The Digital Artist Morgue
Staff Writer By: M.D. McCallum (WarLord720)
Artist's morgues are nothing new. They are the collection of an artist's works, finished and unfinished, references and other elements that remain after an art project is completed or set aside. Some fine artists are known to have extensive morgues encompassing years of work. An invaluable reference source is built by a lifetime of art production.
In the digital age, a morgue is not just a collection but rather it is a valuable resource for ideas, previously created scenes, 3D models, drawings, and sketches. Digital 3Dartists and 3D modelers can particularly benefit from an organized repository of previously created assets including individual models and scenes. The idea behind a good morgue is to keep a copy of everything you've ever created for commercial or personal projects along with notes and other ideas. This can build into terabytes of data, but most of it is stored one at a time when you make it part of your routine.
File System & Naming
The difficult part that will require the most forward thinking is your file naming system so you can search all those terabytes of work for items. Use a naming convention that makes sense to you as you will search for items you created years ago and can barely recall. Think out your file naming conventions and stick with them over the years. If you can remember any part of the file name then you should be able to find it using the proper naming technique such as the example below:
One temptation to keeping a digital morgue is to let it spread out over several drives or computers over the years because it's convenient to do so. Trouble is every place you saved your morgue, every physical drive location be it thumb drive or network attached storage (NAT), must be searched so transferring the morgue to larger drives makes the number of locations you have to search manageable. This author stores his morgue over three locations: NAT, online and current workstation.
Backup, Backup, Backup
This is your life's work we're talking about so don't throw it all out the window by not having a proper backup strategy in place. If you want to automatically backup and forget... involving little interaction with the backup and want those files available anywhere then an online backup service is worth looking into. If you want to take care of the important stuff yourself and keep it all local then just remember to use as few storage locations as possible. Network Attached Storage might be slower in data transfer but it's easy to manage and search for most users.
Virus Protection Level
Is free good enough protection for your artwork? Or should you invest in more protection like pro versions that have more security features? If it's within the budget, every artist should consider a strategy of buying up in protection to gain more security features particularly if you use that machine for cruising the internet. For something as important as your life's artistic work the protection provided by free antivirus versions may not be enough.
If you keep a proper morgue you find that time spent on the mechanics of a project is reduced and exchanged for more time in the creative art of the project. By having assets, you can quickly recall and reuse ideas are still robust and fresh as you didn't get sidetracked creating assets. A quick search and you can have all of a scenes asset at your disposal for immediate layout to get the groundwork laid. Then, you can take more time refining and modifying the morgue assets to match the project. If you start saving your digital morgue now, you will be surprised at what you have available in just one year and several years down the road you won't even remember what it was like to scramble for assets to complete a project.