Scanning imagery into authenticity for long-term use

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Steve Ball measures an art piece to be scanned on the state-of-the-art Cruse scanner at his store, The Great Frame Up in Bluffton. LYNNE COPE HUMMELL

Local businessman Stephen Ball has an eye for detail.

Since January 2019, Ball has owned The Great Frame Up in Bluffton, where he offers custom framing, matting and printing.

Ball also owns and operates a large format, state-of-the-art Cruse scanner, one of only 15 for public use in the country, for capturing digital imagery. The business also has a large format printer that produces high-resolution images from the scanner onto paper or canvas.

"We have the only flat-bed digital scanner between here and Atlanta," Ball said. "It's very unique."

When he purchased the franchise, founded in 2007, the scanner came with the deal, because Ball saw the potential in utilizing it.

"I saw the opportunity with the scanner and the business it could grow," he said. He was right. His business grew 44 percent in his first year of ownership, partly due to expanding franchise services and financially investing in the infrastructure.

"We scan the art and digitize it and do digital color management," he said. "Your camera, your monitor and your printer all see color differently. When we scan it, we have software so we can adjust the color."

High-end digital cameras capture images at 28 megabytes; Ball's Cruse scanner tops out at 455 megabytes.

Images are placed on a 40-by-60-inch bed. The museum-quality scanner can capture subtleties in natural materials such as wood or stone, or manufactured items such as wallpaper or textiles. High in resolution and geometric accuracy, a Cruse scanner also allows users to scan thick, mounted, delicate or three-dimensional originals.

Homogenous lighting and the moving table allow the original to remain in its frame or from under glass. The scanner never touches anything.

Basically, the Cruse scanner can flawlessly reproduce works of any size and design; larger objects are scanned in parts and then are digitally stitched together.

A sizable portion of Ball's clients are artists from the region who want impeccable reproductions of their original artwork.

"I have people travel three hours to come in and get their art scanned," he said. He owns the only Cruse scanner in South Carolina.

The Great Frame Up also scans and produces giclees, which are art-based originals that are transferred to canvas in faithful, high-quality detail.

"Because I have the high-quality image digital scanner, we do digital restoration of old photos like old wedding photos that stick to the glass," he said. "We scan those and digitally restore them. Also with our flat-bed scanner, we can lay out all of the pictures from a family photo album, scan them, digitize them and put it into a USB so clients can put it into their computer."

The same technique is applied to modern photography such as wildlife that is shot by local residents.

Scans are transferred to a high-tech printer.

"When scans print out on the printer - we have a new 64-inch wide printer - we want that print to look as close as possible to the original," he said. One recent client in Idaho received a custom 64-by-96-inch print.

Ball stresses that his store is not an art gallery because it doesn't sell originals, but it does sell a lot of giclees and keeps them regularly in stock.

The Great Frame Up also is one of only 27 authorized agents in the country that offers National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration charts and maps for sale. The organization has images of more than 1,000 waterways in the country, including, of course, the Hilton Head area.

Ball and his five employees split their time between in-house framing services and digital imagery and printing.

"My scanning and printing business feeds my framing business and vice versa," he said.

But Ball and his business are not solely profit driven.

For several years, he has donated his services to mat student art work for the annual Eighth Grade Art Exhibit held at Bluffton Library.

Ball recently donated some of his company's time and resources to scan old photos, newspaper articles and other deteriorating documents for archival keeping by the Heyward House Museum and Caldwell Archives.

"We support them," he said. "We help out where we can."

A $4,096 grant from the Daughters of the Revolution helped fund this project initially, but public support is needed to sustain the effort.

Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.

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