October 2018 - Memory saviours

Using the latest technology to extract more than ever before from historical documents – this is the mission of Vincent Tan.

    

Vincent Tan is a perfectionist with vision.

As early 1993, this businessman from Singapore was relying on high-quality systems to digitize images. “In those days, our clientèle consisted mainly of museums, libraries and archives which naturally demanded the highest possible quality”, he remembers. His company FotoHub delivered – and customers are still coming today.

Because for more than 150 years, the story of the world was recorded on film; before that, people painted pictures – and even in 2018, there is still undiscovered image material stored in boxes in attics and cellars by the ton. The rise of the digital age began almost 30 years ago. “Back then, we longed for significantly better quality – the technology was still in its infancy in the 90s”, Tan recalls. Even in those days, his dream was not only to give customers digital copies but also better originals.

Technology over the course of time

A vision which initially proved complicated. For a long time, we used a scanner from Durst with which we digitized more than a million images over the course of 18 years. “It was more or less the only option”, Tan remembers. However, cost efficiency and quality were a real problem, he states. And to cap it all, the manufacturer closed down his support. Tan searched for an alternative and came up trumps: a Hasselblad Flexitight X5 drum scanner was used from there on. A complex piece of equipment which posed challenges for the team. “It took one and a half minutes to scan a 35 mm slide, meaning that a maximum of 40 images could be scanned in an hour”, Tan explains.

The problems of efficiency culminated in a dilemma for the businessman: to bid farewell to quality and rely on a faster system or to become too expensive over the long term. “I couldn’t reconcile the first option with my principles, and so it became ever harder to find customers”, he says.

So his ears pricked up immediately when his long-term partner Zeutschel told him about a new scanning system.  “We have been using Zeutschel scanners for scanning books for a long time, and we are very happy with their productivity and quality. Zeutschel is a company for whom perfect results are as important as they are to us”, he remembers. “We are on the same wavelength.” The digitization specialist from Tübingen with over 50 years of experience has also frequently shown itself capable of searching for and finding solutions for genuine challenges. “As a global supplier, Zeutschel was able to offer us the all-round package that we urgently needed”, Tan continues.

Scanner and photo studio for nearly anything

Zeutschel did indeed launch its ScanStudio at just the right time in September 2017:
an all-in-one digitizing solution offering the highest quality.

“The new system bridges the gap between scanning and photo studio applications and therefore combines the best of both worlds. This means we can digitize almost anything – stamps and coins, films and glass negatives, as well as books and large-format originals”, says Jörg Vogler, then CEO of Zeutschel GmbH.

Zeutschel’s ScanStudio is a modular system. It consists of a camera with a digital back from PhaseOne, interchangeable lenses from Zeutschel and an ErogLED lighting system – all incorporated in a solid base. The digital back comes in two versions: with resolutions of 50 or 100 megapixels.

Further components include a light box, image holders for the photo materials as well as the digitization software “OmniScan”. And instead of one and a half minutes, the system now needs a mere two seconds to complete an image.

    

But in spite of the significant increase in efficiency, the focus also remained on the one subject dear to Vincent Tan’s heart. “We took great care during development to ensure that the existing norms and standards for image quality are not just met, but exceeded”, stresses Jörg Vogler. Accordingly, the Zeutschel ScanStudio offers an image quality, which exceeds the provisions of the established digitization guidelines of FADGI, Metamorfoze and ISO-19264-1. And as the work frequently involves historical material, Zeutschel’s ScanStudio dispenses with flashlight, using optimized LED light instead that is operated at a dimmed level with the luminosity only briefly increased for the scan itself.

“It was also particularly important to me that the manufacturer offers good support”, Tan says. Not only does Zeutschel supply the system but it also offers professional support for optimal workflow – also from a technical perspective. “As ScanStudio is designed in a modular fashion, new technological developments can be retrofitted at any time”, Vogler explains.

Details no-one has ever been able to see

“We opted very quickly for the best system around today”, Tan says. Even though the investment looked high at first sight. “We are expected to digitize the exhibits with the highest level of image quality and at the highest possible processing speed.” Customers from the library and archive environment are also increasingly demanding scanning services for transparent materials such as film and slides alongside the digitization of books and other bound documents. “The system can basically do everything.” To date, Tan has scanned around 40,000 film images at 100 megapixels using ScanStudio. The investment has clearly paid for itself; “We are talking a different dimension in efficiency – instead of 40 images, we can digitize up to 600 per hour which allows us to offer very attractive price points”, Tan recounts. This opens up whole new groups of customers, he explains, and even private customers are now interested in securing their archives for the future with Tan.

But much more importantly: the quality is now better than ever before. “Thanks to the enormous dynamic range of PhaseOne, we can extract details from negatives that no-one has ever seen.” This is having a revolutionary effect for museums and historians.

“Our customers are delighted – which means we are now planning to acquire further ScanStudios simply to meet the demand!”

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