HomeResources Scanning, Preparing Photos for Video with ScanGuide™ Pro
Scanning, Preparing Photos for Video with ScanGuide™ Pro
Written by Loren Miller
Tuesday, 04 September 2007
Easily plan, scan and import photos for digital animation which are sharp and manageable with the ScanGuide™ System.
The mission: stamp out the fuzzies! Soft, artifacting, or pixellating digital photo animation is everywhere these days. It telegraphs cheapness and disregard for craft. The goal here is to scan your flat art to keep pixels out of the picture, and leave you with the resolution of the photo grain or art medium itself.
The hardware Photos and photo-motion are essential parts of films, especially documentary productions.
Media storage isn’t the problem these days; it’s the processing, applying filters and ultimately the time rendering your photo animation of that image that gets expensive. Especially if you’re animating a great many pieces (over a few dozen, for instance), consider a visit to your friendly local video animation facility: no rendering, many options, and it's all stored on tape for capture. In the New England area, the best place for that is Frame Shop, Newton MA — they shoot almost all of Ken Burns’ photomotion. (Some argue that iMovie’s “Ken Burns Effects” should have been called the “Frame Shop Effect.” But Ken’s a brilliant photo documentarian so we won’t quibble.)
Ultimately you determine the cost-benefit between adequate and highest quality; tying up a machine rendering or using a pro house; locking up your editing workstation on graphics or the flexibility you get from real-time creative decision-making on a video stand. For one reason or another, we assume you've made the choice to work in-house and crunch your own photo animation. And for you, we have a system!
The lowly flatbed scanner has taken on a new life as a major tool in digitizing stills for use in digital video. Today’s inexpensive scanners offer incredible resolution. Scanners sporting 1200 dots per inch (DPI) optical resolution-- that is, not invented or “enhanced” in software but actual tiny “pixel-picker-uppers” mounted in the scanning tube-- are now easy to find among Canon, Epson and other manufacturers. They're also smaller and easier to store.
Inexpensive, good quality scanners cost under $100.00 and offer an 8 1/2” X 11” scanning bed. Most all scanners supply a plug-in for direct Photoshop acquisition and import.
Hardware includes megapixel digital cameras from Nikon, Olympus, Canon, Epson, et al. Most now have USB connections, or allow you to remove the storage card and pop it into a fast USB card reader attached to your workstation. You can snap a mega-pixel picture, download it through OSX Image Capture, and process it further in an editor like Photoshop to prep it for import to Final Cut Pro, or Avid. Find the very best sources available
Continuous-tone black and white or color photo prints have no dots, only random grain. Photos from magazines or newspapers are usually printed using the halftone dot screen system, and your scanner will collect them exactly that way. Unless you apply a de-screening filter at the source or later treat it in Photoshop, the result can be a distressingly bizarre vibrating display called a moiré pattern.
Best scanned photo file formats for native import to FCP, in order of reliability:
Photoshop (.psd) RGB single layer
Photoshop (.psd) RGB multilayer-- but avoid empty layers, which confuse FCP.
TIFF (.tif) saved in RGB mode, millions of colors (24 or 32-bit)
JPEG (.jpg) at highest quality to avoid animation artifacts.
Digital camera stills of 2.5 megapixels or higher, which give you more than the data you need to zoom in.
8 X 10” wide is the ideal size to scan at 72 DPI.
Some scanners and cameras import a RAW data format which is saved in Photoshop in the desired codec.
Stamp out the fuzzy photos with ScanGuide™ Pro! Convenient DPI scan tables help you plan zooms, pan & scan. Save time and file rendering.
BOSFCPUG Price: $18.00 USDPURCHASE NOTE: Offer good for 1 guide per customer, shipping Continental North America only. INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS: Buy Here Use ScanGuide Pro There are a few ways to calculate image scanning for best clarity. The system used here is tied to ScanGuide™ Pro, a compact booklet of convenient photo scanning tables based on each specific video format. The system is centered around real-world artwork sizes you may encounter for scanning, sort of the way ordinary mortals approach the task, so it’s a practical approach which shows at what rate to scan your flat art to support your creative intent.
ScanGuide™ Proprovides the right scanrate for any video format, art width, or zoom multiple.
Perhaps you've heard from some working pro's you should simply scan all your photos at 300 dpi, or 1200 dpi or some other blanket number? Let’s assume 1200 dpi. Unless the original is 3" wide, and you're scanning for NTSC D1/DV and you want to zoom 5X into the image, this is overkill. (You’ll see shortly why I was able to rattle that off so quickly.) Rich scan rates are often overweight and can result in huge file sizes. This impacts your workflow. Importing lots of these overscan images can put real strain on your processing power. If your scans creep over the system’s inherent import limit, you invite odd display behavior, outright freezes, lockups and crashes, or even project file corruption. There are always limits.
Observe Posted Limits So what’s all this fuss about pixel limits anyway? The 4000-pixel limit is a square virtual boundary or “G-world” built into the original QuickTime architecture, which underlies FCP. Be aware this has recently undergone revision in QuickTime 7 and the G-world will become larger: good news as more of us get into High Definition post and need deeper scans to cover bigger image areas-- most HD photo-motion solutions currently lie outside FCP. When it becomes clear just what the new import G-world will be, this article will be updated, and it’s perfectly alright if you haven’t a clue to what I’m talking about.
Thus far two major HD formats have concretized: the Sony 1080i/p standard, (which includes HDCAM and their HDV format) with a 16:9 window measuring 1920 X 1080 pixels, and the Panasonic 720p format, with a 16:9 window measuring 1280 X 720 pixels. There are ScanGuide tables for both end use formats. For those of you designing for direct film recording, there’s a 16 :9 Cineon table too.
Each table has built-in safety ranges which observe graphic import pixel limits. In a typical column header you’ll note zoom multiples listed beginning in white, and then inverted. The white listings keep your scans under 4000 pixels wide-- Final Cut Pro’s current import limit (Avid’s is currently 5000 pixels). The inverted listings result in scans over 4,000 pixels wide, but keep you within 16,000 pixels wide, easily accommodated by MovingPicture (a dedicated photo animation plug-in), After Effects® 5.0 and later. Listed below each X-multiple is the scanrate needed to achieve it, for image widths from 1” to 14” wide.
White multiples safe for FCP; inverted indicates "over limit"- here shown in yellow .
Watch your verticals! G-worlds may be, but life isn't square! To simplify scan planning using the ScanGuide System we focus on frame widths. This doesn't mean you get away scot free when your art has oversize verticals, such as in a tall (portrait-oriented) photo. You might be "legal" in your width scan, but at the very same scanrate way oversize along your vertical. You can easily determine this to head off a potential "gotcha!"
For example: in SD NTSC D1/DV format, scanning an 8" X 10" in portrait mode for a 5X zoom, we end up with a DPI of 450. Use the calculator accessory to check both dimensions for legal limit:
450 dpi X 8" width = 3600 pixels total pixel width. Safe for import. BUT check your vertical: 450 X 10" height= 4500 pixels. NOT safe for import.
Both dimensions must lie within the 4000-pixel import limit square to be "safe."
What to do?
Option A: after scanning, load into Photoshop and crop a few inches from top and bottom, to trim the vertical dimension below 4000 pixels. Then import to FCP.
Option B: import the full size scan file into After Effects™ or the Moving Picture™ plug-in, animate, then import the rendered clip into FCP.
Option C: Scan at a lower rate such as 360 DPI, import it and try it out. Depending on the codec/format you’re editing in, you have varying degrees of “wiggle room” regarding resolution. This especially applies to HD scans, but ultimately only you can judge what works where.
Plan, Then Scan From the width you’ve selected in the format you’re using, you can determine the height needed from the table. Not everything you encounter will be conveniently 4:3 or 16:9-- that’s life. For instance, suppose we’re dealing with an odd-sized small photo, original size, 3 wide X 4.5" tall. Refer to the proper format tables- in this case SD NTSC D1/DV and SD NTSC 16 X 9-- and look up the art width– here it’s 3"– to quickly derive the required frame heights for each format. It’s a nice extra offered in ScanGuide Pro.
Frame area: NTSC D1/DV
Frame area: NTSC 16:9
The table tells you the SD D1/DV frame at 3” width, the vertical translates to 2 1/4” on your artwork – this is how much of your scan will show. Now you can plan: you might animate a tilt-up to her face. You also discover that the vertical masking becomes more severe for SD 16:9-- 1 11/16” height!-- and it puts her into a choker. If you don't plan to animate it, you could crop the scan first, then save out and import to FCP.
The system also shows you instantly where you might want to manufacture “extra image,” perhaps cloning edges out a bit in Photoshop to accommodate a better composition.
The system allows you to intelligently plan “baseline” scan DPI-- those which provide enough data to fill any video frame with a sharp image-- and determine the extent the format will mask your art along the vertical. And now you can turn your attention to magnification scanrates.
Zooms Loom, Avoid Doom The results of scanning only for 100% width and risking a 4X zoom-in, rather than judiciously scanning for the closeup, are illustrated below.
90 dpi “Baseline” scan of this 8” wide…but falls apart when zoomed in 4X. Book cover looks okay at 100% width…
360 dpi “4X” scan looks good…and just as clean at 4X zoom, at 100% width after minor cleanup for moiré.
Determine zoom factor as a rough calculation. For example, working in NTSC SD, assume you have an 8" H X 10" W, you intend to start wide, and zoom into an area of interest measuring – get out a ruler– about 2 inches across. The zoom factor? You should have guessed: 5X. It's not rocket science.
Now in your ScanGuide™ Pro look it up on the 10" width line, look right under “5X” to get the ideal scanrate to support a 5X zoom-in. For this width, zooming in five times, it’s a 360 dpi scanrate.
Set that rate in your scanner software and acquire the image.
When it comes to zooms it's fine to overscan slightly. When you come up with a fractional factor in calculating your enlargement factor, (i.e. 2.5 X) it doesn’t hurt to go for the next higher zoom multiple. Many scanrates supplied in the ScanGuide™ Pro are in fact slight overscan rates which hit even numbered dimensions to avoid video weirdness. Note: I don’t care how miserly you are with your pixels: never scan in Line art mode-- that’s way too little data. You want at least 24-bit colors to work with, in RGB format. (If you need to make the photo B&W, apply a Photoshop Desaturate action to it, but keep it in RGB!) 32-bit RGB mode assigns 8 pixels per color channel and adds an alpha channel, giving each pixel one of 16.7 million available colors and optional transparency value.
Scanning and After: Workflow Tips and Techniques Overscanning is a very common strategy, but can result in huge file sizes-- a 6" X 8" image scanned at 1260 dpi for DV can support a 14-to-1 zoom-in: is there anything but film grain down that close? It can weigh in around 220 megabytes. Do you really need all that data?
Why would you overscan rather than use an ideal scan rate? As professional photographers point out, the downsampling algorithms in Photoshop are sophisticated and help preserve the highest tonal quality and detail in a photo. It’s especially useful to overscan if your scanner is not calibrated via Colorsync profile to your monitor, or the photo is of secondary quality, or major touchup is required. It's best to deal with such issues at a deep scanrate in Photoshop during the prep phase. For this scenario, downsampling to an ideal target resolution which still allows you to zoom in and stay sharp-- is a good strategy, good bit budgeting.
Above: At 6000 pixels wide the photo this dialog represents cannot be safely imported into FCP or even Avid systems! Downsampling-- a form of resampling-- reduces file size and cleverly removes excess pixels.
To downsample -- always the final operation (before pixel resizing and saving) -- you merely open Photoshop’s Image Size window, keep the image dimensions just as they are but change the Resolution value to the recommended DPI listed in ScanGuide™ Pro for the X factor you desire, and make certain the Resample checkbox is checked. That’s it.
Image Adjustment Before Final Import If you’re stuck scanning halftone sources, try to find the highest quality available and be prepared to introduce 1 pixel of Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop (or in FCP), to fuzz the edges of halftone dots to help avoid the bizarre collision of dots and video scanlines-- major moire. Believe it or not, small blur -- 1 pixel or less-- can actually enhance some details on video.
The most common scanning hazard deals with very fine lines of detail measuring 1 pixel thickness or less. Rich scans carry a lot of fine detail! These invite scanline twitter especially along horizontals, because the import just doesn’t know where to place the detail --on one scanline or the one below. During a zooms, this can be a horrible thing. Sometimes performing a subpixel reposition of the image itself solves this, but the best strategy is to apply a 1-pixel Gaussian Blur to the scene.
A phenomenon you might notice after a rich scan is…what’re all these twinkly white dust spots? Even after assiduous cleaning of the glass bed and the artwork, twinkly white dust spots pop up. Eliminate these through image editor touch-up tools before importing to FCP. Otherwise during zooms they’ll twinkle like stars on a cheap B-movie backdrop-- a “mini-moire” effect.
Almost every uncalibrated scanner requires some compensation for cast -- too much green, red, or blue from the scanning lamp itself. Best done in Photoshop with Color Balance tools.
If your scanner software allows you to set a white and black point, this is an opportunity to build a proper tonal scale right into the scan, but many would rather do it afterwards in Photoshop, especially since the scanning software is usually a Photoshop plugin which brings the image right into the program. There you can also apply the NTSC Safe Color filter and set your Output Levels.
Output levels for legal video: typical image adjustment in Photoshop
It’s common to adjust the digital Levels scale in Photoshop to the NTSC setup and white point level standards. To properly render video levels of a computer scan, boost the Levels Histogram black value output from 0 to 16 and the white level down from 255 to 235. Lo and behold, without getting technical, if you import this file and examine its readout in the FCP Toolbench Waveform scope, the setup and white values will be legal. If for some reason they are not, stay right inside FCP and apply the Broadcast Safe filter, it’s been blessed by professionals.
Another issue which plague NTSC and PAL standard definition imports involves the need to “cheat” the import frame size to accommodate the difference between computer and video screen pixel shapes. To simplify: before saving out each photo, resize the NTSC vertical to 90% (540 to 486 D1, 534 to 480 DV), and the PAL horizontal to 93.75% (768 to 720). Save each file under a name reflecting its format, such as: “alexa3X_NTSC” so you’ll know to import that and not the original Photoshop file.
Image Adjustment After Final Import We’ve waded through all these issues so you can finally import the photo, and start swimming.
Your import, for one reason or another, might not display exactly as you expect right off the bat. A rich scan usually overfills the Canvas or Composer window when you first view it. Don’t panic. In FCP double-click the clip in the timeline, select the Motion tab of the Viewer. The culprit is the Scale value, and it’s easily reset here. Experiment with values. See what the import looks like at 100%. See if you get your wide shot by scaling back--for instance, if you scanned explicitly for 3X magnification, back the Scale off to 33%.
A 3 1/2” X 5” snapshot scanned for SD 16:9 format and 3X zoom factor. The scanrate to achieve this: 525 dots per inch.
You will likely encounter oddball scaling situations, such as the above scan intended for a Standard Definition anamorphic widescreen sequence, which is fun to work in. The original snap was a 3 1/2” X 5” snapshot of some poor devil negative cutting A, B, C and D camera negative rolls back in the late 70’s BV-- before virtual. It was scanned rich for a 3X zoom. What happens on import?
The scan imports squished horizontally and scaled to the vertical. FCP doesn’t quite see it as anamorphic. Notice odd Scale and Aspect Ratios.
First expand the image to the original proportions by zeroing out the Aspect Ratio.
Now we can begin to play with our pre-built scan values. Since the scan was 3X, change the scale from the oddball import value to 33%. This fills the frame with a wide shot. Top and bottom are cropped-- you’re not surprised by that-- and it gives you compositional room.
Finally, check the planned zoom by setting Scale to 100%. Lo and behold, sharp and clear at the close end.
Keyframe your animation and render the result.
Round Trip Factory clips Because filling a project file with many rich scan photo imports can swell the project and cause possible corruption, consider exporting each animated photo in your program’s format—DV, uncompressed, whatever-- and importing the resulting movie as a typical movie clip —a round trip. Store the original keyframed photo in a separate bin, or even better, a separate project just for photomotion creation.
Photomotion animation technique itself is another topic altogether and best learned in a good digital imaging class, from an able practitioner, or from a competently written procedural text along with your own time noodling the tools. One good resource is Kevin Monahan’s "Motion Graphics and Effects in Final Cut Pro," published by PeachPit Press. But it all begins with acceptable source materials and your ability to scan smart puts you at the head of the timeline. Conclusion Scanrates are really nothing you couldn’t figure with a calculator...but there are many variables: photo image area, zoom intent, aspect ratios, resizing, alien workflows, el niño, the stock market. To save you time, it’s all been integrated for you, all the popular international video systems, for deep zooms, for any practical width from a 1" postage stamp to oversize 11” X 14 “ prints, in ScanGuide™ Pro.
ScanGuide™ Pro has arrived! Its' powerhouse default keyset is laid out before you with dozens of new commands but still fits under your keyboard. Includes all Multicam keyboard shortcuts.
BOSFCPUG Price: $18.00 USDPURCHASE NOTE: Offer good for 1 guide per customer, shipping Continental North America only. INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS: Buy Here
Do try the free ScanGuide™ Jr. for popular photo size scanning in NTSC/DV 4:3 to best understand the utility of the Pro Guide, available at www.neotrondesign.com. The Pro booklet for all video formats and with accurate frame vertical readouts is available at member discount here in the BOSFCPUG store.
Scan away, stay sharp, and don’t make me come down there with the big shoes: stamp out the fuzzies!
Grateful Thanks to: Phil Hodgetts, Michael Korolenko, Tom Wolsky and of course, Alexa. When he’s not obsessing over fuzzy photos, or differences between Avid and FCP splicing buttons, or annoyances of the OSX interface, Loren S. Miller is an award-winning documentary editor, freelance screenwriter, project consultant, graphic designer, editing teacher, reporter, author, active member of both Los Angeles and Boston Final Cut Pro User Groups, developer of ScanGuide™ Pro, and KeyGuides™ for major Macintosh media authoring software. Reach him anytime at
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