Beauty and the Beast: UWDCC adds impressive hardware to its arsenal of digital reformatting equipment

October 30th, 2017

Post authored by Matt Cejka

Earlier this year, UWDCC acquired a new contraption that has since made our jobs of digitally capturing and formatting materials immensely easier.

The contraption is none other than the DT RCam, a Digital Transitions Reprographic Camera, nicknamed “Beauty” because of its smooth function and ease of use compared to its counterpart “Beast.” The device is a combination of the Phase One Digital Back, a high quality 72mm Schneider Kreuznach lens, and a specially designed camera body. While the old contraption took 5 minutes to scan a single image, Beauty captures it in about ⅕ of a second, capturing the image in real time.

Instantaneously, raw files are uploaded to the corresponding computer software to be reviewed and edited. Raw files allow the user to make adjustments to a file without the fear of losing any work as the file is constantly saved through Capture One Software.

About a week ago, our Digital Preservation Specialist Jennie was capturing stage designs for the opera Carmen from the Tams Witmark Collection in the Mills Music Library, made in 1880. Most of the materials extremely fragile and worn from years of use and handling. Some of the documents are either falling apart or only preserved in a series of clippings that can only be put together through combining the clippings on a flat service. The camera’s precision allows UWDC to capture and preserve the essence of the original stage design, something that Jennie states is the most important aspect of her job.

This may sound easy enough but the DT RCam is an immensely complicated machine, and its ability to take images of the highest quality in no time is a testament to the precision of its instruments, and the ability of the user to properly set up, shutdown, and maintain the machine. The camera’s settings can be saved each session, and after the camera is fully set up and tested, no post production photoshopping or editing is necessary. Simply step on the pedal and a shockingly high quality image is captured.

During the setup process, our Digital Conversion Specialist, Jennie, begins by ensuring aperture and shutter speed are at a good starting point. Then, she captures an image of a device level target to serve as the basis for testing the performance of the camera each day, and for each project, aiming for 300 pixels per inch. With the device darget she can also check the white balance and exposure settings to ensure the quality of the image. These settings can be influenced by extremely minuscule alterations in the surrounding environment such as the color of clothes the user is wearing and how far away they stand from the machine.

Next, by using the Lens Cast Correction feature within Capture One software, she places a white piece of foamboard on the camera’s stand and the software is immediately able to compensate for any shadows in the room.

Perhaps the greatest advantage to the DT RCam camera is its versatility. The camera is able to capture posters, sheet music, books, and essentially any historical artifact that can lay flat on the stand or ground. The machine is particularly better for capturing larger documents than other cameras, but can used on documents of all sizes and shapes. As of today, the Camera has been used to document several posters from the UW Archives, boxes of small bills and letters from the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum’s archive, and some additional fragile bound material from the Tams Witmark collection.

With the addition of this new camera, UWDC ensures that any artifacts, documents, and piece artwork will be digitally reformatted in the highest quality and accessible to the public for the foreseeable future.

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