If you have a collection of microfilm that you’re looking to digitize, our Digital ReeL platform can be one of your best options. 

But what if you have a CAR system and want to integrate it with the software? 

The good news is that combining your CAR system with Digital ReeL is not only possible but can greatly improve your workflow. Read on to see how to do it and some of the benefits of this integration.

What Is Digital ReeL?

Digital ReeL is our homegrown software platform, initially designed for microfilm, that enables you to view the physical microfilm within the platform while also leveraging digital images and modern technology such as OCR (optical character recognition) for global text search, grayscale image enhancement, and more.

A key advantage of using Digital ReeL as your document management solution is that when you scan your microfilm into the system, you retain the ability to view the original microfilm in its physical form. This ensures you can always refer back to the historical context, see how it looked, and understand how the indexing was done. 

Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about missing images, as you can visually verify that all images were captured and converted. 

What Is a CAR System?

A CAR (computer assisted retrieval) system helps you locate records on your microfilm using the blips (small markings) on the microfilm roll, which indicate a page or a file. A single-level blip represents a page, while the slightly wider double-level blip typically signifies a file. We’ve even seen triple-level blips in some of our work.

For example, if you have an index indicating that John Smith is on frame 1,474, you would place your microfilm on a microfilm reader and use the CAR system to input the frame number. The microfilm reader would then spin the reel and cycle through the images until it reaches the specified frame. If it’s using blips, it will locate the appropriate blip, or it may rely on frames if you position the roll correctly on the microfilm reader.

CAR systems were (and sometimes still are) essential for records managers working with microfilm collections. In order to quickly and correctly locate, identify, and capture information from a record, the CAR system index had to be correct and properly utilized. Without a CAR system, records managers would have to spend significant amounts of time to sorting through the microfilm to locate the data.

Implementing Your CAR System Within Digital ReeL

If you have an index to locate your records and you’ve decided to go with Digital ReeL for your digitization project, you might be thinking, I’d love to use a CAR system to save time and money by not indexing every record

We’ve helped many clients integrate their CAR system by utilizing their index and implementing a range search feature within Digital ReeL. 

Back to our example, if the index says that John Smith is on frame 1,474, we’ve created code that lets a user input that frame number into Digital ReeL to jump to the corresponding frame on the microfilm roll.

It’s important to note that even with an index and CAR system, the search will only be as good as the index and the quality of the film. Issues like misaligned frames or an incorrect starting frame can impact the search results. 

In some cases, the CAR system or its implementation within Digital ReeL may take you to a frame that’s very close to what you’re looking for but not the exact record. For example, instead of John Smith on frame 1,474, you may find yourself on frame 1,475 or 1,476 due to blip reading errors or poor quality images on the film. If this happens, no problem; you simply scroll left two frames and you’ll find John.

Benefits Of Digital ReeL + CAR 

Even accounting for little speedbumps like those mentioned above, users of CAR systems within Digital ReeL see a significant reduction in time spent searching for files. Compared to the traditional method, which involved consulting an index, retrieving the physical microfilm roll, loading it onto a machine, typing in the record, exporting or printing the image, and returning the roll—a process that could take 10-15 minutes—with Digital ReeL, you have your record in just a minute or two.

To put this in perspective, if you have a collection of around 1,500 rolls with a file every two or three images, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands of records to index. Depending on the complexity of these files, locating, identifying, and naming them can be quite expensive. Instead, you can keep your CAR system and simply implement it within Digital ReeL – you get the benefit of digital speed plus the familiarity and utility of your CAR system.

What’s more, Digital ReeL hosting offers a secure, web-based application that your staff or patrons can access. The platform comes with global text search, so if you choose to apply OCR to your records, you can search for names, numbers, dates, and more. Many of our clients have found this feature to be at least as effective as a CAR system, or, at the very least, easy to integrate and use together for rapid record retrieval. 

And like we stated earlier, you maintain the historical context of the film, meaning you’ll always be able to see how the records originally looked. Finally, Digital ReeL includes grayscale image enhancement and optimization features, which can be essential for improving the readability of hard-to-read or illegible records.

Next Steps

Reach out to us today! Click the “Get Your Quote” button below, fill out the form, and we’ll quickly reply to you to discuss your project.

Further Reading

Digital Indexing: Structured vs. Unstructured Data
Naming your digital files, or “indexing” them, is an essential part of any good digitization project. Learn about the two most common methods, unstructured and structured indexing, and how to implement them in your project.

5 Misconceptions About Digital Conversion
Digital scanning projects can seem like a mystery, and mysteries create confusion. To clear up the confusion, we identify 5 common digitization misconceptions and describe how to successfully navigate your digital scanning project.

Digital Hosting & Colocation
Are your hosted records colocated at multiple sites? Learn about the benefits of colocation and why it’s important for your data.