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Image Quest: Finding the Scanning Solution that Fits



Scanning continues to be a key strategic focus for many organizations facing the rapid transition of photography from film to digital imaging. For some, it has become a means for streamlining production and archiving digital assets for storage and reuse. Many photographic service businesses have found themselves entering the digital realm for survival - and offering the scanning services that continue to be demanded by their clientele. Others face the task of preserving history involving photographs and materials that are in danger of being lost forever to time. Some have found scanning as a way to improve their own processes as an adjunct to film. Still others are on the forefront of connecting classic photography and collections with the cutting edge technologies of today. Most also share the objective of utilizing the solution to easily search, find, retrieve and catalog their digital archives. This article features five companies that have successfully implemented a scanning solution and may help organizations facing similar challenges to evaluate what is important in the decision process.

Top Issues

At the top of everyone's list is the issue of quality. Can the equipment do justice to the original, maintaining the integrity, and in some instances even surpassing what was achievable with film? This, after all, is the goal of technology. For Joshua Greene, owner of Milton Greene Archives, this issue hits home - literally. In 1985, his father Milton passed away. Milton Greene is perhaps best remembered for his photographs of Marilyn Monroe, upon his death, he left a collection of approximately 300,000 images, a good portion of which were fading rapidly. "There's photography out there that needs to be saved, and unfortunately, we'll never save it all before time makes it disappear," he states. Utilizing the Creo EverSmart Supreme II scanner, Joshua has pursued archiving and digital restoration projects not only with his father's collections, but also with NASCAR, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he is currently working with several artists. "The scans that we can produce from the Creo product are incredible," he adds.

Beon Media Media, a small start-up company in Seattle, also faced similar quality archiving challenges for a distinctly different reason. The company is working with leading content providers such as National Geographic, The Andy Warhol Foundation, and Time-Life to deliver digital artwork on consumers' walls via high-resolution plasma displays. They've recently signed a strategic agreement with Microsoft to provide the Digital Home Gallery service. Charlie Sliwoski, Senior Manager, Creative Media for Beon Media has keyed in on the importance of accuracy. "It is an absolute necessity. Even though the world is going digital, there are still massive amounts of great collections and work that have not been converted." The new Creo iQsmart1 scanner, considered to be the entry level to professional scanning at an affordable price, is the perfect choice for Beon Media Media's application. The scanner provides high-quality scans from a variety of originals (key for dealing with historical collections) at mid-range resolutions.

Monroe images ©2005 Milton H. Greene Archives, Inc. www.archivesmhg.com. This image from the ŒBallerina' series - one of Milton & Marilyn's most recognized collaborations, was taken in 1954 at Milton's New York City studio. Clothing designer Ann Klein sent various outfits to Milton's studio for Marilyn to wear, however all the outfits were 2 sizes too small. All of the poses in this sitting amusingly deal with Marilyn's problem of holding up the ill-fitting tulle and satin dress. The most recognized image from this sitting was chosen as one of Time/Life's 3 most popular images of the 20th Century along with Albert Einstein & Winston Churchill. This image was restored using a Creo EverSmart Supreme II scanner.

Versatility and flexibility in acceptance of multiple types of originals is another requirement for most operations. Having an oversized flatbed is often just the beginning. The scanner should be able to accommodate a wide variety of types including high quality transparent, positive and negative originals, reflective artwork, reflective pictures, printed material, 3D objects, thick originals, glass plates and more.

Lee Theobald, Systems Analyst for Pfingsten Publishing, was chartered with replacing one of their drum scanners used internally for production of their magazines including Décor and Art Business News. They also were getting into digital archiving that included not only film, but also print pages from previous magazines. "We were looking for a scanner that would handle a wide range of originals, so a flatbed made sense. We decided to take advantage of Creo's generous trade-in for our drum scanner," he says.

Joshua Greene relates one of the most unique projects he ever completed that required absolute flexibility. In 1955, a 15-year old kid did a short film project that followed his father Milton and Marilyn Monroe around the streets of New York City. Almost fifty years later the reel was found and Joshua took the 8mm film, made a 16mm interneg to lighten the original, and was able to scan and transform the frames, twenty at a time. "We ended up with 100-125 fantastic stills from this 3 minutes of historic film."

McGreevy ProLab

For Neil McGreevy, owner of McGreevy ProLab in Albany, NY, flexibility in a scanner means meeting the needs of a wider range of customers. "After making the leap to digital image printing, which for us was the only way to survive, we've been able to grow by taking in new types of business and accounts that we wouldn't have been able to service before - we wanted to be poised for the future."

Equally important to Neil are the speed and workflow of the scanner. "Before we bought the Creo scanner, we were using a drum scanner. The day we got in a job with 60 scans which took a whole week to complete, was the day we decided we needed to change." He now can do a high-quality scan in 7 to 8 minutes. "The Creo iQsmart 3 scanner and the oXYgen software from Creo add to our streamlined workflow immensely," he adds. "It does a great job of evaluating the original, establishing white and black points, has tons of controls and gets you quickly into the ballpark."

For McGreevy ProLab, increased business expectations and labor costs were key.

The Need For Speed

Iratxe Mumford from Leibovitz Studio also has a need for speed. "There are days I scan over 100 images, ranging from contact sheets produced from 6x4.5cm or 6x7cm negatives to Polaroids and 5x7 work prints. The turnaround has got to meet the demands of the studio. I need a good scan to begin with and don't have time to try to make a bad scan look good in Photoshop."

The business decision to buy a scanner has to make financial sense. Will it have a positive financial impact and warrant the cost? Companies should analyze all the contributing factors including the equipment costs, labor, workflow, production improvements and alternatives. For McGreevy ProLab, increased business expectations and labor costs were key. "We are landing new business we hadn't been able to service adequately before. In addition, there is no question that we can train everyone in the lab to use the Creo scanner. With the drum scanner we had to have a certain type of person."

Tim Dunley, vice president of Marketing at Beon Media, knew that in-house scanning made economic sense for their business as well. "We were going to buy the scans outside, but quickly realized, with the expansion of our content sources, that this didn't make sense. Having a scanner in-house made strategic sense and gave us control of a key element of our business."

For all of these businesses, their decision to choose a Creo scanning solution wasn't merely a matter of ticking off a checklist of specifications. It came down to reputation and prestige of the vendor. The search process started with word-of-mouth referrals. Joshua Greene remembers how he decided on Creo. "In 1992, I met Mac Holbert of Nash Editions, who I consider to be one of the great experts on digital imaging for fine arts. When we were ready to buy a scanner, I called Mac. He had Creo, so that's what we got!" he laughs. Neil McGreevy also had heard great things about Creo. "They had built their reputation in prepress and weren't a 'photography' name, but being the only one doing real XY stitching, they came highly recommended." Tim Dunley of Beon Media Media looks at it from the other side. "People are very impressed with the Creo name. Having a top-of-the line brand shows our commitment to quality and adds credibility in the eyes of our partners and customers."

Scanner Line-Up

Creo offers a complete line of flatbed scanners to meet the diverse needs of imaging professionals. Featuring XY stitching technology, all of the scanners provide high resolution scanning capabilities and accept a wide variety of originals including 35mm 6 x 4.cm, 6 x 6cm, 6 x 7cm, 4 x 5-, 8 x 10-inch, reflective originals, artwork, books, printed material, text, 3D objects and more. According to Hanan Gelbendorf, scanning expert at Creo Americas, "Eighteen years of developing solutions for scanning and imaging lets us provide a solution to meet the high quality scanning needs of today's dynamic market - from the standalone photographer, who needs a cost effective way to archive his years of work, to the large institutes or businesses who need a full production scanning environment."

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