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Old Sep 13, 2006, 1:32 AM   #1
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Faced with the job of preserving and restoring almost 3000 family slides taken in Europe between 1957 and 1962, plus my own collection of about 6000 slides, my research led me to the Canon Canoscan 9950F.

So that others don't have to waste time finding out what I have, here are instructions for using the scanner, and managing slides.

I am also starting another post covering the hassles I've had with defects and warranty replacements of the 9950F.

Dealing with Large Numbers of Slides

If you're facing thousands of slides, and don't have hundreds of hours to deal with them, you can do the essential work first. The essential work is to scan the fading slides. Kodachrome is known for fading during frequent projections, while Ektachrome fades over time. So your Kodachrome slides can wait as long as you're not projecting them. The sooner the Ektachromes are scanned, the better. I've also run into some brands that lose the red and some green, so they look blue; and others that lose all colors. It's amazing how well most can be recovered.

Everyone approaching this job agonizes over how to get the highest quality results. Well, consider how much of your resources have already gone into the slides, and compare that to how many you've sold, blown up for decorations, or presented in slide shows. Maybe you really don't need to have them commercially scanned, or take the time to scan them at the highest resolution your scanner is capable of. The images weren't taken with the best camera gear on the planet to begin with, or the best technique. So don't put the job off just because you want perfection in the scanning.

Nowadays you're most likely to want them for presentation on the Internet, and in most cases 10Mb images are not going to be needed or welcome. Also bear in mind that you will still have the originals, and you're even luckier if they were taken in Kodachrome.

Conventional wisdom is that corrections are best made during the scan. However, my tests showed they were best made in post production, after the scans. This means you can minimize the urgent work by scanning only the fading slides, and leave the rest of the job for later. You should be able to scan at least 50 an hour at 2400dpi.

Be aware that any processing loses detail. So it's a tradeoff between colorful slides and pulling subject matter out of the wreck, or retaining sharpness. The oldest slides may have suffered from the capabilities of film back then; and are grainy, lack tonal range, and are often underexposed. There's only so much you can do about them.

Another problem with slide collections kept in stacks is keeping them organized despite removing slides with common subject matter from multiple sets. A way to help get them back where they belong is to mark the edges. Start by getting the slides as organized as humanly possible. In the rolls as they were taken, and in order.

Then, using colored marking pens of varying color and width, draw diagonal lines across the bottom edges of the sets. Any slide out of position, or missing, will be readily apparent after this. You can also use wide and narrow black pens to create the equivalent of a bar code system if you want to get really fancy and have the rolls numbered in order.

To keep track of the slides, rather than write on every one, or add captions to the digitized copies, you can use a database program, although a spreasheet is more than adequate.

Digital movie editing software provides new options for displaying the slides. After digitizing the slides, you can import the slides to a video editing program. The program can render the slides into a single file that comprises a slide show. You can select the duration of each slide and what type of transitions separate the slides. With more work you can add commentary, titles and background music.

Once the slides have been processed into a "movie", this can be burned to a DVD. It can also be displayed using an lcd projector. The DVD can be played on computers or DVD players, or the slide show can be run on a tv with a DVD player. With a combo DVD/VCR deck, the show can be copied to VHS tape, so anyone with a VCR can watch the slide show on their tv. The point is that digital technology offers many alternatives from the slide projector and screen routine.

You can learn far more about this on a website called scantips.com

Using the Canoscan 9950F

1. Follow the Quick Start Guide to:

- Install the software. You need only ArcSoft PhotoStudio, ScanGear CS, and the Canon 9950F.

- You may also want to install the on-line manual

- Unlock the knob on the bottom of the scanner

- Hook up the scanner power and usb cables

- Remove the white screen from the inside of the scanner lid.

- Place the slide holder on the scanner glass

2. Start the scanning application

Open /Start / All Programs / Arcsoft PhotoStudio 5.5 / PhotoStudio 5.5

3. Turn on the scanner.

The power button is under the control panel.

4. Preparing slides for scanning

Insert slides in the slide tray.

- You can clean them with a soft artists brush and/or blower first. They say not to blow on them to avoid getting spit on the slides, but probably this applies to droolers only.

- Emulsion, or brand logo side of the slides should be up, and the top of the slide should be oriented toward the back of the scanner.

- Since old slides are very dusty, frequently remove the slide holder and use a soft clean cloth to clean the dust off the glass.

- The scanner numbers the slides starting at the front left, going back through the column, then starting at the front of the middle column. Preview seems to scan them randomly.

5. Open scan sub-program

Select /File /Acquire, and ScanGear CS pops up.

6. Advanced Options

On the panel to the right of ScanGear CS, select the "Advanced" tab

7. Scan settings

Work your way down the selections, choosing:

- Selected Source: Color Positive Film

- Film Size: centmeters

- Color Mode: color

- Output Resolution: your choice, 2400dpi is about 1.2Mb per slide. 4800 yields only slightly more detail, and doubles the scan time and file size.

- Output Size: Flexible, 100%

- Image Settings: I found it best not to use any of the settings, except to turn Unsharp Mask ON.

8. Do a Preview.

If you've already done a scan, it will show the previous preview. Just click on Preview again. You can select which slides to fully scan by checking the boxes. More slides takes more time. At 2400dpi, it takes under 1.5 minutes per slide, and doesn't take any less time just because you can load 12 at once. After you get rolling, you can save time by skipping the preview.

9. Perform the scan.

10. Editing the slides

The slides will appear in PhotoStudio.

- Close the ScanGear CS panel.

- Now you can see if the slides are backwards, or need to be rotated.

- You may wish to save a copy before doing any corrections, just to archive the slide in its present form. Some day, there may be even better restoration tools, which presumably will work better the more intact the image at this stage.

You can use the editing tools now, but it uses less scanner time to scan everything, and edit them later. This approach also allows you to keep both the original and the edited scans.

The most common editing tools are located under /Enhance, and my detailed tests showed post-production manual corrections clearly get better results and lose less detail than the automatic controls in the scan menu (except Unsharp Mask).

These instructions are for the worst old dusty, orange tinted Ektachrome slides. These instructions also do not get into all sorts of very expert stuff like gamma correction and histograms. Too much work for mass preservation.

- First, clean up dust and scratches. Usually they're in the sky, where detail is less important. Use the cursor to block out an area. Then choose /Enhance/Scratch Removal. For bad marks, I've found setting a Threshold of about 3, and a Radius of about 15 works best. For fine dust, a radius of about 6 will lose less detail. OK. Continue blocking out areas with dust, without overlapping subject detail. On subsequent blockings, you can choose /Enhance, and the top choice will be Scratch Removal with the settings you had.

- Choose /Enhance/Color Balance. Sliding the cyan/red bar to about -60 will solve most Ektachrome problems. This replaces the cyan dye which is the most prone to fading. I also slide the green and blue values up to about +12.

- Some slides have turned blue. These need to have the red value boosted, and the blue decreased.

- Choose /Enhance/Hue and Saturation. On some slides adding saturation brightens the color, on some it makes them look garish. The first step with slides that have faded so badly the colors are gone, is to push the saturation up 100% so that you can see the colors you are working with.

- Choose /Enhance/Brightness and Contrast. Some of the preceeding will darken the slide. This will correct it. Most need brightening, which also needs some contrast boost to prevent the slide from looking "milky". Some need decreased brightness, or decreased contrast.

- Generally I try to find something white in the shot, and use the adjustments to restore it to white. If the white is white, most other colors are what they should be. I also optimize the improvements in whatever is the most interesting subject matter in the slide. Providing a blue sky is nice, but not at the expense of the subject matter. Obviously for portrait shots you'd want to simulate flesh tones as closely as possible.

- If for whatever reason you want to retouchup a slide you did earlier, it's better to do a fresh scan than to touchup an image already manipulated. Each editing pass costs some quality.

11. Saving the slides.

You will need to set up a folder structure to store them, plus perhaps a naming/numbering system. Saving as .tif results in files 20 times the size of .jpg, but I've read .jpg's lose some quality every time you further modify and save them. You could just save a copy of the original scan. You can expect to process 12-15 slides per hour if they're really a mess, or up to 50 if they don't need any work.

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Old Sep 13, 2006, 1:35 AM   #2
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Old Nov 16, 2006, 11:47 PM   #3
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I just got a Canon 9950F to scan my slides. Glad I found your post sgspirit, it was a big help! Thanks for sharing.
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Old Nov 17, 2006, 1:08 AM   #4
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I've done over 2000 now. With dusting them, and cataloging them, plus scanning, I was able to do 500-600 a week if I put all my spare time into it. That's at 2400dpi. 4800 would cut that down to 300-350.

I don't know if I mentioned it in the other topic about trouble with the scanner(s), but if you have any trouble at all, download the latest software for the scanner from Canon's website, and install it. I had two problems with my third 9950F, and the new software fixed both of them.
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Old Nov 17, 2006, 3:44 AM   #5
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I am not experiencing any problems. I guess the software I have must be ok, CanonScan Ver. 1.03 .

I have just scanned about 3 dozen 30 year old Kodachrome slides at 1200 dpi. It took about 15 minutes per dozen. They looked good enough on the PC screen, althoughthe colors could stand to be a bit more vivid.

I haven't figured out the Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 program yet. I don't really have much post-processing experience.
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Old Nov 17, 2006, 2:34 PM   #6
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I found the software that came with the camera has complexities beyond what I expect to use, so I didn't need any additional software. I enhance practically every slide I scan, from minor stuff to full-blown recovery of slides so faded it's almost unbelievable how nice they can be made.
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Old Nov 27, 2006, 2:11 PM   #7
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i just ordered the canoscan9950F and will be going through my parents 9 million slides for their 50th.

You did not mention the ICE software that I have read so much about that automatically repairs the slides. In another posting someone said do not even try to scan old slides without ICE. Any ideas or does the canoscan come with this?


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Old Nov 27, 2006, 10:39 PM   #8
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ICE is sort of a brand or trademark name some scanner maker other than Canon uses for their transparency repair software or algorithms.

The 9950 comes with the equivalent, simply called "scratch removal" or something like that. The scratch removal software blurs whatever you use it on, so it's best not to apply it to entire slides. I almost entirely limit use of it to sky portions of the slides, because that's where you see dirt. (Even after cleaning every slide just before it was scanned.)

Trouble with that, is that it's laborious to block rectangles to enclose the sky. Lately I've figured out how to use the freeform draw tool to trace around the boundaries of the sky, and then I can apply scratch removal to it. The scratch removal tool is very controllable, so it pays to experiment with how it works and get used to how to vary it for different flaws.

Even then, if you have tree branches, or power lines across the sky, you'll have trouble not fuzzing or erasing them.

The scanning software also does "auto toning", which fixes the slides to some extent. There are a bunch of other repair tools you can use during the scans. I found they can slow down the scans, which is a problem when you have so many. And they apply to all the slides in a batch, whereas I found practically every slide needs different types and degrees of repair.

I also examined slides after using the various automatic tools, unrepaired versions, and versions I repaired manually, by blowing them up to see which approach retained the most detail.

The result was that the manually repaired slides kept the most detail. This doesn't entirely make sense to me, since both the post-scan and during-scan software repairs should involve doing the same jobs on the slides.

Anyway, try to minimize the number of repair passes, because each of them costs some quality. So if you fix a slide, and decide it isn't good enough, go back to a fresh copy of the scan. Which points out that you should keep a folder of the original scans separate from your repaired versions.

Better from a technical standpoint would be to save the scans as .tif files, but they are enormous. They are not degraded by editing passes.

I'm scanning to .jpg files, at 2400 dpi. I just don't have the time to scan at 4800. It's worth doing the higher resolution if you can stand it, and have enough things to do while the scan batches run.

I suggest practicing scanning and retouching before you get far into the archiving job. I kept finding ways to do things better, which meant I had to go back and rescan or reedit many slides.

The PhotoStudio software has more editing tools than anyone other than a professional would want to learn. I'm still expanding the range of tools I use, and continuing to get better repair results. It's getting to be fairly stunning the results I can pull out of some very faded and discolored slides. I've even used colored transparent brush strokes to conceal those yellow flares you get on slides from the end of the roll, and cut&paste to cover up physical holes in the end of roll shots. If the subject matter makes them worth preserving.
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Old Nov 29, 2006, 7:47 AM   #9
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Thanks so much for the help. I am also wondering about scanning the entire project to an external hard drive. Can I do that? I am going to be scanning the slides out of town on my fathers computer and then I have to bring them home to work on them. Does an external hard drive basically work as a "file"? Thanks again!

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Old Nov 30, 2006, 1:48 AM   #10
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I think you'll be spending a lot of time at your father's place! Yes, once the slides are scanned and saved, they are like any other file as far as moving them around is concerned. Since a slide scanned at 2400dpi into .jpg format will be about 1.2Mb, 100 will be 120Mb. Obviously regular floppy diskettes aren't large enough for this.

(Files scanned into .tif format will be more like 20-40Mb each, as will the scans if you turn on the "fine" option.)

If your father's pc has a drive capable of burning cd-roms or dvd's, you can copy them to discs and take those home. Or you could use an external hard drive. Or a "flash drive" or "memory stick", which is a little memory chip that plugs into a USB port on the computer. Or a card reader, that also plugs into a USB port and accepts various types of memory cards such as you might use in a digital camera.

An external hard drive is overkill for the size of these files unless you also want to use it for long term storage or backup. Sounds like you will have the original scans on both pc's anyway, so that could cover having a backup of the original scans. A flash drive or card reader/memory card of, say, 256Mb, is at the lower end of the capacity/cost range for these gizmos these days. Like in the ballpark of $20.
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