Since you’re looking for microfilm conversion at a cost-effective price and happened to find yourself reading our article, we’d like to give some scanning solutions to help you make an informed decision. There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to microfilm conversion projects, but there are ways to execute the scanning process that are better than others. 

Note: when we say “microfilm,” assume you can swap it out with microfiche and aperture cards. We’re just using “microfilm” for your reading ease and pleasure. Not sure what we’re talking about? Check out our page about the different types of microfilm.

Is There Such A Thing As A Low-Cost Microfilm Digitizing Project?

Short answer, yes! Is it right for you? Let’s see by reading on.

What Does Low-Cost Mean?

“Low-cost” is a relative term. Low-cost what? If the only “cost” you’re thinking about is the check you pay once your project’s complete, beware! You may be penny wise but pound foolish. Or you may be perfectly content with a simple project. Keep reading and find out!

Quick clarification: when we say “cost,” we’re referring to your cost as the project owner and what you’ll pay to get your project done.

Low-Cost Expectations

There’s a classic business saying that goes like this: “Good, Fast, Cheap. Choose 2.” Everyone would love to have a project to digitize microfilm and fiche that’s high-quality, is finished quickly, and doesn’t cost much. In the real world that’s rarely the case and you’ll usually have to compromise by choosing 2 of the 3 options. Since this is an article about low-cost scanning projects, we’ll show you examples of those two options.

Low-Cost Scanning Example

Starting with cheap and good, you’re willing to sacrifice speed for a lower cost and higher quality. How would this play out in the real world (if you worked with us on your project, for example)? We’d give you a scope of work and a price, and the timeline would be relative to the price; if you don’t mind us taking longer to get your project done, then we can usually accommodate your request. Just be ready to accept the fact that higher priority projects may jump in front of yours if our project capacity becomes limited. 

If you’re more focused on image quality, making sure all the images on your film are framed as accurately as possible, and basically making sure that the digital documents from your film are captured, this is a good option for you. It may not be fast, but that’s okay with you.

With this combination, you want your microfilm imaging done pronto, and you’re willing to give some leeway in the quality area. Of course, we don’t produce garbage when we take on a project, but there’s a difference between “this is a masterpiece” and “we did a good job, but it’s not perfect.” You want to know a real-life example of the difference? 

You have student records on 500 rolls of 16mm microfilm and 5,000 sheets of fiche and need to get them scanned and ready for import to your new document management system, which goes live in two months. Your dream would be to scan the microfiche and microfilm at 400dpi (higher-quality images compared to the industry standard 300dpi) and capture the index data of every student record (each student record is identified and the required fields keyed). Well, 400dpi scanning is slower than 300dpi and may not be essential if 300dpi can produce good-quality images, and it’s more expensive because it takes longer. So let’s take that away. 

300dpi is the standard in the microfilm world; might not be worth trying to be too special here. And indexing at the student record level? If you’re not willing to pay 3-4x what the scanning costs then we should take this off the requirements list. What you end up with is scanning 500 rolls and 5,000 fiche at 300dpi and indexing at the microfilm roll and microfiche title level. It’s not perfect, but it’s low(er)-cost than your original plan and it can actually be done within your timeline. Everyone’s happy! 

If you need your project done quickly and don’t mind scaling back on perfection, this is your combo.

What Does A Digital Microfilm Imaging Project Look Like?

Here’s an example scope of work for a low-priced microfilm scanning project:

  • Scan your film and fiche at 300dpi into bi-tonal (black/white) and grayscale images.
  • Sometimes one format is better than the other, so you get both.
  • Create single-page PDF images in roll-level folders.
  • Each roll will be a digital folder, and the images from that roll will be delivered as single-page PDFs (one PDF file per image).
  • PDF images will be delivered as image-only files (no text search / optical character recognition).
  • Digital images returned on an encrypted USB drive.
  • Images will be delivered as-is; no de-speckling, de-skewing, rotating, etc. Individual images will not be manipulated.

Pretty simple, right? Right, because you’re buying a Ford here, and you can have any color you want as long as it’s black. ALL projects are unique, so this may work for you, or you may need to tweak it. The main point is that it’s a good place to start if you’re cost-conscious.

Pricing

No, this isn’t a secret recipe that we can never divulge, but the reason we can’t give you a definitive answer on pricing is that we don’t know what your definitive project requires! As mentioned above, every project is unique and each variation can move the price around. With that in mind, some price ranges are below.

For microfilm scanning, a good ballpark is in the $20 – 50/roll area.

For microfiche scanning, $0.75 – 1.50 should give you a good idea of where you could be.

For aperture card scanning, you’re probably in the $0.25 – 0.75 range.

If you’re actually putting together a plan, get in touch with us and tell us what you’re trying to do and we’ll give you a quote that will make sense for your specifics. We can also give you pricing based on how many images we scan, but our standard is to use rolls of microfilm, sheets of microfiche, and number of aperture cards as the pricing units.

Low-cost scanning projects are a good idea because in many cases, you don’t need nothin’ fancy! If you’re not really in a bind to have some extensive database or make every single document searchable by fielded data, a simple microfilm roll-level or microfiche title-level scanning project could be up your alley.

It gets your records scanned and replicates the way you find data now, just in a digital format which makes it more efficient as soon as it’s digital. If it’s not necessary, don’t overthink your project or get sold into a solution that you’ll never use.

See what I did there? I pulled a sneaky and did a little reversal so that you have a comparison. Don’t underestimate the hassle you may put yourself through if you go with the cheapest option and don’t have the professionals do the lion’s share of the work.

Yes, we know, microfilm scanning isn’t rocket surgery but it still can take a good amount of time and resources to produce quality scanned images, as well as organize the digitized records in a way that’s effective. 

We recommend that you do yourself a favor and at least give us a call first. If you’re really into doing a project yourself, we can probably even give you some ideas to help.

What Are Other Options For Low-Cost Microfilm Digitization?

As incredible as it might seem, there are options other than having BMI scan your microfilm. And we’re actually happy to let you know about these alternatives. We’re not always the right fit to work with folks that call us, but we like to help them out anyway. (think of us as the Macy’s Santa from Miracle on 34th Street)
  • One option we often describe is checking out your local library. Most local libraries (city libraries, county libraries, community college libraries, university libraries) have microfilm scanning units, and if you call ahead and ask if you can use them you’ll be good to go. Ask a librarian for help and you can scan your microfilm when you have the time!
    • It’s probably free or very cheap. The only downside is you have to do it yourself.
  • There’re also other companies that provide microfilm scanning throughout the country. They may not offer the same solutions as us or run their projects in the same way that we do, but they’re out there.
    • If you’re in touch with us and we don’t seem to be the right fit, then we may even recommend a competitor who’s better suited for you.

Take Action!

Do these things:

It can be a rough estimate, but at least a ballpark of how many rolls of film, how many sheets of fiche, and how many aperture cards.

If you don’t have a budget, why are you worried about cost? You wouldn’t pop into a random car dealer and just start asking about all the different models without an idea of what you want or how much you want to spend.

Don’t just start calling scanning companies if you don’t know what you’re able to spend.

If you know you’re not going to start your project for a year, don’t treat it like an emergency.

However, planning ahead is always a good thing, and we’re happy to be there to work with you to sketch out the project.

If you have an idea of what you want, that’s a great place to start and we can work with you to optimize your plan.

If you don’t have an idea of what you want, no problem. We’re experts at microfilm conversion project, so we’re happy to discuss options and ways we’ve seen project work in the past, based on your material, how much you have, your timeline, your budget … (those 3 things that I just asked you to do, remember?)

Once you go through these action items, give us a call at 800-FLY-FILM (800-359-3456) or send us an email at info@bmiimaging.com to ask us about making your project a reality, or just to chat about microfilm.

And yes, our phone number actually spells out “FLY FILM.” That’s how dedicated we are.

Further Reading

Knowledge is power, so here are three articles that you might be interested in:

  • “Why Should I Hire A Scanning “Expert?” answers the question “why should I hire a scanning expert?” If you’re asking yourself that question, and don’t know if you want to pay someone to take care of your project or do it yourself, read this article.