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Scanning pictures and transferring audio tapes September 1, 2013

Posted by Mike C. in Audio, Media, Personal, Photography.

The evening of July 12 marked the beginning of seven weeks (though not nonstop) of photo and audio archival, scanning and transferring media – 35 millimeter prints, cassettes, and microcassettes – to my external hard drives.

The first task was scanning pictures from photo albums that I didn’t scan back in December 2008 and January 2009.  At that time, I scanned at 300 DPI (dots per inch).  This time, I opted for 400 DPI.  And unlike the previous period of scanning, I didn’t mindlessly adjust contrast, levels, and color in each picture.  I made a picture-by-picture decision.

I also tried my best to clone stamp out dust, scuffs, and scratches, but it was very hard.  For some of the early scans around July 12, I gave up and left them in.  I also settled for the vertical banding (red, green, and blue streaks) that was present when I used an Epson Perfection V33 scanner.  For subsequent scans, I switched to a Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II and there wasn’t any banding.

The albums contained pictures from the 1940s through the early 2000s, including shots of me as a kid.  Three albums were of special days: my high school senior prom, my sister Lauren’s Bat Mitzvah reception and my Bar Mitzvah reception.  The third one was the last album I scanned.

After completing the albums, I moved on to an album-less bin of pictures that were mostly from high school and college.  I was scared to look at them until now.

In the process of scanning the albums, and the pictures in that bin, I was reminded how much I miss those that are no longer alive and I wished I could reconnect with those still living that I haven’t seen in years.

The point of scanning all of those pictures was to archive them digitally to go along with all that I’ve shot on digital cameras since 2004.  Unfortunately, a fraction of the prints have become blurry over time.  Sharpening couldn’t save them, but I archived those nonetheless.  If it was in an album or in that bin, it had to be scanned.

Picture scanning took just over a month, completing on August 17.  The next day, I took the next big plunge and began transferring cassettes and microcassettes to one of my external drives as WAVE files.  Both cassette types contained personal recordings from me, my sister Lauren, and my cousin Chris.  Like the pictures from school, I was scared to listen because I didn’t like how I spoke back then.  I commonly began sentences by saying “okay, now, we’re…”, “um,” “uh,” and “right now, we’re going to have…”  There was even one recording of me in June 1994 where I had an embarrassing lilt.  But by 1998, my speech was improved, and more so by 2000.

I transferred my 36 microcassettes between August 18, my father’s birthday, and August 24.  The 40 cassettes were transferred between August 19 and August 31 (yesterday).

Editing the microcassettes involved speeding up or slowing down either parts of a side or an entire side.  Editing for both formats (cassette and microcassette) involved normalizing the audio, which was sometimes loaded with valleys (low levels).  The peaks came when turning on whatever recorder was used or from clicks and hits while holding and moving the recorder around.  In the normalization process, I had to work around those peaks.  It wasn’t easy.

There are a few pictures left to scan and cassettes left to transfer, but the bulk of my work is complete.  It’s a great relief.



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