Drum Scanning @ CEP

There simply is no substitute for a well made drum scan. Nothing invented since comes close to the results of drum scanning. Drum scanning is difficult, but we’ve mastered and perfected it. 

A drum scan can pull more information from a negative than can any conventional print process. If your film is under or overexposed, you will be surprised by what we can pull out of it. We always scan to produce the maximum tonal range. This type of flat scanning allows you or us (if you prefer) to fully optimize the image for printing on the extremely long tonal range Piezography systems (inkjet, Pt/Pd, Photogravure). We always scan at maximum resolution to allow the work to be repurposed for large format (should the occasion present itself.)


How We Scan

We scan in 48bit RGB (in Photoshop this is called 16bit RGB). We scan the film in raw. When we open the raw file in Photoshop, it looks exactly like the physical film. If the film is a bw negative, we invert and then add two curves: a master curve to get the image to a workable contrast, and then a tonal correction curve to tweak the contrast in the highlights and shadows to make the image pop just a bit more. We may do some special-sauce conditioning of the grain and noise at this point as well. If the film is a color negative we invert it using Negative Lab Pro: a plugin that has truly changed the game when it comes to color neg scanning. With NLP we have different inversion “profiles” that correct for the unique color crossovers in each film brand/type. The result of using NLP is a color quality akin to a true Dye-Coupler “C” Print from the darkroom. If the film is a positive (slide)* we do the raw scan and then do a “camera raw” white balance and color shift edit in Photoshop to perfectly match the tone and color quality of the original. In short, we’ve taken the kludgy drum scanning software from the 1990s and chucked it in the waste-bin. Instead we use modern hardware and software (Photoshop Creative Cloud) with cutting-edge inversion to make perfect drum scans that stand up to hard scrutiny! We do not use custom input calibration profiles. Over many many years we have determined that this will actually destroy the histogram. Instead we do most initial color adjustments in camera raw. For special-case film we will sometimes scan at a slightly higher dpi than normal and then downsample that and raw-convert the scan to the optimal resolution. This enables a more analogue replication of the original film. Our trained professionals, who have decades of experience, determine this on a film-by-film basis.

*Please note. 35mm mounted slides have to be removed from their mounts for drum-scanning to occur. We carefully sleeve the slides for ship-back.

Retouching and Mastering (optional)

Retouching & Mastering of drum scan files happens in various ways. The easiest way to do it is to send a reference print made from the original piece of film. The master printmakers at CEP will match the file to the print. If a print is not made but there is a reference file (usually scanned on a lower quality machine) we can use that to match your file. If the customer wants us to use our many years of experience & judgement to just make the file look good we can do that as well. Probably where it gets sticky is when the artist has no reference file or print and wants us to do very specific mastering without clear instruction. We recommend sending sample images that are similar to how the customer wants the drum scan file to look. We can then match the aesthetic color grading of the drum scan to the reference file. All of this can be requested with the order form below. 

Drum Scanning Sizes and Prices

The prices below are for "base scans." They do not represent the cost for a fully mastered print-ready image file as most of the time the artist's input is needed after a flat-contrast low-saturation positive (base scan) has been created. All additional cleaning and imaging labor to master the image file is charged at our normal hourly labor-rate rounded up to the nearest 1/4 hour. Prices indicate per-neg cost to scan. File sizes per scan range from 300MB to 5000MB depending upon the original film size. We scan at the highest resolution possible at all times. We do not discount for smaller file-sizes as 99% of the cost of drum scanning is labor and materials, not processing size.

Film Resolution Bit-Depth Print Size B&W Negatives / Color Pos Color Neg
48bit RGB 40x60+ $90 $117
645 - 6x9
48bit RGB
$130 $169
617, 4x5, 5x7
48bit RGB
$200 $260
48bit RGB
$280 $364
48bit RGB
$500 $650
48bit RGB
$600 $780

* Each neg/positive is scanned raw and then brought to a positive flat-contrast low-saturation state. Then the negative is cleaned of any dust that got into the scan during the scan process. This is what we call a "base scan." All other labor such as surgical cleaning of old negatives, color matching or color grading, etc, is charged our normal labor rate. We charge $187.50 an hour in ¼ hour intervals for mastering and can give you a quote before running the scan if requested in your order.