have been pre Orbitvu, but it certainly was pre Orbitvu USA.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, no, for sure.

Daniel Jester

This is a very rudimentary version of this. I sold it to Sammy's, because that's what they used to shoot all their used camera gear on. They loved those things. And for me it was just taking up space. I can't remember what it was called though.

Mark Duhaime

When I used to run marketing in North America for Hasselblad, is when I saw that. I remember we were I did a show somewhere, and I literally saw it. And I was like, "What?" Yeah.

Daniel Jester

It was a relic of the period around the time when people were starting to transition their medium-format film cameras to digital backs. It definitely was squarely in that period. I don't think the company's around anymore. Some of the old, crusty photographers that listen to this podcast are screaming at us right now because they remember it. They have one in their garage or something.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly, exactly, exactly.

Daniel Jester

The other thing I wanted to ask about, and this is super specific and weird, but I'm just curious and we're just going to do it on the record because why not.

Mark Duhaime

Sure, why not?

Daniel Jester

One of the things I've shared with you before that I love about the Orbitvu, is that it's made out of T-slot material. I refer to it as 80-20, that might be a brand name. I think there's other companies out there that do it. It's extruded aluminum that is purpose cut to build whatever thing you want to build. And there's a lot of things that can connect to that. Do you have in any of your fixtures?

There's a thing that we talked to with Martin from Matthews, Matthews is a distributor for this lighting setup, that is something that I played around with in my studio. Where you actually take a point light source, not a big, soft light source, but either a bear bulb or the smallest light source you can get, and bounce it off of a mirror to extend the effective distance of that light source from your subject. So if you have 10 feet between, in your studio space, to put that light and shoot your subject, you can effectively double that by bringing that light source over here and bouncing it into a mirror and coming back.

Mark Duhaime

Gotcha.

Daniel Jester

Does Orbitvu make peripheral things for those types? Because I'm thinking about when you're shooting jewelry, a big part of my process when I'm shooting jewelry. And especially, it turns out, packaging. Packaging really benefits. You can make packaging look really beautiful with a bunch of mirrors and different things. Does Orbitvu have a suite of little attachments and peripherals for getting those little light details that you need inside the device?

Mark Duhaime

I don't know about to that detail, but we do have a jewelry-specific machine, right?

Daniel Jester

Right. Which must have some specular light sources, right?

Mark Duhaime

It does. It does.

Daniel Jester

Because that's how you make it look amazing.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly. It's got sparkle lights, it's got spotlights in the whole system. It's little different than some of our other systems, literally cylindrical. So the lighting is cylindrical around the shooting table. So it's really optimized for shooting jewelry, which jewelry is the most difficult thing to shoot in the world.

Daniel Jester

Yeah. Jewelry, your baseline really needs to be every square inch of that product have reflecting into something white. And then you bring in your shadows where you want them. That's the approach that I've always taken.

Mark Duhaime

That small, little machine has more light zones than probably anything we sell. It's amazing what that does.

Daniel Jester

That's a really cool machine that I am dying to get out there to Atlanta and spend some time with that thing.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, you definitely got to do it.

Daniel Jester

Because the same studio right before I was working out right before COVID, our biggest client was a jewelry client. And there's just something really special about spending time with jewelry. And I built all sorts of crazy purpose-built things to try to shoot jewelry. And I'm excited to see what that jewelry studio thing can do.

Mark Duhaime

For sure. But with your comment about 80-20, I mean we do have accessories for some... Our medium to smaller systems use that 80-20. So we have, for example, diffusers that you could diffuse light, and they'll magnetically hook into the channel. So you could move and rotate and adjust diffusion. There's ways you could bounce light. Just for example, on some of our machines you could flip doors from black to white. So if you want to create some contrast, you could do that. If you want to bounce more light, you could do that. So I think we're kind of known for giving you all these tools, and a lot of it is light control, to do some of these more difficult things. But our whole idea is, "Let's do it, but let's make sure we could automate it. Let's make sure it could be repeatable and keep it consistent." And at the end of the day, what we're trying to do.

Daniel Jester

I was using the Orbitvu to shoot sunglasses for a client, and I built myself a little tiny mini sweep.

Mark Duhaime

Okay.

Daniel Jester

Because my method for shooting sunglasses is a double sweep, and you shoot through the sweep. You've cut a hole and shoot through.

Mark Duhaime

Oh, got you. Yup.

Daniel Jester

Because the thing about sunglasses is that you need to... The thing about sunglasses is they suck to shoot, man. Because you have to manage the reflection on the front of the lenses, but the lenses are also semi-transparent. So you have to make sure that you're paying attention to whatever's behind them. So you can have no horizon lines anywhere, behind or in front of. And so my solution for that was always to build actually a three-sided sweep. And I literally built a little, teeny-tiny cove out of foam core and white paper that could fit on the turntable plate. And then you'd have to manually move the sunglasses to get the reflections that you want.

But I don't know why that's always exciting to me, is all the little peripheral tools that you use to pop into something like that. You guys have the wine-bottle holder, which is purpose designed for isolating wine bottles, which I think is brilliant, because wine bottles are also extremely hard to shoot. And there's a ton of people who need that photography done.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, we have a dedicated system for shooting wine bottles.

Daniel Jester

I mean, that seems like a slam dunk, right?

Mark Duhaime

Yeah.

Daniel Jester

You just put that machine in a winery and give somebody an hour's worth of time to show that. Every wine bottle's the same size and shape, that's like a slam dunk.

Mark Duhaime

Exactly.

Daniel Jester

You're doing your own photography. Go for it.

Mark Duhaime

No, you definitely, you need to come visit us. You'll have fun. I promise you that.

Daniel Jester

Yeah, I know I do. I know I do.

Mark Duhaime

No doubt.

Daniel Jester

Shawn has been pushing for me to go visit somebody even before we head to Barcelona for the FLOW event there. But I just can't. I mean, my mind is already so wrapped up in going to Spain that I can't imagine traveling in between now and then. No way, man.

Mark Duhaime

Right, right, exactly.

Daniel Jester

There's just so much mental hurdles to get through just getting to an airport now.

Mark Duhaime

That's right. That's right.

Daniel Jester

Mark, you will be in Spain, right?

Mark Duhaime

I will not.

Daniel Jester

Around that time?

Mark Duhaime

Actually I will not be there.

Daniel Jester

You're not going to be there? Okay.

Mark Duhaime

No, I will not. Our team from Europe will be there.

Daniel Jester

Perfect. Okay. Well, I'll make sure to connect with those guys. And listen, it was great having you on the podcast. It's always a pleasure getting to see you and hear from you. I'm a big fan of Orbitvu. And I'd say that you could, not you specifically, but I've been converted, I think. I was pretty skeptical, and I see the value, and I think it's a great device.

But yeah, just for the listener though, I will be in Spain coming up. Representatives from Orbitvu will be in Spain for the Pixelz FLOW event on September 15th. So there's your plug for that. But yeah, Mark, thanks so much for your time and your insight.

Mark Duhaime

Hey, I appreciate it.

Daniel Jester

And we loved hearing the story.

Mark Duhaime

Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Daniel Jester

That's it for this episode. Thanks so much to our guest, Mark Duhaime of Orbitvu USA. And thanks to you for listening. The show is produced by Creative Force, edited by Calvin Lanz. Special thanks to Sean O'Meara. I'm your host, Daniel Jester. Until next time, my friends.

And just out of curiosity, is anybody still listening to the point? I know Ian is listening to the part where I say, "Hi, Ian," because he tells me every week, but is anybody else listening to that? Is anybody wondering who Ian is? Is it a mystery? Stay tuned.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.