Can Microfilm Be Modified In A Way That Is Not Obvious?

Hi, I don't know much of anything about microfilm. I'm guessing the answer to the question in the subject is no but wanted to find out more about it. I am not speaking of originals that have been modified and then microfilmed (that has been ruled out in this case) but rather the modification of the finished microfilm itself. This would also include not obvious ways of inserting a new, modified picture onto an existing roll of microfilm that is derived from the unmodified microfilm picture that was removed from the reel (if any of those sort of ways even exist).

Why do I ask this? Because I have a piece of microfilm from a piece of newspaper from the 90's that looks a little odd. My gut tells me that a certain portion of the picture looks inconsistent. I will not say what part I think might be inconsistent so that you can have an unbiased look at it.

Here is the image in question (scanned with a microfilm scanner):

What do you think? Do I just not know much about newspaper/microfilm and have higher standards for consistency than those formats are able to provide? Sorry if this notion of modified microfilm seems silly but I really have no clue. I'm a digital guy. Microfilm is before my time :)

Submitted byrraymondon Fri, 02/26/2016 - 10:02

The technology to retouch film negatives has existed for many decades. Search Google for "retouching negatives" for examples. Look on Google Books and you'll see how old the techniques are. I don't know the technology well enough to say if similar techniques would work on microfilm, but some probably would. Film grain or magnification might be issues that would make it more difficult. Given the difficulty, I don't see any subject matter in that particular newspaper page that would be worth the effort and expense of retouching.

Given the late date of the newspaper, if the newspaper was retouched, it would have been easier to do it prior to filming.

You've got me curious. I'm interested to find out what you fear might have been tampered with, and perhaps hear your theory as to why.


Submitted byyhoitinkon Fri, 02/26/2016 - 10:20

I see nothing suspicious about that image. It looks like it was imaged from a well-used microfilm, judging by the horizontal scratches that are typical for microfilms that have been used a lot. The scratches line up. I don't see any obvious signs of discontinuation either.
What makes you think this image has been tampered with?

Submitted byTDB4677on Fri, 02/26/2016 - 10:41

I work in a microfilm lab. Your image is definitely from microfilm that has been well used. As far as I know, the microfilm itself cannot be altered in the way that you are suggesting. Microfilm can be spliced together when the microfilm break, but any alterations to the image, like what you're suggesting, would be done when it has been scanned. I don't understand what alteration you see in that image you provided. I see a photograph at the bottom that was probably photoshopped when it was published in the paper, but I don't know if that is what you are talking about.

Submitted byFrancescoon Sat, 02/27/2016 - 05:11

Thanks for your responses!

rraymond: Well I am talking about developed microfilm in this case. Those techniques you linked me to are all for negatives, not developed film, though I'm surprised at how long they've been around. Very interesting!

yhoitink: Ah, I see, that's what the scratches are from!

TDB4677: Ah, a photoshopped photograph? That might be it. Thanks for your perspective :)

To all of you: I just got sort of a feeling near the bottom of the births column and in the column below it (that general area) that something was out of place. Why am I asking about this? I'm doing a research paper and something odd caught my eye in that area of the picture so I was curious about the authenticity of the information. I wouldn't want to use something as a reference if the source had been compromised. It might just be that that picture was photoshopped before being put in the newspaper like TDB4677 suggested and my intuition picked it up. There would be no problem in that case.

Maybe I'm just being paranoid because of the strictness of my professor. Somebody used a photoshopped digital picture of a letter (though they didn't know it was altered) once and he gave them a F because, he said, "You can't be careless when you get a job as a journalist, it gives the people you write for a bad name. To save face, they could do a lot worse than give your paper a F". I'm using the police report area as a source but any other text being modified after the paper was published would probably disqualify it in my professor's eyes.

Submitted byFrancescoon Sat, 02/27/2016 - 05:14

P. S. Any text at all being modified in the microfilm (because it is after the paper was published), I mean to say.

Submitted byEEon Sat, 02/27/2016 - 09:37

Francisco, thanks for posing the question. This has been an education for all of us. You're lucky, you know, to have a professor of that ilk. Judging from that "You can't be careless line," it's obvious that he's a wise man and a sound teacher.

Submitted byFrancescoon Sat, 02/27/2016 - 14:44

EE: You're welcome! He does keep people on their toes and encourage them to do their due diligence. That's a good point, that's better than having a sloppy teacher. I think I might be overreacting. Did you take a look at the parts of the image I mentioned? I am speaking of the police report column, the area near bottom of the births section, the column below that and the column to the bottom right of the births. You are an editor so I realize that you probably have a busy schedule. If you don't have time to look at it that's all right :)

Submitted byFrancescoon Sun, 02/28/2016 - 02:22

So if no one can find anything by Tuesday morning I will go ahead and turn my paper in to the professor. I might just be scared of getting an F and being overly careful about that particular image.

Submitted byEEon Sun, 02/28/2016 - 09:06

Francesco, the image from the film is fuzzy—and, as others have mentioned, it has many scratches from the film being used. I don't see any signs that the film has been "doctored," and the two columns that are headed "Police and Fire" look normal to me. Good luck with the paper.