Who would have thought that the 35 millimeter slide that was so ubiquitous for decades would not even be recognized by the youth of today. So too, the family photo albums are slowly going the way of the dodo bird as digital albums, digital frames and Cloud storage become all pervasive.
This leaves a huge problem for those who inherit or who wish to preserve the precious memories that almost every family has. Family members, relatives and genealogy amateurs and professionals mourn the loss of any type of family history or memorabilia, so it is important that we take steps to preserve them today and hopefully have them ready for any format that becomes available in the future.
Today the big bonus of preservation is that when you finally have everything processed you can share it all with family and friends more easily and cheaply than at any time in the past.
There have been many ways to preserve the old formats. In the next few KEMEdia Moments I will try to itemize and explain how different formats can be processed so as to keep them relevant in the digital age. In addition you will hopefully have them ready to jump to any new format of the future.
Keep in mind that quality will always be of the utmost importance in these articles. There are many solutions, not all of them good. At KEMEdia (www.keme.qc.ca) we specialize in many of these processes and I personally have almost 30 years of experience in the field. We have tried and discarded many formulas. In these blogs I will try to help you avoid many of the pitfalls associated with projects like this.
Let's start with the older formats. In this article we will talk about...
Photos and Slides
The most common and treasured memory device, photos have always had the advantage of being easy to make, reliable, long lasting, decent quality and easy to organize. Anyone who wants to preserve photos has to realize that there are a lot of different ways to do it.
You first have to decide what you eventually want to do with the finished files. Is it strictly for archiving? Do you want to share them with others using disc media or the cloud? Will you use them in multi media presentations? Will you want to re-print them using an on-line book printing service? Will you want to blow some up and print them in a larger format? Once you have answered these questions it will be a little easier to select a service or hardware/software solution in order to get started.
For my money you should always go for big files just in case you want to have the ability to do any of the above. A large file can be easily reduced for sharing but a small file will not stand up for blown up prints or HD media usage. Just be aware, capturing high quality may cost a lot and will take a lot of time and patience as well as the proper gear and software if you do it yourself.
Dots per Inch or DPI is the basic measurement for scanning. If you want to get more involved then colour depth (bit rates) and types of files (RGB or CMYK) will also come into play. These can generally be altered in your post production software and may or may not have destructive traits on your files.
There are scanning services available at some chain stores but beware. These generally offer low resolution files of 72 dpi and are only good for small reprints or smaller digital frames. Remember, you get what you pay for. If the provider can offer a higher DPI like 300 it will be worth the extra expense. It will cost more because these scans take longer to do, they make larger files and therefor need more storage on discs or hard drives.
You may have seen cheap transfer units offered for sale in your credit card statements or at electronic stores. Their limiting factor is the size that can be scanned and the included software, which may not be compliant enough to offer you higher DPI rates. A little research will help you here. See if you can try before you buy.
Professional houses may offer you files using larger scanners that are adapted for photos and/or slides. Here you may be able to write your own formula for the product you want. Just be aware that bigger and better takes longer and so it will cost more.
Slides are more difficult because scanners have to have specialized apparatus to do them. They generally will scan 4 or more at a time as one file which means time must be spent cropping and correcting individual images. The eventual finished files are often much smaller and less versatile. Whenever possible get the largest file you can on a multiple image scan.
At our studio we have come up with a different technique for slides using Digital SLR's. We get excellent results while spending much less time than we would by scanning. Since we have been doing slides this way we have found the files to be very compliant for colour correction, resizing and retouching. For a premium we can process and deliver them to you in the RAW format. These are big and highly manipulative files. All-in-all we feel this is the best process for slides or negatives. It ends up being much less costly than scanning. This scenario will also work for photos and other art assuming the proper flat art table and jigs are used.
You may be able to negotiate unaltered files and do the corrections yourself using your software of choice at home. This will save you a lot of money, especially if you have an interest in getting your hands dirty and spending some time to make them perfect.
So decide what your eventual use will be and then research the services in your area or online to see what is available to you.
In the next few articles will talk about:
8mm, Super 8, Super 8 Sound, 9.5 mm and 16 mm film
Vinyl Discs (45's. 33's, 78's) &Audio Tapes (Reel to Reel, Audio Cassettes, 8 Tracks etc.)
(Consumer & Prosumer formats VHS, S-VHS, Beta, Video 8, Hi8, Digital 8, Mini DV, DVCam)
Disc media CD & DVD (DVD 5, Dual Layer DVD 9, BluRay)
and Memory Cards and Drives
We will also talk about the care and storage of all media and how you can help preserve and prolong the life of older formats until they are placed in a digital form.