We have used reflectance difference spectroscopy (RDS) and its extension, azimuth-dependent RDS (ADRDS), to study the properties of sputtered and evaporated nickel films on biaxially oriented poly(ethylene terephtalate) (PET) films in a roll to roll web-coating process. From the full set of ADRDS spectra we extract and analyze both the intrinsic RDS spectra and the azimuthal orientation of the effective optical anisotropy of the samples. From the latter, contributions to the RDS spectra arising from the nickel layer and the PET substrate with different orientations of the optical eigenaxes can be inferred. We find an attenuation of the characteristic RDS signal of the PET substrate with increasing nickel film thickness which is in good agreement with the theoretical prediction. For film thicknesses above 20 nm another contribution to the RDS signal attributed to the optical anisotropy of the deposited nickel layers can be observed. Its strength depends on the deposition method, and is considerably larger for evaporated films than for sputtered ones. With increasing nickel film thickness, the azimuthal orientation of the sample anisotropy changes from the initial value of the PET substrate by about 20° toward the machine direction of the foil. We demonstrate that RDS is also a valuable tool for inline monitoring in the roll to roll process, as the attenuation of the RDS signal, under proper consideration of the orientation of the effective anisotropy, is a function of the film thickness and characteristic for the deposited material.

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