Solving TIFF malformation using exiftool

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Solving TIFF malformation using exiftool

Detailed description

The issue page describes the problem as (essentially): TIFF files being unusable, despite being "validated" by tools like JHOVE.

Solution Champion


Corresponding Issue(s)

Relevant "issues" page.

Solution details

A lot of time was spent investigating the details of the file structure, for the images which could not be opened; which ultimately was a dead-end.

Eventually, we realised that the images were claiming to be 16-bit greyscale, but in fact, were actualy 8-bit greyscale. (Which, in retrospect, should have been more obvious, based on the rare error messages tools would give us.)

This meant that detection/correction suddenly became a lot easier: check for a discrepancy between image dimension and bit-depth, and the actual file size. (See below.) Similarly, because the pixel data was actually correct, we can correct the images by setting the correct value for the "BitsPerSample" tag.

Important questions and takeaways (see slides below)
  • What does "valid" mean for a file?
    • Well-formed?
    • Verified externally by a tool?
    • Matching a spec?
    • Internally consistent?
  • What do we learn from this?
    • Don't always assume your vendors/digitisers are doing the job right.
    • Don't always assume that "successful validation" is meaningful. (Also: learn the limitations of your tools.)
    • The only thing better than double-checking is triple-checking.
Tool Registry Link




Slides from final day (images/PPT)

This was the starting point:

This was where we want to be:

So what did we do to get there?

We moved one bit!

One bit makes a big difference:

Raising questions about "valid":

So how can we not have to do this again? We can use `exiftool` to evaluate the relevant properties of the TIFF images, and flag up an inconsistency:

And exiftool also lets us fix the problem:

What do we learn?

Also: Consequences of bit-rot can be severe!

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