Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Distressing Documents

The very talented Dean Engelhardt has an outstanding tutorial on aging official documents with Photoshop. Each step is carefully described, so users of other imaging programs should be able to reproduce the effects without much trouble.
For this particular piece I started out with something very mundane, namely a Microsoft Word document with the kind of extremely clunky and basic formatting that is typical of official government reports and documents. In real life these reports use the blandest and most default fonts and templates they can … so here I just decided to type up everything in Arial and judiciously bold a few titles, but not to try to do anything fancy. Then I printed out the page, scrunched up the paper, punched holes in the side, scribbled on it and stuck some staples in it. Then I slapped it on my scanner at a jaunty angle and scanned the page back in as a bitmap. [Aside: I've never figured out why, but the real-world guys who photocopy official government documents seem to *really* not care about whether they are straight or not. I figure it isn't an artistic statement.]


CoastConFan said...

You might want to look into the history of reprographics as an aid in making props. I worked for a publishing company in the mid 70s and we made photocopies for paste-up at or printer’s shop, who had a professional grade photocopier. They were perfect, clean and clear. It even had a rare feature of being able to “shoot up and shoot down” – photoreduce and photoenglarge, although we had to use a whiz wheel to calculate the difference in size from percent to actual inches. Ah, the old days. In the military, we used medium quality photocopiers that were not well maintained and they generally had crud on the selenium drum. Of note, many government photocopiers had little telltale stickers on the glass to identify on which machine the copy was made. We also had to log who and when and how many copies were made. Sometimes I had to copy 200 page documents one page at a time, and yes, I rapidly didn’t care if the copy was a little crooked. Those of you who haven’t stood at a copier for 3 hours standing shouldn’t judge. Consider also, on crooked copies that many documents were made from bound documents or those that were stapled and were not to be separated, hence a funny triangle in he upper left corner of the photocopy of the paper being forced backward out of contact with the glass sheet. I have handled a number of 1920s Photostats over the years and they generally age as well as a good photograph, which they were. There is another process from the 20s that made a kind of blueprint negative, but I don’t recall the process. We won’t go into documents that were sent over the wire (a technology that predates WWII) as I think I have talked long enough. Below are some links of interest for advanced prop makers, if you haven’t fallen asleep:

Xerox dates to 1949 but don’t become available to the average user until 1959 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photocopier
Photostat starts circa 1906 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photostat_machine
Also post war reprographic technology Kodak Verifax and Thermofax
See also http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/scitech/carbons/copiers.html and http://www.essortment.com/invented-copy-machine-11332.html

Paul Jones said...

As an ex civil servant I can tell you that when you are photocopying a lot of files you don't bother taking the pages out, you just open the file and place it on the copier. This is why copies tend not to be straight.