Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Digitising a 1980s booklet

18th February, 2017

Camberley and District Silver Band, for which I am Musical Director, was founded in 1960. Every 25 years since, the band has produced a booklet describing the events and happenings of the band over that period, so that it may be recorded for the future.

One thing I have sought to do is keep a record of the band’s history; the “first 25 years” was recorded in a blue-bound book produced in 1985 on a typewriter - hardly something that is discoverable and easy to share nowadays!

This is the digitisation process of that booklet, as it has produced results that I’m very pleased with.

Step 1: Initial digitisation

I have had my Canon MP810 printer / scanner for more years than I can remember now; I invested in a decent printer before Uni, and got this one because it has high quality photo printing capability as well as the ability to crank up the scan resolution as well.

The initial scan was two pages at a time, through Photoshop, saved to BMPs in the native resolution. Quite chunky files but worth keeping the quality until it could be manipulated.

Step 2: Improving the image files

In order to scan the book I took the staples out and laid the pages out one after the other, which means that they were actually completely out of order. So I worked out which image corresponded to which page, and then used Photoshop to crop them to single pages, saving the files in numbered order.

In this case they were exported as PNGs, smaller file size and still decent enough quality (and manageable by the next bits in the process).

Step 3: Creating the PDF

In order to create the PDF of the document I used Adobe Acrobat Pro to compile the PNG images together. I also spent quite some time messing about in the settings in order to get the individual pages to be the correct size and without any bordering or additional metadata.

Step 4: Creating the webpage

In conjunction with the PDF, which is a nice representation of the original format but not all that searchable or accessible (especially as it is a PDF of images!), I created a webpage on the Camberley Band site which contains all of the content from the PDF but in an easier to read format.

While the book is very interesting, I didn’t intend to type it all in! Fortunately, I uploaded all the PNGs to Google Drive; if you then right click on the document and choose to open it in the Drive document editor, not only will it create a document with your image in it - it will then run OCR on the image and put all the text it finds underneath on the next page. While it’s not perfect, and most of the formatting needed work, but it made it much easier than typing the whole lot in!