Image Capture and Collection

What is everyone doing with all those cheap cameras out there?  Daniel Reetz noted that digital cameras have become cheaper than textbooks!  Very cheap cameras can change the world (not always in ways we desire!)  Cameras have always defined the aesthetic of our memories.  The aging of photos has aged our memory of past times.  The problem with cheap cameras is that they take poor pictures because of the need to keep production costs low.  They contain internal software to correct the results of the optics, so photos are processed to appear sharper than they really are.  Those pictures will one day comprise the archives of our times.  The potential for personal archiving is unbounded if imaging efforts are focused on more useful activities than simple photo retouching or changing the colors of lawns and skies to make them more appealing to consumers.   Reetz has used camera technology to build a low-cost do-it-yourself book scanner that uses cheap cameras and free software to scan books quickly and efficiently.  (See an article in Wired magazine for details and photos.)

Dwight Swanson

Dwight Swanson described some of the activities of the Center for Home Movies (CHM).  The Center’s mission is to “collect, preserve, provide access to, and promote understanding of home movies and amateur motion pictures.”  Regional film archives have put time and effort into making home movies available, but none of the existing ways of archiving are adequate for long-term access, so there are relatively few home movies online.  Part of the reason for this is because there are very few film transfer companies serving the general public, and thus our understanding of them is limited.

CHM is working to increase the availability of home movies and has organized a Home Movie Digitization and Access Summit.  The first Summit was in September 2010 at the Library of Congress’s campus in Culpeper, VA.  It drew 46 attendees–film makers, film transfer companies, and stock footage vendors and considered the following questions:

  1. A taxonomy for home movies.  The Library of Congress asked the Center to develop such a taxonomy.
  2. Cataloging and description issues.  How do home movies differ from other collections?
  3. Legal issues.  Terms of use, privacy, rights issues of orphan films.
  4. Technical issues.  Comparison of film digitization systems, recommended standards.
  5. Uses and users.  Why do home movies matter?  What is the current state of scholarship?  Who is using home movies and what are they looking for?
  6. What is the role of the Film Collectors’ Community and how can they be engaged?

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Rich Gibson

Rich Gibson spoke about the Gigapan Project, which produces highly detailed panoramic images.  A “gigapan” is a way to capture such multiple images, software to stitch them together, and a website for viewing them.   The website gives users free accounts to share their and is a community for sharing GigaPixel imagery.  An uploader, currently under development and expected to become available in August, will provide users with an easy way to upload their images, and a “GigaPan Stitcher” will also be available to allow them to create the panoramas from individual images.

GigaPan images will change the way we see the world.  Our world is a set where we live our lives and is a museum for the artifacts we collect.  We archive because things change.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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