Digital Solutions For Film Lovers – Flat Bed Scanner Fustrations

A question I am frequently asked – ‘what flat bed scanner do you recommend I should buy?’

This is a nightmare of a question and one which is not easily answered without first responding with the question ‘what do you know about image post processing and pre-press?’, followed, usually in my case, by the whole book preamble on the history of photography. It serves little purpose. Most individuals in my experience of this subject, are impulse buyers who have swallowed the manufacturer carrot and purchase on the basis of product appearance and little understanding of the mechanics or specification. By the time I have gotten to Niepce, listeners are already bored stiff. You know the glazed eye look…

This aside, there are novices with a genuine interest and limited budgets to spend. So here goes.

Several years before I purchased my first flat bed scanner and at a time when I was building digital stock for the future digital archive, I used a local lab which had invested (early to mid 1990s) in some expensive kit. They had Agfa digital film recorders, a raft of Apple Mac computers, a Scitex flat bed and top-end Umax scanners. With all this stuff, the lab could meet the professional quality demands of its advertising agency client requirements – and believe me, they had some big players in the game.

I used their Scitex and Umax scanning services mainly for digitalising medium and large format film. Costs ran at around £10 – £20 per image, depending on set-up time. This was expensive and I only used the service when I knew I could sell the image and have the client pay for everything on top of the repro fee. Still, it was cheaper than another local lab which offered laser drum scans.

In time, I acquired my own flat bed scanner; a Microtek, which I was running on an Apple Mac Performa-Pro (1993). The only time you could tell you had done things right was when the magazine came out; my Performa screen had pitiful resolution and this combined with some dreadful scanning software was a non starter when it came to visualising what was right or wrong. It was very much seat of the pants scanning; you just crossed your fingers and hoped. And most of the time, reproduction was acceptable, only occasionally could I tell it had been a really long night on the pixels.

Soon I graduated to an iMac G3. The screen resolution was higher and a lot clearer. I bought one of the then new Heidelberg Linoscan flat bed scanners with a tranny hood, having first investigated the software it was bundled with and sweet-talked the distributor into demo scanning a stack of 120 format Kodachrome’s – yes, in the 1990s, my preferred reversal stock was available in medium format.

The demo scans were not perfect but the difference in quality between them and what I had been paying an arm and a leg for off the Scitex or Umax, was marginal. The test would be in the final repro quality and after a few weeks I had sold enough and seen the results to have a pretty good idea of what the machine could do.

Life went on. I scanned and scanned and spent a lot of time making up special holders for old glass plates and larger format transparencies to avoid the problem of Newton’s Rings. I hardly thought about what went on inside the box until one day, the lamp used for reflective scans gave out.

To fit the new lamp, follow the maker’s instructions by undoing two retaining machine screws and lift off the plastic glass platen frame. It was then that it hit me.

Light travels in straight lines right?

Right. Except when it’s inside a flat bed scanner.

Then it gets bent all over the place by thin mirror strips before finally being focused through a tiny objective onto a CCD.

Let’s just have a short think here about what we are dealing with. Light, imaging and scanning. A sort of electronic enlarger. The principle is almost the same. Light is passed through film and its rays are collected somewhere in the box to make a digital image.

Now, if I recall, the old film enlargers I used in my darkrooms in decades past, all had their insides well painted with a matt black, non light reflecting paint. Indeed, in high quality machines, light baffling was so sophisticated, one never had any concern for leakages. More attention was paid to the darkroom door.

But what have we here in the average flat bed scanner? Well, light is transmitted first through two large sheets of platen glass (one in the tranny hood, one on the bed) between which are sandwiched the negs or trannies being scanned. These are glass sheets the size of foolscap paper (or larger on A3 models.) Hold one sheet up to a lamp and anyone can see what it does to light transmitted through it – scatter, scatter,scatter. And lo, the whole of the interior box of the machine is a nice shiny grey plastic. All the bits of metal and other plastic used to house the lights are all highly reflective. Even the black plastic bed on which the thin mirror strips are mounted for collecting the reflected rays and bouncing them to another mirror strip before transmission to the lens, is all shiny and new.

What were the dumbells who designed this machine thinking of? Rhetorical. This Heidelberg turned out to be a rebadged Umax – made in Japan. I suspect many other similar products are put together the same way, with little thought given by designers or engineers to the real purpose of the device.

The question trickling through my mind at the time was, what happens if I paint all of the accessible shiny parts with matt black paint? Would this have any effect on improving image quality? Would it push up contrast; would it increase the dynamic density range?

There was nothing to lose. Out came the matt black Humbrol, masking tape and a paint brush. Soon, all of the parts I could reach were matted. On some of the edges of black plastic mouldings where it looked as if light rays would almost certainly be reflected back but which were difficult to reach with a loaded brush, I used double side tape and strips of black velvet from the gates of old film canisters. When I figured I had done enough, I cleaned the insides of both platen glasses and reassembled the machine.

Immediately, there was a noticeable improvement in the final scans, particularly in the area of shadow detail where the Heidelberg had not previously been able to extract much detail. Contrast went up and with it, apparent sharpness. So far so good. Scan quality improved as I learned to tweak the finer points of the bundled LinoColor software; clients were happy.

A note about the software.

LinocolorElite was put together by a company whose origins were deeply rooted in the British printing industry – remember Linotype machines? The German company Heidelberg bought Linocolor, marketed a raft of hi-end and low end rebadged Umax scanners with bundled Linocolor software and then jumped out of the business. Used Heidelberg machines can still be found but the better specified machines from the 1400 model up usually only run on old SCSI connections.

But I digress. The point about this is that most current flat beds have not significantly improved in mechanical design at the same rate at which resolution capacities have increased and while reproduction quality generally looks acceptable, I don’t see the giant leap. Visual appearance depends on printing methods, paper, inks and all the rest of that side of the business, but what I want in an ideal world is the near perfect scan and for this, one usually has to pay a premium.

Just recently, I noticed a slight fall off in scanned image quality while digitalising a batch of old b+w prints. One side of the image was o.k. the other side slightly fuzzy, as if someone had sprayed the screen image with diluted milk. I cleaned the monitor. It made no difference. An inspection of the flat bed platen glass provided no clue as to the cause.

In a fit of pique, I stripped the machine again. The thought of micro bugs similar to those sometimes seen in a camera viewfinder crawling all over the three line CCD low pass filter and leaving their minute traces of dirt, was uppermost.

I could neither find nor see anything. The interior was spotless, except when I shone a high powered torch onto one of the thin collecting mirrors; a barley visible thin patch of surface blooming like a small cloud such as would be visible on a steamed up lens, was the obvious culprit.

I suppose that even if one worked these machines in a scientifically audited clean room, foreign matter and atmospheric pollution would, in time, affect component performance. In the real world home or office environment, the risk of attack over a short period of time is much higher. I still do not know what caused the blooming, but for good measure I cleaned all the mirror strips and the collecting lens with impregnated tissues supplied by Carl Zeiss. And while I had the top off the mirror box, I added more velvet strips to parts which looked vulnerable to light scatter and blacked out the inside of the fluorescent light tube housing with more Humbrol.

The mirror cleaning cured the original problem, and now there was also another hike in both contrast and apparent sharpness levels. An acquaintance in the USA with access to special measuring equipment reported a recent set of scans from 5X4 inch Fujichrome originals having only a 1.2% colour balance error; better than the 2-3% normally experienced from scans produced on high end machines and far better than the 10 -20% errors often experienced on off-the-shelf consumer products. And this from the raw un-post processed scans made using my own ICC profile for the film.

Now I have a new project in hand.

I purchased a second Heidleberg for spares.

I am now going to strip both it and the old Microtek and matt spray paint the parts which can be and remodel the mirror housing, lens and CCD assemblies with matt paint and whatever else it takes to stop the light scatter. Some solution of soft pliable baffles will also have to be found for the undersides of the platen glass, which I am certain is just one of a number of contributing causes of scanned image chromatic aberrations. The aim is to reach a scan quality level which approaches that obtained for medium format film on a Howtek drum scanner.

Do You Get Lured by Business Development Jobs?

Business development is one of the vital segments in almost every business, these days. It can be considered an extended form of sales, but isn’t just getting leads to the business, but also emphasizes the expansion of a business in other ways. It is a balanced combination of strategy, marketing, and sales. Those employed as business development executives are involved in getting leads, negotiating & closing the deals besides maintaining cordial relationships with the clients. They serve as the link between the corporate partners and the organization.

Business development executives are involved in identifying the potential target market, new business opportunities and the new business partnership that they can benefit with, in the near future. They work towards expanding the company’s client base and corporate relationships to ultimately add to the revenue.

Where do they work?

The need to hire these professionals is now being realised by almost every business and industry. Those seeking jobs in business development can get into real estate, infrastructure, IT, digital marketing, telecom, and other sectors too. Some of the leading companies they can aim to work with are HCL Technologies, Cognizant Technology Solutions, and many others.

Who can qualify?

For those, who master the combination of communication and influential skills and do not wish to get into direct sales, business development is a viable career choice. To get started, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration. However, those who hail from other fields too can be considered for this job role.

Generally, the professionals having gained considerable experience in corporate sales are considered apt for this position. The prior sales experience even helps a professional aim for considerably higher salary than a fresher.

Skills to take you ahead

Business acumen:

It is one of the major skills that help a profession qualify for this job role. An understanding of how the market works and what are the essentials to keep the audiences interested in the product serve as the major skills for these jobs.

Communication:

The business development executives are involved in dealing with the customers, business partners, and other associates and for this, communication remains a desired skill.

Analytical Skills:

To analyse a situation and bring out the best of opportunities is what these professionals are desired for. They work to get business leads and even maintain the professional relationships with the associates so to ensure their satisfaction with the association.

Networking:

If networking is something you are best at, you can contribute well to the business.

Average Pay Scale

If you have prior experience in sales, you can make well in this profile. On the other hand, if you get started as a business development executive with no prior experience, the pay scale may not be too alluring. As per a global research firm, a business development professional in India earns Rs 242,480 per year. Experience remains a major factor for pay hike in this job.

Five Ways A Business Development Consulting Firm Can Help Your Business

For a small business owner, it may be challenging to get his or her company off the ground. Therefore, it may be necessary to enlist the services of a business development consulting firm. A consulting firm can help a new company figure out ways to expand and thrive in the marketplace. Here are five specific ways that a consulting firm can help your business thrive.

1) Target Your Customers Effectively

Do you know who your customers are? If you do know who your customers are, do you know how to reach them? A good consulting firm will show you what your customers need to hear before making a purchasing decision. From there, your business can devise a marketing plan that will convince customers that they need what your company has to offer.

2) Build An Online Presence

The Internet is an amazing marketing tool when used correctly. With proper guidance, your company can build a solid online presence that can be leveraged to increase sales and increase visibility for your products or services.

3) Develop Your Brand

A good brand can sell products all by itself. Therefore, it is important that your company has a strong brand that customers can identify with. If your company wants to be known for great customer service, offering 24 hour service to handle returns could be something that your business could offer. Another good idea would be to have a call center that is open around the clock to address customer complaints and concerns.

4) Learn How To Interact With Other Businesses

Other businesses in your area may want to promote their products in your store. In exchange, these businesses may be willing to promote your products in their store. For example, your lawn mower supply company may want to partner with a hardware store or a landscaping business to create a dynamic marketing initiative. Your lawn mowers could be promoted in the hardware store while your company helps to promote your local landscaping company.

5) Understand Where Opportunities For Growth Are

There are always opportunities for your company to grow. Whether it is expanding into other markets, targeting new customers or creating new products, sales should never stay stagnant. A consulting firm will be able to point out these opportunities to you well before you have thought of them. This will enable you to be the first company in your industry to enter a new market or to create a new product that customers desperately need. Typically, the company that is first to offer a product or service is the company that is associated with that product or service even after competitors offer something similar. This makes it easier to maintain a larger portion of the market share.

When used correctly, a consulting firm can be your best friend. You will have someone who you can turn to when you need advice or at a loss for ideas. The best part is that most consulting firms are staffed by people who have experience in the business world. This experience can be used to give your company a leg up on the competition.

5 Major Life Hacks About Digital Branding

Digital branding is the most popular, widely used and effective strategy for businesses to engage their customers. According to the survey conducted by ThinkVine, nowadays, marketers spend most of their marketing budget on digital marketing in comparison to the traditional marketing strategy.

Understanding the Audience

Marketers need to have an in depth knowledge about the traits and tastes of their Audience. If they will not understand the consumers’ behavior and purchasing patterns, they will never succeed in any of the marketing strategy.

Quality Content Increases Leads

According to a survey, businesses that actively run their blogs get 67% increased leads in a month in comparison to those who do not prefer blogging. However, content marketing is the most unabated strategy this year as well. Almost all the brands are involved in developing the most useful and informative content for their audience than ever before.

BuzzSumo is widely used to search, amplify and monitor the content. It helps to identify the most searched and used content all over the globe and it also monitors competitors’ content. This helps the marketers to manage the content and engage maximum number of customers easily.

Marketing Analytical Tools

Marketers are using various analytical tools in order to monitor the performance of the business and engagement of the customers on their digital platforms. According to the CMO survey, marketing analytics are widely used all over the globe and the expenditure is expected to rise more than 60 percent. Google Analytics is one of the most useful tools to analyze traffic. You can easily examine the traffic on your website and their activities on your web pages. Kissmetrics is another effective tool that can help in conversion of the leads into actual sales.

SEO Optimization Tools

Webbe SEO Spider works the same way in which a search engine does for your website. It helps you to find out all the weaknesses and strengths of the website design, content and structure. Not only this, It also provides a weekly updates like Meta data, internal links, sitemaps, keywords audit, H-tags and many more. If you really want to add value to your website, this is a must tool which is commonly used worldwide by the professional marketers. Deep Crawl is another powerful tool that helps to improve and monitor performance of SEO.

Email Marketing Tools

MailChimp is most dominant and widely used for the purpose of email marketing. It provides user friendly and simple structure. One of the best things about MailChimp is that it can easily be installed and used by the software dummies even. With the help of this tool, you can easily design perfect mails to target your audience.

Along with this, GetResponse is another platform for lead generation, digital solutions and email marketing. It is an innovative suite for marketing at very low prices for the enterprises and SMBs. With this tool, marketers are not only saving their money and time but they are also having a lead nurturing and generation tool that guarantees best content for the audience.