When the Job is Done... What Then?
So you have finally managed to have copied all those photos in a shoe box, photos in the computer, old videos from the camera that doesn't work, slides and bits of film you can no longer view because the projector doesn't work. You want to display all of this for the family to see, where do you start. Here are some of the options...
This is the latest fad in home craft and might be considered nothing more than glorified photo albums. But it is one way to display your colour photos and significant bits of memory in one place. You can choose to make your album quite sophisticated or very simple. Either way there is a whole industry keen to help you with albums, cutting and punching tools, decorations, backing sheets and even carry bags to put it all in.
Typically albums and supplies are based upon a standard 12 inch or 30 cm square page. If you are not keen on manually cutting up photos and gluing bits and pieces onto a sheet there are even computer programs that allow you to create the same thing electronically to be printed out on the standard page in an A4 colour printer.
Any photographic transparency or print needs to be stored correctly for maximum life span. The best rule of thumb is to keep any photographs in a cool and low humidity storage space away from exposure to light. Some photographic processes of the past were found too late to be faulty. If your negatives and prints are already fading and losing colour it would be best to have them copied as soon as possible to preserve what is left. Depending on the extent of damage, it may be possible to restore some or all of the loss.
A good photograph however will likely outlast even modern digital mediums. But copying them also provides a backup for an otherwise irreplaceable memory. This is particularly so for 35 mm slides since the slide you hold in your hand is likely to be the only copy of that image in existence.
To have all your photos scanned allows you to compile the images onto a compact disc. Each CD could easily hold 1000 medium quality scans and these could be combined with more recent digital photographs. Should you need more, a DVD data disk could hold approximately 6 times that. These discs can be easily copied and distributed to others to view which has the added benefit of preserving copies of those images in a number of places.
To properly catalogue and identify these photos requires a little more work. Most computer photo album and touchup programs will allow you to add descriptive information. However most also have their own way of recording that information which will not be readable by another program. To keep things uniform you must use programs that adhere to the proper standards. The standard concerned here is termed Metadata. If you have a digital camera all the information about the photograph itself will be already embedded in the file as EXIF data. Descriptive information added to the file later is described as IPTC data.
A program like Google's Picasa does not record image information in this standard. You need to be prepared to invest in a better program such as Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Films and Videos
In a similar way film needs to be stored correctly for longest life and some film will last better than others. Video tape also may loose some of its quality due to environmental factors. Often the copy of a film or video you have will be the only copy in existence of a crucial point in history and again to copy these preserves them for the future.
Film can be copied to video in a number of ways and the best method is termed single frame scanning. Most film tends to be copied in real time and the quality depends on a number of factors being fine tuned together. If done carefully though this can still result in a very good quality copy. Copying video is a little easier, though it still requires a conversion process to a digital medium the computer can handle. The copying process if done properly can improve on what comes from the tape, but if necessary image and sound can be enhanced within the computer to correct faults and inconsistencies.
Distribution and Representation
The final processed copy will most likely be burnt to a recordable DVD disc which can be played on any recent DVD player. The recording is high quality and any copy will be just as good. Though the disc should be carefully stored in a cool dry and dark place since the recording layer is based upon an organic medium. Until an absolutely permanent format is developed the best guard against this problem is to keep multiple DVD copies and even a digital videotape backup.
If distributing copies of DVD's to family and friends a few minor considerations need to be taken into account. A video DVD produced in Australia will be to PAL television standard. These days players in most overseas countries will be able to play that disk, even the USA where the prevailing television standard is NTSC. Most recent players and televisions will handle most different standards adequately.
The main consideration is to use a relatively recent player capable of playing currently available discs. There are two slightly different versions of recordable DVDs described as DVD-R and DVD+R and not all early players will handle both. Even the DVD drive in a computer manufactured before the early 2000s may not play a recordable DVD but may play a commercial DVD. If you are trying to play a re recordable DVD the situation gets even more muddied. But a recent player should be able to handle these also.