Paluzzi Panoramic Photo Project: Part II by Amy Check

Robert “Bob” Paluzzi with his Cirkut Camera at Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego, January 1998. Image courtesy of Victoria Paluzzi.

Amy Check received her BA in Psychology from UNLV in 2016. She has worked in Digital Collections since 2013, first as a student assistant, before transitioning to a staff position in 2017.  Her previous work includes the National Digital Newspaper Project and the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project. 

Welcome to the second and final blog post about the UNLV Special Collections & Archives Bob Paluzzi Panoramic Photographs Digitization Project. This post is a follow up to our first blog post from last December titled the “Paluzzi Panoramic Photo Project.” There you will find information about who Bob Paluzzi was, learn about Cirkut cameras, see how the collection was prepped for digitization, and meet the project archivist for the grant.

While the first half of the project was focused around rehousing, physically preparing, and recording metadata for the collection, the second half of the project was primarily focused around digitization. In this blog post, we will cover the entire digitization process for the collection: what materials were used, how items were digitized, and how the final images were created. 

The digitization process

Digitization is the process of taking physical materials and converting them into digital formats. Typically this process is achieved through the use of some type of imaging capturing device, like a flatbed scanner or camera. Although standard scanning equipment has worked well for the many items already digitized in Special Collections, this collection’s film negatives could not be digitized in the traditional way due to their unconventional size. The negatives were too wide and too long to digitize with normal equipment. Measuring on average 10 inches tall and up to 8 feet long, we had to get creative and construct a tool that could both keep the film flat during capturing and handle the film’s long length. The solution was a custom-built negative carrier

Placed on the table top of our Phase One Rapid Capture System, the negative carrier is composed of a wooden base, placed directly underneath a camera where two pieces of anti-newton ring glass hold the negative in place. An orange-tinted negative of the Las Vegas Strip is stretched across its surface. Beneath the base, a light box is turned on illuminating the negative.
The star of the digitization show - the negative carrier!

Second in uniqueness only to the actual items in the collection itself, the negative carrier’s base used for digitization was custom-made at Lied Library's Makerspace by our wonderful colleague R.C. Wonderly! The negative carrier is made out of multiple panels of wood that were fit together to mirror the dimensions of our Phase One Rapid Capture System. There is a large cut-out at the top of the negative carrier which allows light from a light box to shine through and illuminate film during capturing. Additionally, there are also two 3D-printed film spool holders on either side of the cut-out to provide physical support for the rolls of film. All of these features allowed us to maintain control over the film negatives while digitally capturing them.

n up close view of a negative carrier with a negative of the Las Vegas Strip stretched out across its surface. The negative is illuminated by a light box placed underneath the negative carrier. A computer monitor in the background shows the digitized images of the negative.
A negative of the Las Vegas Strip is set up and ready to be captured by the camera above the negative carrier. Note: lights were kept on for the purpose of the demonstration photographs; however, during actual sessions of digitization they are turned off.

With the negative carrier in place, the process of digitizing the Paluzzi Collection became streamlined. The best method for digitizing the negatives was to capture several separate images of a single roll of film and then use stitching software to combine the images together into a panoramic photograph

For anyone interested in technicalities, here is a snippet of the Processing Note taken from the collection’s finding aid: “The Paluzzi Panoramic Photographs were digitized using an 11-inch x 14-inch anti-newton ring glass negative carrier and a Phase One Rapid Capture System with an IQ180 80 megapixel digital back and a 72mm Schneider Kreuznach lens. Individual negatives were captured in sections and stitched together electronically using Adobe Photoshop 2021 and Autopano Giga 4.2 software. All negatives were captured at 600ppi at the size of the negative, while medium and large sized photographic prints were captured at 600ppi and 300ppi, respectively.”

And for anyone who is confused by technicalities, here is a brief breakdown to simplify all of the terminology:

  • Technological Term = Simplified Term
  • 11-inch x 14-inch anti-newton ring glass negative carrier = Glass plate
  • Phase One Rapid Capture System with an IQ180 80 megapixel digital back and 72mm Schneider Kreuznach lens = Capturing system and camera
  • Adobe Photoshop 2021 Autopano Giga 4.2 software = Stitching software

There was a learning curve at the beginning of digitizing, but through trial and error, we determined the best way to digitize the negatives was the following process:

Steps for digitizing a negative

  1. Ensure capturing system is ready, light box is on, and surface has been prepped
  2. Load a roll of film onto a film spool holder, working left to right
  3. Pull the film across the negative carrier cut-out and secure it onto the other film spool holder
  4. Place glass on top of film
  5. Capture first section of film
  6. Carefully “roll” negative to next section of film
  7. Capture second section of film
  8. Repeat capturing process until entire film roll has been digitized
  9. Stitch together images to create panoramic photograph
  10. Apply appropriate color correction as needed

The life of a negative

Here is a step-by-step process for digitizing item number PH-00414_133 from start to finish. 

A negative being stretched across the top of a negative film carrier used for digitization.
To begin digitizing, start with a clean work surface, a new capturing session, and an illuminated light box. The negative film roll is attached to the left film spool and unraveled until it can be attached to the other film spool.
A piece of glass being placed on top of a negative to help keep the negative flat during digitization. The negative depicts the Las Vegas Strip and is stretched across the glass carrier held by a wooden base
With the negative stretched across the negative carrier, it is time to flatten the film with a piece of glass. This special glass will help keep the film smooth and flat while it is being captured.
An up-close view of a negative of the Las Vegas Strip stretched across a negative film carrier. A lightbox underneath the carrier illuminates the negative.
With the negative stretched and flattened across the negative carrier, it is time to digitally capture the image. Don’t worry about how the color of the image looks now - that will be fixed during the quality control stage, post-digitization.
A computer screen showing several photographs of the Las Vegas Strip.
Once the negative is digitized, it begins to come to life on the computer. Here is what a typical capture session would look like. These images will be stitched together to create the final photograph.
The final, complete image for item PH-00414_133. A panoramic photo of Las Vegas Boulevard at night.

The completed collection

After several months of constant capturing, stitching, and color correction, we finally reached the finish line of the grant! With the ability to sit and look over the collection in its entirety, we could see how varied and unique the photographs truly were. Overall, the collection produced 737 digital files (mostly panoramic photographs) stemming from 23 boxes and 11 flat files. The contents of the images varied widely in both subject and location. To keep things simple, we divided the collection into two main categories: locations within Nevada and images with locations outside of Nevada

A panoramic view of the “4 corners” street viewpoint on Fremont Street in Las Vegas, Nevada, approximately 1979 to 1982. It is nighttime, and the front entrances and illuminated neon marquees for the Four Queens, Golden Nugget, Binion’s, and Hotel Fremont are visible.
An image from Las Vegas, Nevada: Fremont Street’s "4 corners" including Four Queens, Golden Nugget, Binion's, and Hotel Fremont in Las Vegas, approximately 1979 to 1982.

While the whole collection is visually dynamic, the images that document Las Vegas in the late-1970s through mid-1980s are particularly compelling. The locations within Nevada images mainly document the Las Vegas area and consist of 366 digital files dated from 1978 to 1989. Because Robert Paluzzi lived in Las Vegas and worked at Caesars Palace for over 20 years, he was in the perfect position to photograph all of the unique events that were happening in town: boxing matches between star fighters like Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali at Caesars Palace; hot air balloons taking off at the Tropicana Country Club during the The Tropicana Pro balloon race; college football games at Silver Bowl stadium; and many, many more.

List of subjects found within Las Vegas photos:

  • Boxing matches
  • Alan King Tennis Classic tournaments
  • Grand Prix races
  • Conventions and unions
  • United States Airforce Thunderbirds
  • Classic and antique car clubs
  • UNLV football and basketball games
  • Las Vegas Stars baseball games
  • Las Vegas Strip
  • Fremont Street
  • Desert landscapes around the Vegas Valley
  • Reno and Lake Tahoe

Here are a small number of images from the collection that highlight events and locations around Las Vegas. A full listing of all items found within the Bob Paluzzi Panoramic Photographs may be found in the collection’s finding aid.

 A distant view of a boxing match between Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali outside of the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. A large crowd circles and watches the match. The exterior of Caesars Palace is illuminated in the background.)
Larry Holmes boxes against Muhammad Ali in a fight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada (October 02, 1980). Image PH-00414_043-02.
A distant view of an outdoor tennis match between Johan Kriek and Jimmy Arias at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. A crowd of people sitting in the stands encircles the match. The Caesars Palace is in the background.
Johan Kriek and Jimmy Arias play a tennis match at the Alan King tennis tournament outside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada (May 1985). Image PH-00414_175-01.

The exterior of the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. The casino is seen from across Las Vegas Boulevard with a parking lot and water fountains in the foreground. An anniversary banner showing a side-by-side portrait of a young Frank Sinatra and an older Frank Sinatra hangs on the side of the casino.
An anniversary banner of Frank Sinatra hangs on the side of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada (January 04, 1980). Image PH-00414_022-02.

A college basketball game between UNLV and Kentucky inside the Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The image is taken from high up in the stand behind a packed crowd watching the game.
Go Rebels! College basketball teams UNLV & Kentucky play against each other in a packed arena at the Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada (February 1980). Image PH-00414_023-01.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada. The iconic red rocks and mountains can be seen in the background. Shrubs and cacti like Joshua Trees are seen in the desert foreground.
Recognize this famous area near Las Vegas? Panoramic view of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas, Nevada (February 21, 1982). Image PH-00414_094-01.

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