Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dia scan consortium

The constitutional meeting

So here we are, five people (yes, not everybody came to the first meeting) with a common goal (to scan 1000's of our dia-slides) and many different ideas of how to do it.

Over two rounds of beer we agreed to constitute a dia-scan-consortium (if you came here by accident and don't quite follow what this is all about, please read introduction first) and on more precise definition of our future actions:
  • we will investigate the market for the best value for money scanner
  • we will share the costs of buying it
  • we will rotate the usage of the device
  • we will invite other friends to join 
The same night I created a Google group, invited everybody in and discussion continued for days about following questions:

How many is the right number?

More members, lower costs for each, but more time to wait for next round. We speculated about scanning from 200 to 300 slides per day (now we all know that was very optimistic) and everybody was eager to proceed quickly, not to go on for years. The final agreement was: we take a maximum of 10 members.

How long should be the exchange cycle?

One month is too long; nobody wants to wait half a year or even longer for next round of scanning. One day or two is too short; you need some time to setup before the work can start. Basically it became the choice between 1 or 2 weeks and the final agreement was: one week per member. Now we know that it was a very good decision. It allows enough time to do some work, but after a week of changing trays at every possible hour (including setting up a clock to wake up at the middle of the night) you need several days to recover and you do not want to go on for another week.

New or old device?

We received an offer for a used second hand scanner (same model that was the most probable next question winner) for half the price. We decided against it, the reasoning was: if we buy new, we have 1 year warranty and in this time we can all complete the scanning task without worrying, if the device will break while we need it.

What scanner model?

Without doubt, the most important question, but before we proceed to the answer, let's first more accurately investigate the requirements:
  • We definitely want a scanner that allows batch scanning with trays and supports all possible tray standards (Universal or DIN 108, LKM, CS and Paximat).
  • We want ICE (dust and scratch correction solution; not frozen water!). While other image corrections (like color correction or minimize grain) are software only solutions, which can always be applied later using any of available image editing programs; the ICE is hardware assisted. Each slide is scanned twice, first infrared to detect dust and scratches, then again normally for the picture and the software then calculates the color of dots, that were marked as bad by the first pass.
  • The results (the scanned pictures) will be used almost exclusively as digital media, to watch on computer or TV screens, to exchange with each other, to use on the web, to be secured on computer disks. We do not intend to produce posters or printed pictures of any size, so we are not looking for the highest possible DPI.
  • We are not interested in any special and licensed scanning software (like Silverfast), because the device will be used on many different computers, but it should run on Windows and on MAC. 

And the winner is …

The first requirement already limits the choice to 3 manufacturers and since Nikon's models were several times more expensive and Reflecta and Braun offer exactly the same devices which only differ by brand name, that left us only to choose between two different Reflecta models: the older DigitDia 5000 or newer DigitDia 6000.

They have the same mechanics, they both support ICE and the added CyberView software is the same. The only difference is the scanning resolution (3600 or 5000 DPI) and of course the price. The normal slide size is 24 * 36 mm, at 3600 DPI the resulting picture has approximately 3200 * 4900 pixels (I know the math here is a little wrong, I suspect slide frames hide a part of the original). This is enough to be viewed even on the still to come next generation Ultra-high-definition television; it definitely fulfills the third requirement above and makes the newer model not worth the 30% price difference.

So the choice was made, we wanted the Reflecta DigitDia 5000. It could be found on the net for approximately 1200 EUR and it was time for potential consortium members to do the final “put the money where your mouth is” action.

The consortium membership rules

At the same time as choosing the scanner we have also agreed on official consortium membership rules and saved it to a document. For anyone interested in details, you can download it here; warning, it is in Slovenian language, but you can try Google translator, it is almost understandable :)

Here are some of the rules:
  • The members confirm their consortium membership by paying their share of device costs, if all the shares are not confirmed by payment, the paying members decide to pay the difference or to cancel the project.
  • After initial consortium membership is finalized, additional members can only be accepted with 100% agreement of existing members (while initial costs are recalculated and shared accordingly).
  • All other consortium decisions are accepted when supported by at least two thirds of members.
  • The device is transferred to next member each Sunday evening (later, the day was changed to Monday, because on Sunday a lot of people come home too late for exchange from wherever they have enjoyed the weekend and the event became a weekly social gathering, where members share scanning experience while having a bear or two ).
  • If the device breaks down under normal usage, all members share service costs, but if the device breaks down due to incorrect or careless usage, the responsible member is required to service it at his own costs.
  • The consortium will cease to exist, when all the members agree to have finished the scanning. The device will be sold for the best possible price and the proceeds will be spent for the closing dinner.
There were five initial members (interestingly, the same five people mentioned at the start of this post), several weeks later we accepted the sixth and final consortium member. We have ordered our scanner at, but surprisingly, it was far from easy, to have it delivered to Slovenia.

Read next post to find out why!

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