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Lessons from the Field of scanning old film archives

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Just a quick note on a few things I've learned over the last few weeks scanning lots of old slides and negatives.

When sorting out various film rolls(my file naming scheme has a field for roll number) get as close as you can, then scan into a working folder using VueScan’s default numbering and renumber/rename into final folders out of the working scans folder.

Since some of the “roll numbers” were at best approximations, plan on redoing them as you see fit. If there are no written records of what is what then might as well make it easy on yourself and renumber as required.

When looking at deer/elk heads, you can often determine roll numbers by carefully looking at the antler structure. If the animal has a different antler point structure, it's probably a different year or at lest a different hunter. (Bonus, check the big game licensing in the satte in effect at the time to detemine whether any given hunter can harvest 1 or more of any particlar sex of animal. )

If a slide mount or negative mount has a number make every effort to find the related frames and KEEP THE SAME NUMBER.
 

PhilBurton

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Just a quick note on a few things I've learned over the last few weeks scanning lots of old slides and negatives.

When sorting out various film rolls(my file naming scheme has a field for roll number) get as close as you can, then scan into a working folder using VueScan’s default numbering and renumber/rename into final folders out of the working scans folder.

Since some of the “roll numbers” were at best approximations, plan on redoing them as you see fit. If there are no written records of what is what then might as well make it easy on yourself and renumber as required.
Who or what created the roll numbers?

When looking at deer/elk heads, you can often determine roll numbers by carefully looking at the antler structure. If the animal has a different antler point structure, it's probably a different year or at lest a different hunter. (Bonus, check the big game licensing in the satte in effect at the time to detemine whether any given hunter can harvest 1 or more of any particlar sex of animal. )
Can't comment here. I photograph trains a lot.

If a slide mount or negative mount has a number make every effort to find the related frames and KEEP THE SAME NUMBER.
Sounds good. I would add that for slides processed by Kodak, also record those odd codes that indicate the month of processing and the processing lab.

Phil
 
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Roll numbers came from handwritten notes from either my mother or my father, both of whom have been dead for over 20 years now. New ones I've created myself after careful verification sometimes by piecing the negative (which were all hand cut into frames) by lining up the cut edges like puzzle pieces.

Antlers grow very individually. I think my mother grouped all elk and deer hunting shots together. Until they were scanned and I could see the positive I'd have believed the deer were the same and the elk the same. Turns out only 1 elk so far but at least 3 different deer.

All slides and negatives were hand processed by my parents. I don't have any of theirs that were processed by Kodak in this batch. So no help there.

A few of the 2 1/4 x 2/ 1/4 positives are mounted in kodak slide mounts but were processed by a photo shop in Denver in the 60's. No numbers or identifying info on the mounts though.
 
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I know this is old but a few more tips and tricks and even some solutions to the terrible support from VueScan for scanning items in something other than his default order.

My film holders for the 2 1/4 inch square films hold 6 frames. The scan order is down 3 frams then across then down 3 more. Often the film is cut 2 frames on one peice so I really needed scan across then down then across and so on but VueScan won't support that. The rolls of film are 12 frames per roll. My solution is after sorting them so I know th eorder and frame numebrs I scan the first 6 with my file names starting at 10. Second set stats with frame numbers at 20. While the second set is scanning I rename the first set accurately.

When faced with a pile of negatives the following things can be used to put them into rolls.

Since many of these were hand cut but don't have frame numbers on the film itself you can often piece together the shot sequence by matching up the cut lines like a puzzle.

Looking at the lines on the edges, the film color cast and type also helps get them grouped accurately.

Items with the same subject may not be the same roll.

Any given roll may and often does contain several subjects.

To date pictures look for car makes, license plates and magazine or newspapers. I've circa dated some pictures by finding magazine covers in the picture so I know the picture is after the publication date. Same thing for newspapers and license plate dates.

When in doubt label a group by subject as a separate "roll" number but be willing to edit that later if you find more that match.

Fashion is not a very good indicator of the year in detail but can get you in the decade.
 
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Thanks for sharing Oogie. Sounds like the project's making good progress!
 
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Thanks for sharing Oogie. Sounds like the project's making good progress!
Yes, I'm down to less than 150 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 B&W negatives and less than 130 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 color ones.

I still have over 200 2.5in x 1.6 inch B&W negatives that I have no film holder for at all that I'm trying to figure out how to scan.

Haven't started on the 35mm film at all yet. I have B&W, Color and slide film in that format. Total estimated about 35K images to scan.

Slow but steady progress.
 

joegranados

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Hi Oogie,
I've seen some messages from you a while ago that you had the problem with adobe creative cloud app.
I'm having the same problem and i wanted to ask you whether you finally solved that. If so, would you please be so kind to share your experience so perhaps i can fix the error?

I'm having the problem with adobe illustrator, but i think the cause may be the same.
Any info will be highly appreciated. Thanks in advance. Josep.
 
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Hi Oogie,
I've seen some messages from you a while ago that you had the problem with adobe creative cloud app.
I'm having the same problem and i wanted to ask you whether you finally solved that. If so, would you please be so kind to share your experience so perhaps i can fix the error?
Not really, It still periodically needs to be re-downloaded and updated. Sorry
 
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And yet another update on the huge family archive/scanning project.

As of Monday, 11 March I finished scanning all the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inch film both negatives and slides. Average time to scan and rename was 4.5 minutes per image. All these items were saved as TIFF files and have been imported into the Lightroom catalog with a set of process keywords so I know where I am.

The keywording structure has been defined. I am using a robust set of hierarchical keywords which was tested on a subset of about 2500 images before I've made it the standard. I also now have a procedure for how to add keywords and am in the process of writing down my rules and workflow processes for future reference.

I still don't have carriers that I can use to hold the 127 film that work with my old flatbed scanner so that part, 215 images, is on hold. I also have a few other small amounts of really odd size square film that I have to build holders for. My husband is looking at 3d printing some for me as soon as we design the holder cad file.

I went through all sorts of evaluations on how to scan/digitize the roughly 30k collection of 35mm slides that are a combination of those from my parents, myself, my husband and my stepdad. The 3 remaining folks, me, hubby and stepdad, discussed many options including building a copy stand or sending them out to a service for scanning. The time needed to handle the copy stand scanning using a digital camera is huge. The cost to send them out is huge. We could spend hours selecting just a few items to scan but that also takes lots of time. Our final solution was that we purchased a SlideSnap Pro system. We have access to a number of digital cameras ranging from a 12MP Nikon D700 to a 24MP Fuji XT2. We also have several options for lenses including an old but excellent Nikon MicroNikkor 55mm.

SlideSnap Pro

We did not get the camera system they recommended because of the cameras we had available. Initial set-up of the machine was easy. Getting a camera and lens option that works and fills the frame with the slide is proving a bit more problematic. Focusing is also a bit hard since our best lens, my MicroNikkor, is manual and also old and very stiff and hard to turn. We're considering sending it off to Nikon for a refurbishment. We're also trying to verify the scan resolutions claimed before really going to town on the scanning. However for shear speed the system is unmatched. We're getting speeds of 80 slides digitized in 4 minutes while saving both Raw and JPEG files. If we switch to their recommended JPEG only the speed can be increased a bit. The max they say you can get is 30 slides a minute. We're doing about 20. Far more time is spent cleaning them and loading the carousels. But the cleaning time would have to happen no matter what we used for scanning and loading carousels is faster than putting them in a copy stand jig one at a time. We have not yet experimented with tethering to Lightroom although we plan to test that as soon as the external power supply for the camera arrives.

The remaining issues are deciding whether to convert the raw files to DNG and use that plus a JPEG file as a set in the catalog or use JPEG only. I'm waffling. My initial thoughts are to go JPEG only, get them all done and in the catalog and then as the top ones are identified considering re-scanning them and saving both types of files. I'll go post a question about that on another thread.
 
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Latest update on the 35mm slide scanning part of the project.

For the SlideSnap Pro system we ended up with a camera/lens stack that includes the Fuji XT2, a Fuji to Nikon mount converter, a Kiron 2x Teleconverter and my old MicroNikkor Macro lens. We did not send the lens out for refurbishment. Yes, the lens was/is hard to focus but the advantage is once focusing is finally done it sticks there.

The final decision was to save only JPEG files for this go-round. Actual realized scan resolution is about 3200dpi. This is good enough for cataloging and most purposes. The quality of the pictures doesn't really warrant more resolution for most of them. Those few that do need a higher resolution can be re-done later.

My workflow is:
  1. Sort slides into rolls based on known data, the printed processing date on the slide mount, the subject and any other clues you can find.
  2. Clean Slides and place into carousels with a blank title/separator slide between rolls or batches of pictures that will be treated as a roll for cataloging. Slides should be in order from lowest frame number to highest within a given roll. The ideal number for a batch of carousels seems to be 3 or 4 80 slide carousels. More than that and they are sitting around too long after scanning. Fewer and the efficiency of doing the same task at once is not there. 140 slide carousels do not seem to work as well and are subject to more jamming especially with older slides that are slightly or significantly warped.
  3. Run the SlideSnap scanner saving as JPEG files on a high speed card. Slow SD cards do not work well.
  4. Copy raw scans onto hard drive and onto backup server drive. Once verified then erase the card.
  5. Check all the slides to be sure you have them in the correct orientation. Rotate any that are actually portrait format now. I'm using Preview on the Mac but any simple editing package will work.
  6. Run the SlideSnap Pro AutoCropper tool to remove the excess black border. I found that these settings provided the best results for me. Sensitivity 2 Normal
    overcrop % 2
    Check the move suspected bad crops to subfolder uncropped instead of cropping option
    Output is to specific folder Use 2 Old_Slide_After_Border_Removal
    Check the retain source folder name checkbox
    80 slides takes about 2 minutes
  7. Check all cropped images to verify they are ok. Check and manually crop any uncropped images. I use Preview for this as well.
  8. Using “A Better Finder Rename 10” edit the file names to be the appropriate Resource Group, Roll and frame number according to our Resource Group descriptions and file naming convention as you take each roll out of the carousel. It’s important to do the renaming as you take the slides out of the carousel. That’s the only way to get the image numbers to match the slide image numbers properly. It goes pretty fast though. Rename the images to match the printed frame number if there is one.
  9. As you rename the slides place a PAT safe divider with the RG and Roll number. The divider goes in front of the slides. Place the finished slides in roll number order in a storage box. Keep all of one resource group together. Slides that are unlabeled do not get any additional labeling done at this time.
  10. Update my project document in the Resource Groups section with the number of images, the roll number and any additional information. If there is a processing date on the slide mounts add that to the description.
  11. Put each Roll into it’s own subfolder per my Resource Group naming conventions
  12. Move the roll folders into the top level for that resource group on main server in the Scanned Old_Pictures_Ready_For_Import folder
  13. When you are ready to import into LightRoom move the folders into the folder Picture_Files_Cataloged in the sub Folder for this Resource Group on main server.
  14. Import into LightRoom with an add in place as you’ve done all the prep work of rotations and renames. I am adding my own custom metadata presets for each roll. These include process keywords, film type as well as basic copyright info etc.
This entire process of cleaning, organizing, scanning, renaming files and importing into Lightroom is taking less than 2 minutes per slide.

The procedure seems onerous but having the separate steps means I can stop at any stage and come back to it hours, days or weeks later and pick up exactly where I left off. I haven't needed a proper written checklist but I have considered creating one in Omnifocus so I can track exactly where I am with each batch of carousels. So far I can stop or start without too much hassle because of how I do things.

One interesting discovery is that as we find slides I missed in my initial collection process it's fairly easy to set up a single carousel with all the orphan slides I've found, scan them and slot them into their respective resource group and roll in the filing system and in Lightroom because the image files are named with slide frame numbers. That preserves the shooting sequence in the filename which has proven important for proper cataloging later.

Cataloging is a whole separate step and is proceeding much more slowly because I have to have the parties involved, me, my stepdad and my husband all sitting around the monitor telling me what the images are of and the other data I need to properly catalog them. At least I'm getting them in and ready to be cataloged. Average seems to be about 2-3 minutes per slide to fully finish the cataloging in LR.

Another step that is in work is to develop a workflow for using Amazon Web Services' Amazon Glacier to maintain a deep storage backup of all the image files and a more current in regular AWS space the Lightroom catalog. I can do it all manually but I'm looking at some automation of the process using ARQ to create a proper archive (in Amazon's use of the term). Not totally happy with my procedures now and still learning so that one is on hold until I figure it all out.

Hope this is of use to others considering a big slide archive/scanning project.
 
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Thanks for sharing all of these details Oogie!
 
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Just saw a typo in the long message. 80 slides scanned takes closer to 5 minutes not 2. total time is 2 minutes her slide for the process. Tried tol go back and edit the original message now but I can't.
 

chris-summerscs

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Dear OogieM, I enjoyed this thread. I am finally getting around to a scanning project that includes my father's old Kodachome collection of about 3000 slides from the mid '50's to the 80's but also his father's collection of odd assorted sized B&W negatives from his family's time in China from 1905 to 1928. Unlike my own catalogs that have specific date and file name structures it has been challenging to scan images and then import them into LR and then to finally export to a finished location. Your efforts posted here have helped me rethink what I ultimately must do.

Thanks
 
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