Archive for May, 2010


Optical Registration of Bulk Scans

May 24, 2010

Moved recently and my animation stand is currently buried beneath boxes in the basement of our new home waiting for a house remodel project to finish before it can be put back into service. In the meanwhile, I needed to do some pencil tests.

During the move, my scanner (which had been making funny noises for a while) finally conked out, and my printer was both near-dead and no longer supported by the manufacturer so I took the opportunity to replace both with an Epson Artisan 810 combo unit. Since it comes with a sheet feeder, I thought it might be a good opportunity to check out the state of inexpensive solutions to optical registration of bulk scans.

All of these work by requiring you to black out part of the scan bed where the peg bar sits so that you get solid black peg holes to make it easy for the software to identify the location of the punches. Finding information about automatic optical registration proved difficult. There are of course many high-end solutions in the several hundred dollar range but at the moment, these solutions are out of my range.

Two solutions I did find within my price range are DigiCel’s Flipbook Lite (just shy of $80) and a free beta of a java application called ScanFix written by Duane M. Palyka.

Both applications performed reasonably well. Flipbook’s import is easier to use and it also has some built-in smarts about adjusting the contrast of the drawings to make them show up well. The only minor confusion I had with it was in configuration of the registration offset but this was quickly fixed. It also supports TWAIN libraries and was able to import directly from my scanner with no interim files. I did not invest the time to tinker around with the rest of flipbook’s features for actually creating animation since I’m already familiar with and invested in another tool however, it seemed fairly straightforward and intuitive and may well be worth looking at.

Scanfix is a little less user friendly. I had to do a bit of tweaking to my scan configuration to get files where it could reliably detect the holes. It is also in beta test and I encountered a few problems in using the optional rotations but, once I resolved these issues, it performed adequately. In addition, Mr. Palyka has been quite pleasant to converse with.

On the whole, scanning at 150DPI, the scanner imported equivalent to the fastest I could possibly photograph work on my animation stand (meaning that on average, the scanner was far faster). I even got so lazy as to write a short script to reverse the order of scanned pages so I didn’t have to resort my cels after taking them off the animation desk. Finally, the scanner does not require me to operate the camera. Throw in a stack of cels, hit a button, and off it goes. So in good situations, it’s a bit of a time saver. However, I did run into issues a couple of times where the scanner grabbed more than one page and caused me some problems with a sequence and bogged down my progress. Since this is an invisible fail until you run the pencil test, it’s a bit of a sticking point.

Still. If you’re a student or otherwise on a tight budget, both tools are worth checking out, depending on your personal needs. Though I must confess that I enjoy drawing 12 field and since my scanner does not support paper of that size combined with the scanner feed issues means that I shall not be tossing out my animation stand just yet.