Appreciating Your Posters
The big problem with Movie Poster collecting is appreciating your posters. That is the whole point of owning them, right? You want to look at them, see them, admire them and show them off...but not touch them. At least, not too much. It's not as easy as it sounds.
Fundamentally posters are very large pieces of paper; fragile and awkward to handle. Vintage posters are old and delicate. They were nearly all originally folded and have usually been stored that way too. The folds are deeply creased and unfolding them inevitably stresses those dry folds just a little bit more. It doesn't take much to go from a frustrating fold to a tragic tear.
If you have those rare gems, unfolded posters, then you are going to try to keep them that way. You definitely want to avoid adding a crease while trying to handle a big flat piece of aged paper. More troublesome still are those that are un-creased but have been stored rolled. These items will be determined to re-roll themselves when spread out and thwart every attempt to flatten them. Paper weights may stain, crease or tear them. It is a trial worthy of a Kung Fu apprentice.
Handling also brings dirt, greasy finger prints that will show on black glossy surfaces and insidious oils that will devour your paper. You need to protect your treasures from you and everything else out to get them.
Like many artworks, framing is an answer. An added bonus, you can see and show your prized examples to the world. Framing works great but it is rare you will find a cheap container for posters this big. The do it yourself version isn't so bad though, you can buy metal edge kits at exactly the right lengths at art shops and online. Reduced glare and UV blocking acrylic can be bought cut to size for the front and a foam board insulated from the poster with non-acidic backing board takes care of the rear panel. I have done a bunch like this and they look great. It's good for kids room decoration too if you have some Disney reprints around.
Framing is relatively easy, not too expensive if you do it yourself, but has one little drawback - you can't frame them all. Unless you have one of those stately homes with many long corridors and hallways in desperate need of large and lurid advertising art to brighten them up, you will only be able to frame your favorites. Always assuming your cherished Horror Double Features are in harmony with the general tone and taste of your partner and won't give the kids nightmares.
If you have more than a handful of posters or a spouse sensitive to sensationalism, you will probably need some other way of adoring your collection.
The object of photographing the posters is to put the images into your hands so they are available to you in more versatile ways. You can print them and put them in a photo album, splash even more of them over the walls in 8x10 glory, flaunt them on your website or, my favorite, have the images printed on tea mugs. The quad for Silent Night, Deadly Night would make a great Christmas Card, I am sure.
I started my attempts to photograph the quads like everyone does. A couple of bulldog clips, padded appropriately to not crease the paper and the whole lot pinned to the wall. I learned it is trickier than that. As you can see from he attempt below, a point and shoot camera with no special lighting gives clear fold lines, grey whites and glare from the camera flash.
Folded posters won't naturally lay flat, even if you take them from the wall to the floor. Laying a piece of non-glare UV resistant acrylic borrowed from a picture frame over a poster on the floor will get it lying flatter, but even non-glare acrylic will show a ghost of you and the camera looming down on it. In this one you can also see my feet.
Focus is a problem too. Since the posters are so large, having the camera perpendicular to the center of the poster will get the central area in focus, but the edges will be blurred, obscuring anorak details like the NSS numbers and the printers logo. Also, lenses tend to distort what should be a true rectangle into something more curved, giving the long edges a bit of a waistline arc to them.
Lighting is also a challenge, the flash will tend to glare back at you if the surface is even slightly shiny. Even if it's a matte surface like most British quads are, shadows and fold highlights are a problem. Expensive camera lights may work but I don't have them, so I have been doing some outside using the natural light from cloudy but bright days with limited success.
To get around the focus problem I have tried to build a platform to hold the posters at a slight curve. A fan provides gentle suction through perforated backing to hold the folds flat, the whole thing being slightly bent on the long side to approximately match the focal length of the camera. It had some success, the whole thing is more in focus, but I still have issues with lighting and some lens distortion.
Frankly, I also need a better camera but that would siphon money away from the collecting front.
My conclusion: photographing posters needs some expensive equipment to do it well and I don't have the cash.
Scan and Stitch
Scanners are great things for relatively cheaply getting an image digitized. Unfortunately they are not made for 30x40 posters, they generally assume a 11x8.5 size for the original, though Legal and even A3 variants can be found. Bigger scanners are available, but they tend to be specialized for engineering drawings and very expensive.
The solution would seem to be to scan the posters in multiple pieces, then use some software to stitch the small snapshots back into one big image.
There are a lot of things about this method I like. There is no lens distortion or focus issue, each part of the mosaic is a flat scan, uniformly in focus. When assembled you have a true rectangle and at quite a high a resolution if you have the disc space for it.
The drawbacks are that the scanning process is somewhat clumsy, risking additional stress to the posters. Unless you are going to cut your poster into sections the right size for an 8.5x11 scanner (shudder) you will have to manipulate the poster around the scanner to try to get all the snapshots you need to reproduce it.
Some scanners are more appropriate to this than others. I thought I had found the perfect solution to this with the HP Scanjet 4600 See-Thru Scanner. It seemed made for the task, it had a transparent body that could be placed on the original to scan as it lay on a table. Laying the poster out on a large supporting surface and the scanner on top the poster also had the benefit of pressings down the folds and wrinkles so they showed up less on the scanned image. It seemed to work fine until closer inspection revealed it produces scans with a banding or striping pattern I could not eliminate. After replacing it with a second unit I Googled to find this was a known defect with this scanner. I hope in vain for an upgrade or competitors product along the same design, which would be perfect for the scan and stitch of large posters.
Looking at the design of the 4600 though, it occurred to me that the transparent body was useful but in reality all HP had done was turn a normal flatbed on it's back and remove the lid. So as long as I could find a scanner with a lid that was detachable and would lie flat on a surface when overturned, I might be able to do the same thing. The Epsom 4950 seemed to fit the bill, nice looking scanner that seems to show no ill effects from being place upside down on a poster. Image quality is far better than the HP but there was a small recess between the body and the active area of the scanner window. This small gap gives the poster more room to wrinkle than the HP did. A piece of Acrylic 1/8th thick and exactly the same size of the scanner window filled it in nicely. The scanner seems to have no problem with the slightly increased depth of field and the folds are generally held down flat.
After the multiple scanned images are stitched into one on the computer, the results look pretty good. Most of the posters here are Scan and Stitch using this method.
Update: After scanning a lot of posters, the Epson 4600 started making grinding noises and eventually gave out. I replaced it with another, but this one wouldn't scan upside down at all, it just jammed. It looks like I just got lucky on the first 4600 I tried. I scouted the internet and found two possibilities that others had successfully used upside down. One was the HP Scanjet DJF 4100, but after my earlier experience with HP's scan quality and initial success with Epson, I went with the Epson Perfection V200. This is working but has some issues, because of the front control buttons I had to make it into a flat scan surface with a sheet of acrylic, the increase in depth of field is highlighting the creases and folds. It looks like older scanners are better capable of functioning upside down, newer ones have gone through cost cutting design refinements and have less sturdy mechanisms. I think I may have to bite the bullet at some point and buy a better camera...but I so prefer scanning.
Storing Them All
Most collectors insist folded posters should be stored as they were folded, or flat, not rolled. I don't like the thought of ingraining those folds even further so I try to store my posters flat. This takes up a lot of space but my wife has learned to live with the thin boxes lurking under the bed.
I generally put two posters back to back in a 30x40 polythene sleeve, with an acid free backing board separating them. This gives them some protection from the elements and makes them easier to handle without adding to their wear and tear. Mylar sleeves would be far better, but they are a lot more expensive. It's a compromise on archival that I just have to live with for now until I divert funds from buying new posters.
In a bit of a reality check, I have the original three posters that got me into this from my teenage years. For over a decade they were simply pinned to my bedroom wall, no protection at all and yet they don't look appreciably different to most of my sleeved, boxed and backed ones. I'm in denial I know, I'm sure time will have an effect but as ex-theater items, many of them arrive pre-abused. Unless you are going to linen back them all, much of the damage is already done.
Linen backing as a preservation process for posters specialized archivists offer. The poster is cleaned, de-acidified and pasted to a linen or acid free paper backing. This stabilizes the posters from further decay, flattens the folds and strengthens them so they are much easier to handle. A hardier base means that touch-ups and repairs can be done but not everyone approves of this extra step.
Linen backed posters can be stored rolled, they are generally made larger by the extra 1 inch or so protective linen border.
It's expensive but I have a couple that I bought that way and they do look very nice indeed.
I have told my wife they will be worth a fortune to her when I die.
Hammer Comedy Thriller Adventure Drama Family War Western
Ones that got away...For the interest of other collectors, Hammer posters that I don't own, have never owned or only have a reproduction of.
This site was last updated 08/31/12 by xperiment><