Oct 012010

[To coincide with the “official” release of Mega Drive Advanced Gaming issue 1, as well as the UK’s 10th anniversary of the Mega Drive, we take a look at what went into digitizing this magazine.]

If you’re in the dark where “Mega Drive Advanced Gaming” (MAG from now on) and “official” releases are concerned then go check out Out-of-Print Archive’s interview with Hugh Gollner, the publisher/owner of Maverick Magazines (the very company that produced MAG).

Right, that’s the background of the magazine and official permission taken care of so it’s down to digitizing the thing. First things first, the magazine is obtained, and although I personally have a few issues of MAG, I didn’t have issue 1. Thankfully, a very generous member of Out-of-Print Archive forums by the name of homgran kindly loaned me his copy of issue 1. I received the magazine and I was ready to start scanning. Scanner settings used for this are 300dpi resolution, 100% and reflective magazine filter, with image output being the raw PaperPort lossless image format.

Having an A4 scanner and a magazine in that super A4 wide format all the publishers loved during the 1990s, I have to scan each page twice, one on the left and once on the right – they are joined later on in the editing process. A quality release should also capture the full page of the magazine and never have any pages cropped. Of course, the work here can be reduced by obtaining a new scanner as the better models can scan one page in about 10 seconds, rather than the one minute 55 seconds I have to wait for.

So the issue is scanned and it’s time to join the two separate scans of each page. The raw PaperPort files are exported into TIFF files. To join the pages, Gimp and its combine plug-in was used. Basically, what is done here is that both of the images are opened as layers and the plug-in helps you align the two layers over each other to make one complete page. Here the pages are aligned and straightened if necessary. This process, which can take from two to six minutes, is carried out for each page. If you don’t want to do the “scan each page twice” and “join them up” malarkey then a pricey A3 scanner is the solution. Failing that, if you have the cash, the latest version of Photoshop does a fantastic job of merging two images with no manual adjustments from the user need at all.

With all the pages scanned and joined, it’s now time to start editing them. Here, we are removing any blemish marks, tears or folds from the scan, by using clone techniques and brushes. Once this is done the image is “white balanced” out to give it that straight off the printers gloss look. This process takes anything from five minutes to 45 minutes and depends on how much repair work the page needs. And generally speaking, more time is taken on the front cover, for obvious reasons.

Okay, so the pages are edited and it’s now time to resize them. A good quality scan looks best at 1920 pixels wide, so, using Gimp, the images are resized and saved as jpg files (90/100 quality). Then the images are zipped, the zip archive extension renamed as CBZ, which is a comic book reader file name extension. A comic book reader program allows the reader to browse through an archived set of images as if it were a comic or magazine. This early read through gives us a chance to see how the magazine looks and spot any faults or blemishes missed, which can then be amended.

With the scanning and editing work done and dusted, it’s now time to create the webpages for the issue and the four articles. If you’ve visited Out-of-Print Archive before then you will know that for each issue four articles are chosen to view online, a kind of preview of the magazine itself. Using a combination of freeware web page software, SeaMonkey, and WordPad, an html page was created to house the editorial details, issue content, a small image of the front cover, thumbnail images of the online articles, and other link images, etc. For an online article, a 900 pixel width image of the page is included, along with thumbnail images linking to the other pages of the article. This is repeated for each page.

The MAG1 html page and images, as well as the online material, are uploaded to the Out-of-Print Archive severs. The final release of the magazine is uploaded to Hotfile (to reduce bandwith on the servers) and a link placed on all appropriate pages. To complete the “going live” process, meppi (OoPA’s web guru), carries out the final updates to the news, catalogue, features and reviews pages. So what are you waiting for? Go check out the official release of MAG1.

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