I recently took delivery of an automated X-Y table system for our digital production studio at UConn's Homer Babbidge Library. It marked the completion of a process that began back in February when I had first contacted Michael Ulsaker of Ulsaker Studio with my initial specs for a custom rig. The details of how we worked out the final design, its components, and its system integration and automation are topics that I'll be briefly speaking about at Stanford's Cultural Heritage Imaging Professionals Conference next month in the Bay Area.
X-Y tables are used in digital capture for the creation of overlapping image tiles for items that cannot be photographed with a sufficient amount of spatial resolution in a single shot. One of the system's main attributes is that once the analog original is placed down on the table surface it doesn't need to be manually moved from shot to shot. Instead the entire support surface moves programmatically beneath a stationary overhead camera. This results in much less handling by the photographer, far greater throughput, and less wear on the mostly old, mostly oversized, and sometimes brittle formats that require this capture technique.
Additionally, since the table's programmable logic controller can mathematically calculate a consistent percent of overlap among adjacent image tiles, the resulting shots are very precisely photographed. This, in turn, assists Photoshop's Photomerge algorithm to do faster, more accurate image stitching in final post-processing.
Here's a short video that I shot of the newly installed automated system in action. As can be seen, the setup leverages design aspects from the field of robotics and integrates them into studio photography. The 1949 map of New Haven County being captured here is roughly 36" x 49":
After a subsequent trip to Photoshop, the 400ppi image tiles are automatically aligned, blended, and stitched into a new unified image by the software. Indeed the map's edges are in fact not all cut straight (which the composite image accurately depicts)...