My "The Far Side" Archival Project

2009-10-18 10:10 - General

For as long as I knew about it, I've had a soft spot for The Far Side, an awesome one-panel cartoon that ran from 1980 to 1995. From 1995 through 2002 it was customary for me to receive an "Off the Wall" (aka desk) calendar as an xmas gift. Thanks to the hoarding impulses I've inherited from my mother, I still have them. A few are missing a month or two's worth of pages, but for the most part they're entirely intact.

My intent was always to create a digital archive of the images. Probably to use as a screen saver. Once, I even tried doing it by hand. Open photoshop, place the page on the flatbed, hit scan, wait, use the ruler tool to rotate so the top edge was straight, crop, save, repeat, repeat, repeat. I even got through most of one year. But it took far too long, and I bored of it quickly.

I've been putting some effort into cleaning house recently, and came across a couple of these calendars. Suddenly it hit me: I've got an auto-document-feeder on the scanner of my all-in-one printer, and I've got programming chops. I don't need to do this by hand!

The first, and surprisingly difficult, part was to find a program that would take advantage of the document feeder, and give me a pile of images to process. It was really easy to find commercial programs, but I didn't want to pay. Finally I discovered that IrfanView, a freeware image viewer also has a batch scanning feature, which suits my needs perfectly. Then I threw together a python script, which crops off the edges and transforms the scanned comic (and caption, if any) to be perfectly square, and crops with a consistently sized border.

It actually still takes a bit of work to babysit the scanner, making sure it feeds the small pages properly, and giving it batches that it can handle (not much more than 2 months' worth at a time). But it is mostly automatic, and I'm working through the sixth of the eight years worth I've got: the end is in sight.

Finally, I also found VisiPics, a convenient and free duplicate-image-detector, which works wonderfully for locating comics popular enough to make it into more than one calendar.

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