Black Cat Crosses the Path of Revered Athletic Club
Historic Olympic Club called on Black Cat Studio to digitize and reproduce archives.
When the San Francisco-based Olympic Club chose to remodel its downtown clubhouse location, it decided early on that one of the important aspects to its new look would be to better showcase its history.
After all, the Olympic Club is the oldest private athletic club in America. It was established in 1860 and, since that time, members have included some well-known names in athletics, including boxer "Gentleman Jim" Corbett (1887 heavyweight champion), tennis player Art "Tappy" Larsen (1950 US national champion), water polo player Maureen O’Toole (silver medalist at the 2000 Olympic Games), and others. Today, its roster includes more than 5000 active members from around the world, and those members regularly participate in athletic and social events wearing the Club’s internationally recognized "Winged O."
As you might guess, with that kind of history, the club had managed to archive quite a few items from years gone by-from black-and-white photographs representing just about every sport to architectural drawings, event announcements, ticket stubs, and even membership applications from folks like Ty Cobb. In addition, it had a collection of offset lithographic prints of The Olympian, a color magazine that served as the club’s newsletter dating back to 1925.
To digitize and reproduce some of its oldest archives into large-format prints for display on its walls, the club called on local print provider Black Cat Studio.
Black Cat jumped in with all four paws during the 3 months it would take to turn around the project. "It was our job to take this wide range of imagery and funnel it all into a workflow so the final output was pretty much homogenous," says Jay Daniel, Black Cat’s owner and primary photographer.
The Olympic Club’s in-house archivist began the process by going through all the organization’s materials and choosing just what was to be scanned. Bill Callan, acting archivist, says the club chose the selected items because they showed the heritage of the club from its inception to the present, and were a representation of the club’s classics-both sports and non-sports.
The selected materials were then separated into two groups: what would be scanned in by Black Cat and what would be done by the Olympic Club itself.
The Olympic Club took on all materials measuring less than 11 x 17 in., about half of all the materials scanned. The club had purchased a brand new Epson Expression 10000XL, says Daniel, and "I spent a short period going over how to scan things and optimize them." While most of their scans were good, he says, he still had the club submit the original along with the scan,"just so we had a reference."
The scanning of larger pieces, as well as all film and transparencies, fell to Black Cat Studio. For the film and transparencies, the shop used its Imacon Flextight III scanner. For anything that needed to be shot with a digital camera-such as fragile old newspapers-the staff relied on its Canon EOS 5D digital SLR, while about 50 oversized pieces were photographed onto 4x5 film and then scanned on the Imacon.
In all, the total number of final prints produced for the project would come to nearly 300, but many more images were scanned that were never used. "They began feeding us images and we tried to throughput about 10 to 30 images per week," says Daniel.
To keep track of all the images and files during the course of the 3-month production cycle, Black Cat developed its own image-management system-a customized FileMaker program. This way, says Daniel, they could track images when they came in, who had worked on them, where they were in what department, when they were completed, when they were invoiced, and so on.
Daniel and crew then went to work restoring them to their original glory. "Most of the images were 50 years or older and had been originally presented in black-and white and in high contrast-but they were browning, faded, or losing contrast. So we tried to add back the contrast and the tone that these images originally had," he says. Approximately 75% of the scanned images required such retouching.
In a way, explains Daniel, the restoration work for the Olympic Club was easier than the work for some of its other clients: "We’re used to matching something that someone’s holding next to our print-an original, a painting, etc. Here, we had a lot more discretion in making the image look good rather than accurate."
Proofing and printing
The proofing and printing process for this project was relatively straightforward, says Daniel.
"We used ColorByte Software’s Image- Print RIP 6.0 to stack up a whole bunch of images, and sometimes I would print 20 to 30 proofs," Daniel says. "Proofs came right out of the same printer we used to print, using the same inkset and the same paper."
That printer was the shop’s Epson Stylus Pro 9800, utilized in conjunction with LexJet’s Premium Archival Matte photo paper. Proofs measured 8 x 10 or lettersize. Once proofs were approved, Daniel and company turned to outputting the final prints, which ranged in size from 18 x 24 in. to 36 x 48 in.
"The only real significant variation was that the more modern images were printed on semigloss or satin. Everythingthat was older, we printed on matte. But we used the same ink and paper combination for 90% of the work," says Daniel.
The final prints were then sent off to San Francisco commercial framer City Picture Frame (www.citypictureframe.com), which rag-matted the prints and inserted them into frames. Last fall, the finished prints were installed for display along the inside walls of the Olympic Club, allowing the venerable association’s members and visitors to revel in its history as well as its achievements.
Expanding its lineup
Begun as a photography studio in 1980 under the name Jay Daniel Associates, by 1998 the company had changed its name to Black Cat Studio. The services it offered had expanded as well-into photographing fine art for artists, galleries, and collectors. Its first wide-format investment was an Epson Stylus Pro 9000, so the staff could shoot film, scan it, and make fine-art prints.
Fast forward almost a decade to the present and the company has expanded its printer line-up to include five Epson printers-an Epson Stylus Pro 9800, two 9500s, a 10600, and a 7600. In addition, Black Cat also has added to its capture technology with Microtek ScanMaker i800, Minolta DiMage Scan Elite 5400, Imacon Flextight III, and Umax 2100XL scanners, as well as a Canon EOS 5D digital SLR and a BetterLight scanning back, which it uses in conjunction with a Sinar 4x5 camera.
BLACK CAT STUDIO
THE OLYMPIC CLUB