What Should I Consider When Evaluating a Microfilm Scanner? – a feature article in IDMI Magazine
Boise, ID – December 15, 2009
There is still a large archive of 16mm and 35mm microfilm in the world left to be brought into the digital age. With the desire to make collections and information available to the public online, the increased affordability of storage and advancements in scanner technology for processing of degraded and difficult images, many organizations are now able to look for the best solution to scan their microfilm and microfiche – and there are a number of manufacturers creating products to do this.
With multiple solutions available on the market today, it is important to understand all features and factors needed for your application, and how best to evaluate offerings from any manufacturer. Not only is hardware important – software capability, real throughput, image quality and support should all be key considerations, as they will contribute to your overall satisfaction and translate directly to your return on investment.
The purpose of this article is to provide the reader a better idea of what to watch out for and the right questions to ask when evaluating a microfilm scanner – ultimately to assist you in selecting the best solution for your specific application.
Microfilm scanners continue to evolve. Initially, the traditional method of scanning had been to detect one image at a time and capture just that image. The latest evolution for scanning now presents some methods of scanning that allow an entire roll of film to be scanned as one image (called Ribbon Scanning), or for portions or strips of a roll to be scanned as a single image. The method of capture (Ribbon Scanning/entire roll as one image, strip/section/portion of images on the roll) will depend upon the manufacturer. Today, most production microfilm scanner manufacturers have added some level of this type of capability.
Scanning of more than one image at a time requires more resources, computer processing and storage than the older single image capture method, however, it provides significant advantages over the traditional method of capture as well.
Technology that scans an entire roll as a single image, “Ribbon Scanning,” ensures that there are no missed images. This had been a significant problem for traditional single image capture scanning where the image detection had failed, and the image was not properly captured. This improper capture was then discovered in the QC process and the film had to be remounted, the image located, and then manually captured. Ribbon Scanning ensures that no images are lost, so no time-consuming rescans are needed, and operator time and intervention is minimized.
With Ribbon Scanning, all film can be scanned – even film of very poor quality. This has been a major source of frustration for both manufactures and users. Film with very narrow gaps between images, film with multiple borders, and film that had poor contrast could not be detected properly using single image capture scanning – so ultimately could not be scanned and digitized. Ribbon scanning scans the raw film and then manual or systematic image detection is used to detect, define and enhance the film images.
Given this shift in how images are processed and technological developments in scanning hardware, what should you take into consideration when evaluating a scanner for purchase?