Digital Imaging Specialist
Pixel Acuity is seeking an experienced Digital Imaging Specialist to join our team. This role will be responsible for quality control and post-processing digital images from collection material from a number of DC-area museums, libraries, and archives.
• Production and processing of digital images from collection material for a number of DC-area museums, libraries, and archives. Using Phase One digital cameras, strobe continuous light, and other imaging equipment.
• Photograph, edit, and implement color and file management standards to digital images, including editing, retouching, color correcting.
• Communicate with Pixel Acuity’s Project managers about imaging requests, send results for feedback and approval, make adjustments as needed and upload final results to server or HD.
• Use Capture One, Photoshop, and other Adobe Suite applications for image capture and postproduction.
• Additional duties as required
Requirements & Qualifications
• Photography and or Cultural Heritage imaging background preferred
• Knowledge of and experience in high-resolution digital capture
• Knowledge of and expertise in Adobe CC Suite and Capture One
• Knowledge of Mac operating system and associated software and hardware
• Highly organized, self-motivated with the ability to work both supervised and unsupervised
• Great communication skills and ability to work with others
• Previous exposure to, and knowledge of working within museums, libraries, and archives
Other Knowledge Preferred
- Knowledge of Imaging Standards
- FADGI, METAMORPHOZE, ISO 19264
- Experience with Golden Thread Analysis Software
- Basic knowledge of Collections Management Systems
- Cultural Heritage Collections Photography
- Analogue Photographic Processes
- Capture One Pro & CH Software
- Phase One iX Systems
- College Level Photographic skills or equivalent experience
- Digital Transitions 101 & 201 Courses
- Full Time
- Hours: 9-5:30 PM, Monday to Friday
Apply via LinkedIn or send your resume & cover letter to email@example.com.
About Pixel Acuity
Pixel Acuity is dedicated to delivering preservation-grade digitization services. We have established a proven track record of successful projects for our clients, from cultural heritage institutions to corporate organizations. Pixel Acuity deploys state-of-the-art technologies and adaptive workflows to achieve your project’s goals, and seamlessly integrate with your institution’s operations. From works of art and natural history to film and archival documents, our team of imaging experts is equipped to take on the challenges of your collection – no matter how diverse.
A Digitization Case Study for Oak Spring Garden Foundation: A Specialized Approach for a Special Collection
Two-page spread from the French Hortus Collection
Over the past year, Pixel Acuity has conducted several digitization projects for Oak Spring Garden Foundation, using our imaging expertise to digitize their trickier special collections of rare manuscripts. As their name might suggest, special collections typically represent the rarest and most extraordinary works in an archival collection. However, these unique and often fragile collections present their own challenges when it comes to digital preservation.
The material in these collections is often frail and brittle and susceptible to damage caused by handling. While the rapid capture digitization approach lends itself well to imaging large collections of similar materials, it can also be adapted to image special collections with materials of varying sizes and conditions. The benefits of digitizing these types of collections are undeniable. Special care and consideration of the material is crucial to the success of any special collection digitization project– something our team at Pixel Acuity prides itself on.
A digitization technician with a hand-drawn landscape from the Oak Spring Garden Foundation collection
OSGF is committed to serving the public interest by facilitating scholarship and public dialogue on horticulture and the history and future of plants through the gifts of Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon’s estate and gardens. The Oak Spring Garden Library holds over 19,000 unique objects, including rare books, manuscripts, and paintings. Most of which relate to horticulture, landscape design, botany, architecture, and the decorative arts.
Rare and specialized collections like these provide essential historical and cultural context for scholars within a broad range of disciplines. OSGF is currently undergoing a massive project to digitize large categories of its collection.
As a result, for the first time in its history, many of Bunny Mellon’s rare books and manuscripts are in the process of being made digitally available on the library’s catalog and, more broadly, on World Cat. Thus, allowing worldwide access to OSGF’s rare and unique collections. Additional information about the ongoing digitization efforts, and access to the online catalog, are available on the website.
While working to build their digitization program and collection of digital assets, Oak Spring Garden Foundation reached out to Pixel Acuity to digitize some of their more fragile written works and volumes. The scope of these projects has consisted of several rare horticultural books in French and English, large architectural and landscape design books, maps, and atlases in varying conditions due to age and use. Along with capturing digital images of these works at the highest quality to ensure that every etching and detail is conveyed, the Pixel Acuity team adapted their workflows to deal with each condition, type, and size of material.
A digitization technician with a two-page spread from Les Plaisirs
While the rapid capture digitization method emphasizes streamlining and efficiency, it can be difficult to apply to special collections due to their varying conditions and scope. Many of these delicate types of volumes can be difficult to digitize due to the fact that their bindings are too fragile or tight for the book to lie flat at 180 degrees–which is the angle that is most used for flatbed or traditional scanning methods.
Within some of these landscape and architectural books, there were also drawings and etchings that spread over two pages but were affixed to a single supporting piece, which needed to be manipulated to avoid gutter shadow and distortions of the drawings (see figures A and B).
Solutions & Successes
To determine the best approach for each collection that we received from the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, our experienced team undertook a discovery phase to determine the best equipment and workflows for each type of material, combatting each challenge that could arise.
In order to digitize some of the books with tighter bindings or frailer spines, we used the DT V-Cradle, which holds the book nestled at an 80-degree angle so that neither page was fighting gravity and there was no undue pressure on the books’ pages and spines.
The DT Versa enabled our team to digitize two-page spreads with ease. By implementing the two-platten system and conservation-friendly glass top to keep the affixed page level, and using minimal handling we protected the pages throughout the digitization process.
While special collections do require a certain amount of adaptability, the rapid capture approach is still faster and more efficient than traditional scanning methods for the material. By using this approach, we were able to capture high-resolution, preservation-grade digital images encompassing every detail in a fraction of a second. By applying our rapid capture digitization expertise and DT Heritage’s’ state of the art equipment, we were able to safely and efficiently digitize several special collections for the Oak Spring Garden Foundation.
Ready to work together?
Contact our expert staff below
A wildflower illustration from the Wildflowers of Georgetown DC
Digital Transitions History
Digital Transitions was founded in 2003 with the goal to help professional photographers achieve their creative vision with the absolute best hardware and service in the industry. With this goal in mind, we grew beyond being a basic “camera store” into a multi-divisional, multi-disciplinarian digital imaging resource leader.
Our Division of Cultural Heritage launched in 2005 to serve the library, museum, and archives communities with innovative new products designed by our internal R&D team specifically with cultural heritage professionals in mind. Over time, we’ve expanded our offerings outside of hardware and software solutions to include our popular Project Lemonade webinar series, growing knowledge resource center, industry-leading training, and networking events(like our upcoming Round Table.)
In 2019, we acquired our service division Pixel Acuity, further expanding our offerings to the cultural heritage community. With an in-house team of imaging experts and state-of-the-art equipment, we’re able to solve any digitization problem that comes across your desk while fitting seamlessly into your existing workflow.
Expansion With Cultural Heritage
As we expanded in size, product scope, and knowledge leadership, our identity should expand with it. Each of our divisions has unique offerings, and until now, they’ve held unique identities. We want to make it easier for our community to understand how our divisions work together to bring you the best possible imaging solution. To achieve this, we’ve unified our brand identity across each of our divisions and implemented a brand new (and easier to navigate) portal page.
REDEFINING TECHNOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE OF IMAGING
Digital Transitions Heritage:
DT Heritage is the leading designer and manufacturer of digitization solutions including advanced copy systems, revolutionary scanning platforms, and sophisticated automation software for your collections. Using our diverse backgrounds in engineering, photography, conservation, and collections management, we provide custom solutions to enhance productivity without sacrificing image quality.
Our worldwide client base of top-tier institutions makes us the authority on Heritage Digitization.
Pixel Acuity is dedicated to delivering preservation-grade digitization services. We have established a proven track record of successful projects for our clients, from cultural heritage institutions to corporate organizations. Pixel Acuity deploys state-of-the-art technologies and adaptive workflows to achieve your project’s goals, and seamlessly integrate with your institution’s operations.
From works of art and natural history to film and archival documents, our team of imaging experts is equipped to take on the challenges of your collection – no matter how diverse.
Digital Transitions Photo:
DT Photo brings industry-leading photographic solutions to the world’s most discerning photographers. With best-in-class technology and a team of dedicated experts, we set the standard for digital medium format photography. Whether you’re looking to own, rent, or need support and training – we’ve got you covered.
It’s not about affording the best equipment, it’s about being afforded the best experience.
While our brand identity may look a little different, we still bring the same passion for excellence and making the customer experience top-priority that allowed us to grow to this point in the first place. We’re looking forward to growing with our existing community and welcoming new professionals into our world of digitization.
If you have any questions about how we can help you find the right digitization solution, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 23, 2021 | by Hannah Storch
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has great implications for cultural heritage preservation. Gathering metadata for a collection can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, often involving the individual knowledge and experience of one person. Without this identifying descriptive metadata, valuable information can be lost and collections can remain incomplete. AI can be used as part of a metadata workflow to reduce the cost and tediousness of enriching a collection with enhanced metadata records.
Along with creating digital preservation-grade derivatives and deliverables, DT PixelFlow can use artificial intelligence to describe an item’s material, text, and image content. This type of descriptive data extraction allows not only for the leveraging of existing assets but also for the salvaging of descriptive metadata information before it, or the context required to create it is lost to time and memory.
While the material type is a common metadata field, it is often automatically generated with more generic information, such as text or film. By implementing AI analysis, DT PixelFlow has the ability to automatically suggest the material type and item categories with greater depth of detail. This is a capability we are currently developing and exploring as part of the PA ArCHER Grant with Smithsonian Center for Folklife and our partners RIVERai. The goal is to have DT PixelFlow automatically determine the types of documents, such as pieces of correspondence or legal briefs, and then further categorize them into groups such as memos, contracts, or letters. Learn more about the PA ArCHER Grant and its progress here.
We are very excited to explore this capability with other institutions and collections. If you have a collection you think would benefit from large-scale automatic material-type description using AI, with human QC, please contact us.
Along with providing Optical Character Recognition (OCR), DT PixelFlow is able to provide a deeper analysis of the text and written content of an image to provide valuable contextual information. By using entity extraction, DT PixelFlow provides context to information that might otherwise seem like unconnected data, such as recognizing an address, formulaic greeting, or date from a string of numbers and text. Similarly, this type of entity analysis can find known entities such as proper names, which could enable an institution to successfully search for and gather together all of the images relating to a particular person or place.
DT PixelFlow’s AI analysis is not only able to recognize and transcribe the text within an image but also understand the conveyed sentiment and style of the text, interpreting the emotions, such as positive and negative or happy and sad, behind them.
These kinds of deeper analyses are set up on a project-by-project basis to ensure the analysis is relevant to the collection, the institution, and the stakeholders of the results. If you think your collection might benefit from AI analysis of the structure, content, or sentiment of the OCR’d text, please contact us for a consultation and we’ll help you understand what is possible and, just as importantly, what is practical.
Artificial intelligence can identify objects and individuals inside of photographic or pictorial collections. With digital records, if this information is not extracted, cataloged, and linked to the image, this descriptive information can be lost to volume – obscured by the sheer scale of images one might have to look through manually to find given content. We can provide object detection and/or face detection in DT PixelFlow. This enables us to isolate and identify objects that are both in the foreground and less prominent in images.
DT PixelFlow also has the ability to identify and categorize general objects, locations, and information using keywords. This information can be general or tied to a specific institution or collection. For example, keywords for a collection of slides belonging to a natural history museum could have more refined and accurate metadata with keywords pertaining to that particular type of collection, location, or scientific study. Within the image, DT PixelFlow is able to recognize and extract both big depictions and small details, from the recognition of landmark features to facial features and human emotion. If there are specific individuals of interest, we can even train DT PixelFlow to automatically identify the faces.
Once the descriptive metadata has been derived through AI analysis, it can be packaged in many different formats to make it more accessible to the user and institution. After it has been interpreted, the information can be embedded into the final image file, ensuring that the data is always linked to the image and that they can be updated together in the future, or output in other formats. For usability, this descriptive data could also be generated in a txt file, document format, or included in a new or existing spreadsheet. To learn more about how to make the most of your metadata, check out our recent metadata article.
Traditionally the accumulation of descriptive metadata has been a specialized as well as a tedious and labor-intensive process. With AI analysis and application, Pixel Acuity is able to maintain a high level of accuracy while increasing efficiency and accessibility, and as needed we can leverage our highly skilled staff to provide human QC on top of the automatic detection provided by our AI Combining our in-house software, our experience in cultural heritage collections, and our talented team, we are now able to assist in the preservation of collections through descriptive categorization and contextualization derived from AI research and analysis as well as digital surrogacy.
Contact us to learn more about our digital imaging services and how we can bring artificial intelligence to your workflow.
February 18, 2021 | by Hannah Storch
For years, Pixel Acuity has been at the vanguard of cultural heritage imaging. Automations and advances in technology have allowed us to explore the limitless possibilities of digitization solutions and revolutionized the way that we approach cultural heritage collection digitization. By capturing images using RAW rapid capture and utilizing our DT PixelFlow software to automate derivative generation, output directory structures, and deliverable packaging, we are able to make digital image processing and packaging more efficient and effective than ever before, allowing our team to focus on delivering the highest quality product to our clients.
RAW Rapid Capture Derivative Generation
Using rapid capture digitization software and equipment, Pixel Acuity’s digital imaging technicians are able to capture an image in a RAW format. This enables us to preserve all of the information recorded by the sensor at the time of capture and does not require compression, which would result in a loss of image information. By working with RAW files and using advanced cultural heritage imaging software, the digital imaging technician is able to alter settings such as sharpening or cropping and set parameters for usage without making changes to the underlying data in the RAW file.
This type of RAW digitization increases efficiency as it allows for the use of RAW files for capture, editing, and quality control, resulting in a much faster workflow than that typical of most traditional scanning systems, which directly create TIFFs or JPEGs. With RAW rapid capture and the addition of the automated DT PixelFlow, we are able to produce a vast array of derivatives from this RAW image, not solely tiffs or jpegs.
DT PixelFlow has allowed us to automate much of this final stage of processing and derivative file generation and packaging, making it faster, more efficient, and more effective. PixelFlow enables us to produce a wide array of file types, color profiles, and additive metadata, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and file validations.
We work with our clients to determine exactly what deliverables they want and how they should be delivered. Just like a restaurant, we have an extensive menu of options and we help them select from those menus, offering our own experience and suggestions but of course always deferring to their preference; we can even take “off-menu” orders, customizing a new option just for them.
Deliverable files for cultural heritage imaging can be categorized into those intended for preservation and those intended for access files. The nomenclature our clients use for these two kinds of files can vary – we would refer to the first as Preservation Digital Objects but some clients prefer Preservation Master files or other terminology. Preservation Digital Object files are created at high to maximum capture specifications and may capture additional information about the original beyond the content itself, such as further details about the image like embedded metadata.
These Preservation Digital Object files are created to such a high standard that they could essentially take the place of the original material. For that reason, these Preservation Digital Object files often do not undergo significant processing or editing and can be used by the client to make other copies for reproduction or distribution. For these Preservation Digital Object files, the standard is to receive either 8-bit/16-bit tiffs or raw files, which our PixelFlow script is able to generate in an edited (fully cropped and deskewed), partially-edited (cropped to include an ISA object-level color target), or fully-unedited (not cropped or deskewed) preservation master file.
The very thing that makes a Preservation Digital Object (aka Preservation Master File) valuable is its very high quality and lossless compression, which is also what makes it less practical for most access purposes. Access files can be used for web viewing or sent out as they are for online reproduction or to scholars for research. Using DT PixelFlow, we are able to expand our offering beyond JPEGs and PDFs, to include a standard JPEG, an 8-bit JPEG 2000, a 16-bit JPEG 2000, a PDF, and an ISO-standardized format PDF/A, which is more specialized for use in the archiving and long-term preservation of electronic documents. These types of files are currently available using DT PixelFlow, but our repertoire is constantly expanding and can include derivatives beyond these upon request.
File Validation Packaging and Directory Structures
DT PixelFlow can also offer various forms of delivery validation. Checksum file validations act as a list of a folder’s contents and ensure deliver completeness while JHOVE validation, which provides format-specific identification, validation, and characterization of digital objects, acts not only as a list of items within a specific folder or delivery but also as confirmation that the file is a correct version of its purported file format. PixelFlow can generate these two methods as well as BAGIT and other forms of file packaging and validation, which can ensure that there are no corrupt files, missing folders, or incomplete deliveries.
File packaging can vary based on the needs of the institution. Some clients prefer a specific hierarchical structure that adheres to their internal organizational structures or Digital Asset Management System (DAMS), while others prefer a structure broken down by file type.
For instance, during one of a client institution’s artist collection projects, we developed a directory structure that would best work for their DAMS ingest needs. In this case, the delivery was organized with an overarching parent folder for the collection/artist’s name and then further broken down by box, folder, and then individual items. This enabled the client to see items grouped together within their folders and boxes while keeping separate each item so that they could view sketches, sketchbooks, and art materials as unique items as well as holistically within the collection.
DT PixelFlow is able to comply with any and all directory structures and our technical team assists our clients to define these in advance.
Capability and Customization
DT PixelFlow allows us to automate time-consuming processing steps and tailor file deliveries and directories to the needs of our clients. These derivatives and deliverables are just the tip of the iceberg for DT PixelFlow capabilities and client customization. To learn more about the potential of PixelFlow, check out our other articles about Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and metadata generation. Learn more about our cultural heritage imaging services here.
January 21, 2021 | by Hannah Storch
For cultural heritage professionals, metadata provides invaluable descriptive information about an object or resource, but it is also time-consuming to accumulate. Creating and maintaining metadata for a collection is an integral part of taking cataloging one step further and creating a digital collection. Metadata provides context for an item within a collection and can either be embedded in the digital file at or after the time of creation or maintained in a centralized location such as a database, DAM, CMS, or spreadsheet. Using RAW rapid capture imaging with metadata embedding capabilities and DT PixelFlow, Pixel Acuity has been able to automate much of the metadata creation process and create workable metadata formats for institutions. This helps us both reduce the cost of, and increases our accuracy and flexibility in, providing metadata services.
For the purpose of institutions such as libraries and archives, metadata can be categorized into four basic types: administrative, descriptive, preservation, and technical. Administrative metadata provides the provenance context information necessary to understand the information resources, such as past ownership and from where the resource came. Descriptive metadata describes a resource, its context, and identifying characteristics so that people can locate and search for the asset using subjects and keywords. Preservation metadata is the conservation information that can be used to protect the original resource from deterioration or degradation. Finally, technical metadata is the information about the digital file that can allow the resource to be identified. When collecting metadata, institutions are faced with limited resources for staff, time, and funding, often having to choose between feasible or “good enough” metadata and comprehensive metadata. We, at Pixel Acuity, are able to use our DT PixelFlow scripting to alleviate some of the burdens of that choice, offering options for embedding and generating metadata to create and enhance institutional records.
DT PixelFlow Metadata Capabilities
Since technical metadata is information about the digital asset that is created during the collection imaging process, we are able to capture that information and embed it in the file derivatives themselves. Embedding this information ensures that it will not be lost, automatically links the data and the metadata, and ensures that the image and the metadata will be updated together. Typically this information is linked with the TIFF derivative file after being captured in the RAW but with DT PixelFlow we are able to embed it in almost all derivative formats including TIFFs, JPEGs, PDFs, and PDF/As. Technical metadata information can also be extracted and put into a spreadsheet, which can simplify data management and facilitate search and retrieval. Using DT PixelFlow we are able to generate spreadsheets containing this information in multiple formats, including Dublin Core, based on client preference in order to facilitate data retrieval and storage in accordance with their own institution’s Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) or collection information storage/organization type.
Along with creating spreadsheets and ingesting metadata, DT PixelFlow can be used to enrich existing records or create a more holistic record, combining information from original inventories and documents with new information obtained at the time of capture and digital content creation. This includes the generation of basic descriptive metadata such as an object type or category, transcription of annotations on an item or its container/folder/box, and non-subjective evaluations such as page count. More advanced descriptive metadata information can require both organization-specific and subject-specific expertise. While it is not possible for us to offer such subject-specific expertise for every collection that we digitize, we are able to utilize and enhance records created by specialists. If a client is able to provide us with an inventory with existing information, such as an inventory spreadsheet or an XML format of a finding aid, we can extract information from that format and create a new record, with that information as well as the technical information about the digital asset obtained during the imaging process. This allows us to combine records to give a more comprehensive understanding of a resource, its place within a collection, and how it relates to the digital asset.
Case Study Featuring Metadata Mastery
Using our DT PixelFlow scripting, we are able to automate the often arduous processes of metadata embedding and creation, minimizing cost and labor for the institution and allowing it to focus on other aspects of digital collection creation. In just one example, prior to digitization, one of our clients had a cataloging inventory with folder-level descriptive information that listed the location information for the assets, such as box and folder number, as well as descriptive information including title, dates, location, collection, and series. Not only were we able to use our tools to embed that information into the files, effectively linking the original object to the digital asset, but we were also able to generate information about the filename of the digital asset, the number of assets for each folder, and generate checksum lists and titles for each folder. This additional information was added to the original inventory, giving a more holistic view of the original item and the digital asset within the collection and linking the two within our client’s DAMS.
Artificial Intelligence & Metadata
Pixel Acuity is also at the forefront of leveraging artificial intelligence to assist metadata workflows. We are working with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (recipient of our DT ArCHER Grant) to evaluate the effectiveness and accuracy of these methods. This effort deserves its own article, which we will publish later this year. For now, we can say that we don’t expect AI to be a magic wand that replaces expertise, experience, and careful execution, but we do expect it will be an enormously useful tool.
While metadata generation can be costly in terms of time, labor, and resources, it is crucial to capturing the context of items within a digital collection. Metadata is what allows scholars and researchers to search a collection for specific information and allows registrars, cataloguers, and collections managers to organize their data and collection information. With DT PixelFlow automation, we are able to effectively and efficiently assist our clients to have integrated metadata records, so that they do not have to sacrifice quantity or quality.
Ready to Learn More About Mastering Metadata?
We can help your next project be a breeze! Learn more about DT PixelFlow, project planning, additional services, and pricing by contacting us here.
January 21, 2021 | by Kate Stone
The Pixel Acuity team was recently selected for an international digitization project by The National Archive of Estonia, in which we will digitize a collection of approximately 100,000 pieces of film and glass plate transmissive materials. The collection was amassed from several collections and cultural heritage institutions around Estonia and we will be imaging the location at two different sites within the country, producing high-quality, preservation-grade, FADGI 4 star images.
Eric Philcox, Founder of Pixel Acuity, recently made his way there and we’re logging his travels here! Stay tuned for a final video reel showcasing the trip!
Traveling For International Digitization
Even during an international pandemic, we were able to make the appropriate arrangements to get our staff and equipment to Estonia – safely, and within guidelines of both the United States and Estonia. All digitization will be executed on-site, and we’ll be able to work on all the post-processing remotely from the cloud at one of our offices in the United States.
January 21, 2021: Eric has arrived safely in Estonia and is taking the appropriate safety precautions before the start of the project.
January 26, 2021: Eric toured the National Archives of Estonia which is housed in a former Soviet-era prison.
Prior to digitization, the glass plate negatives for our digitization project with the National Archives of Estonia require care and cleaning.
February 2, 2021: We have set up a DT Atom equipped with a Phase One iXG and begun digitizing film for the National Archives of Estonia.
April 8, 2021: As begin the month of April, our imaging professionals have shot over 63,000 pieces of film and almost 6000 glass plates in Tallinn! We’ve been transported through time with some beautiful portraits from the Photo Museum of Tallinn City, excavations from the Tallinn University Archeological Collection, and even Estonian art exhibits from the Estonian Art Museum!
May 8, 2021: Our International Digitization Project Continues in Tartu, Estonia!
Ready To Work Together?
We’re prepared to take on your digitization project no matter your location. Contact us here for more information on project planning, services, and pricing.
December 10, 2020 | by Hannah Storch
Preservation grade film scanning is no simple task, and it becomes considerably more complex in mass digitization projects with large collections. Transmissive materials (a catch-all term used to collectively refer to film, glass plates, and any other media designed to be viewed in front of a light source) present many obstacles in handling and imaging not found with reflective media, and there are other considerations in terms of digitization method and final image rendering. Pixel Acuity has spent the better part of a decade perfecting film scanning workflows that optimize efficiency, fulfill each client’s unique goals, and conform to the highest image quality standards.
Film collections are often in a delicate physical state and are susceptible to many types of physical deterioration. Film can degrade in many ways: delaminating, becoming brittle, distorting, and fading to name just a few. All of these factors result in the need for conservation-grade handling and extra attentive care during imaging, especially during rapid capture in mass digitization efforts.
Because film must be handled with the utmost care, digitization workflows frequently require additional staff beyond an imaging technician/photographer, and once the film has been imaged, there are still many decisions to make regarding the presentation of the film, all of which require in-depth knowledge of software settings, workflows, and processing steps. Clients may want film presented as it appears to the eye, or want negative items converted into positive images and positive images color corrected.
At Pixel Acuity, our team of experts uses their extensive knowledge and experience to resolve these issues and create the highest-quality preservation-grade digital surrogates.
In order to provide the best care possible for the film during the digitization process, Pixel Acuity follows the same conservation principles that are used for in-person viewing. All working surfaces are cleaned on a regular basis and the trained object handlers handle the material with care and wear conservator-approved gloves.
In order to minimize potential damage or scratching of the emulsion of the film, Pixel Acuity uses film carriers, such as the Digital Transitions (DT) magnetic or glass carriers, that make minimal or no contact with the emulsion (pictured above). These carriers also help deal with physically distorted material, hand-cut film, and materials of differing thickness, such as glass plates and lantern slides.
Over years of working in the cultural heritage imaging space, Pixel Acuity has perfected imaging workflows for film, moving quickly, efficiently, and safely through the digitization process. By implementing these workflows, we are able to digitize transmissive material at an unparalleled rate, imaging approximately 2,500 35mm slides or 3,200 strips of film a day.
Using our extensive knowledge base, Pixel Acuity’s skilled imaging technicians are able to render film according to the client’s specifications and needs: either object reproduction, content reproduction, or speculative artist’s rendering.
Object reproduction imaging is a faithful reproduction of the entire physical object, as it would appear to the eye on a light table.
Content reproduction involves producing a human-readable version of the image contained within the object, for example, a negative converted to a positive image, or a contrast adjusted version of a faded positive image. Color negative conversion is a particularly challenging task, with no one-size-fits-all solution. However, Pixel Acuity has developed several proprietary conversion methods born from extensive research and experience in the darkroom that provide excellent positive “print” image files from color negatives of all types.
A speculative artist’s rendering involves more creative license and agency on the part of the imaging technician as they attempt to recreate the image as they imagined the artist would have wanted their final product to look. This rendering method can produce final images that counteract the effect of years of age on the film itself and produce an image that is reminiscent of how the original film was most likely intended to look. For this type of bespoke imaging work, Pixel Acuity works with clients to research how the artist might have wanted the image represented to ensure accuracy in the alterations.
We Can Help With Your Collection
Pixel Acuity’s extensive experience in digitizing transmissive materials, our knowledgeable object handlers and photographers on staff, and our use of the latest imaging equipment and technological tools in the industry makes us one of the leading authorities on film scanning.
Working with collections around the world, for institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution, The Getty, and so many others, Pixel Acuity has created digitization workflows that combat the challenges of such a potentially tricky material while optimizing efficiency, quality, and preservation.
To learn more about how Pixel Acuity and Digital Transitions can help you with digitization services, software, and consultations, please contact us.
Looking for more film scanning resources? Check out this new Film Scanning Knowledge Center by DT Cultural Heritage here.
Glass plate negative (right) picturing Abraham Lincoln was taken by Mathew Brady and was digitized by Pixel Acuity for the National Portrait Gallery.
At The Phillips Collection Archive
November 19, 2020 | by Hannah Storch
Pixel Acuity has offered the cultural heritage community unparalleled imaging and digitization services for the better part of a decade. Recently, we have added new automations and related offerings to our repertoire. One of the most impactful innovations in Cultural Heritage imaging technology has been the ability to use the next-generation Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in our DT PixelFlow software to turn typed and handwritten documents into searchable text. Pixel Acuity is now not only able to generate the highest quality digital images for cultural heritage collections but also to create searchable texts for the researchers and scholars who access these collections, revolutionizing the way that they conduct research.
The Phillips Collection Archive
One of our ongoing projects that leverages DT PixelFlow’s OCR capabilities is our project with The Phillips Collection Archive in Washington, DC. The Phillips Collection houses modern and contemporary art, while The Phillips Collections Archive contains materials pertaining to the museum’s founding director, Duncan Phillips, and his wife Marjorie. The Archive holds materials documenting the purchase of important pieces of modern and contemporary art from the 1920s to present acquisitions. The current project consists of digitizing approximately 100,000 personal photographs and correspondence, pamphlets, and documents relating to the family and their work with various directors, artists, and galleries. By using DT PixelFlow’s OCR capabilities, The Phillips Collection Archive is able to transform their collection of typed and hand-written material into fully-searchable documents.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Application and Process
For our project with The Phillips Collection Archive, we are able to implement our OCR technology to create two different types of readable and searchable text files from our digital images – PDF/As and .txt files. We start by capturing the highest-quality and most consistent images of the material – the better the input the better the output – so we surpass preservation-grade digitization standards such as Metamorfoze-strict, FADGI 4-star, and ISO 19264 using RAW rapid capture photography to capture digital images. This enables us to preserve all of the information recorded by the camera sensor at the time of capture without applying compression or losing any information.
Once all of the images have been captured in the RAW format, they are ready to be run through DT PixelFlow in order to create the OCR’d derivatives. Due to our modern machine-learning approach, we are able to generate highly-accurate OCR’d text in multiple languages and output formats. We also have the flexibility to create a controlled, topic-specific vocabulary, depending on the needs of the collection, which can be used to further increase the specificity and accuracy of the resulting text.
The resulting data learned during the machine OCR process is then encoded into an hOCR file, which can then be converted into the deliverables requested by the client. Our unique approach enables us to offer a wide range of deliverables, including but limited to, PDF, PDF/A, a METS/ALTO sidecar xml, and txt files.
Derivatives and Deliverables
Since The Phillips Collection Archive aims to make the documents and correspondence of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips more accessible to researchers and scholars, they have opted for both PDF/As and txt files. The PDF/A format layers the OCR’d text over the image of the object and produces a document that researchers can use to search on their own devices and see matches in their original visual context, in the document itself (examples of typed and handwritten applications are pictured above). The txt file (one example is pictured right) extracts the text from the image and creates a separate file format, which can be utilized by other institutional systems such as text-analysis tools or word-cloud generators. The choice of these OCR’d deliverables, along with highest-quality preservation-grade digital images, will allow researchers to delve deeper into The Phillips Collection Archive and learn more about the history of the Museum and the relationships that formed its foundations. While it may have taken hours of painstaking research to further explore the relationship between the Phillips Collection and The American Federation of the Arts, with a simple keyword search, a researcher can now find all of the documents, both typed and handwritten, pertaining to the Federation or The Phillips with a click of a button.
It is opportunities and projects like these that allow Pixel Acuity, as a company, to innovate new workflows and adapt new technologies to give our clients the best possible digitization services and imaging experience. We continue to promote advancements, such as machine-learning-powered OCR, within the cultural heritage community because, the bottom line is that the best deserves the best.
To learn more about how Pixel Acuity and Digital Transitions can help you with digitization services, software, and consultations, please contact us.
Pixel Acuity is proud to announce DT PixelFlow 2.0 OCR. It’s a game changer for the OCR of challenging historic collections such as faded handwritten correspondence, early printed material with esoteric typefaces, and manuscript material written in cursive. Cultural Heritage institutions have long complained of subpar results from the legacy OCR applications because they were designed primarily for the modern office material context. We’ve built our next-gen OCR workflow that leverages AI and a proprietary multi-variant processing pipeline, yielding best-in-class OCR results at a very competitive price. We’ve even closed the loop on quality control by building our own cloud-based OCR QC platform CloudFlow and can provide remote access to your work-from-home employees to aid in the correction and approval of the resulting text.
Contact us to for more information on how we can implement DT PixelFlow into your upcoming project!