RE: Equipment illustrations; was: Re: How do hiring companies view TW resumes?

Subject: RE: Equipment illustrations; was: Re: How do hiring companies view TW resumes?
From: "Al Geist" <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 08:00:02 -0400

David Neeley wrote:

"Today, it seems, few companies are using photography to its best
advantage in service documentation--yet the photographs, properly
done, give a level of detail that makes comprehension better,
especially for establishment shots and the like."

I've tied this with mixed results. Most of our systems are installed
worldwide and are unique one-of-a-kind machines. I have had a few service
engineers take images with the idea of using them in our installation
guides, but the quality or their photos were on par with my two-year old
granddaughter. This is especially true when it comes to screenshots. Not
many understand that a digital camera and a LCD display both uses pixels to
record or display information...and how that makes moiré effects that make
the end product virtually useless.

"With some care, you could even do most exploded parts illustrations
with photography, but you'd generally need to be set up for that."

Two quartz-halogen shop lights placed at either end of the document and with
the lamps at 45 degrees to the surface, a good wide-angle lens that has
minimal distortion at the edges, and a polarizer will produce acceptable
results. Oh yeah, depending on the size of the drawing...a ladder may need
to be added to the list. I've shot everything from old maps to
state-of-the-art digital-hybrid transmitters with excellent results using
this setup.

"One limitation is that with equipment such as laser printers and
copiers, there are many metal surfaces that can easily become glare
problems. However, in many cases you'll be working with prototype
parts that could easily be treated with a simple matte spray to reduce
the shine--or a polarized lens filter on a DSLR may also eliminate
much or most of the reflected light for a better result."

The products I document use highly polished stainless steel (clean room
stuff). If I need a shot of the outside, I always find a rendering from a
CAD drawing is the way to go. As for spraying a simple matte spray on the
component to reduce glare...that would compromise the product. We don't even
touch them without latex gloves. Ask before you spray......

"I do not believe that photographs can or should entirely replace the
line drawings--but for a sizable number of them, they can be extremely
helpful and cost-effective at the same time. ... Of course, a thorough and
accurate photographic record--still and motion--coupled with access to
engineering CAD drawings can often serve as a very good starting point for
documentation--whether done on site or from a remote location."

I use SolidWorks models as much as possible because they remove the clutter
(cables, process gas and vacuum tubing, water hoses, and so on) and allow me
to focus the reader on the subject matter. I can twist and turn the models
to show information that would be impossible with a camera. (I'm a
professional photographer and I've shot a lot of products in my career.)

In Kenpo's situation, David is right in that photographs and even video of
the product during manufacturing would be extremely helpful in getting a
head start on the documentation; especially if you have qualified people
take the photos and video. As I said, most of the stuff Kenpo would get
would be borderline useless; however, every so often you get someone who
knows more about a camera than just how to put the batteries in. In those
cases, the material he gets would be extremely valuable.

Al Geist
Technical Communicator, Help, Web Design, Video, Photography
Office/Msg: 802-872-9190
Cell: 802-578-3964
E-mail: al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com
See Also:
Fine Art Photography

"...I walked to work, quit my job, and kept walking. Better to be a pilgrim
without a destination, I figured, than to cross the wrong threshold each
day." (Sy Safransky)


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Equipment illustrations; was: Re: How do hiring companies view TW resumes?: From: David Neeley

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