Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Church & State I: Progress Report

Sean Michael Robinson:

Okay, so my first mission here is to displace any and all medical photos from the top of the blog. Sheesh, Dave!

This week I thought I'd give you all a brief status report on the Church & State I restoration.

On Monday I completed my portion of the work on all of the pages sourced from original art. This includes 150 pages of original art scanned by Dave from the Cerebus Archive, plus an additional 18 pages contributed by Cerebus art collectors-- thank you very much Oystein Sorenson, Gregory Kessler, Dean Reeves, Dagon James, James Guarnotta, Jean-Paul Gabilliet, Nat Gertler, ComicLink, and Justin Eisinger of IDW! This does not include the twenty pages of "Mind Game III/IV," which will be reconstructed from a combination of original art and negative scans, the original photocopied elements having become dirty and speckled with age.

All of this means that yesterday I got to start into working with the negatives.

Last week, after Funkmaster John and I finished working out the routine they'd be using to scan the negs, the actual scanning was started by Funkmistress Karen. FMK started sending me scans, and the three of us tackled a few other outstanding issues.

Namely-- grit, "schmutz" and other Mystery Ailments on the surface of the negative.

As I've mentioned before, these are negatives, meaning, anything that appears black in the finished product is actually the clear acetate. Anything that appears white/paper-colored in the finished product is actually film emulsion on the clear acetate.

So-- here's some grime for you--

This is the raw scan, pre-adjustment. Most of these flaws end up significantly worse post-adjustment, as the sharpening and contrast adjustment bring out these "details" as much as the wanted ones.

That being said, this isn't particularly bad, as it's mostly confined to large black (currently visible as white) areas with little detail underneath, so it could probably be fixed relatively easily by Mara (or myself) in the cleanup stage, using the burn tool.

Here's a better example of when the schmutz is a real problem-- when it's sitting on top of detail or tone.

I sent John and FMKaren an email asking-- what does this look like in person? Like a milky fluid on the surface of the negative, came back the reply. What to do?

As always, the answer is improving the source and the initial capture as best as possible.

Kodak had this bit of wisdom for us regarding cleaning photographic materials-- 98 percent pure isopropyl alcohol.
We recommend isopropyl alcohol that has a purity of 98 percent or higher as a good, general-purpose cleaning solvent for photographic materials. Isopropyl alcohol (also known as 2-propanol or isopropanol) has several benefits. It is available in small volumes at a reasonable price; it has been successful in cleaning tar, streaks, processing scum, and opaque from photographic products; and it had no detrimental effect on the image stability of the emulsions we tested.
Use only isopropyl alcohol that has a purity of 98 percent or higher. Alcohol with a lower purity, such as rubbing alcohol, will cause streaking and take longer to dry. Also, the higher water content of rubbing alcohol may cause the emulsion of the photographic materials to swell, resulting in physical damage and possible deterioration of image-forming dyes.
And what do you know, it worked like a charm. There is a certain type of blemish that's resistant, and there are persisting problems with other wear, namely rips that have been repaired with clear tape-- but everything else has been smooth sailing from here.  How smooth? I prepared 47 negatives yesterday, and will likely be faster at it next week.

All very good news, seeing how many pages we have to go!

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