We recently met up with sleeve collector Steve Goldman to bring back 100 or so covers in connection with the Art Of The Bizarre Record Sleeve book project. The idea was to work on these to give us a good start on the book then make further selections. The sleeves will either be scanned, photographed (or both!). This batch needs to be done sharpish so we can get them back to Steve ready for him to start work on his next exhibition. Easy On The Eye Books are lucky to have a dedicated scanning workstation. This is not quite such an indulgence as it might seem as all the kit is reused! The scanner is the core of the system, an Epson large format machine made primarily for the American market as it exactly scans a single US tabloid sheet. This was purchased years ago when I was a partner at RPM Records and had got fed up of trying to splice together album sleeves for the many reissues we were doing. I realised the Epson could scan an album cover in one pass, so it is now brilliant for a project like Steve’s book.

The scanner is linked to an aging Macintosh G5 tower, a computer which was phased out in 2006! I picked this up second hand several years ago to supplement my older G4 machines. My last G4 has now had to be retired as it cannot run current software. Nor can the G5 really, but it doesn’t have to. Instead it just runs the Epson scanning software and my last pre-subscription version of Photoshop. This means the scans can be checked quickly on screen before I move on. For this I have another vintage item, the Apple studio display. This design dates back to 1998 and uses LCD technology but again it doesn’t need to be 100% colour accurate, just good enough to let me know if the scan is going to be OK or needs redoing to adjust any levels. I’d love to find the matching Apple Cinema display in working order but these seem to have quickly become prized design icon objects and priced accordingly!

Any work done on the scanner is copied over to my current workstation using a memory stick. I could use the cloud server in theory but the G5 has such vintage versions of the browsers now it’s too much hassle!

I have some of my own scan presets on the Epson system to give me a fairly good starting point for the sleeve scans. Sleeves do present a problem in that the scanner picks up all the original 4 colour screens from the printing process. I have found that using the descreening option on the Epson tends to blur the results more than I like, so instead I usually scan much larger than needed. This adds to the time for each scan but when done, the scan can be reduced a lot in Photoshop which usually eliminates any screen clashes.

Because we need such a lot of images for the book, I am also using a Sony A5000 camera to photograph the less troublesome covers. This is on a tripod and speeds things up a lot. If I am not happy with the results, I add it to the scanning pile. Again the camera was second hand, bought of a woman who had only used it for Vlogging! It is my fourth Sony digital camera and I mainly went for it as it is much more portable, I like to have a camera handy at all times (if I had the cash I would be shopping for an A7C…).

And the Schweppes boxes? Well using the scanner I like to keep on my feet rather than sit, so I used three old wooden Schweppes delivery boxes to make a temporary stand for the monitor, keyboard and mouse, but quickly got so used to this that I have kept it going! If I run out of room for storing 45s it’s going to be a tough choice…