Film Scanning with Color Profiles in VueScan

2013-03-19 19.15.30

Dave from Shoot Tokyo
has been working on his medium-format
film scanning technique
.  I commented
on how I manage scanner and film profiling in VueScan
and he asked for more info.

Someday I may write a general introduction to VueScan, but
for today I am assuming that you have the basics down.  I highly recommend the VueScan
as a starting point.

For slide film (positive) profiling you:

  1. Obtain color
    slide(s) in your film(s) of choice
  2. Scan the color target slide using your scanner (no need
    to save)
  3. Use the Profile Scanner function (it will require
    the data file that came with the target) and save the profile with a
    descriptive name (in case you have multiple scanners and/or films)
  4. Use the resulting profile in the "Color | Scanner
    ICC profile" field to base the color of future scans of this film

This results in slide scans to be very true
to the original as viewed on a light box. 
Of course, if the color cast in the slide is off you will need to correct it later (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.).

For color print film (negative) profiling you:

  1. Obtain color target in your slide film of choice or a printed target
  2. Take a photograph of said target using your film camera
    & negative film of choice under normal lighting.  Use even or diffused mid-day sunlight or flash.
  3. Process and scan the negative film frame with the color
    target (no need to save)
  4. Use the Profile Film function in a similar
    fashion as above, feeding it the data file for the color target you took the
    photograph of
  5. Use the resulting profile in the "Color | Film ICC
    profile" field to base the color of future scans of this film

This results in negative scans to be very neutral and consistent in color. Again, if the color cast was off in the shot to begin with it will still need some correction.

I used my Nikon F6, a macro lens, and a slide copying adapter to shoot a Fuji Provia 100F slide target.  You can probably make use of any camera-lens with decent close focus ability to shoot a printed color target.

Using a neutral target like Provia for profiling Kodak Portra 400 shots produces very natural results. 
I tried a Velvia target for fun (which has very saturated colors) and the resulting profile was wonky and
"not Portra like".

This process is a bit of a hassle to setup, but once you have the profiles in place you can save a lot of time by reducing your "normalizing" color correction work.

UCLA Sprockets

Lomography Sprocket Rocket, Fujifilm Pro 400H

One of my New Year resolutions for 2012 was to streamline my workflow and one step I am experimenting with is out-tasking my scanning.

Scanning film is labor intensive, and believe it or not I still haven’t fully processed my box of shame yet.  However in the last week or two I have processed (backed up, put online, etc.) almost ten rolls of film shot over the holiday season.

I did so by using the scan-during-processing options from both The Darkroom and North Coast Photographic Services labs.  I received back from them both discs of scanned images along with my film and prints.

I love NCPS’s “enhanced” scans, and The Darkroom has done a great job on my Sprocket Rocket images like the one above taken at our alma mater.  Neither is as good as the scans I can achieve with my trusty Nikon 5000, but for online use and small prints they work great!

Later I will compare their scanning services in more detail.  For now here are some things crossing my feeds…

First Fully Scanned Sprocket Rocket Roll


Sprocket Rocket, Fuji Provia 400F

Nice vertical, eh?  This post looks absolutely tiny in comparison.

I managed to scan an entire roll of Sprocket Rocket photos that I took way back in March.  It took me that long to get a flatbed scanner, experiment with full-width scanning techniques, and then settle on one that seems to work well.

Knit Night just occurred in our household here, and with my Dear Sweet Wife and her friends knitting (and crocheting and quilting) away that gave me the opportunity to scan about one-and-a-half rolls full of sprockets.

On top of my Sprocket Rocket roll I also scanned about half a roll that my DSW took with her Blackbird Fly.  We should both feel freer to shoot with these cameras since we can now use their output.

Next up for my blog I hope to make a little section covering my cameras, and eventually other favorite gear of mine.  I have some cool vintage flash units on loan from my father that I will have to photograph before I return them to him.  (I will return them, honest Dad!)

Fortunately for me I have a new addition to my camera collection, one that should see a lot of film passing through it.  See if you can find the clue in this post about what it is.

Six hours left until I need to wake up… ugh, better wrap it up for this night.

How To Scan Sprocket Rocket & Blackbird Fly

Sprocket Rocket, Fuji Provia 400F (in case you couldn’t tell from the code)

I own a Sprocket Rocket, but have had a tough time getting good scans of 35mm strips all the way to the outer edges.

My Nikon LS-5000 film scanner cannot capture into the sprocket holes at all.  I tried using Lomography’s own DigitaLIZA scanning masks with my Epson V700 flatbed scanner, but it turns out they crop some of the outer edges too.  They also were not quite the right height for the V700 to focus properly.

What is the point of exposing over the sprocket holes if you can’t see it all?  I want images taken with this camera to scream “I was taken on film!” at the top of their lungs.

I worked on a new two-step solution this weekend.  I took an extra V700 35mm film strip holder and used my modeling tools (clippers, files, etc.) to remove a middle section of the support.  Then I used Better Scanning’s glass insert to hold the strip flat and in place while allowing for exposure to the edges.

This worked out almost perfectly.  I say almost as the glass insert is ever-so-slightly not wide enough.  If you look closely you can see a bit of its edge making a dark strip in the middle of the film imprinting on top and bottom of the film.

But I am much better off than I was before the weekend.  Now I feel free to fully enjoy my Sprocket Rocket as well as encourage my Dear Sweet Wife to use her Blackbird Fly (which also exposes over the holes) more often.

If you had today off work or school I hope your Labor Day exploits were as fruitful as mine!


The Lita Vietor View

Nikomat FTN, Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5, Nikon Y44 light yellow filter, Ilford HP5 Plus

I am still scanning away, and it is slow going.  Even with simple family shots I cannot resist some cleanup via the Photoshop clone tool to remove some scratches, hot spots, etc. on my film.  For slide film I can use the infrared channel cleanup in Vuescan, but for negative film that isn’t possible so I have to go the manual route.

Infrared cleanup (for scanners and software that support it) is a lifesaver with slide film.  It is kind of like an automatic version of a clone/intelligent heal tool.  By using the infrared channel during the scanning process Vuescan (and other scanning applications that support it) can automatically identify where the emulsion has been scratched, where there is lint/dust, and other disturbances with or on your positive image and then fill in that spot based on surrounding image data.

This can easily save five, ten, fifteen minutes or more per image if you are “detail oriented” like me and like clean images.  I think I spent ten minutes cleaning up the B&W image above (negative, so infrared not possible…).  This is back from the winter by the way, and there is a slight possibility my Dad was actually the photographer as we were passing the Nikomat back and forth.  It was the first roll I put through that camera which has been my favorite classic shooter of late.

Which makes me wonder even more about dr5‘s chrome positive B&W developing process.  They offer their own custom chemistry for your B&W negatives to turn them into B&W positive processed film. This is not unlike good old Agfa Scala, may it rest in peace.  But I am curious to see if their B&W positives can leverage infrared cleanup during the scanning process. That could be a tremendous time saver for B&W shooting!

I think the next roll I will shoot (after my scan fest is finally over) will be a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus destined to pilot my use of the dr5 chrome process.  They say it is their highest volume film type, so it should go well.

Batching It

Nikon N80, Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Provia 100F

No, I am not talking about having to cope with my dear sweet wife and adorable kids being out of town for any time.  I merely meant that my box of shame has finally forced me to investigate the wonders and mysteries of batch scanning.

I have been a big fan of the Vuescan scanning software for quite some time.  It is a 3rd party application which can be used to control nearly any scanner.  I have used it with at least six different scanners over the last ten years or so with great results.  I love it for its straight forward (if detailed laden) interface, consistent usage model across both film and flatbed scanners, and high end features such as color calibration/profiling, multi-pass scanning, and infrared cleanup of slides.

I am usually a control freak and like to tend to each scan one-by-one, but with 18 rolls waiting for my attention I figured it was time to learn to automate!

I was afraid that I would lose some control if I used batch mode, but actually it is more about saving user time than automating.  I enabled Input>Batch Mode>Auto & Crop>Multi Type and started a preview on a cut strip of film with six images.  Vuescan proceeded to perform independent preview scans of all six images.

The beauty is that before performing final scans, Vuescan allowed me to step through each preview and adjust scanning setting for each independently.  I rotated for vertical if needed, set scanner focus point, adjusted crop (though auto was almost always perfect), and even adjust color settings.  Then when I hit scan it executed all six final scans but with their independent settings in place.  This might not have sped up the overall process, but since I could focus on other tasks (like a blog post) during the preview and scanning phases it felt like I was much more productive.

I wish I had tried this before, as you don’t lose any control at all.  And it also makes me seriously want to process slide film as strips for batch scanning rather than mount them since the days of analog slide shows are pretty much over.

Oh, by the way, one down and seventeen left to go…