You have a bunch of aperture cards that you’re thinking of scanning into a digital format. As you start your research, you realize there’s less information available about aperture cards compared to its more popular microform siblings, microfilm and microfiche. If this is your first jump into the world of aperture cards, we have another article called “All About Aperture Cards” where you may want to start. It covers the basics of aperture cards from describing what they are, the various types, how to estimate the number of cards you have, and ways to get them scanned and indexed. This article is a follow-on piece that addresses additional frequently asked questions when it comes to an aperture card scanning project.

1. How Long Will My Aperture Card Scanning Project Take? 

Aperture card scanning projects come in all shapes and sizes, so the definitive answer about your particular project will have to wait until we know more about what you need. 

Several factors can affect your project timelines, such as the quantity and type of cards, project requirements, indexing specs, your desired start and end date, and our current project capacity. 

Let’s say you have a large number of aperture cards (150,000 cards) you want to scan, and you’re going all out: scanning that captures both the film image and the physical card, image-level indexing, and combining separate cards into multi-page files. If you compare this to a different project that has 30,000 cards that needs Hollerith indexing and requires one PDF per card image, the timelines will look much different. The first project (150,000 cards with high complexity) will probably take about 3-4 months to complete, while the second project (30,000 cards with low complexity) will likely finish in about 1-2 months. 

In general, we can give you a solid answer on the timeline of your aperture card conversion project once you talk to one of our sales reps about the specific scope of work. They’ll be able to answer your questions regarding project timelines after having a better understanding of your digital conversion project. 

For additional details on this topic, take a look at our aperture card scanning timeline article to get a more in-depth explanation of the various factors that can affect your project timeline. 

Keeping track of project timelines on calendar

2. How Do I Get My Scanning Project Started?

Before researching scanning partners to work with, you should create a basic inventory of your aperture card collection. Knowing the details of your collection will be valuable information when you talk to potential scanning partners; they can use the information to get a sense of the project and give you a ballpark price and timeline. In most cases, the two most important factors to get an estimated price will be the type and number of cards to scan. 

Figure Out The Type of Aperture Card

One of the first things you should figure out is what type of aperture cards you have. There are 16mm and 35mm aperture cards, with 35mm being the most common. With 35mm aperture cards, there’s usually one image per frame, and they’re mostly large-format images such as engineering drawings, building plans, etc. 

16mm aperture cards aren’t as common but they do show up once in a while. There are two kinds of 16mm aperture cards: those with 35mm apertures but 16mm images, and those with channels specifically designed for 16mm images. 

Another method of classification for aperture cards is if they’re Hollerith or standard (or non-Hollerith). A Hollerith aperture card has multiple hole punches on them that provide indexing data. A standard aperture card won’t have the Hollerith hole punches but it has the image index information in the title block on the top of the card.

Estimate the Number of Aperture Cards You Want To Digitize

Next, you should estimate how many aperture cards you’re going to digitize. A quick method to figure out how many cards you have is to measure them using the pinch-an-inch method. Using a ruler, measure an inch of cards. Next, count how many cards are in this inch (you’ll likely have 100-120 cards). After figuring out how many cards you have per inch, measure the total linear inches (or feet) of your aperture card collection and then extrapolate that number to get an estimated card total. 

For example, if you have 100 cards per inch and a total of 1,000 inches of cards, you’ll multiply 100 and 1,000 (100 x 1,000) and you’ll have an estimate of 100,000 total cards. 

You can also estimate the total number of aperture cards you have based on the drawer or cabinet you store them in.To learn more about how to estimate your quantity, take a look at our page describing the various methods to estimate your aperture card collection

Once you’ve determined the type and number of cards, you can figure out the goals of your scanning project and start researching for an aperture card scanning partner that can work with you to help you achieve your objectives and goals. With the type and number of cards handy, you can reach out to potential scanning partners and start the conversation about scanning.  From there you’ll probably get into more details about indexing, delivery, and so on.

3. What’s The Aperture Card Scanning Process?

Once you choose a scanning partner and create a scope of work, the project will officially kick off. We can’t speak for other scanning companies but we have a 10-step aperture card scanning process that we use as a baseline for all our aperture card conversion projects. This 10-step process covers everything from transportation to digital delivery.

Project management tracking with gantt chart

First, you need to transport your cards to our scanning facility. You can do this through a third-party vendor (ex. UPS or FedEx), ground pickup and delivery with our employees, air transportation, or using a combination of these methods. 

When your records arrive at our facility, we tag each container (likely a box of your cards) with barcode labels to indicate the date received, job number, box number, and your organization’s name. After we label your records, we keep them in secure storage until it’s time to scan. 

Before we get to the scanning portion of your project, your sales rep will create a custom job order based on the scope of work and contract, using our internal Unity System. The job order will outline the specifications of your project that our production team will use to scan, process, and deliver your digital files. Once the order is submitted to the production team for approval, the “handoff” between sales and production is complete.

Once the job order is approved, a small batch of the aperture cards will be scanned for the project managers to assess the materials. Once the project manager is able to do this, they’ll start the Milestone 1 (M1) process. During this phase, the project manager will create a process flow that will lay out all the steps to execute your digital conversion project, including preparation, scanning, indexing, OCR, framing, and delivery. Next, we’ll scan a small sample batch of your cards using the process flow we’ve created. You can review the proof-of-concept and see if we need to make any adjustments before we scan the rest of your collection. This step helps us make sure we’re doing things right, and allows you to ensure that you’re getting what you asked for! Once we get your approval, we’ll digitize the rest of your records in full production.

Based on the type of cards that you have and your indexing criteria, we’ll determine which scanner (the Mekel or the Wicks and Wilson) we’ll use to digitize your cards. If we’re using a Mekel scanner for your project, the machine will automatically conduct a prescan by scanning your aperture card in a modified light setting to capture information to later use for indexing. If we’re scanning your aperture card collection with the Wicks and Wilson scanner, there will be no prescan needed and we can go straight to the film scanning. 

After everything’s set up, we’ll scan your aperture cards. Once we’re done with the scanning, we’ll do some post-scan image processing which includes framing/cropping the images, conducting quality assurance (QA) checks to review quality and accuracy, and making your digitized files text-searchable with our optical character recognition (OCR) software.

If everything is correct, we move forward with indexing and organizing your digital files with the specifications that you’ve laid out. We can index your files from the Hollerith data, the title block, or the actual film image. Last but not least, we deliver your records back to you in the file format and delivery method that you want. If you choose Digital ReeL, we’ll import your digital files into the application and set everything up for you.

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

“How Much Does Aperture Card Scanning Cost?” covers the 9 factors that will influence the price of your aperture card scanning project, such as the type of card, desired resolution, current project capacity, and more. 

“What Are The Advantages of Digitization” outlines all the benefits you could reap if you digitize your records. 

“6 Components That Make A Great Digital Conversion Project” provide ideas of how you can set your project up for success.