The scanning itself is the most time consuming step in process. It takes several minutes for each slide, so I do not want to repeat it because of a bad decision on some setting. Any required software only processing can be easily and much faster applied later (and if required repeated several times). But the initial data capture should be the best possible, since you can’t correct it later; or if I may borrow from Hi Fi vocabulary: rubbish in rubbish out (probably already forgotten in the era of digital players of all kinds, but that is a completely different subject that does not belong to this blog).
Folders and naming
An important decision to make is how to organize the digitized copies of slides, that is how to name folders and files. Everybody I know is using some type of system to tag the boxes with slides. My advice is: follow your system of tagging physical boxes as much as possible when naming folders and pictures. You will probably not waste the slides when scanned and if in the future you for whatever reason decide you need to find a specific slide, it will be much easier if the name of the file and folder points to the correct box.
My system is to name the boxes by alphabet. Each box contains two trays and each tray holds 80 slides. The trays are labeled as A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. and I have even written a very short description with year and event or location where the slides were taken. Unfortunately the alphabet is too short (but I didn’t know that when I started) and after I used all of it, I decided to use 2 letters instead of 1, so the labels are Y1, Y2, ZA1, ZA2, ZB1, ZB2, etc. (luckily I started to use digital camera before second alphabet ran out, otherwise I would have to use ZZA1, ZZA2).
I have decided to create folder “dia-scan-original” (with idea to keep original scans unchanged forever and later save software processed pictures in another folder) in Pictures Library of my Windows 7. In this folder I created subfolders A, B, C, … Y, ZA, ZB, ZC, etc. The pictures in each are named with folder name, followed by 1 or 2 for tray, followed by character “-“, followed by 2 digits meaning the slide position in the tray. If you can’t follow, an example will clarify everything: in subfolder A there are files named A1-01, A1-02 … A1-80, A2-01, A2-02 … A2-80; in subfolder ZB there are files named ZB1-01, ZB1-02 … ZB2-80.
In practice (meaning in CyberView) you select Multi-Scan to File and enter the number of slides you want to scan. Obviously this is the size of the tray, although I soon decided to enter tray size + 1 (in my case 81). Normally the machine stops when the last slide is scanned with the slide inside the machine. Because I required one more, it stopped with empty arm inside the machine and the tray ready to be pulled out.
After you click OK next window is displayed. I will discuss File Type and JPEG Quality later, at the moment let’s concentrate on naming options.
Click Browse and select the output folder. In my case this was full path to box subfolder, for example “Libraries\Pictures\dia-scan-original\ZB”. The program remembers the last folder used, so for next trays you do not need to Browse, you can simply overwrite the last letter in field Directory. Next enter Base File Name, in my example this was “ZB1-“ or “ZB2-“. Select 2 for Digits and 1 for User Defined Start Number. After you click OK, the machine starts working and you have several hours to rest until next tray.
JPEG or TIFF and JPEG quality
CyberView can save pictures in JPEG or TIFF format. Everybody knows that TIFF is better than JPEG, because JPEG compression method is lossy. But at least in my experience the difference in quality is negligible. On the other size, the difference in file size is enormous, TIFF format is at least 10 times, but possibly more than 20 times bigger than JPEG format of the same picture. This was the only choice, where I opted for lower then maximum quality, I have chosen JPEG.
CyberView offers 3 options for Define JPEG quality parameter: Good, Better or Best. File size increases with the quality, but not dramatically (approximately 20% difference between options). After some testing my estimate is, that Best approximately corresponds to quality factor Q=95 (see JPEG link above for the meaning of Q). My decision was to use Best.
DigitDia 5000 has maximum scanning resolution of 3600 DPI. It is possible to choose a lower value (for example 2400 or 1800) but I can see no good reason to do it. Scanning time is not much faster, quality is visibly lower and most of all you can always resize/resample an image to lower resolution later. Therefore I have used 3600 default scan resolution (Prescan Resolution is not important), Color Depth 16 bit and Scan Mode Quality.
I have chosen to enable Auto Exposure. Sometimes it actually improves the image and I don’t believe it can spoil it. But I have disabled Auto Gamma and Digital Noise Reduction, because according to my own “Basic principles” it can always be applied later and I do not believe it will never actually spoil the image.
Default Scanning Area
Do not Enable user setting for auto-crop, in other words allow CyberView to do it because most of the time it works perfectly. Sometimes (if picture is very dark or if it is spun sideways) the selected area is too big, but with 1000s of scanned slides it never cropped too much. This is OK; I can always manually crop later.
ICE / ROC / GEM
ICE stands for Image Correction and Enhancement, which is actually a bad description for hardware assisted dust and scratch removal. The slide is scanned twice, first in infra-red to detect scratches and dust, then second time normally and finally the software calculates the color of detected bad pixels by interpolating adjacent good pixels. It is a very important feature of DigitDia 5000, it really improves scratched slides and it does not spoil good slides. Although I have read on the net about problems people had with ICE (when using older firmware), I have never experienced bad scans because of this option. I always keep ICE enabled. There is one exception though (discovered the hard way by one dia-scan-consortium member), disable ICE when scanning black and white film.
ROC means Restoration of Colors. It is software only solution which (if I understand correctly) tries to automatically correct colors by adapting/expanding each of 3 colors to available range. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it completely fails. But according to my own “Basic principles” it can always be applied later (I will write a separate post about software color correction later) therefore I keep it disabled.
GEM means Grain Equalization Management; it should automatically remove film grain which costs some decrease in sharpness. Therefore I keep it disabled.
Standard scanning procedure
As I already stated in “Basic principles” the scanning takes time, a lot of it, so it is in my best interest to have the Reflecta DigitDia 5000 scanner working as much as possible when my turn comes to use it for a week. In fact it became an unofficial competition of dia-scan-consortium members titled: “how many slides can you scan in one week”. Average slide scanning time is somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes, but let’s take 4 for easier calculation. This gives 15 slides per hour, 360 slides per day or 2520 slides per week; at least theoretically. In reality my 80 slides trays take approximately 4 and a half hours, but I have to go to work and I have to sleep, so on a perfect working day I sometimes managed to scan 4 trays (or 240 slides) and on a weekend day (if the weather was bad) I could scan 5 trays (or 320 slides); but only if everything went smoothly. My record is something over 1800 slider per week, but that was only once in a perfect week, all other weeks I only managed to scan from 1500 to 1600 slides. And the dia-scan-consortium record is something over 2100 slides per week, but that member cheated and instead of going to lunch during work he went home and changed the tray.
The point I am trying to make is: you do not want to experiment with CyberView settings while scanning. OK you always do that at the beginning. But you only choose a couple of slides to make some tests, then decide what works best for you and keep it that way. You try to minimize interruptions (particularly jams, if you haven’t already read this for some hints); you try to achieve, as Germans would say, the glattlauf.