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Solutions for Film Scanning

Film scanning and other transmissive digitization is especially demanding. Cultural Heritage institutions often have collections that include common transmissive photographic media such as 35mm slide film, microfilm, and strip film, but also more esoteric transmissive material like glass plate negatives, nitrate films, lantern slides, medical x-rays, hand cut film, and large format film. Digitizing such collections requires a solution that delivers conservation handling, preservation image quality, production speed, and extensive flexibility. DTDCH has several systems that meet these demands and are ideal for digitizing transmissive materials.

Click for image full resolution.
‘Bridge Patrol’  Courtesy of Panoramic Images


Conservation Handling

Photographic materials require careful handling to ensure the process of digitization does not degrade their condition. Glass plate negatives, films with a nitrate base, and many photographic materials are susceptible to fingerprints, scratches, and sensitive to heat. DTDCH film scanning solutions all provide a range of handling options to put the operator in control of the material to ensure their safety.

Non-Contact Scanning; User Controlled

Our DT Film Positioning System enables scanning of photographic materials using magnetic carriers that do not touch the film inside the image area. Instead, film is held at its outer edges using a magnetic mask that the operator easily and gently places into position. For further protection of the materials, the film is only  handled or advanced by the user, no automatic feeding or bending transport mechanisms are being used.

Isolation From Heat

Our film scanning solutions were designed to elevate the film from the light source in order to keep the material away from heat that can damage some types of film and cause the film to curl.

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Preservation Quality

Drum scanners were the gold standard for film scanning for decades. However, with the advent of recent technology, our modern Film Scanning solutions are able to meet or exceed the resolution and dynamic range set by that standard. The resulting files exceed the FADGI 4-Star and Metamorfoze-Strict standards for transmissive digitization.

Preservation film scanning using a camera requires careful attention to lens quality, alignment, vibration and sensor quality. We use Schneider large format digital glass which is the new benchmark in photography. Our Film Positioning System provides a rigid metal chassis, manufactured to 1/10,000th of an inch tolerances for extremely precise alignment. The DT Rcam uses Schneider Electronic Shutters resulting in nearly vibration free operation. We combine these components with Phase One medium format digital backs with up to 100mp sensors and 14 stops of dynamic range. The result is a true Preservation Digital Objects with accurate color, tone, and detail.

Production Speed

Collections of photographic materials such as 35mm slides can often contain hundreds of thousands, or even millions of unique images. With such volume production speed is critical – both during capture and post-processing. DTDCH solutions are able to deliver unsurpassed speed in both categories.

Capture Stage

DTDCH systems capture nearly instantly (e.g. 1/60th sec) and display almost immediately. The material handling system of the DT Film Scanning Kit allows the operator(s) to move through the transmissive material quickly without compromising on material safety. Therefore, the capture rate is only limited by the condition of the material and whether the system is capturing facing-pages or each page individually.

Post-Processing Stage

Most film scanning software looks like it was developed in the 1990s, because most of it was. Capture One Cultural Heritage Edition is a modern solution built on the venerable and widely used Capture One software. It supports all modern operating systems, is frequently updated, and can handle massive numbers of scans with ease. Checking focus, zooming in on high resolution images, and scrolling through images during quality control is lightning fast.

Capture One CH is ideal for film scanning with tools such as Autocrop and AutoDeskew, Negative Inversion, Auto Levels with user customizable clipping percentages,  LAB Support, Resolution Ruler, and Raw-Stage Quality Control. These tools enable the automation of tedious post-production tasks that are inherent to the post-processing stage of film scanning.

President Abraham Lincoln, Washington D.C., Mathew B. Brady (American, about 1823 – 1896),
From the Getty’s Open Content Program

Expected Capture Speeds in Scans Per Hour (sph) for DT Film Scanning Kit.

DTDCH Solution Solo Operator Operator + Assistant
35mm slides 900 per hour 1300 per hour
35mm 800 per hour 1,200 per hour
120mm 700 per hour 1,000 per hour
4×5 film 400 per hour 600 per hour
4×5 glass plates 300 per hour 400 per hour
Lantern Slides 300 per hour 400 per hour

Note that total scans per hour depends greatly on the condition and method of storage of the film.

Also note that the speeds above are not sustainable for long periods due to operator fatigue. For a full day of production, including breaks, auxillary tasks like organizing and data entry, you can expect numbers 2 to 4 times higher than the above hourly speeds.

Extensive Flexibility


The encyclopedic collections of cultural heritage institutions are rarely homogenous. Our systems are versatile, interoperable, and modularly upgradeable to ensure you’re not stuck with a limited tool box. They are also flexible in their use, allowing techniques that are impossible on competing systems.

Interoperable and Modularly Upgradable

Our solutions for digitizing flat art comprise either an all-in-one format or a modular format. Our modular systems include a reprographic system (such as the DT Element, or DT Versa), the DT Film Scanning Kit, and a capture head (such as the DT RCam). Each of these components can be purchased and upgraded separately. For instance an institution that purchased an [DT Versa & DT RCam] for a book scanning project would only need to add the DT Film Scanning Kit to scan an encyclopedic transmissive collection. Likewise an institution that purchases an [DT Element + DT Rcam + DT Film Scanning Kit] already has everything they need to begin scanning flat art.  

Reflective + Transmissive

Many photographic materials contain important information that are not visible with transmissive-only illumination. For example, a lantern slide can have handwritten notes about its content. Our system can illuminate transmissive content, reflective content, or both, in a single capture.

Four Edge Inclusion

Researchers and conservators often want to see all four edges of a photographic material. This is the recommendation of the FADGI Guidelines in the case that any important information is present outside the image area area. Unlike some feed scanners and virtual drum scanners, DTDCH film scanning solutions can capture all four edges using the optional glass carrier.

Courtsey of Edward Peterson

DT Film Scanning Kit

At over 400 times faster than legacy scanning equipment, the new DT Film Scanning Kit (DT FSK) delivers high-speed, FADGI-4 Star compliant scanning at incredible resolution

Reducing both your scanning and post-production time.

DT Reel Film Top

The DT Reel Film Top allows DT Atom users to scan a variety of reel film ranging in size from microfilm (smaller than 35mm) to large format aerial film.


The DT VERSAis a multi-role copy stand that allows the digitization of many different types of material sizes. From books (using the glass top plate), film (partnered with DT FSK), loose manuscripts and flat art. The DT VERSA is a fast and versatile digitizing machine that is a great compliment to any institutions preservation needs.


Legacy copy stands were designed to meet the relatively loose precision required for film capture. The DT ELEMENT Reprographic System was built from the ground up for the era of digital capture.

Have more questions about our solutions or looking for something more custom?