Random Thoughts

Construction time: Two grand for "Expressions"

... if they'd only pay us our worth ...

From the Photo Team

A couple members of the Stringer PhotoTeam got to talking about the cost of producing one of our monthly photo essays for the Melrose Mirror.

We all took a guess: Maybe fifty bucks, one said. More than that, another came back. Maybe a couple hundred.

So I (being the workhorse who does the design and codework for our projects) I thought it would be a good idea to figure out, in hard-earned but ficticious dollars, how much time and expense our group put into this month's essay, called "Expressions".

I figure that, between meeting at 8 a.m., getting a plan together, getting downtown, shooting and downloading back at the Milano Center, all took about three hours for Ella Letterie, Don Norris, Shirley Rabb, Natalie Thomson and Lorry Norris. And it took another hour, average, to get the reporters' notes together and mail and or receive them. There's roughly 20 manhours, so far. Personhours, since we are mixed group.

First we narrowed our selection down to some 35 frames, out of a possible 125 total production. Which is included in the 20 hours listed above.

From this point on, it is Don's job to edit each picture, come up with a workable, attractive layout, write the story based on group notes made on site, and put the draft into the server at MIT.

The picture editing took another afternoon and evening, maybe eight hours at the computer. From there it took roughly four hours to create a usable layout, crop and resize each piece to fit the plan, and to rough out the HTML code. Add another hour to transfer all pictures to MIT.

Then, armed with notes from Ella, Natalie and Lorry, I spent another two hours on writing the copy, and another two working with a cranky Pluto to put the story in presentable condition.

So let's see.

20 hours on location (five people, four hours each).
5 hours sorting and editing.
5 hours on layout design and building.
1 hour to transfer photos to the server at MIT.
2 hours writing from reporters' notes.
2 hours in final layout.

All this is a reasonable assessment, not by time-clock.

The total manhours to create this article is 35 hours.

At a reasonable salary of $50 an hour, the total production of "Expressions" is $1750.

This doesn't include cost of machine time, camera rental, rent of space at the Milano Center, telephone connections to MIT, server use at MIT, and distribution facilities at MIT. All these factors are provided by our two sponsoring groups, the Media Lab at MIT, and Council on Aging in Melrose.

Round out the numbers, and you can easily see that, had we been on salary, the bill would have topped $2000. But we're working for free, and we never, ever, see a bill from the COA or the Media Lab. Just so you know.

As Ella Letterie says, "Even though we don't get paid a cent, look at all the wonderful people we meet -- and the people we work with. Our message goes all over the world, and I'm sure MIT doesn't mind the cost -- because we're still their baby. I think it's well worth the time and effort."



December 3, 2004


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