Mac, the life

Keith White
5 July, 2008
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The Mac isn’t just a computer, it’s a lifestyle. Whether working or playing, Mac solutions embrace creativity and inspire “different” thinking when it comes to solving problems. What follows is my studio diary from last week. A glowing endorsement of Apple technology. A wide variety of tasks all completed without a single hiccup, thanks to four great Mac setups and some great software from Apple and others.

Monday. Working on an archive of resources and documentary DVD of 1923 Victoria Police Strike. Major component digitisation of 3000 pages of 1924 Royal Commission proceedings from microfiche. Fiche sheets already scanned by a bureau into individual TIFF files from page-by-page photographs of low-quality bound copy of Commission proceedings. Most images badly skewed and very dark. Have been using iPhoto for quick straighten, crop and exposure adjustment. Advantages over Photoshop: all three processes run in single window and iPhoto Straighten tool previews in real time, which makes adjustments quick and accurate. With so many images to work on iPhoto has shaved hours off the job time.

Adjusted files exported as PNG to keep file size down then imported to Acrobat for conversion to single PDF masterfile. Overnight job, even on Intel iMac.

Tuesday. On the road to historical cottage in Sorrento, Victoria, to get images and sound for one of a series of short documentaries. First up, record narration through Rode Podcaster mic into SoundStudio running on G4 iBook. Initial problem locating unwanted deep creaking sound. Found to be caused by mic boom on stand slowly dropping under weight of mic. Fixed by tightening boom securely. Podcaster is indeed a heavy beast but gives great quality even in difficult locations plus ability to monitor input quality closely via headphone socket in mic itself.

Then grab stills through old Nikon Coolpix 995 with wide angle lens. Import into iPhoto as quick backup and to check quality. Finally, short video sequences on equally aged Sony DCR -TRV900E. Straight into iMovie HD for backup and quality check.

Return to studio to run Acrobat OCR routine over PDF masterfile from yesterday to create searchable document. Overnight job again.

Wednesday. OCR completed on Royal Commission masterfile — searchability quite patchy as original docs were image files not text but quick tests show results vastly improved by cleanup in iPhoto. Poor original print quality limits higher character recognition.

Assist wife Diane in last stages of major project digitising rare collection of old newspapers 1914-1963. Papers until 1958 already digitised on A3 scanner and cleaned up in Photoshop. In 1958 newspaper size goes over A3. Hire or purchase of large format scanner way beyond the project budget.

Solution: rig up Nikon D70 camera suspended 900mm above hinged glass frame. Position individual pages with guides under frame. Black out room and light 1000W each side. Connect D70 via USB into G4 iBook and drive whole operation via Nikon’s Camera Control Pro software. iBook connected wirelessly to Intel iMac in main studio for quick backups and periodic quality checks in Photoshop. Minor initial hassles at camera end but now working like clockwork. Captured 600 pages

Thursday. Back to Police project, cleaning up digital photographs of relevant 1923 newspaper articles in State Library. Use Photoshop Lens Distortion filter to correct slight bulging from wide angle lens. Clean up blemishes with Clone Stamp and Healing Brush tools and reduce halftoning with Median filter. 24-inch screen on iMac a real boon for closeup image work.

100+ images cleaned up.

Friday. Off to school for weekly stint as resident archivist. On 1.25MHz eMac begin digitisation of vinyl LPs of school musical performances from 1950s and 1960s directly into GarageBand from pre-amped turntable. Initial raw captures sound OK considering conditions under which original recordings were made. Some years since I’ve digitised vinyl, so planning to trial CD Spin Doctor included in Toast bundle for quick noise removal and sound enhancement. While LPs spin into eMac, clean up scanned school magazines from 1913 and 1914 with Photoshop on dual screen “mirror door” G4. Original print quality of magazines pretty good so noise and blemish removal will have big effect on raising OCR levels.

Initial scans quite dirty with age so use Levels to get rid of most background noise and then zoom up to 400 percent to remove minor blemishes with Eraser and Dodge tools. Badly damaged characters replaced by copying better examples from elsewhere in page.

One problem: whole dismissal — “caught X bowled Y” — in cricket scoresheet damaged beyond repair. Luckily another batsman dismissed identically so problem easily fixed.

Return to studio for relaxing evening on 24-inch iMac flipping between YouTube and Elgato Eye TV.

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