Adobe Acrobat Capture

During the recent PRONOM Research Week, I noticed a file format with no description and no signature.

x-fmt/217Adobe ACD

All I had to go on was it was an Adobe format and the acronym “ACD”. One of the first results that came up in a google search was a post in the Adobe forums with someone asking what to do with some old ACD and ACI files they found on a disc, circa 2000, labeled “Adobe Capture”. The only thing I remember about Adobe Capture was some scanning tools related to Adobe Acrobat, but I didn’t remember coming across any ACD files related to Acrobat.

Initially it wasn’t easy to find more information on this format. Eventually I was able to narrow it down to stand-alone software adobe released called “Adobe Acrobat Capture”. Originally released in 1995 it was eventually discontinued in 2010. The software was marketed under the ePaper name and connected to Acrobat through the creation of a PDF from scanned images. The software was compatible with many scanner models and would process the scanned images, run Optical Character recognition, and export to a searchable PDF. These tools are built into Adobe Acrobat today.

One of the reasons the software was being so elusive is the fact it was sold with a high price tag and required the use of a hardware key, or dongle, in order to process scans. The hardware key also managed the type of license you purchased which may limit the number of pages you are allowed to scan within a certain period of time. So the software is very difficult to run today, if you do happen to find a copy out there in Internet land.

In order to document these file formats for preservation purposes I needed to find some samples. I was excited to find a demonstration CD on the Internet Archive, but unfortunately it contained no examples of the ACD file format.

A little sleuthing on the Wayback Machine helped me find a few user guides and brochures. I was also able to find there was three versions of Adobe Acrobat Capture. In a Product Brochure, you can see a screenshot of the software with a document open with the ACD extension.

If you are OCD like me you might have noticed the window in this screenshot is typical of the older Windows 3.1 or Windows NT system. So this was indeed an older product released by Adobe.

The Adobe Acrobat Capture 3.0 Demonstration CD-ROM from the Internet Archive luckily has a UserGuide PDF on the disc and was able to help me understand the ACD format a little more.

Looks like the ACD format is an intermediate format used by the software to manage the process between scanning and export to PDF. ACD was also defined as an “Acrobat Capture Document” which makes sense. They were also mentioned as being “multipage files in Acrobat Capture Document (ACD)”. The UserGuide also mentioned an ACP format which it referenced as “one-page files are in Acrobat Capture Page (ACP) format.” So more research is needed.

Lets start with Adobe Acrobat Capture 2.0 as I managed to get a few samples from an installer I found. Here is a hexdump of an ACD file and its corresponding ACI file.

hexdump -C CONTRACT.ACD | head
00000000  02 04 47 47 c9 00 86 b5  01 00 b6 27 02 00 01 00  |..GG.......'....|
00000010  f5 00 5e 00 3b 96 02 00  01 6e 63 6a 00 00 88 68  |..^.;....ncj...h|
00000020  00 00 26 00 44 3a 5c 43  4f 44 45 5c 47 47 5c 50  |..&.D:\CODE\GG\P|
00000030  52 4f 44 55 43 54 2e 33  32 53 5c 49 4e 5c 63 6f  |RODUCT.32S\IN\co|
00000040  6e 74 72 61 63 74 2e 61  63 69 00 00 00 00 00 00  |ntract.aci......|
00000050  7c 33 c0 27 00 40 ff ff  ff 00 03 00 03 00 00 00  ||3.'.@..........|
00000060  00 00 00 00 00 00 40 00  00 00 00 00 00 03 00 00  |......@.........|
00000070  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 40  00 00 00 00 09 00 0a ab  |.......@........|
00000080  04 0b 14 b5 04 39 19 00  40 00 00 00 00 0c 14 b0  |.....9..@.......|
00000090  04 38 19 b0 04 08 00 0a  7f 06 d3 11 89 06 39 17  |.8............9.|

hexdump -C CONTRACT.ACI | head
00000000  49 49 2a 00 b3 0c 02 00  35 80 78 a0 80 35 c0 78  |II*.....5.x..5.x|
00000010  a4 80 35 40 3c 54 40 01  e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2  |..5@<T@.........|
00000020  01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2  b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01  |................|
00000030  e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2  01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2  |................|
00000040  b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01  e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2  |................|
00000050  01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2  b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01  |................|
00000060  e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2  01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2  |................|
00000070  b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01  e2 b2 01 e2 b2 01 e2 b2  |................|
00000080  01 e2 b2 01 e0 b0 01 e0  b0 01 e0 b0 01 e0 b0 01  |................|
00000090  e0 b0 01 e0 b0 01 e0 b0  01 e0 b0 01 e0 b0 01 e0  |................|

The ACD file is unique, PRONOM and even TrID was unaware of the format. But to the keen observer, the ACI format is very recognizable. You may have seen this header before:

Lets take a closer look at an ACI file to see if they are a true TIFF image or if there is any customization to the format.

tiffinfo CONTRACT.ACI 
=== TIFF directory 0 ===
TIFF Directory at offset 0x20cb3 (134323)
  Subfile Type: (0 = 0x0)
  Image Width: 2544 Image Length: 3295
  Resolution: 300, 300
  Bits/Sample: 1
  Compression Scheme: CCITT RLE
  Photometric Interpretation: min-is-white
  Samples/Pixel: 1
  Rows/Strip: 32
  Planar Configuration: single image plane
  Software: HALO Desktop Imager

exiftool -D CONTRACT.ACI 
    - ExifTool Version Number         : 12.60
    - File Name                       : CONTRACT.ACI
    - Directory                       : TUTORIAL/SAMPOUT
    - File Size                       : 134 kB
    - File Modification Date/Time     : 1995:07:10 16:02:08-06:00
    - File Access Date/Time           : 2023:11:14 15:41:02-07:00
    - File Inode Change Date/Time     : 2023:11:08 08:34:18-07:00
    - File Permissions                : -rwxrwxrwx
    - File Type                       : TIFF
    - File Type Extension             : tif
    - MIME Type                       : image/tiff
    - Exif Byte Order                 : Little-endian (Intel, II)
  254 Subfile Type                    : Full-resolution image
  256 Image Width                     : 2544
  257 Image Height                    : 3295
  258 Bits Per Sample                 : 1
  259 Compression                     : CCITT 1D
  262 Photometric Interpretation      : WhiteIsZero
  273 Strip Offsets                   : (Binary data 625 bytes, use -b option to extract)
  277 Samples Per Pixel               : 1
  278 Rows Per Strip                  : 32
  279 Strip Byte Counts               : (Binary data 448 bytes, use -b option to extract)
  282 X Resolution                    : 300
  283 Y Resolution                    : 300
  305 Software                        : HALO Desktop Imager
    - Image Size                      : 2544x3295
    - Megapixels                      : 8.4

Looks like a true TIFF image with no special tags or unique properties. They are 1-bit TIFF’s compressed with CCITT RLE. Not sure there would be any need to create a special signature for these ACI files.

Looking closer at the ACD file format, we can see they reference ACI files, so probably safe to assume the ACD file doesn’t contain the full raster data for each image:

hexdump -C Report.acd
00000000  02 04 47 47 c9 00 9a 8b  00 00 d4 ce 00 00 03 00  |..GG............|
00000010  f5 02 5f 00 00 61 01 00  01 6e 63 6a 01 00 30 5f  |.._..a...ncj..0_|
00000020  00 00 27 00 63 3a 5c 63  61 70 74 75 72 65 32 5c  |..'.c:\capture2\|
00000030  73 61 6d 70 6c 65 73 5c  6f 75 74 5c 52 65 70 6f  |samples\out\Repo|
00000040  72 74 5f 30 30 30 31 2e  61 63 69 00 00 01 00 00  |rt_0001.aci.....|
00000050  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 e8 03 00 00 01 00  |................|
00000060  01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 08 00 52 65 70 6f  |............Repo|
00000070  72 74 30 31 00 00 00 00  70 33 d8 27 00 40 ff ff  |rt01....p3.'.@..|
00005f40  07 00 40 6f 00 09 00 40  01 6e 63 6a 02 00 52 2c  |..@o...@.ncj..R,|
00005f50  00 00 27 00 63 3a 5c 63  61 70 74 75 72 65 32 5c  |..'.c:\capture2\|
00005f60  73 61 6d 70 6c 65 73 5c  6f 75 74 5c 52 65 70 6f  |samples\out\Repo|
00005f70  72 74 5f 30 30 30 32 2e  61 63 69 00 00 00 00 00  |rt_0002.aci.....|
00005f80  00 00 00 00 4e 0c fe ff  ff ff e8 03 00 00 01 00  |....N...........|
00005f90  01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 08 00 52 65 70 6f  |............Repo|
00005fa0  72 74 30 32 00 00 00 00  4c 31 f0 27 00 40 ff ff  |rt02....L1.'.@..|

From the limited sample set I have access, all the ACD files begin with the same Hex values, “02044747C900”. Along with the common header we can assume there should be at least one ACI file referenced in the first part of the file. Because it is referenced as a filepath, the ACI string would be variable in its offset.

Adobe Acrobat Capture 3.0 turns out to be a different format. But looks familiar………

hexdump -C Contract.acd | head
00000000  50 4b 03 04 14 00 00 00  08 00 3b ba 6e 57 23 9d  |PK........;.nW#.|
00000010  8e b8 3d 00 00 00 3e 00  00 00 09 00 40 00 46 49  |..=...>.....@.FI|
00000020  4c 45 53 2e 4c 53 54 0a  00 20 00 00 00 00 00 00  |LES.LST.. ......|
00000030  00 00 00 80 e6 e9 ca 50  17 da 01 80 e6 e9 ca 50  |.......P.......P|
00000040  17 da 01 80 e6 e9 ca 50  17 da 01 4e 55 18 00 4e  |.......P...NU..N|
00000050  55 43 58 09 00 46 00 49  00 4c 00 45 00 53 00 2e  |UCX..F.I.L.E.S..|
00000060  00 4c 00 53 00 54 00 8b  76 74 76 31 8c e5 e5 f2  |.L.S.T..vtv1....|
00000070  0c 76 f6 f7 0d f0 0f f6  0c 71 b5 0d 09 0a 75 e5  |.v.......q....u.|
00000080  e5 f2 0b f5 75 f3 f4 71  0d b6 35 e4 e5 02 31 fc  |....u..q..5...1.|
00000090  1c 7d 5d 0d 6d 9d f3 f3  4a 8a 12 93 4b f4 12 93  |.}].m...J...K...|

sf Contract.acd 
siegfried   : 1.10.1
scandate    : 2023-11-15T09:10:01-07:00
signature   : default.sig
created     : 2023-10-11T15:10:17-06:00
identifiers : 
  - name    : 'pronom'
    details : 'DROID_SignatureFile_V114.xml; container-signature-20230822.xml'
filename : 'Contract.acd'
filesize : 79002
modified : 2023-11-14T23:17:53-07:00
errors   : 
matches  :
  - ns      : 'pronom'
    id      : 'x-fmt/263'
    format  : 'ZIP Format'
    version : 
    mime    : 'application/zip'
    basis   : 'byte match at [[0 4] [78886 3] [78980 4]]'
    warning : 'extension mismatch'

Yep, its a zip container file. lets take a peek inside to see what it is composed of.

7z l Contract.acd 
Path = Contract.acd
Type = zip
Physical Size = 79002

   Date      Time    Attr         Size   Compressed  Name
------------------- ----- ------------ ------------  ------------------------
2023-11-14 23:17:54 ....A           62           61  FILES.LST
2023-11-14 23:17:54 ....A          410          226  Contract.acd
2023-11-14 23:17:52 ....A       150213        78093  Contract.acp
------------------- ----- ------------ ------------  ------------------------
2023-11-14 23:17:54             150685        78380  3 files

The the Contract ACD file is like a nesting doll, an ACD within an ACD. Lets see what the ACD and ACP is made of.

hexdump -C Contract.acd | head
00000000  00 01 00 00 00 02 04 47  47 2d 01 9a 01 00 00 02  |.......GG-......|
00000010  00 00 00 02 00 01 01 00  00 00 01 00 00 00 04 04  |................|
00000020  00 00 00 09 00 57 69 6e  67 64 69 6e 67 73 05 00  |.....Wingdings..|
00000030  41 72 69 61 6c 0b 00 43  6f 75 72 69 65 72 20 4e  |Arial..Courier N|
00000040  65 77 0f 00 54 69 6d 65  73 20 4e 65 77 20 52 6f  |ew..Times New Ro|
00000050  6d 61 6e 05 01 00 00 00  02 00 00 00 78 01 00 00  |man.........x...|
00000060  0f 00 54 69 6d 65 73 20  4e 65 77 20 52 6f 6d 61  |..Times New Roma|
00000070  6e 00 00 00 20 0b 00 00  c0 0a 00 00 00 00 00 00  |n... ...........|
00000080  00 06 00 00 00 0f 00 54  69 6d 65 73 20 4e 65 77  |.......Times New|
00000090  20 52 6f 6d 61 6e 00 00  00 20 0c 00 00 00 0c 00  | Roman... ......|

hexdump -C Contract.acp | head
00000000  25 50 44 46 2d 31 2e 33  0d 25 e2 e3 cf d3 0d 0a  |%PDF-1.3.%......|
00000010  31 20 30 20 6f 62 6a 0d  3c 3c 20 0d 2f 54 79 70  |1 0 obj.<< ./Typ|
00000020  65 20 2f 43 61 74 61 6c  6f 67 20 0d 2f 50 61 67  |e /Catalog ./Pag|
00000030  65 73 20 32 20 30 20 52  20 0d 2f 53 74 72 75 63  |es 2 0 R ./Struc|
00000040  74 54 72 65 65 52 6f 6f  74 20 34 20 30 20 52 20  |tTreeRoot 4 0 R |
00000050  0d 2f 43 41 50 54 5f 49  6e 66 6f 20 3c 3c 20 2f  |./CAPT_Info << /|
00000060  56 20 33 30 31 20 2f 46  53 20 5b 20 28 57 69 6e  |V 301 /FS [ (Win|
00000070  67 64 69 6e 67 73 29 28  41 72 69 61 6c 29 28 43  |gdings)(Arial)(C|
00000080  6f 75 72 69 65 72 20 4e  65 77 29 28 54 69 6d 65  |ourier New)(Time|
00000090  73 20 4e 65 77 20 52 6f  6d 61 6e 29 5d 20 2f 4c  |s New Roman)] /L|

The ACD has some of the same hex values as the previous version, but with some extra bytes at the beginning and it looks like the ACP is a straight up PDF. But may have some interesting tags, like “CAPT_info”.

The problem we will face when trying to write a signature for this version of ACD is the container signature needs a static file name to reference, and it appears the name of the container is also the name of the ACD file within the container. So every file will be different. I wish there was a way in the PRONOM signature syntax to reference an extension and ignore the filename, but currently there no method to do this. The only thing inside the container which seems to be consistent is the file “FILES.LST”. So lets take a peek inside if it.

hexdump -C FILES.LST | head
00000000  5b 41 43 44 31 5d 0d 0a  49 53 43 4f 4d 50 4f 53  |[ACD1]..ISCOMPOS|
00000010  49 54 45 3d 54 52 55 45  0d 0a 4e 55 4d 46 49 4c  |ITE=TRUE..NUMFIL|
00000020  45 53 3d 31 0d 0a 46 49  4c 45 4e 41 4d 45 31 3d  |ES=1..FILENAME1=|
00000030  43 6f 6e 74 72 61 63 74  2e 61 63 70 0d 0a        |Contract.acp..|

Ok, there seems to be some static information that is unique to the ACD format. I bet the string “[ACD1]” would be sufficient enough to make a solid signature.

This is a good format example of a limited amount of information on the file format used by a well known company which has become obsolete and disappeared. Take a look at my signatures, maybe you have some old ACD files you were unaware of!


Lets talk TIFF, or Tagged Image File Format. It is well documented and accepted by the community. The format has been around since 1986, first developed by Aldus as a image format for scanners. The TIFF format is now used worldwide as a preferred format for scanning and preservation of cultural heritage objects.

As amazing as the format is, there are a few features of the format which can be a preservation risk. I want to focus on three of those risks.

The Tagged Image File Format has a well known header:

A TIFF file begins with an 8-byte image file header, containing the following
Bytes 0-1: The byte order used within the file. Legal values are:
“II” (4949.H) LSB (IBM)
“MM” (4D4D.H) MSB (Mac)
Bytes 2-3 An arbitrary but carefully chosen number (42).
Bytes 4-7 The offset (in bytes) of the first IFD.

Putting this poster of the TIFF structure in your office will impress your co-workers, guaranteed. Thanks Ange!

The three risks I have been pondering lately are:

  • Multiple IFD’s
  • Metadata
  • DNG format

TIFF version 6.0 was released in 1992 and is the most recent version. Although some vendors are free to add their own private tags. In 1995 Adobe added an addendum which added some additions for use with PageMaker.

One of the main features of the TIFF format is its ability to hold multiple pages. In Adobe’s words:

TIFF has always supported what amounts to a singly linked list of IFD’s in a single TIFF file, via the “next IFD pointer,” though most applications currently ignore any IFD beyond the first one. Probably the best use for a linked list of IFD’s is when you want to store multiple different but related images in the same file—a ‘burst’ of images from a camera, for example.

Adobe PageMaker® 6.0 TIFF Technical Notes

Take note of the highlighted text, software like Adobe Photoshop will ignore any IFD beyond the first one. Even worse, Photoshop won’t even mention there are additional IFD’s. I have used many document scanners which default to multipage TIFF capture and have lost pages because of this. Because of this I have always built my workflows around single page TIFF’s for all scanning and we check against this as a rule.

What also makes this hard is how some capture software uses additional IFD’s. CaptureOne is a popular imaging software used by photographers and cultural heritage institutions. We have used it to connect to our PhaseOne cameras for capture of books and other flat objects. By default the software exports the final TIFF image with a thumbnail.

With the “No Thumbnail” unchecked we get this TIFF structure:

identify _MG_0193.tif 
_MG_0193.tif[0] TIFF 3456x5184 3456x5184+0+0 8-bit sRGB 51.3136MiB 0.030u 0:00.026
_MG_0193.tif[1] TIFF 107x160 107x160+0+0 8-bit sRGB 0.000u 0:00.007

 <IFD1:SubfileType>Reduced-resolution image</IFD1:SubfileType>
 <IFD1:BitsPerSample>8 8 8</IFD1:BitsPerSample>

So Imagemagick identifies two pages 0 and 1 with the second a much smaller resolution than the first. Exiftool reports back IFD0 and IFD1 with IFD1 having a SubfileType of a Reduced-resolution image. Makes sense, it is a thumbnail. In looking at the specifications for TIFF 6.0, I can find no mention of the word “thumbnail”, but the specification does make mention of “reduced resolution” images:

If multiple subfiles are written, the first one must be the full-resolution image. Subsequent images, such as reduced-resolution images, may be in any order in the TIFF file.

The specification also gives us this warning:

TIFF readers must be prepared for multiple images (subfiles) per TIFF file, although they are not required to do anything with images after the first one.

Scary to think about how a reader is not required to do anything, not even warn against multiple IFD’s (Subfiles).

The EXIF specifications seem to expand on this through attributes:

Attribute information can be recorded in 2 IFDs (0th IFD, 1st IFD) following the TIFF structure, including the File Header. The 0th IFD records compressed image attributes (the image itself). The 1st IFD may be used for thumbnail images. 

Page 97 of EXIF Specification

Take a look at the information and Figure 6 on page 21-22 in the EXIF specification.

Adobe early on decided to use their own tags for thumbnail data. Since Photoshop 5, Adobe has stored the thumbnail in Tag 1036.

 1036 Photoshop Thumbnail             : (Binary data 4625 bytes, use -b option to extract)

There is another TIFF structure sometimes used in older FAX compressed multipage TIFFs and now used in the DNG Specification. The SubIFD tag was writable using the libtiff “thumbnail” tool, but is now depreciated. Originally described in the TIFF/EP specification, DNG files use SubIFD trees.

DNG files are often talked about in the same way TIFF files are, and many tools handle both seamlessly. One of the major differences is that DNG files switch their IFD use. IFD0 is often the reduced-resolution thumbnail and SubIFD the full-resolution image.

<IFD0:SubfileType>Reduced-resolution image</IFD0:SubfileType>

<SubIFD:SubfileType>Full-resolution image</SubIFD:SubfileType>

This can cause issues when trying to extract technical metadata from images, knowing which IFD to get the main image details requires a bit of work. I’ll save DNG for another blog post.

TIFF Metadata is a vital part of preservation. The metadata can provide technical properties of the file along with some descriptive information. It amazes me how much the embedded metadata can vary from a scanner or camera capture device. The digitization lab I worked in for years had scanners from Epson, Fujitu, Canon and others. Along with cameras made by Canon, PhaseOne, and Copibooks. Each one with a vastly different set of metadata using different standards. Even when each workflow produced final uncompressed TIFF images, they all varied in metadata.

The TIFF images with the leasT amount of metadata was from the Epson scanners. When using the free Epson Scan software, not a single metadata field was embedded, no dates, scanner model or manufacturer. More was embedded when you used the Silverfast professional software included with each Epson, but even then if you didn’t add any IPTC fields, the metadata was limited.

The most metadata came from the camera systems, especially the PhaseOne/CaptureOne systems. Even though it produced the most and had valuable properties, there were some issues. I already discussed the thumbnail issue, but PhaseOne decided they wanted to change how some of the tags were used.

CaptureOne has quite the list of white balance options. Which is great for the photographer, but not so great for adhering to the TIFF standard.

According to the EXIF TIFF Specification, there are only two values allowed for White Balance, Auto or Manual. A CaptureOne produced TIFF will have this value if Auto or Manual are not chosen:

41987 White Balance                   : Unknown (5)
37384 Light Source                    : Other

The different lighting situations should be identified using the “Light Source” 37384 tag, but alas they chose to add to white balance instead. When I asked about this, they responded that they requested this update to the TIFF spec, but they weren’t willing so they took matters into their own hands. You can read the conversation on the JHOVE issues page.

The TIFF format is very accepted in the Cultural Heritage community as a preferred preservation format. The specification is well understood and documented. I just hope we can continue to openly discuss issues that arise in preservation which add risk to our collections. Some issues are minor compared to others. Sometimes it’s the tools we use to validate formats like TIFF which are wrong and need to be corrected. The talk more about these issues and how to manage them.

Hemera Photo-Object

Many years ago I dabbled in a little Graphic Design. Working for a commercial printer in the Pre-Press area, I was very familiar with all things graphics, but never had a great talent for design, especially drawing. I often needed the random clip art for a design I was working on, so I purchased the Hemera, The Big Box of Art, probably from my local CompUSA if that dates me.

Hemera Big Box of Art

The cool thing about clip art from Hemera is it was not your usual JPG or TIFF format, it was in a special Photo-Object format. This format included the raster image, but also included a mask or alpha channel for the main object. They marketed this format as an alternative to the sometimes larger formats of the day. GIF files didn’t have the color depth and PNG was new enough, Hemera was probably hoping this format would be the next greatest thing to happen to clip art.

A Hemera Photo-Object has the extension HPI. Lets take a closer look at a file and see what is under the hood. I pulled this file from Disc 1 on

The HPI file has a unique header which should make identification really easy. But what do we see starting at offset 32? A JFIF! Just after a 32 byte header the file has a standard JPG file hidden inside. Now a standard JPG file does not have the ability to support an alpha channel so there must be something else they have within to mask this file. Lets look for the EOF file marker for the JPG format.

Well, well, well. It appears the JPG file is then followed by a standard PNG! Sneaky. The entire HPI file is a 32 byte HPI header, a JPG, followed by a PNG. One could easily carve out each of the formats and save as separate files if needed. There is a script you can use to do this for you, written by Ed Halley. The original Hemera software won’t run on modern systems.

Hemera had a good run for about 10 years before selling off their assets in 2004 to another stock image company. At one point Hemera even purchased the rights to all of Corel’s Premium photo library which I covered in my article about the Kodak PhotoCD format.

Image PAC Files

I wouldn’t be surprised if you have never heard of an Image PAC file. You may know it by the more common name Kodak Photo CD Image. Kodak’s PhotoCD format actually refers to the system and Disc format used to store images for compatibility with other hardware. The Kodak PhotoCD format was pretty advanced for its time, it original purpose was to store scanned 35mm film to a disc which was playable on computers and other hardware. In fact, because it was meant to store 35mm rolls as they were scanned it was the first use of the linked Multi-session CD format made standard by the orange book specification. The format was widely adopted at first, but eventually lost favor and was abandoned by 2004.

The Kodak PhotoCD format was also used on many commercial CD-ROM products. One example was the Corel Professional CD series. Below is a photo of a case of 200 CD’s I recently acquired. Each has around a hundred PCD images and viewing software on disc. Most discs can be viewed here. Or you can view their “Sampler” CD-ROM.

The actual PCD image file format was referred to as an Image PAC File. The format was unique in the fact it has multiple resolutions built into a single file. It also stored the raster data in a format called Photo YCC color encoding metric, developed by Kodak. This requires conversion to RGB for many uses. Adobe Photoshop for many years had an import filter for the format built in which included ICC profiles for properly converting the source to a destination colorspace, but support was dropped in CS3 of their products.

Photoshop Kodak PCD import

The Image PAC PCD format was a proprietary format which Kodak protected aggressively, even to the point of threatening legal action to those who attempted to reverse engineer the format. This frustrated developers and was probably part of the reason the format was abandoned. Of course this didn’t deter some curious developers and was partially reversed engineered and is available in the NetPBM library formally knows as PBMPlus. The tool hpcdtoppm was developed to convert PCD to PBM.

The trick in preserving older obsolete formats is to find a way to first identify them, gather significant properties, then migrate to a modern format if appropriate with minimal loss of data. Luckily most PCD files have the ascii string “PCD_IPI” starting around offset 2048. This is basically how the PRONOM registry identifies the format and has assigned it fmt/211. Exiftool also supports the format in identifying some of the significant properties.

ExifTool Version Number         : 12.62
File Name                       : 136009.PCD
Directory                       : /Users/thorsted/Desktop/blog/Kodak/PCD
File Size                       : 3.6 MB
File Modification Date/Time     : 2023:06:23 10:48:55-06:00
File Access Date/Time           : 2023:06:26 23:43:50-06:00
File Inode Change Date/Time     : 2023:06:27 11:18:38-06:00
File Permissions                : -rwx------
File Type                       : PCD
File Type Extension             : pcd
MIME Type                       : image/x-photo-cd
Specification Version           : 0.6
Authoring Software Release      : 3.0
Image Magnification Descriptor  : 1.0
Create Date                     : 1993:09:20 07:35:34-06:00
Image Medium                    : Color reversal
Product Type                    : 116/01 SPD 0064  #00
Scanner Vendor ID               : KODAK
Scanner Product ID              : FilmScanner 2000
Scanner Firmware Version        : 2.21
Scanner Firmware Date           : 
Scanner Serial Number           : 0296
Scanner Pixel Size              : 0b.30 micrometers
Image Workstation Make          : Eastman Kodak
Character Set                   : 95 characters ISO 646
Photo Finisher Name             : HADWEN GRAPHICS
Scene Balance Algorithm Revision: 3.1
Scene Balance Algorithm Command : Neutral SBA On, Color SBA On
Scene Balance Algorithm Film ID : Unknown (131)
Copyright Status                : Restrictions apply
Copyright File Name             : RIGHTS.USE
Orientation                     : Horizontal (normal)
Image Width                     : 3072
Image Height                    : 2048
Compression Class               : Class 1 - 35mm film; Pictoral hard copy
Image Size                      : 3072x2048
Megapixels                      : 6.3

Exiftool is able to gather much of the important properties including an original creation date and the pixel dimensions. It would be nice if was able to mention each of the resolution options as some later Pro versions of PCD had a 64 base for resolutions of 4096 x 6144.

Migration to a more modern open format is a common preservation strategy. The National Archives and Records Administration has the format NF00224 listed as needing to migrate to JPG, while others prefer migration to TIFF. Others have learned valuable lessons attempting to find the right method for migration. There is a right way and a wrong way as the Center for Digital Archaeology learned. The easiest method is to use the popular ImageMagick command-line tool.

thorsted$ identify 136009.PCD 
136009.PCD PCD 768x512 768x512+0+0 8-bit YCC 3.44727MiB 0.020u 0:00.006
thorsted$ convert 136009.PCD[5] -colorspace sRGB +compress 136009.tif
thorsted$ identify 136009.tif
136009.tif TIFF 3072x2048 3072x2048+0+0 8-bit sRGB 18.0004MiB 0.000u 0:00.000

ImageMagick along with most other tools like IrfranView and XnView only see the base resolution of 768 x 512, but with an extra little addition to the command by adding “[5]” after the filename if forces the conversion to use the “Fifth” 16 Base resolution which is the highest resolution on most PCD files, the Pro versions may have higher. The other issue is the colorspace conversion. It is known there could be a loss of highlights. This webpage illustrates different tools and the issues with highlights. You can see the difference if I use -colorspace RGB instead of sRGB.

ImageMagick conversion using RGB vs sRGB colorspace setting.

Other tools such as the open source pcdtojpeg and paid pcdMagic both work well, but the only tool I have tested so far which keeps the original metadata is pcdMagic.

ExifTool Version Number         : 12.62
File Name                       : 136009_1.tif
Directory                       : .
File Size                       : 38 MB
File Modification Date/Time     : 2023:06:27 12:06:26-06:00
File Access Date/Time           : 2023:06:27 12:06:29-06:00
File Inode Change Date/Time     : 2023:06:27 12:06:27-06:00
File Permissions                : -rw-r--r--
File Type                       : TIFF
File Type Extension             : tif
MIME Type                       : image/tiff
Exif Byte Order                 : Little-endian (Intel, II)
Subfile Type                    : Full-resolution image
Image Width                     : 3072
Image Height                    : 2048
Bits Per Sample                 : 16 16 16
Compression                     : Uncompressed
Photometric Interpretation      : RGB
Image Description               : color reversal: Unknown film. SBA settings neutral SBA on, color SBA on
Make                            : KODAK
Camera Model Name               : FilmScanner 2000
Strip Offsets                   : 1622
Samples Per Pixel               : 3
Rows Per Strip                  : 2048
Strip Byte Counts               : 37748736
Planar Configuration            : Chunky
Software                        : pcdMagic V1.4.19
Modify Date                     : 2023:06:27 12:06:26
Copyright                       : Copyright restrictions apply - see copyright file on original CD-ROM for details
Exif Version                    : 0231
Date/Time Original              : 1993:09:20 07:35:34
Create Date                     : 1993:09:20 07:35:34
Offset Time                     : -06:00
User Comment                    : color reversal: Unknown film. SBA settings neutral SBA on, color SBA on
Color Space                     : Uncalibrated
File Source                     : Film Scanner
Profile CMM Type                : Unknown (KCMS)
Profile Version                 : 2.1.0
Profile Class                   : Display Device Profile
Color Space Data                : RGB
Profile Connection Space        : XYZ
Profile Date Time               : 1998:12:01 18:58:21
Profile File Signature          : acsp
Primary Platform                : Microsoft Corporation
CMM Flags                       : Not Embedded, Independent
Device Manufacturer             : Kodak
Device Model                    : ROMM
Device Attributes               : Reflective, Glossy, Positive, Color
Rendering Intent                : Perceptual
Connection Space Illuminant     : 0.9642 1 0.82487
Profile Creator                 : Kodak
Profile ID                      : 0
Profile Copyright               : Copyright (c) Eastman Kodak Company, 1999, all rights reserved.
Profile Description             : ProPhoto RGB
Media White Point               : 0.9642 1 0.82489
Red Tone Reproduction Curve     : (Binary data 14 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Green Tone Reproduction Curve   : (Binary data 14 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Blue Tone Reproduction Curve    : (Binary data 14 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Red Matrix Column               : 0.79767 0.28804 0
Green Matrix Column             : 0.13519 0.71188 0
Blue Matrix Column              : 0.03134 9e-05 0.82491
Device Mfg Desc                 : KODAK
Device Model Desc               : Reference Output Medium Metric(ROMM)
Make And Model                  : (Binary data 40 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Image Size                      : 3072x2048
Megapixels                      : 6.3
Modify Date                     : 2023:06:27 12:06:26-06:00

There is a way to convert the PCD to TIF using ImageMagick, then using Exiftool to map some of the metadata over to the new TIFF file. It would look something like this:

exiftool -addtagsfromfile 136009.PCD '-EXIF:DateTimeOriginal<PhotoCD:CreateDate' '-EXIF:CreateDate<PhotoCD:CreateDate' '-ExifIFD:SerialNumber<PhotoCD:ScannerSerialNumber' '-ExifIFD:ExifImageWidth<PhotoCD:ImageWidth' '-ExifIFD:ExifImageHeight<PhotoCD:ImageHeight' '-IFD0:Make<PhotoCD:ScannerVendorID' '-IFD0:Model<PhotoCD:ScannerProductID' '-IFD0:Orientation<PhotoCD:Orientation' '-IFD0:Copyright<PhotoCD:CopyrightStatus' 136009.tif

JPG Structure

If you hadn’t been over to see the posters made by Ange Albertini, head over now. Below is his poster on the JPG image file format. This is the basic JFIF file format, which stands for JPEG File Interchange Format. There are also raw JPEG streams and Exif, Exchangeable Image File Format.

The basic format is pretty straight forward. There is a start of image marker FFD8 some format information, then the raster compressed data, then an end of image marker FFD9. Identification of a JPEG file should be pretty straight forward. Knowing the start and end marker values and then the type of JPEG based on the Application data, can be very specific. That is until some software engineers start playing fast and loose with the format specifications.

A while back I received a JPG file which didn’t identify using the latest PRONOM signature. It’s happened before, some new phones came out and started using a newer version of the exif specification so I submitted an update to PRONOM for JPG’s using exif 2.3 and greater. But also may need to submit another signature soon for the newly released Exif 3.0 specification! But this JPG I received wasn’t a new version, it should have been identified with the current PRONOM signature. It started with FFD8 and when I went to look at the end of the file for the end of image marker FFD9, it wasn’t where I expected it to be.

This JPG file had an additional 9632 bytes after the FFD9 end of image marker. But why? The image rendered just fine in multiple JPG viewers. The only warning from Exiftool was for “Unrecognized MakerNotes”, which is not too uncommon. So I went to the JPG Exif specification.

EOI, Recording this marker is mandatory. It shall be recorded in this position.

But reading a little further we see…..

Moreover, Exif/DCF readers should be implemented to operate without interruption even if certain kinds of data have been recorded after EOI of the primary image defined in the Exif standard. Specifically, unknown data after EOI of the primary image should be skipped. (see section 4.7.1)

So the extra data is allowed by specification. Any readers should ignore or skip any data after the EOI (End of Image). Well that makes identification more difficult. All the PRONOM signatures are based on having the EOI marker at the “End”. Some have allowance for padding, but not enough for the worst offenders……

The image referenced above was created on a Huawei MHA-L29 cameraphone. But since finding this image, I have also found many Samsung phones do the same thing. Here is one from a Samsung SM-G975U1. Much less padding but enough to throw off identification.

Apple iPhones are also not exempt from this “feature” either. When using the MacOS ImageCapture tool with the HEIC format, a bug can add an excessive amount of empty data at the end of the converted JPG file.

So, when it comes to identification, if your JPG files don’t seem to identify correctly, look closer at the end of the file, it may have some “extra” data.

What’s the 411?

I am dating myself by using the phrase “What’s the 411?” Back in my day (before the Googles), if you wanted quick information you could pick up the “land line”, a corded phone in your home which could only make phone calls, and dial 4-1-1 and you would be connected to an operator that could help you locate businesses, tell you the time, answer simple questions, and was infinity smarter than Alexa.

Around the same time I was using 4-1-1 to answer all my questions, digital camera’s were just coming on the scene. One of those was the Sony Mavica line of digital camera’s. They were unique as they used a floppy disk as the storage media. They had a small LED screen for capture and playback of the captured images. In order to quickly preview the images captured on disk, the camera generates a hidden thumbnail file for each image, this file has the extension .411. When I first saw this file when I copied a floppy from my Mavica cameras, it reminded me of the old information line. I first assumed it was a metadata file as the first few Mavica camera did not use EXIF in their files, but they are simply a raster image in a 64×48 pixel file. Of course Sony did not document this file format and probably hoped no one would noticed as they are hidden on the floppy FAT12 formatted disk.

Video showing index of floppy disk.

One could argue the value of documenting and possibly identifying thumbnail formats as many in digital preservation have chosen not to keep the Thumbs.db file or other hidden files not meant to be preserved or accessible to the user. I have found documenting any format found through technical appraisals provides value to everyone, which may ultimately determine not to keep such formats in their repository, but knowing what they are is vital to the process. Come listen and chat with me about this topic at iPres 2023!

Usually the first part of documenting a format is looking for specifications online or documented somewhere. Since Sony did not publicly release any specifications for this format, we have to use others reverse engineering or do so ourselves. There have been a few attempts to document a conversion of the 411 format to a common raster format like BMP. Like this C code for conversion to BMP, or to NetPBM formats like PPM, or the Java “Javica” software which makes use of the 411 files. My first step was to see if we could find some common patterns in the many samples I have from my Mavica collection. Running Marco Pontello’s TrIDScan, across my 54 samples came up with no common patterns, this was expected as all the reverse engineering efforts points out the format is probably based on the CCIR.601 specification which is MPEG based on frames.

With no common patterns among all the samples, creating a PRONOM signature is not possible. In the future, file identification may be based more on dynamic pattern matching instead of the current static patterns we look for now. Until then, this may need to be submitted as an extension only entry. Two things to note, the files created by the camera are all named starting with “MVC” which could also be used for identification. You may also notice that every .411 file is exactly 4608 bytes. The extension .411 is also pretty unique, so I doubt it will clash with any other format for the moment.

3M Printscape

There are some file formats out there which are confusing. One such file came across my desk awhile back. This file was not identifiable with any tools I threw at it. At first I believed it to be a TIFF file variant.

You can see the TIFF header, but would not open as one, even if the extension was changed from PSC to TIF. The other hint was the phrase “3M Printscape”, I had never heard of it and there wasn’t much information available about it. It seems it was a creative product made by 3M in the early 2000’s. You could buy a package of printable cards, gift bags, etc. The problem was, there was no available software to be found. I searched on the Internet Archive, the Wayback Machine, and many other abandoned software sites. For months I searched, it wasn’t until a year later I came across one of the creative packages at thrift store. I was thrilled. That is until I was able to get the software installed.

After I installed the software in a virtual machine running Windows 98 I tried to open the PSC file but the software was looking for files with the extension STD, which is an unfortunate acronym. Turns out it stands for SureThing Document. SureThing is a software company who develops Label software. After many months of searching I thought I had found the software to render my file, but it was not meant to be.

Many months later I decided to do some more searches. That is when another copy of 3M Printscape showed up in the Internet Archive. 3M Printscape 2.0! It appears 3M decided to design their own software for version 2.0.

The preservation value of the above image is not lost on me. What took me over a year to figure out ended up being a simple pixelated image of a cardinal. Its the journey, not the destination?

From this little adventure I was able to submit two file formats to PRONOM, fmt/1275fmt/1276. Also I documented the formats and linked to the software on the File Format Wiki. The 3M Printscape version 2 was also released for Macintosh, so the signature had to account for endianness, just like a TIFF file would. With the format having the string “3M Printscape” in the header, it made for an easy signature.

Hopefully, I will be the last to spend this much time on an image of a bird.