by Elizabeth Friszell
High school football in the south is big. Real big. And 30 years
ago, it was even bigger. In 1973, a lab called Capitol Filmworks
touched down into the field of photographic processing. That is,
they first started out in the business of high school football. "We
started out by processing football film for high schools. The
coaches would shoot the football film and Rene would process it all
day and night to have it ready before the game the next Saturday,"
says Joan Brinsfield, vice president and director of professional
marketing at Capitol Filmworks in Montgomery, AL. "At first, we
would do black and white and E6, and then later on, we got into the
color lab business."
Nearly 30 years later, in March of 2002, Capitol went national with digital. They had to: they remodeled their store to accommodate their flow into digital and were gaining new business. "We had to add 4500 square feet to the lab because our affiliation with ProShots and our turn to digital were making it necessary for us to go national," she says. "We've been going to national trade shows and exhibiting our store since we began with ProShots five years ago. Now this year, we went to these trade shows and promoted our turn to digital. It really affirms the business."
Welcome to Digital
"Digital has been very positive for us. We use ProShots digital files as well. We have now become completely digital," Rene Brinsfield, owner, president, and Joan's husband, notes. The lab owns only the Kodak LED as its single optical printing. "The range of services is better, the turnaround and workflowdownstream nearly disappears." Digital also led the lab to save big on labor. Rene says, "We have about 30% less staff doing about twice the effect."
According to Capitol Filmworks, they provide digital output from photo paper, 35mm slides, inkjet paper, canvas, dye-sublimation prints, and overhead transparency material from an almost endless variety of input sources, with most services available on short turnaround schedules. They also write Kodak photo CD's from 35mm slides or negatives.
In addition to the digital output, they have a complete digital staff of experts in the field of photo restorations. "The original is scanned or photographed, depending on size, and all restoration work is done electronically. The original is never touched. There is hardly anything we can't restore on a photograph," the lab says. "We can recreate missing parts, clean up or replace backgrounds, isolate individuals or remove or replace them, add persons not present for the original photo, colorize a black and white print, and more."
Capitol Filmworks uses three Fuji Frontier systems linked with Fuji's PIC PRO software, the ZBE large-format printer, and the Kodak HR500 long roll scanner to convert film to scanned digital files. "These machines have really helped our lab to expand into digital. We now have three locations that are all using digital," Rene says.
Phil Scarsbrook, Digital Imaging Manager, designed the cover of this month's issue. He created the cover designs using Photoshop 7 only. Phil explains, "I shot the the Photoshop 7 box to get the sides of the box and the S2 camera. Other images came either from my personal portfolio or were downloaded from PhotoSpin.com (a website that provides royalty-free images for subscribers), aside from the cover images Photo Processing provided."
"As a certified expert in Photoshop versions 6 and 7, I use Adobe systems," Phil says. "And, as the recipient of a GURU award from the National Association of Photoshop Professionals."
The Wonder of ProShots
Capitol Filmworks is a digital ProShots lab. "ProShots is an exciting system that brings the magic and efficiency of digital image technology to the photographic business," Rene states. "It enables the elimination of all the mundane tasks that typically go hand-in-hand with ordering wedding and event photography. Tasks that cost time and money."
ProShots has a distinct advantage to photographers that Capitol Filmworks offers. "The ProShots Imaging and Printing System at Capitol Filmworks processes and proofs the film, and digitizes each image. The film is kept in long roll format and stored here at our lab. The digitized images are provided to them over the Internet," the lab says. Back at the photographers' studio, the ProShots system gives access to the images and gives the power to edit, crop, sequence, size, package, and reorder. "It gives photographers the ability to sit with their customers and specify all details of their order, without laying a finger on a negative or aperture card," Rene says. "They can even lay out the entire order and let customers visualize it right on the screen using Art Leather's Montage software, which is fully compatible with ProShots."
Capitol will even send a free copy of the ProShots Viewer software to professional photographers if they express an interest in the software. They can try it out and see the time savings and cost awareness.
"In the last few years, we spent about $1.5 million to remodel and expand. As we did that, we were expanding into new business because of ProShots," Rene says. "Most labs expand, but they're keeping the same customers, and the same business. For us, ProShots allowed our lab to pursue new business with more and more materials to offer."
This put Capitol further into the throws of being a family-owned and operated business, bringing in son Keith Hildebrand. "Rene decided to bring Keith in when we began with ProShots because it was time to go national," Joan says. "Rene flew to South Carolina and told Keith to put in his two weeks notice at his job, and come to Alabama to work with us." Keith asked his mother for her advice, but what did mom say? "I told him to go back to his job," she laughs. But, little did she know, he'd become a permanent figure in the family business, one who travels to all the trade shows with Mom and helps to promote the company nationally. "It's now fully a family business."
The latest thing Capitol Filmworks has to offer is classes at its Image Education Center, a classroom set up next door to the main lab. "We have started offering classes on Adobe Photoshop, digital cameras, 35mm SLR cameras, ProShots, and we plan to offer more," Rene says.