If you’re reading this, we’re guessing you’re not the person with a massive collection of thousands of microfilm rolls. But scanning your film is still important and you want to know how much it costs!

Keep on reading to see what we classify as a “small” microfilm scanning project, what’s generally included when we do these jobs for our customers, and how much it’ll cost. Once you’ve read through the article you’ll have a better understanding of your project and an option to get your film scanned.

What’s Considered A “Small” Microfilm Scanning Project?

“Small” is relative but we figure we have to give you some idea of what we mean. 

Starting from the opposite end, a “large” scanning project is one that has thousands of microfilm rolls.  This is really the sweet spot of our operations because it allows our team to set up a process flow and scan large quantities of microfilm with our numerous scanning machines. Because of the size of the project, over time our project people can hone the process flow to capture the records more effectively and increase the overall efficiency of the project. 

A “medium” sized project is one that has a couple of hundred film rolls. It won’t take as long as a large project so there’s not as much time to learn and adapt, but it’s got enough material to let us understand the nuances of the records and get you an awesome result. 

Finally, a “small” project is someone in the range of 1 – 100 or so rolls. These are the projects that we’re absolutely capable of completing successfully even though it’s not as easy to apply the full weight of our processes and efficiency to. Because the project is roughly 100 rolls or fewer, by the time we’ve set up the process and started to churn through the records, we’re pretty much done! There’s no time for adapting to changing material types, applying technology to optimize the project, and so on.

What’s Included When You Get Your Microfilm Scanned?

In the past, we’d have lengthy conversations and exchanges with clients about the details and nuances of their project, even if it was on the smaller side. Nothing wrong with this, but to get anything too complex could drive the price up. This doesn’t make too much sense when you’re only scanning a few rolls. After doing many of these types of projects, we realized there had to be a better way. 

What we devised after hundreds (nay, thousands!) of small microfilm projects is a simple but effective scope of services that will get you what you need when you decide to digitize:

300dpi is the standard scanning resolution in the industry. If you want something different (200dpi, 400dpi, etc.) just let us know and we’ll see how we can make it happen for you.

Sometimes one can be better than the other, so we’ve removed the stress of making you choose and have decided to give you both!

Multi-page PDF files per bi-tonal file (one PDF per roll) and single-page PDF files in a roll-level folder per grayscale file are included. 

PDFs are the standard and it’s what most of our customers ask for, but we can mix it up (such as TIF or JPG) if you need to.

Bi-tonal PDFs are named by the roll label with a BMI UID (unique ID #), and the grayscale PDFs are organized in folders named by the roll label with a BMI UID, in sequential order. 

Roll level indexing is the simplest method and is included in the price, though more detailed indexing can be added if you’re interested.

Your digital files will be exported to a USB drive and returned at the end of the project. In most cases, we’ll encrypt the USB because of sensitive information on the files. 

Included in the price! We normally use UPS and FedEx for our shipping needs.

What’s The Process? (Why’s This Different Than A “Normal” Scanning Project?)

For our standard microfilm scanning process, look no further than our “scanning process” blog post. That gives you a solid idea of how we handle most microfilm scanning projects.

With a small project, there are a couple of tweaks.

First, the project scope is going to be fairly limited (see above in “What’s Included”). In most cases, the small project requests we get from clients are because they just want the records digitized, nothing fancy. After delivering thousands of these requests, we honed the scope of services to accommodate the vast majority of these types of projects.

Second, there probably won’t be a Milestone 1 Proof of Concept review process. We’ll still have a project manager assigned to your project, and you’ll still get a unique process flow created for your records, but because of the limited scope, it’s not always necessary to have a full review. In many cases, though, our sales reps will provide a sample of the digital images to show you how it turned out before delivering the full project at the end. And if we find something wild in your records that causes us to take notice, we’ll be sure to let you know if it’s an issue. 

Lastly, the timeline to complete the conversion is relatively shorter than a standard microfilm scanning project. With a small job, you’re looking at getting your microfilm scanned, converted to digital, and returned in about 3-6 weeks. The fewer rolls you have, the quicker this usually goes. Larger projects (hundreds or thousands of rolls) normally take a few months because of the M1 process, which isn’t part of the standard small project, and because of the greater number of rolls to scan. 

How Much Does A Small Scanning Project Cost?

If you’ve read some of our articles before, you may have come across the “How Much Does Microfilm Scanning Cost?” article that states, in general, microfilm scanning is about $20 – $40/roll. This range is more suited for larger projects that are in the hundreds or thousands of units.

When you have a small project, you’re going to be closer to the higher range of that price, or possibly even above it depending on what you request. Because of the reasons we mention in the next section below, your per roll price is going to be higher and will include the peripheral items such as project set up, USB export and encryption, and return shipping. 

For a small project, you’ll generally be in the $50 – $100/roll range with everything included. 

As always, this is not a hard and fast rule. If you have one roll (just a single roll!), there’ll be a project minimum to get started. But once you get to the 20+ roll project size, that’s when you’re getting into the price range stated above.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Right out of the gate, small projects are relatively more expensive than larger projects because of how we’re organized and how we operate. We’re built for large projects: we have numerous scanning machines, multiple employee shifts to tackle large quantities of microfilm, ever-changing and -improving technology to optimize scanning and processing, and so on. Most of what we do is built around scanning hundreds and thousands of microfilm rolls, and that affects the price of “small” projects.

With thousands of projects under our belts, you might think that a small film digitization project is a sort of “plug and play” operation. It is, sort of. We do have standard project process flows that we turn to as a starting point for many of these jobs, but even then we still treat every project as unique. No two projects are the same, either because of the number of rolls, the type of microfilm, the content of the records, the turnaround time, and more. Instead, we start from a baseline (the standard process flow) and build your unique project around that in order to get you the best result we can.

As mentioned just above, the content of the records is a factor in why even a small project can be expensive; if your microfilm contains info such as names, dates of birth, addresses, social security numbers, etc., certain precautions are required to ensure the security of those records. Even if your microfilm contains public information (such as newsprint), our company is built with a security mindset so you’re still getting all the benefits! We’re not just two guys, a van, and a dream; we’ve spent decades honing our craft and improving the way we operate to ensure your records are safe and that your project turns out right. 

Timelines and the completion of your project are another price factor with small microfilm conversion projects. When you have a small project, say 20 or so rolls, we understand that you’re expecting to get it back fairly quickly; you don’t want to send your film to us and then wait two to three months before the project’s done! But that means that on our end we need to prioritize your project and assign resources so that as soon as we get your film, we can scan, process, and deliver the files as soon as we can, sometimes meaning we have to divert other projects that are already being worked on, but on a larger scale and longer timeline. We occasionally hear folks say that they don’t mind if we take longer on their small project, but once the film arrives that usually changes; they want it done!

Another Option To Scan Your Film

We get it, microfilm scanning can be expensive even for small projects!

If you’re not interested in spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to get your microfilm scanned, you do have another option.

Something we recommend to many folks who contact us with just one or a handful of rolls is to reach out to your local library and ask if they have microfilm scanning machines. Most of them do because they have their own microfilm collections. Once you confirm that the library has a scanner, you can likely go there with your film roll and scan it for free or very little charge. You’ll just have to put in the time to get it done!

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

Take a look at some additional articles to learn more about microfilm scanning:

“The BMI Microfilm Scanning Process” is our 10-step process to scan, process, and deliver your film. When you choose a scanning partner, know what you’re getting into!

“Microfilm Scanning: 5 Frequently Asked Questions” answers the 5 most-asked questions we receive from people interested in scanning their microfilm. 

“Digital File Formats & Conversion Project Delivery” is an overview that details three major topics related to receiving your digital files: 1) file types, 2) image format, and 3) delivery method.