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Microfilm Cost

A microfilm project is sort of like building a house. There are many individual parts that go together to create the finished product. Depending on which parts are used, the cost can vary considerably. In order to make a reasonably accurate estimate of how much a microfilm project will cost, you have to assemble the parts with cost for each part to arrive at the total cost.

There are six to eight major steps to a microfilm project to consider when determining cost. Depending on the final microfilm format the department is to receive, all major steps may not be used. The major steps are indicated below with a brief description of each.

Document Preparation

Document preparation is getting the documents ready for filming. Depending on the type of microfilm camera used to film the documents, documents may need to have every staple and paper clip removed, torn documents taped, and small documents (3" x 5" or less) such as cash register receipts may need to be taped to larger sheets of paper. When documents are filmed on a rotary camera, they require the most document preparation. When a planetary camera is used documents stapled in the upper right or left hand corner can be filmed without the staple being removed, but all other staples and paper clips will have to be removed.

When estimating document preparation time, use four (4) hours per records center size box.

If departments decide to do their own document preparation, the hours per box would be the same as if a Vendor did the work.

Number of Images

Determining, as correctly as possible, the number of images involved in a microfilm project is very important as total cost is directly proportional to the number of images in the microfilm project. The number of images governs; (1) the number of rolls of original camera film used, (2) number of hours needed to film documents, (3) number of duplicate rolls to be made, (4) processing charges, and (5) final number of items used to produce the correct microfilm format.

A microfilm image is normally one side of a document containing information. If each document in a project contains information on only ONE SIDE, the number of images in the project would equal the number of images in the project. If documents have information on TWO SIDES, then there would be two images for each document. If documents are mixed with some documents having information on only one side and others having information on two sides, the percentage of two sided documents needs to be determined and the number of images figured.

As a guide to assist in determining the number of images, the following figures can be used. These figures are approximations, since exact numbers are influenced by the number of file folders, guides and how tight the containers are packed, but are close enough to actual to provide reasonably accurate estimates.

Container Number of Documents*
Standard Records Center Box (12x15x10) 1,500
Xerox Box (17x11x12) 1,700
File Cabinet Drawer (26" deep) 2,600
Four-Drawer File Cabinet 10,400
Lateral File Cabinet Drawer (42" wide) 4,200
* The rule-of-thumb for determining number of documents in a container is to consider 80-100 sheets of paper per filing inch. The more used the documents, the fewer documents per inch.


Number of Rolls of Original Camera Microfilm

Almost all source document microfilming done at the University will be records that are normally 8½ by 11 inch in size done on 16mm 100-foot rolls of film. In a few instances, 35mm 100-foot rolls of film will be used. 35mm filming is usually used only for newspapers, engineering drawings, maps, and historical records.

To estimate the number of 16mm rolls of microfilm required for a microfilm project, take the total number of images for the project and divide by 2,400 images. (2,400 is the approximate number of images that can be put on a 100-foot roll of 16mm film at a 24 X reduction ratio.) If the majority of documents are smaller than 8 1/2 x 11, then more images can be put on a roll of film. Example: A project that has 143,000 images would require approximately 60 rolls of 16mm original camera film (143,000 divided by 2,400).

Because there are such differences in document sizes for engineering drawings, maps, etc., it is impossible to generalize how many images can be put on a roll of 35mm film. The best way to make an estimate for 35mm filming is to contact a Vendor; let them look at the type documents and figure the number of images.

Number of Filming Hours

Filming is the process of taking documents and exposing them to create the images on the roll of film. The quality of the documents can influence the filming speed of a camera operator. A lot of worn and torn documents take longer than same size, almost new condition documents.

To estimate the number of hours needed to microfilm a project, multiply the estimated number of rolls of microfilm in the project by the number of hours per roll to find total estimated hours. To make the estimate, use the following figures:

For 16mm microfilm use four (4) hours per roll for filming time

For 35mm microfilm, contact a Vendor and have them make the estimate.

Duplicate Microfilm

For every roll of original camera film, there will be a duplicate roll of film produced. The duplicate film will be delivered to departments in the format being used.

To determine duplicating cost, multiply the estimated number of rolls of original camera film times the cost of silver duplicates or diazo duplicates, depending on which type of duplicating film is being used. Ask the Vendor if they are going to use silver or diazo duplicating film.

Number of Jackets or Aperture Cards

Jackets come in several different sizes and can be used on both 16mm microfilm and 35mm microfilm. The number of jackets used in a project will vary depending on the type of records being microfilmed. If the records are divided by file folders (such as student records), more jackets will be needed than if the records are reports or other records that may have many pages.

For estimating purposes, use 100 jackets per 16mm roll of microfilm

Inserting Film into Jackets/Aperture Cards

Inserting is the process of cutting microfilm into sections and putting the microfilm into jackets or aperture cards. Special equipment is used to do the cutting and inserting.

For estimating purposes to determine inserting cost, use three (3) hours per roll for jackets and two (2) hours per roll for aperture cards when working with 16mm microfilm.

When dealing with 35mm microfilm, ask the Vendor to make the estimate.

Typing Identifying Information on Jackets and Aperture Cards

Jackets and aperture cards requires identifying information such as student name, student number, project name, etc. be typed on every jacket or aperture card. The more identifying information to be typed, the longer it will take. Departments may do their own typing, or pay the Vendor to do the work.

To estimate typing cost, use two (2) hours per roll of microfilm for jackets or aperture cards.

Reviewed 2019-08-05