NARA Records Now Available on DVD Media

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NARA Records Now Available on DVD Media

Post by John P. Moore » Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:27 pm

I recently learned that the microfilm records of the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) are now available on DVD media. I was very interested in this new media and placed an order right away. After a few trials and tribulations my first four DVDs arrived in the mail. I was very pleased with the results. Each DVD holds the corresponding images that would have been contained on the same numbered microfilm roll, typically approximately 1,500 JPEG image files in a single directory. An example is shown below. The image size of that frame on the DVD was 682 kb. You can use an image editing program such as Adobe PhotoShop to crop the image and make adjustments to the light and dark levels of the image. Without the need to further adjust the image size I found that I could print nearly a full 8 ½ x 11 inch image that looked good when printing with a laser printer at either 1200 or 600 DPI. I have had several conversations this week with a supervisor at NARA who is involved in the production of these wonderful DVDs. NARA acquired an $85,000 high speed microfilm scanner that separates the individual microfilm frames into individual JPEG image files. Originally the JPEG images were exported to a DVD at a resolution of 4800 DPI, however, that created delays in the images loading on slower computers and the resolution was reduced and later production DVDs. I’m going to be doing some trials with NARA in the coming weeks to examine the effects of DVDs produced at different resolutions on various PCs and I will be posting my findings here.

Here’s a link to NARA’s homepage where you can find information about placing orders.

http://www.archives.gov/research/index.html

As the DVD media is still undergoing a trial, one needs to clearly mark “DVD” on the order form, otherwise you will end up with 35 mm microfilm. If you have a newer PC with plenty of RAM, you might want to consider ordering the DVD at a resolution of 4800 DPI, especially if you are wanting to use photos with your research project.

John

Image

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Post by John P. Moore » Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:32 pm

I should add that the above image from Theodor Eicke's Personalakte is intended to be only a representation of what is on a JPEG frame on the DVD. The actual resolution that you are going to see on your PC screen is very sharp with crisp letters.

John

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Post by John P. Moore » Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:45 pm

Now the same document after being cropped and with slight level adjustments in Adobe PhotoShop. However, if someone just wanted to view a raw document from the DVD to obtain information, one could easily do so. I suspect that an even sharper image could be obtained from an original with 4800 DPI resolution.

Has anyone else had any experience with these DVDs that they could comment on?

Image

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John Nelson
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Cost of DVD??

Post by John Nelson » Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:32 pm

Hey John,
I have several dozen Microfilm rolls, so I am somewhat a regular in dealing with NARA. What is the cost of each DVD? For a number of years now I have gone through the trouble of converting these into .jpeg or .tif files for several years now. Are the DVDs created with each order, or is there only certain rolls that have been converted?

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Post by Hans » Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:41 pm

The cost is the same as the rolls. Conversion to DVD occurs as an order is received.

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Post by John P. Moore » Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:49 pm

I have left an inquiry with my contact at NARA to confirm the actual DVD creation process following John's question above.

One of the clear advantages that I can see of DVDs over microfilm is the excellent photo images that can be obtained for use in a research publication or other purpose. Certainly much better than can be achieved from using a microfilm reader-printer. I'd say about equal to the results when scanning microfilm at home with a 4800 DPI scanner with Adobe Photoshop. Many of the personnel files contain one or more photos and even more photos can be found in the RuSHA files. See the typical example below.
Image

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Post by John P. Moore » Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:54 pm

My first example showing the Führerkarte of Eicke was from a microfilm image of an original orange colored document. An even sharper image can be seen from an ordinary text document filmed from a piece of white paper.
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Post by Tom Houlihan » Wed Mar 05, 2008 1:15 am

OT, but "Kommando nach Afghanistan?" Wow!
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Post by Simon Orchard » Wed Mar 05, 2008 11:46 am

I have 6 rolls on DVD at the moment with 6 more on order. As each DVD contains a folder with all frames in that one folder it's too slow and clunky to navigate directly from the DVD. The first thing i did was to copy the folder from the DVD to my computer then go through the roll creating subfolders for each microfilmed folder on that roll. dividing up a 1500 picture folder like that makes it much easier to navigate and doesn't give your computer a heart attack if you use thumbnails to help navigate.

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Post by John P. Moore » Thu Mar 06, 2008 11:24 am

Simon - Thank you for that very helpful advice of copying the individual DVDs directly to a PC hard drive. I did that and it really speeds things up. I'll also be organizing documents into sub-directories. In the meantime, I find it helpful for navigating thru the different images to set the "View" option in Widows Vista to display files as extra large thumbnails.

I heard back today from my contact at NARA (Mr. B) to the question that John earlier posed here. This is what he had to say:

"1) At this time we are digitizing directly from the Microfilm rolls,
but in the future after scanning the images we will be uploading from
our server. I would like to know if someone has found problems with
getting images from a server or other electronic storage device?
Our server will be maintained by our labs only."

He is monitoring this forum and is looking for user feedback as can be seen from the question that he asked.

John

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Post by Jason Pipes » Thu Mar 06, 2008 11:53 am

My experience has been that uploading and storing images isn't a problem directly. The problem comes from two main areas, storage space and the most critical, traffic. Assuming that storage space won't be an issue (image files can take up a lot of space and with 1500 or more per DVD I can imagine hosting many of them online will result in needing a terabyte or more), the main issue to contend with would be heavy server loads as people download files on a regular and ongoing basis. How much of an issue that will be will depend entirely on how large and how fast the server used will be and what kind of connection will in place. A word of warning though is that serving many image files online requires a heavy amount of traffic. Traffic is money, and money is where most agencies run into issues.

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Post by phylo_roadking » Thu Mar 06, 2008 1:47 pm

I've delivered for a number for years to a number of specialist industrial DVD and video copyhouses - AND worked in a company with a an all-singing-all-dancing LAN in the dim-and distant. The MAIN questions will be - 1/ speed and processing capacity of the file server, 2/ speed and processing capacity of the PC they're copied onto blank media in - OR VIA, I'll come back to that - and 3/ and most critically, the data capacity of the Local Area Network on the premises.

IF they're concerned now...then I guess their present LAN is at the limits of of traffic capacity? Because otherwise it's a very simple system to set up. It's just a simple server/client setup. But if one or more elements is decrepit...

BUT have they gone and chatted to a commercial copyhouse and found out how THEY do it??? When it comes to pulling down "packaged" DVDs in format ALREADY from a central location and dropping them onto blank media, fileserver-to-DVD burner-equiped PC is not the best way to do it - or else the companies that make MONEY doing it would do it that way. Most just use the intermediary PCs as a controller for a DVD "stack" multiple copier. Better quality, faster production, no read-ahead errors etc
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Post by richard hedrick » Fri Mar 07, 2008 5:50 am

Maybe it’s just me but I got the impression that Mr. B is wanting to improve his duplication process and not to make the images available on-line. It seems they are scanning each order to DVD; each time an order is placed they are loading the scanner with the microfilm to scan it, even if the same microfilm had been scanned previously.

So, assuming that, it would be much more efficient to scan to a HD and to make subsequent copies from there or to make copies from a master DVD and either of these methods would probably be less prone to problems than scanning each time, not to mention faster. In my last order I had at least one bad image in each of the two DVD’s, they were bad scans and not the original document. This is to be expected but could be avoided if duplication was from a verified set of images and not scanned each time.

I have digitized all my microfilm and stored the images on my HD, burning a DVD is a matter of creating a project on my DVD coping software and selecting the folder to burn, on subsequent copies I just pick the project and click burn. Burn time is minimal and ranges from 10 to 15 minutes.

The speed of burning a DVD from files on the network would of course be limited by the speed of your network but I am willing to bet would still be faster than the scan to DVD process.

So the answer would be yes, it is very viable to duplicate from stored images or from a master DVD.

I hope I was not too far off from the actual question.

Richard

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Post by Annelie » Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:39 am

May I ask?

How did you
have digitized all my microfilm?
Thankyou
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Post by richard hedrick » Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:10 am

Annelie,

I use a digital camera and a light box, it can be a time consuming process so I was almost giddy when I was able to simply place my NARA DVDs in the drive and peruse the contents immediately upon receiving them.

The link below has a few shots of my setup, although I now use a larger light box and an altered tripod setup the principle is still the same.

Richard

http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=27672

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