photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Managing film scans in Aperture

thus avoiding giving money to Microsoft

in Apple Aperture , Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In recent months I’ve found myself doing a lot more film photography, and this reopens the old issues of how best to manage film scans alongside digital camera files. Ultimately they’re all just photos, and I’d like to be able to manage them together. In the “old days”, I used iView Media Pro to manage all my scans, and built up a considerable number of catalogs, including a “reference” catalog for finished, best work.  These days I’ve got Aperture to do this for me for my digital camera files, and the iView stuff lives on if ever I want to go back to earlier work.  However, I’ve still been trying to use iView to manage my film scans. It really is a very powerful tool, but ever since it was taken over by Microsoft, and recast as “Expression Media”, it has stagnated. Two versions of Expression Media have been released, and apart from packaging and some very marginal new features, they offer nothing to justify the absurd upgrade price. And in fact, I can’t even buy an upgrade in Switzerland. Microsoft’s online store points me at the full version, with a ridiculous price, wherever I click from.  Why do I care if it offers nothing ? Well, there’s things in iView 3 which don’t work properly any more on Mac OS X 10.5 - I think OS X 10.3 was current when iView 3 was released. And if I’m committing work to it, it seemed a safer bet to be up to date.

But I couldn’t do it, so I was prompted to see what Aperture could do for me. One winning point Aperture scored over the competition from Day 1 was the ability to manage large files - and 16 bit 4800dpi scans from XPan film are large, over 170Mb. It doesn’t make much sense to process these files in Aperture - Photoshop is the right tool for that - but managing them, maybe.

Recently, and belatedly, I’ve started scanning linear 16bit “RAW” scans, and post-processing them away from the scanning software. This implies that I’m going to have various “versions” of the same “master”, and one flaw in iView was that it can’t easily handle this scenario. But Aperture can: it has stacks. Nice stacks too.

Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz001.jpg

Here, you can see the Aperture browser showing a few XPAn scans, all arranged into stacks, with the “RAW” file and the processed versions.

It works pretty well, although it doesn’t quite have the cataloging flexibility of iView. However, keeping to a consistent file naming scheme, and using Aperture’s list view, ordered by file name, it is simple enough to associate versions created outside of Aperture. Having decided to use this method, I can now in fact make it even simpler - drop the “_RAW” suffix I’ve been adding to the 16bit lineear scans, and let Aperture generate version filenames in the usual when, by launching Adobe Photoshop as an external editor.

I think this is a nice example of the flexibility of Aperture, and a justification of its philosophy to NOT impose a workflow, but rather to provide the environment in which you can roll your own.