After upgrading my mac to the new Lion (the newest mac os x), I had to stop using Silverfast, the scanning software I had been using until then. I know it’s not the easiest software to work with and the results are average. But after a long battle the first few times I used the software, I spent so much time with the settings that it just felt wrong to abandon it.
So this week I was forced to go look for some other software, but there aren’t a lot of options around, basically you have the option to go for the software provided by the manufacturer or you can go for vuescan. Most of the time the manufacturers software is very bad for doing a great job at scanning negatives. So for the moment I was only left with the option of going for vuescan. I was quite excited to find out that almost everything I found on the web about vuescan, sang it’s praise.
However great was my surprise that although I’m not a newbie on using computers, it took me about 4 rolls of film and several hours, even a couple of days, to find out how I can scan a roll with consistent colors and the same settings for every frame. This got me thinking, why is every piece of software for scanning negatives so hard to learn.
I mean we can make cameras that can focus on an eye from about 20 metres away, but it’s apparently very hard to get a scanner to figure out where every frame starts and stops. We also make software that can do about anything with a photo (hello there, photoshop) but it’s not possible to make software that can detect if the film is black and white or even color. Take the image above for example, I could clearly see on the negative that there was a heavy green color cast due to the light of the “Haunted House” attraction, but however I tried to scan it, it would always come out almost normal. No color cost, no bright colors, while the negative has very pronounced colors. It took me about an hour to get just this one frame right in the scanner and even then I had do to a lot of adjustment in post to get it as good looking as the negative was. How is that possible in this day and age.
Let’s also not forget all the option that have names nobody understands, a user interface that hard you can’t even figure out how you can select multiple frames to scan in batch. A wizard that pretends to make it easy to scan, but fails to deliver even a single frame with the correct crop. Do we still live in the 90′s, even then, it was easier to scan, you just pushed a button and hoped for the best.
So this a call to every scanner manufacturer and scan software producent. Please make the programs smarter, most of the people that I know, don’t want a scanner or software that can perfectly see the gamma rays of a film, we just want a scanner that does the best job at putting the scan as close as possible to whatever is on the negative and with as little as possible effort from the photographer. That’s why most of us shoot film, we choose the different films for there different effects, not for what we can do with them afterwards, if that were the case, I would stay shooting digital and not bother shooting film.
Everybody involved in making the soft- and hardware for scanning, repeat after me: “LEAVE THE BELLS AND WHISTLES OUT, JUST GET IT RIGHT!!!!“
Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, I’m wondering if my thinking is right.
Sorry if anybody feels upset by this rant, but after spending again 4 hours to scan one roll and still not having the scan completely fixed, I had to write something about it.