Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Teeny Tiny Little Lines

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings everyone,

This will be a brief one, as I'm still trying to catch up on Church & State work, while making progress on the CAN3 files, namely, getting Dave's remarkable notes for the project illustrated and laid out.

In light of the recent discussion of the photo negatives and how well that end of the project is going, I thought it might be instructive to do a bit of comparison and reiterate in what ways the project benefits from access to original art. As I've mentioned a few times, it would be an easy thing to batch-convert the negative scans and create a new digital "negative" virtually identical (functionally, anyway) to the original negatives. 

Putting aside pages that were underexposed initially, or where the negative has been damaged in some way-- how does a well-photographed neg compare to a high-res scan of the original art for the page? Is it really worth the hassle of dealing with the original art, of having to seek it out, correct tone shrinkage and other problems?

Here's a rare example of a page where I have an ideal scan of both original art for the page and negative. The original art in question was (most likely) scanned by Scott Dunbier as part of the work on the upcoming Cerebus Covers book from IDW, and passed on to me by Justin Eisinger. The negative was expertly scanned by Funkmistress Karen last week.

Other than a little bit of shrinkage of the border tape and a little bit of tone shrinkage on the left leg that will need to be repaired, this is about as perfect as you get. The page was in great shape, the scan was clean and easy to work with, with really sharp optics (Epson Expression 10000XL? I'm guessing here, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm correct. Truly a "Cadillac" flat-bed scanner).

Okay, so how does that compare to a truly excellent scan of the original negative?

Take a look at the skew of the panels in the top tier-- the sides are still straight, but the tops and bottoms of the page have been skewed upwards to the right. This is most likely a result of the art being mounted at an angle to the camera during the initial photography. Strangely enough, it even makes Cerebus' expression in the top tier seem a bit different to me.

Perhaps more noteworthy are all of the missing lines.

Less visible in this particular close-up is the amount of plugging on the fine detail information, i.e. white space between black lines. As this plugging happens normally during the print process, it's important to preserve as much of this as possible before you get to that stage.

This might seem like fairly minor losses here-- but how much linework is actually absent from the page really depends on how much fine-linework was there in the first place. What got lost in photography? Very fine lines. Lines drawn with watery ink. Lines drawn with technical pens. Pages with tons of fine-line information had, no surprise, more to lose, whereas a page like this only really has fine hatching and feathering in a few places.

Last noteworthy difference, more interesting than good or bad-- the tiny Cerebus figure in the lower right hand panel has has his exposure "spiked", along with the rest of the panel, to turn his tone from a 25 percent to closer to a 20 percent. This was no doubt intended to combat the inevitable dot gain from the printing process, exacerbated by the newsprint the book was printed on, and by the desire for rich black on the part of everyone involved. (The unintended consequence of this-- a general thinning of the lines in that panel, and blowing out some of the more watery lines.)

Before I leave, one more plea for feedback--what would you like to see (or not see) in this space? Any suggestions welcome.


Tony Dunlop said...

Ok, well you did ask - Just speaking for myself, I'd appreciate occasional updates that give some sense of how much of the job of restoring C&S I is finished. I realize that may be hard to quantify, what with there being more challenging and less challenging pages, and you don't know which are which until you start working on them (At least I think that's the case). But maybe "as of today, 45 out of 500 pages are ready for the printer" or something like that?

I do find your technical (to my untrained eye) descriptions of what you are doing very informative and enlightening, but it would be nice to have some kind of "x down, y to go" updates from time to time.

Thanks to you. Dr. Mara, the Funks, and everyone else who is preserving our beloved aardvark!

Sean R said...

Hey Tony,

Will do! Thanks for the suggestion.

There are 300 pages adjusted/saved and ready for cleanup. I'm not sure how many of those have already been cleaned up by Mara--somewhere between 50 and 100. I'll join Mara on the cleanup as soon as I'm done with the remainder of the pages, which will be in three weeks, assuming the pace of the negative scanning continues on its current path.

Will Collier said...

Hey Sean, is there an ETA for the new High Society trade? Obviously it didn't happen on March 25.


Sean R said...

Hey Will,

It arrived at Diamond warehouses on April 1st. I'm not sure what store delivery date that translates to. Next week? Week after?

Will Collier said...

Soon, anyway. Thank you...