The Ultimate Scanning Guide for Video Game Preservation

As time marches on, so do the standards of scanning quality. Thanks to the hard work of a lot of individuals as part of the VGSC project, there is now a comprehensive site dedicated to scanning all sorts of things. Check them out at their website. We will keep the rest of the post here for a while as well, but definitely check out the scanning site first.

Preservation of analog data is by definition a lossy process. This guide focuses on getting it 99.9% correct. The goal is not to cut corners and avoid a need to rescan by getting you the best feasible scan possible. Based on my research, it's very unlikely scanning will ever get much better, at least as far as discernible quality is concerned, so it's as good of time as ever to start scanning. Our two main requirements are that you are able to scan at least 800DPI and in 48-bit color. RAW scans are also required and are discussed in a later section but that has to do more with software and not hardware. Depending on which scanner you're using this may or may not be possible, feel free to ask us in the Discord if you're unsure and we will try and assist you.

If you have items you are willing to have scanned but don't want to mess with all this, please let us know in the Discord! There are people in there that will be glad to scan your items and return them. We'll likely even cover the shipping charges both ways, just contact Hubz in the Discord if you're interested.

Hardware Suggestions

The Epson Perfection v550 scanner is the sweet spot (170$ on Amazon). Another scanner often mentioned in the same breath is the Epson Perfection v600, however it doesn't offer any useful features or benefits for our purposes.

Another solid option is the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II (Amazon Link). It's around the same price as the Epson and has similar features.

You will also need a Windows or Macintosh computer for the compatible software that usually comes bundled with the scanner. Linux is doable as well with the program Vuescan as it supports most scanners in Linux.


You'd be surprised how many specks of things will get left behind when you scan. Be sure to clean your scanner with some glass cleaner or water and a micro-cloth before-hand, and you probably want to reapply every few scans or if you notice particles/smudges on the glass when previewing. Scans with particles and smudges only make them harder to clean up in post.

Step Two - Placing Your Paper in the Scanner
Do not align your paper against the edge of the scanner, doing this will cut off the edges of it. Scanners tend to have two corners of the actual scanning bed that cut off a lot more than the opposing sides. We can use that space for materials we can use to help straighten our scans as it's lost space anyway and we want to make sure we have the most space possible for scanning while also keeping things straight as possible. For example on the CanoScan 9000F Mark II the left and bottom sides of the scanner cut off a lot more than the top and right. If you're using a different model you'll need to do some test scans to figure out which sides it cuts off more in your case. Now I'll discuss various straightening methods here and if you come up with any other good ones please let us know.

Example picture of Carpenter Square & Band-Aids - 

Carpenter Squares & Rulers - Great for scanning boxes due to their thickness but usually NOT manual pages as they are too thin and slide underneath. I personally use this - SHINWA CARPENTER'S SQUARE 30CM*15CM Model No. 12130 (Amazon Link) I did have to trim it down on the 30CM side to fit my flatbed which is kind of tricky as it's stainless steel. However if you have the tools to do that it's a great solution as it's thinness fits within my scanner well. Another option that's easier to trim down but isn't as easy to lineup as a square is CARL RM-12/2 12-Inch Cutting Mat for all 12-Inch Trimmers (Amazon Link). Now with whatever option you went with place it along the corner of your scanner that you know has more dead space and press your flattened boxes up against its corner to get a straight scan and lower your flatbed lid. Place a heavy book or object on top of the scanner to flatten the box as much as possible and hit Preview on your scanning software. If the scan looks straight go ahead and scan it! If not readjust and preview again until it looks straight.

Bandaids - Great for manual pages as they stop most pages from slipping underneath. These are tricky to lineup but you'll want to use small thin ones and place them along the edge of your scanner. Try to get them as straight as possible. They should then easily catch your manual pages when you scan them. Remember if you're using a carpenter square or ruler to REMOVE IT before scanning your manual pages as its thickness will block the manual pages from getting as flat as possible. Another important point is if you're scanning a manual, consider removing the staples for a higher quality scan. Again place a book or something heavy to get the scan as flat as possible, and do a preview before scanning to make sure the manual pages are pretty straight. These are notoriously hard to get straight so just do your best.

Manuals with binding are a real pain in the ass, and often have to be basically destroyed to get a flat scan due to their nature. If you don't want to do this it's understandable, however if you're willing to sacrifice your manual for the greater good of preservation you'll need to get the pages unbound. There are various ways to do this such as cutting, or using a heat gun to loosen the adhesive and pull the pages apart. Both are tricky and it's best to practice on some more common or worthless manuals/books to get the hang of it as it's easy to not make a straight cut, or ruin pages by heating them too long with a heat gun. A final option is to contact us in the Discord and mail your manual to someone who has experience debinding and having them scan it.

Dealing with bleed-through is another thing you'll have to deal with, especially when scanning in white manual pages as they'll usually show text etc from the opposite side. An easy solution to this is to use some black construction paper or posterboard and place it on top of the thing you're scanning. For my setup I rigged it up by trimming a sheet of posterboard that fit my scanner platen and then taped it along the top of my scanner. My scanner lid looks kinda trashy with tape on it but it works! 

If you're scanning CD/DVD discs you may notice that there's a rainbow effect that occurs with a lot of them. Luckily FakeShemp discovered that by using Half White diffusion color sheets (Amazon link here) you'll be able to get much better results. Simply place the sheet between the disc and your scanner and you'll get much better quality scans.

Step Three - Scanning Software

We'll add more guides as people with different models are willing to write them but so far we've got two for the preferred models we mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial. Please click the links below to see how to use the built in software to get 48-bit & High DPI RAW scans from each.

CanoScan 9000F Mark II Guide
VueScan Guide

Step Four - Calibration (Optional BUT recommended)

To get the best possible color scans from our scanners we need to calibrate them. However this is a bit of a pain and requires you to order an IT8 calibration card. RAW scans without being calibrated are still wanted however, but it just makes reproducing color accuracy in post much easier if there is an ICC or ICM file attached so that's why it's recommended, but optional. If you're willing to go through the trouble here are tutorials on how to calibrate and get an ICC/ICM file that we'll use later in photo editing software for our scans to be color calibrated to our specific scanner. Also I've got links to my CanoScan 9000F Mark II & Epson 10000XL calibrated files if you happen to use that model. It *should* be better than nothing if you're unable to calibrate your own. If others want to add their scanner model calibrated files for other models please contact Hubz in the Discord.

Step One - Order an IT8 Card from here. Make sure you order the R1 option. Also take note of the Charge# as you'll need to download that target.it8 file from the bottom of this page that matches up to that.

Step Two - Get a RAW scan of your IT8 card. If you're done Step Three above you should be able to use Canon's scanning software to get a RAW scan of your card. Vuescan is a bit different and is an all in one step that I have a linked tutorial to a bit below. Your scan should look quite dark and somewhat similar to this image -

Now that we a RAW Scan we need to run it through calibration software. There are various options but here are two -

1. Vuescan (Windows, Mac, Linux)
2. Rough Profiler (Windows & Mac)
3. ArgyIICMS (Linux) - Run these commands - 

scanin scan.tif (Or whatever your IT8 image file is named) target.it8
colprof -qh scanin_output

The output from VueScan and Rough Profiler/ArgyIICMS were different in my case but both greatly improved the color accuracy of what I had previously. Your mileage may vary and you may have a preference (in my case the Rough Profiler). There is a way to test your results to see which is technically more correct as well. See that tutorial by clicking here.

Calibrated ICC/ICM File Download -

Again it's best to calibrate your own scanner and get an ICC/ICM file that way but if you have the same model as one below you can try to apply these calibrated files and see how it looks.

Epson 10000 XL Color Calibrated Profile (Rough Profiler)

Step Five - Editing & Combining Image with ICC/ICM File

Now that we have our RAW scan and our ICC/ICM file we can combine the two for our color calibrated image! If you skipped the calibration step you don't need to mess with this and can go on to Step Six. If you did however you'll need to open your image editing suite. I am including directions for Photoshop here, if someone is willing to write them up for other image suites please let me know in the Discord and we'll get them put here.

For Photoshop to see your ICC/ICM files they'll need to be placed in specific directories. For Photoshop CS6 in Windows that is the C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color directory. For MacOS it's usually /Library/ColorSync/Profiles/. If neither of those work you'll need to do some Googling to figure out where they need to go.

Once your profiles are able to be seen by Photoshop we'll need to apply them to our RAW image scan. Simply open your RAW image in Photoshop CS6, go to edit along the top menu and choose Assign Profile. Choose the Profile bubble and scroll through the list to find which profile you want to use and select it and press OK. If everything is correct your profile should be applied and the colors of your RAW image scan will look much more natural. Now simply save the Image as a TIFF. You can also choose to compress it to save space, I highly recommend using ZIP compression instead of LZW as it can actually make files bigger! That's it, you should be finished and ready to upload your scan.

Step Six - Uploading

Upload to with a good description. You can see various example of my uploads and mimic your description from here. There is no centralized database (YET, but we're working on it!) for full quality scans and is a tried and true way to preserve data. Sign up for an account (it's easy), and upload your scans! Once you've uploaded something let us know in the Discord. If it meets our standards we'll add it to our Google Sheets that we track uploads on as well as the VGSC collection on the Archive.

U25C4.gifAdditional DiscussionU25BA.gif

What about De-Screening, Post Processing, etc?

These processes are not recommended for maintaining a master file which is our goal with the directions above. De-screening and cleanup are done in post and eventually our project will likely expand into that and write up tutorials for it. Just FYI the best way to de-screen isn't during the scan itself, but via software. For this reason, we don't recommend it for archiving masters. If you really want to de-screen, the Sattva plug-in for Photoshop is a high-quality, professional option - but again, de-screen images should not be archived as masters for preservation due to artificial inaccuracy. Future software will always be developed to do better and better, so an non-descreen image is always necessary to maintain as an archived master.

Looking ahead, the .avif image format is right around the corner from release. Based on the AV1 spec, it is very likely this format will see mass adoption eventually - perhaps on the same scale of jpg. What makes avif so special otherwise is that it supports 48bit lossless images. In the future we may very well add a final step of converting tiff to avif. Don't let this stop you from scanning, both formats are lossless, so conversion will also not result in any quality loss whatsoever.

By Kirkland and dizzzy and Hubz
The Ultimate Scanning Guide for Video Game Preservation The Ultimate Scanning Guide for Video Game Preservation Reviewed by Dizzzy on 7:15 PM Rating: 5

No comments:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Powered by Blogger.