What’s considered a “large-scale” microfilm scanning project? If you ask ten people, you’ll get ten different answers. From our perspective, a large-scale project for microfilm scanning generally fits into the following:

2,000+ microfilm rolls

30,000+ microfiche sheets

50,000+ aperture cards

Projects with fewer units don’t mean they’re “small” by any means: 15,000 sheets of microfiche is a good-sized project and requires a solid effort to create successful results. But to really get into the “large” category, the amounts we’ve listed are a good benchmark when you’re figuring out the scope of your project. 

Throughout our article we’re going to use the term “microfilm” and “film” to keep things simple, although you can swap in “microfiche” or “aperture cards” at any time.

How Do I Begin Planning For My Large-Scale Scanning Project?

An easy option is to search the internet for a microfilm scanning company, get in touch, and let them ask you a bunch of questions so you have an idea of what you should be doing. Nothing wrong with this approach, and if you contact us this way we’re more than happy to chat with you about some solutions.

For the DIY folks, another way to start is to put an initial chunk of effort into finding out more about your project so that when you reach out to a company to work with, you’ll have a solid grasp of the work scope and will more easily be able to answer questions and collaborate on plans. 

If you’d like to be more prepared when you call film scanning companies, our tips in this article should help you get started and give you a better understanding of how to begin your large-scale microfilm scanning project.

Desired End State

Before your film gets scanned, you should have an end state in mind. What will the situation look like when your project’s complete? What will be different when you’re done compared to the situation before your microfilm was scanned?

There’s not much reason to scan hundreds or thousands of rolls of microfilm into digital images if nothing changes. 

Have a clear vision of what your “world” will look like when the scanning project is finished, and that’s your desired end state. We can work with this and come up with the best option for what you need.

Reality Of Current State

You have your vision in place, your end state. That’s a great start and critical to deciding how you want to move forward with microfilm scanning services and how you’ll choose a scanning company to work with. 

Next, figure out the reality of your current situation. When you work with a company to scan your film, they’ll ask you questions about how your microfilm records are accessed today to view the files, so it’s good to have some answers ready to accurately describe your current state of affairs.

  • What kind of microfilm do you have? (if you’re not sure, take a look here)
  • How many rolls of film do you have?
  • How often are you accessing your microfilm? 
  • How are you accessing your microfilm? (such as using a microfilm reader)
  • How are your microfilm reels stored? 
  • How much space is occupied by your microfilm?
  • How much are you paying to keep the film in storage?
  • Where are they stored? Are they in your office or an off-site facility?
  • What type of material/content is on the microfilm?
  • Who needs access to the information on the microfilm?
  • How many times a day/week/month do you get requests that require microfilm pulls?
  • How long does it take to fulfill a request?

There are plenty of ways to get your microfilm documents scanned into digital image files, and the company you choose should be asking you questions like these to see if it even makes sense for you to go forward with scanning. Large-scale projects can be expensive simply because of their size, even if it’s a straight-forward microfilm to digital project. Don’t spend money without knowing the benefits!

Current Obstacles

Looking back at the questions about your current state, think about the answers you gave and now put them in a different context: within your current state of operations, what are the obstacles you’re encountering?

Why is the current state bad or not optimal?

What are the obstacles you and your team are running into that are causing frustration and limiting productivity and effectiveness?

If these obstacles are removed, what will change? Will anything change?

What will be the increase in productivity or the decrease in wasted resources without these obstacles?

If there’s not a benefit to changing, why are you doing it? Creating digital files and going through an entire scanning process doesn’t guarantee you perfect documents. Make sure that changing the way you work with your microfilm actually has a positive effect on your organization. 

Obstacle cone

Conversion Project Team

With big microfilm conversion projects it’s important to identify the key contacts from both your organization and your scanning partner’s organization. Big projects always have multiple people with an interest in the end result and how it’s done, so identifying them early helps reduce issues late in the project cycle. 

It’s critical to know who to contact when there are questions about various items such as change orders, timelines, application issues, document requests, and so on. These will come up, and it’s better to know who you should go to rather than scramble to figure it out in the moment. 

Lastly, who are the end-users? They know the material best, and with large projects there will inevitably be multiple variations of the film content and how it’s organized. If you have a couple thousand rolls of microfilm, we can almost guarantee that you’ll have many document types, sub-document types, and content changes throughout your collection. To create the best solution for you, it’s good for you to understand as much as you can about the content so you can describe it to your scanning partner and let them figure out how to make it work for you once it’s digitized.

Other Considerations

In addition to the high-level things you need to be thinking about when you embark on a large-scale microfilm scanning project, here are a few other considerations to keep in mind.

General Inventory

Create a general inventory of your microfilm and microfiche collection. If you don’t know what you’re working with, it’s going to be hard to explain the project to someone else and what you want done. The inventory doesn’t have to be intense, just more of a bird’s-eye look at what you have so both you and your scanning partner can gauge the project scope and complexity. 

To create an inventory, first figure out how much microfilm and microfiche you have. 

Once that’s done, you can use our “TIPs” method to build your inventory.

Set Expectations Early

Expectation is everything when it comes to digital conversion projects, especially large ones. Plenty of good will come out of converting to electronic format, but don’t expect all sunshine and rainbows. 

Your sales rep should be preparing you for what to expect when you start your project, but just in case, we’ve listed a few noteworthy expectations that you can keep in your back pocket.

Start Small

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. 

Remember this when you’re pushing ahead with your large-scale scanning project. Think of the project as many small steps that piece together to create the completed whole. If you break down your project into smaller steps, it becomes much simpler to understand what needs to happen and how to keep the project moving forward.

Our article about reverse-engineering your project gives you a sense of the various steps you can use as milestones as you plan your project scope.


Have An Iron Stomach For Project Cost And Longevity

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Large scanning and imaging projects usually take awhile to complete and require much effort from both you and your scanning partner. It makes sense, because the more material there is to scan, the more variations and issues can occur as you’re executing. 

If you’re going to start a large scanning project, be prepared for the price to be significant (both in dollars and in effort) and for the project to take a healthy chunk of time. Some projects can be completed in months, while some can take years. It comes with the territory.

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

Want to learn more about microfilm and if document scanning services are right for you? Check out our posts below and you’ll have a solid grasp of what it takes to digitize film! 

“How To Choose The Right Microfilm Scanning Partner” gives you our thoughts on the subject and some ideas about what to keep an eye out for when deciding on a scanning partner. 

“The BMI Microfilm Scanning Process” describes our 10-step method of scanning your microfilm. You should know what happens to your microfilm when you work with a scanning company!

“Traditional Microfilm Conversion vs. Digital ReeL” is a comparison of what we call a “traditional” method of scanning film (creating PDFs, TIFs, etc.) and our Digital ReeL solution. There isn’t a right or wrong way, so if you’re not sure what options you have available to you and are curious about the pros and cons, this is a good place to start.