Digitizing Microfilm Guide: How to Do It Fast & Efficient

by Jesse Spencer | August 5, 2019

How to Maximize Results on Microfilm and Microfiche Digitization Projects

Recent tech advances bring new opportunities for the process of digitizing microfilm, microfiche, and aperture cards.

If you've looked at microfilm, microfiche, or aperture cards, you know that image quality varies, and that imperfections from the original conversion and scratches from use are common.

These defects are no cause for alarm to a human. But imagine the trouble a computer will have when digitizing microfilm for optical character recognition or data extraction! 

This guide covers modern approaches to digitizing microfilm.

First, A Software Decision: 

Native Scanner Software vs. Stand-Alone Software - Which is better for digitizing microfilm?

Learn how the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Digitized over 20 million microfiche and aperture cards in less than one year.

microfilm-digitization-case-study

Download the Case Study!

6 Steps for Efficiently Digitizing Microfilm:

A solution that provides these steps will ensure a high rate of success for your project. 

  1. Scan - This is a user attended activity and is the physical operation of the scanner hardware. 

  2. Sort - This is an automated activity which runs on several computers or servers and digitally sorts raw tiles and organizes them into subfolders by strip.

    This is the point in the process where you'll want to assemble a low-resolution preview of the physical media. 

  3. Detect Frames - This critical point in the digitization is where computer vision is used to find document frames, and flag any strips where documents are not confidently identified.

    Flagged strips will be reviewed by an operator in the next step. This is also the step where inconsistent gutters and lines are discovered. If target sheets are available, use them at this point to help make document identification decisions. 

  4. Verify - This is the second user-attended activity that should only be used to deal with any flagged strips. Operators save an immense amount of time if they only review the problems.

    In fact, for large projects, this step should be performed by multiple operators at the same time. 

  5. Clip Frames - This is another automated step to clip each frame from the master image. Clipping these images gives the software the opportunity to run image processing algorithms to produce high fidelity digital copies. 

  6. Image Processing - One of the most crucial steps is cleaning up digital images to permanently or temporarily enhance the records. Here's where scratches, warping, lines, and boxes are dealt with.

    Temporary fixes are usually geared towards performing better OCR. Permanent fixes are made to ensure human-readability of the digitized microfilm.

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