Are you working in a company that had a portion of your microfilm backlog scanned and chose to leave the rest on film? Was it the conversion cost? Was it because the film not converted to digital was considered not to be active enough to justify the cost? Was the time frame to convert all of your film too long?
I have some great news for you that might make you want to consider converting the rest of your film to digital. Up until 7 years ago, it typically took 11 to 15 minutes to scan a roll of 16mm film at 200 DPI resolution. If your film library was large enough, it could take years to convert all the film. In many cases, labor costs alone were enough to justify not completing such an ambitious project. It was simply cost prohibitive because we all know that time is money! Since then, nextScan has continued to improve their film scanning products. You can now scan that same roll 4 times as fast at around 3 minutes per roll. Projects that originally were slated for multiple years can now be completed within 1 calendar year.
Film scanning accuracy has improved dramatically. Prior to 2007, all film scanning software relied on detecting the beginning and ending of each image on the film. In a perfect world with perfect film, this would work well. Unfortunately, there are many variables as to why film is less than perfect. nextScan recognized this situation and created the first “ribbon scanning” software in the world and we called it NextStar. This software scans the roll film from edge to edge. Everything on each roll was captured in a format we call a ribbon. It would be like placing a roll on the floor and tsking one detailed snap shot of the whole roll. This immediately eliminated the need to ever rescan the film since all images would be captured on this ribbon. I can tell you that this in itself has turned out to be a tremendous labor cost saving while assuring that all the images were properly detected on each roll of film.
Light systems have always been important in film scanning. For the longest time, film scanners used an incandescent lamp projected through fiber optics to the scanning area on the scanner. We experimented with LED lamps and found them to be more reliable and again we were the first to provide this feature to our customers. You now had optimal lighting which meant optimal image quality. But we didn’t stop there. nextScan added something special to this light system that we call LuminTec. We also use strobe (stop action) with the LED lamps to further improve the clarity and sharpness of the characters. Remember, the film is moving past that scan station very quickly. It’s like going to the Indy 500 and taking crisp pictures of the cars in action. This is especially helpful if you intend to OCR your documents. Our LuminTec product is patent pending and we are the only ones to provide this strobe feature.
As I’m sure you know, the camera we provide in our family of film scanning products continues to improve image quality. We now offer both 8k and 12k cameras. The 12k camera became part of our product line as customers started asking for higher resolution on large documents such as newspapers, maps and schematics. nextScan didn’t stop there. We also added the ability to scan using a 10 bit and/or 12 bit system. This is a big deal since in a 10 bit system you have 256 levels of gray to work, with while in a 12 bit system you have up to 4,098 levels of gray. An illustration of this point is how effective it is when the film has images where the background is dark making it difficult to read the characters. All of a sudden having the extra levels of gray makes a large difference in the amount of data captured on that image. I’ve seen this work very well with newspapers that have many pictures and special books that have illustrations or pictures that are just as important as the text.
For those of you who still wonder if it is worth the cost to scan film that is simply not requested very often, nextScan’s answer is Virtual Film. For a fraction of the cost, you can scan your film and use a more simplified index to handle it. During scan time, the operator will have a prompt screen to enter simple index information which helps to keep labor costs down. The Virtual Display presents the digitized film on a monitor much like you would see on a reader printer. It’s simple to use and with authorization; anybody can view the required data and email, print or store on a flash drive.
We’ve addressed many of the negatives as to why in the past customers were hesitant to completely scan their entire film library. Film continues to age and in most cases is starting to break down. Now there are cost effective film conversion solutions available which will provide you with the speed, accuracy and high image quality you require and demand.
– Joe Merkel
West Coast Sales Manager