Microfilm Digitization: What's the Better Machine?
October 7, 2011 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Librarians, Record Keepers, Microfilm Users: I have a big digitization project coming up and I'm wondering if you have a preferred microfilm scanning machine.

I'm working for a company that needs to digitize approximately 1200 rolls of microfilm (16mm, will use a PC running Windows 7). I've found the ST Viewscan [PDF] and the ScanPro 2000 come closest to what I think we'll need. Do you have experience with these machines? Are there better machines for this job? How do they hold up when scanning so much microfilm? Are there major differences in the software?

Also, since my boss asked me and I don't know, is it possible for scanning software to pick up the index that's already on the film? No, I'm not really sure why it would matter, but now I'm curious.
posted by sleepy pete to Technology (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I manage a service bureau department who does exactly the service you're planning on undertaking.

My big thought is: those two scanners you're planning on using are not effective for scanning large volumes of film. They're ok, but 1200 rolls, at probably around 2500 images on a roll, is three million images. It's going to take several seconds per image to line up, set, and scan, which means this is going to be a long, dreary project for whoever is running the scanner. We estimate 200 images an hour on our manual scanners, and that's moving really fast. What you've chosen are technically called "Reader-Printers", in that they're designed to be used to just view the film, or view and save/print. One of my customers has a ViewScan similar to the one you linked, and they like it OK.

There are many better scanners for the kind of project you're undertaking, but the only ones I've used before is an older version of these machines. They are highly automated, and some do have the self-indexing ability that you're asking about. They are also enormously expensive. These are outright film scanners, dispensing with the 'reader-' portion of the scanners you're considering. These film scanners identify the page on the film, scan it, and move on with little human interaction, and they can do a scan every second or two. Sunrise makes scanners that some of our competitors use.

And, honestly, for large projects we often outsource to River City Data in St Paul MN (tell them Derek in Fargo sent you), due to the expense of setting up an in-house system. If you outsource, expect to pay around $0.02 to $0.04/image. Compare that to the cost of equipment and the salary of a person to run the scanner, and that's why we subcontract some of our film scanning.

But, if you plan on sitting a temp down at a computer and making them scan all day long, that's not all that crazy. We sold a MS300 to a newspaper for exactly that purpose. If you've got image quality issues, manually scanning can be the only effective way of getting a good image. We've done projects internally in exactly that way, due to poor original film. We bill accordingly, of course. The things that take the most time and cause the most frustration are getting the image centered and straight, focus and zoom, and brightness and contrast. They need to be adjusted at every image, which takes the time -- the automated filmscanners do it for you, hence the easier use and higher expense. The ones you linked also don't seem to have all that great of controls for controlling centering, zoom, or contrast -- the MS300 I linked above is really, really easy to use in those ways, which is what we use for hand-scanning film. It's a bit more expensive than the choices you picked, though.

So, although I have no hard-and-fast answers, I hope I gave some food for thought - you can contact me directly with specific questions if you like.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:56 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am the V.P. Engineering of e-ImageData Corp. (mfgr. of the ScanPro 2000) and the engineer who designed the ScanPro 1000 and 2000. Although the Auto-Scan™ software (optional software needed for automatic scanning of roll film) does not work with all types of film, if your film has the right characteristics it works extremely well. The automatic scanning speed is easily 20 scans/minute with an averge power computer. I have seen Auto-Scan™ run at 35 scans/minute, however this was with ideal film on a high powered computer.

e-ImageData does not want to have a dissatisfied customer. To this end we provide free trials of the ScanPro 2000 to qualified buyers. You simply pay the shipping cost (typically less than $50) and we send you a unit to test for a few weeks. You can find out if the ScanPro 2000 with optional Auto-Scan™ software meets your needs without any commitment to buy.

If anyone would like to discuss this further please feel free to contact me directly.

Todd Kahle
V.P. Engineering
e-ImageData Corp.
340 Grant St.
Hartford, WI 53027

Business Phone: 262-673-3476
Business Fax: 262-673-3496
Personal Cell Phone: 715-218-3139
Home Phone: 262-673-9043

email: tkahle@e-imagedata.com

posted by tkahle at 9:09 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm still looking at options (either doing it ourselves--well, myself--with a machine or outsourcing it) over the next couple of weeks. These answers definitely helped.
posted by sleepy pete at 9:47 PM on October 12, 2011

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