Workflow and Process
The digitisation process is almost always carried out in a controlled studio-type environment, either onsite at your premises, or offsite at my studio.
- lighting - either highest quality strobes (flash), or constant light such as LED
- camera and lenses
- copy stand
- computer and calibrated external monitor
- colour reference card, or greyscale, such as QP card
- white and/or black background paper roll, aka seamless
...a lot of these cards
Diagnostic and pre production:
The first step in digitising is usually assessing the material and formulating a plan as to how best to convert it to digital. Ideally the material will have been through a conservator and/or cataloguing process. A set of pre production questions will present:
- Is the material all of the same nature, i.e. glass plate negatives, prints?
- Where is the material, and can it be moved offsite, or should it be digitised onsite?
- Does the material require special housing and does it have preservation concerns? For instance, cellulose acetate based film may need to be refridgerated.
- Is the material going to be digitised in house, or outsourced, or a hybrid of both? If outsourced, will the work happen onsite at client's premises, and what staff will be allocated by the client?
- What specialised equipment may be required?
- How will the digital files be delivered?
- What metadata needs to travel in the file information?
- What is the digital file naming convention, and is there a digital asset management system already in place?
- How will the quality assurance be done?
- What number of file deliverables are expected, what is the timeframe and budget?
These days most digitisation of objects is done with scanning and/or photography. For example a frame of analogue film can be scanned or it can be photographed on a lightbox with a high quality lens and camera. The convention with artworks is still to photograph in a traditional photo studio set up with lighting. Not all lighting is created equal, and the best and most colour accurate lights are still very expensive. Smaller items such as as works on paper and prints tend to be shot using a copy stand. Valuable books are done this way too, whereas less fragile books are now being digitised using book scanners.
It is worth noting that when there are many items in a digitisation project, human error always creeps in - file naming mistakes, missed pages/items, wrong camera exposure, incorrect metadata, items not within resolution tolerances.
First steps in production often involve the setting up and preparation of the designated space and equipment.
Post production is the stage for quality assurance, and ideally this occurs while production is in progress to rectify any mistakes and to check progress. Post production can be divided between the production team, who deliver finished files, and a quality assurance team, who check for errors. The post production cycle can be as time consuming as the production time - a day of photography/scanning = a day of file editing and post.
A tiny object tricky to shoot...
Sir William Macarthur's business card and the copy plate from which it was made, 19th century, digitised for the State Library of NSW, 2017. The card is less than 8cm wide.