One of the great advantages of setting up an Automator Folder Action is that I'm able to work in Aperture, while the scanning takes place in the background. If I'm using a duping setup, I can have an assistant fire the camera and change out the artwork while I watch the images appear in Aperture. I can add caption information, organize the scanned images into separate projects, and even begin editing by adding star rankings to images that stand out as I'm scanning them.
Another great feature with this setup is that I'm able to easily modify my Automator workflow to automatically add pertinent IPTC and keyword information to each batch of scans as I move along. Before each batch, I simply modify the Automator workflow with the new, pertinent IPTC info, and Automator takes care of the rest.
One of the most confusing issues that will come up when you're digitizing a film archive is how to make the connection between your film originals and their digital counterparts. In the same way that Aperture keeps a reference to the location of your digital master file, you'll need to come up with a system that allows Aperture to keep track of where your film original physically exists. This way, the next time you want to make a giant print from one of your negatives or slides, you'll be able to find it, without having to rip apart your closet full of shoe boxes.
Figure 1. You can create custom metadata fields in Aperture.
In Aperture, it's possible to create custom metadata fields. In the metadata inspector area, simply pull up the "Other" tab (down at the bottom) and you can create as many metadata fields as you wish. If you like, you can create a field called Box Number and one called Room Location to describe the physical locations of you film stock.
I personally prefer to use the Source field. Source is a field that is already built into the IPTC. It's also present in the Set IPTC Tags Automator Action.
I find that many of my clients use the Source field to designate the archive in which an image currently resides. Frequently, I have to set the Source field to a certain value for a client. But there's no reason why you can't use the Source field for your own purposes. In fact, what I've done on a few occasions is to set the Source field for my own purposes and then make a duplicate version of the image and reset the Source field (and other fields) to the requirements of my client or stock agency.
Figure 2. The Set IPTC Tags Automator Action allows for easy setting of the source filed on import.
Using the Source field, I came up with a few simple naming conventions that make finding my originals easy.
Here are a few examples:
Note: As mentioned above, the IPTC field Source can be set via the Automator action Set IPTC Tags. If you're using an Automator workflow to import your scanned film into Aperture, you can save some time by setting this field before scanning each roll of film.
Some other IPTC fields, which will come in handy for scanning are: Date Created, Digital Creation Date, Edit Status, Reference Number, and Image Type. You can use these fields as you choose, making your archive more and more robust, or you can create your own custom fields. Just be sure to keep a record of what you do so it all makes sense further down the road. Be sure to be as consistent as possible in your naming and labeling conventions.
Once you've entered your data, you can easily search on these fields using the Query HUD in Aperture. You can also create a custom Metadata View in Aperture so that the fields you use the most for scanning are all present.
Note: When scanning film, the EXIF field called Image Date will be set to the date of the scan and not the date the picture was taken. The scanned date should be placed in the Digital Creation Date field. In order to change the Image Date field, you can use a handy tool called Timeature, downloadable here. If you choose not to use this application, you can enter the real date in the Date Created field. In many cases, you may not know the exact date, but the more information you enter, the better off you'll be down the road. So, for lost dates, enter a "c" for circa, and put in your closest approximation.
Once you've finished the task of scanning or duping your entire film and print archive, imported the images into Aperture, and set all your IPTC fields, you can begin to edit things in Aperture. Utilize all of Aperture's organizational methods, star rankings, Albums and Folders to make your life easier. The next logical step is to go back and make high-resolution scans of your best images. You can do this at home with a scanner like the LS-4000, or send the work off to a lab. Now that everything's labeled and referenced, it should be easy to find the selected images in your closets and attic spaces. Be sure that when you pull your film originals from the current physical location, you create a system so you can put them back where they go. Finally, once you have the high-end scans made of your selected work, be sure to stack them together with their original low-res previews in Aperture. This way, you'll be able to find them all in one place without a problem.
Scanning and duplicating original artwork can be a huge chore, but with Aperture, and a little preplanning, the end result is a flexible and searchable digital representation of your film archive. Your low-resolution previews will be good enough for display on the web or even for making small 4"x6" prints, so you'll always have them handy. Finding your original works of silver and gelatin art will no longer require a day-long venture into your attic's crawl space.
Micah Walter is a freelance photojournalist, writer, and teacher from Washington D.C., and a graduate of the photo tech program at the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York.
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