200,000 slides, part 2

It’s been a while since I wrote the introductory post “200,000 slides” on how we might approach the digitization of Hugh Morton’s slides. There’s been a lot happening on this front, but doing that work and then the holidays have delayed my next installment on the topic. I’ll try to keep the posts short and frequent over the upcoming days.

The close of my initial post ended with a set of questions, the last of which was, “And the most challenging and most difficult question, . . . how do you scan 200,000 slides?”

Well, how do you scan 200,000 slides?

There are at least two points to explore in order to answer that question: on what machine and to what resolution? I experimented with two approaches available to us with the equipment on-hand: a dedicated film scanner and a flatbed scanner. Today’s post focuses on the film scanner.

The best quality film scanner available to us is the Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED, which produces scans at 4,000 pixels per inch. We scan at sixteen bits using the eight-pass setting to produce a high quality scan. That resolution easily produces 20×24-inch high-quality inkjet prints on our printer, an Epson Stylus Pro 7800, at 360 dots per inch. (Did you just find yourself saying, “Huh?” If so, Scantips.com is one of many Web sites that can help you!)

Each scan takes about ninety seconds, with a short interval between scans. The scanner can handle only five slides per batch, however, so here’s the disappointing math:

200,000 slides x 90 seconds = 18,000,000 seconds or 5,000 hours, which is 625 eight-hour work days—well over three years.

And that’s just raw scan time without counting the time it takes to set up each slide’s appearance using the scanner’s software, which is considerable. Simply stated, a Nikon Coolscan is not designed to work in such a high-volume environment. High-end film scanners, such as a Hasselblad Flextight, do have batch loaders that handle up to 50 slides, but the added expense of that machine buys you higher resolution—8,000 pixels per inch—not speed. With voluminous slide collections, speed is of the essence!
Link to Part 3
Sports Car Climb, Grandfather Mountain, circa mid 1950s.

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