More on the Qidenus: the Acquisition & Set-Up, Part II

By Laura Stillwagon

The Arrival

As addressed in the previous blog post, the Qidenus SMART Book Scan 4.0 was purchased to scan and digitize bound items. In our department, nested inside the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, we have found the complexity of the Qi’s construction to be a reflection of its precise and accurate functionality. In this machine, both design and output are streamlined. Almost everyone who meets the Qidenus before they begin using it for the first time is intimidated, and I was no exception. At the time, not only did I have little knowledge in the digitization process, but what little functioning knowledge and experience in photography and operating DSLRs I had gave me no security; I had no knowledge on tethered technology, nor enough on all the settings that contributed to the exposure of images; and I certainly did have not enough confidence in myself to operate two DSLRs at once. The sleek machine doesn’t smell fear, but nothing downplays the machine’s sophistication. Once I was given instruction on the basic operation of the Qi, I grew more comfortable after each use. And upon given permission to explore the features and other functions of the machine, the Qi and I developed a good working relationship.

Not Yet Suitable for Routine Use at the Time

Those using the Qi immediately after arrival at Digital Collections were not entirely pleased with the images it produced. Following its delivery and set-up, little time was available to learn and integrate the Qidenus as a tool for the Digital Collections projects of and those of the other departments like the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections located next door. There was no company-issued manual available. Once purchased, we received paper manuals only for the Canon cameras used in the Qi, but they were all in German, French, Italian, and Dutch and no one in our offices or the neighboring offices speak these languages to our knowledge.

Upon investigation, I found that minor exposure adjustments had to be made to the captured images in Photoshop (post-process) in order to get rid of a shadow that seemed to shroud the pages. This didn’t make any sense to us who used the Qi because the item seemed to be clearly featured under the LED lights in the ceiling of the machine. Fortunately, I was tasked with investigating the Qi and diagnosing what was causing the images to be under-exposed. Thankfully, and as expected, I found nothing to be wrong with the machine and the only problem that has consistently stifled the Qi’s performance is the incurable virus, User Error. This is not to say that we as users continually and with intent used the machine without learning how to use it, but that we simply did not have complete instruction at the start.

In our defense, the minimal instruction on operating the Qi we were given, and what we passed on by word of mouth to each other and to new users, did not begin to cover the knowledge that was required to operate DSLRs. We lacked knowledge of photography: not knowing what aspects of light contributed to exposure and image capture and the features of digital-SLRs (and other cameras, for that matter) that interpret and manipulate light to produce images. Once I confirmed that there was nothing ailing the Qi, one of the major gaps in knowledge that I sought to fill with research was camera operation and other relevant aspects of photography. (At one point when it was still a possibility that the machine had a flaw, we had brainstormed fixes and jokingly—but also seriously—considered using a curtain to further isolate the machine and DSLRs from other light in the environment.)

 I gathered information on the settings common to all cameras like shutter speed, aperture, white balance (WB), and ISO, and then I searched for features specific to the Qi’s Canon EOS 5DS cameras. I performed many tests to determine the proper exposure settings to serve as a keynote for users and the diverse bound items they bring to the Qi. To attain these settings, I tested a variety of items with pages that ranged from having lots of detail, or a glossy finish, to those that appear weathered and faded. Since then I have learned what can be accomplished with the Qi, creating in-depth instructions (in English!) specific to the Digital Collections department. With my new understanding of light, photography, DSLRs, Canon technologies and software, I endeavor to also assist others as they learn to use the Qi for the first time.

In the next blog, I’ll outline the complexity and daily use of the Qi. Stay tuned!