Archive for April, 2007

Plus-X Rocks

I scanned some old b&w film the other day and was surprised at how cool it came out. Sure, you can desaturate a digital camera pic in Photoshop, but I still prefer good old b&w reversal film. Maybe it’s the grain. BTW, these shots were taken w/ a red filter on a Yashica Electro GSN rangefinder.

Photo 1
Photo 2

2 comments April 11th, 2007

The Optigan Project Update II

Another update to pass along regarding the Optigan Project: I have contacted TIS here in Portland about scanning my discs at a higher resolution and they quoted me a price of $15.00 a scan, which is kind of pricey. The guy behind the counter did bring up the issue of copyright, which I hadn’t really thought about since the discs haven’t been in production for over 30 years, but it did make me wonder about the legality of making copies. The original tapes are now in the possession of Pea Hicks of Optiganally Yours, so I emailed him about reproduction. Here is Pea’s response.

“I’ll have a look at your blog in detail later, but be aware that I and others have tried for 10+ years to devise a scheme to reliably produce workably accurate copies of Optigan discs, to no avail. Even the guy who was in charge of making the originals basically said you could not mass produce them using, essentially, photo-copying technology (digital or otherwise). The primary culprit is the center hole registration. The original disc images were copied in a *photo* lab, registered to a pre-existing center hole, which guaranteed the alignment of the disc image within an acceptable tolerance. Punching out the center hole after the fact sounds simple enough, but even a hair off, and you’ve got a disc that does not play like an original does. Sure, you can get better quality control by punching the center holes out one-by-one, by hand, but that’s going to be tedious, and will also produce a certain percentage of duds because of the low tolerances.”

“Scanning and printing as you’re suggesting is essentially bound to failure, and the scanning and printing process is not accurate enough to produce a perfectly round replica of the original. The resolution issue is also a serious problem - I have the math somewhere, but we calculated at one point that the resolution needed to accurately reproduce some of the frequency content is more or less beyond the scope of even high-end office scanning/printing machines. I have scans of all the discs at 1200 dpi, and they’re not sufficient to produce good copies.”

“I’ve also had other try to tackle the ‘make a new Optigan disc image’ project over the years. One guy got really far along, to the point of developing the software to create the waveform images, but even he abandoned the project as too costly to basically do for free. Ultimately that’s the problem - in order to do ANY of this right, it’s going to cost money, and there’s just not a big enough market for Optigan disc copies. It may seem like there is, judging by what they go for on eBay sometimes, but once its known that there’s essentially unlimited copies out there, that price will drop dramatically. There just aren’t that many people who have Optigans. We calculated that even unperfect mass-produced copies (yes, we had a whole repro process set up and ready to go) would mean a per-unit cost of about $11.00…doesn’t leave much margin for profit at all, if any.”

“Anyway, I have much more info than the summary above - again, I’ve had lots of folks try to tackle this project over the years…of course, if you’re happy making and selling one-offs that don’t sound/play perfectly, and folks want to buy them, that’s fine. The disc images themselves are public domain.”

Pea’s message certainly took the wind out of my sails. I’m trying to look at the bright side, which is the fact I’ve finally determined there would be no legal obstacle to making copies of the discs, but Pea’s experience is sobering. I guess I should stay positive, since I’ve successful copied one disc already, but I’ll have to give some serious thought to the project before committing resources to have the discs scanned at a higher resolution. I did make some headway in the whole exporting sound files as vectors though. It might be possible to do this in Adobe After Effects, but I’m not terribly knowledgeable when it comes to that program, so it might be some time before I actually get around to trying it.

5 comments April 6th, 2007

The Optigan Project Update

I’m excited to announce I’ve successfully printed a copy of an Optigan disc (Latin Fever). The package of tabloid plus transparencies arrived yesterday, so I finally had a chance to do a test print on the Phaser laser printer. Guess what? It works! The laser printed disc played back just fine on my Optigan despite the fact the sheets are thinner than stock Optigan discs. I immediately began thinking about selling these discs online…but the quality control will need to be much better. First of all, these copies don’t sound quite as good as the originals. Now I could care less, but if I’m going to sell them, they need to sound as close to the original discs as possible. The answer is really quite simple: scan the discs at higher resolutions. The large flatbed scanner here at work I used only supports scans up to 600dpi, but I need something that will scan around 1,200dpi. One possible solution is to scan the discs in halves, and then merge them in Photoshop. However, I’m seriously considering taking these discs to a service bureau and having them scanned on something higher-end, like maybe a drum scanner. It would cost some money, but I’d have a high quality image file to work with. If anyone can recommend a good service bureau for scanning, let me know. Another issue related to quality control involves handling the discs while I cut them from the transparency sheet. I noticed lots of finger prints as a result of handling, so I think I need to get some cotton gloves. Again, I could care less about finger prints, but if someone was buying these, they might not dig my sticky finger prints. Finally, I need to find some way of packaging the discs for mailing. Maybe Atlanta Brian can point me to a place online where I could buy sleeves for LPs – I think those would work for Optigan discs as well.

1 comment April 3rd, 2007


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