Quantcast Project notes, VHS restores (RK@2009) - digitalFAQ Forum
11-30-2009, 11:52 AM
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The backstory...

... just as a recap for the client, and to get readers/members up to speed.

What I have here are two tapes, recorded with handheld camera in late 1980s. These VHS tapes are either the original tapes, or copies from another format -- I didn't ask, not too important for this project -- recorded in SLP (EP) mode.

The worst of the two videos suffers from several issues:
  • shaky handheld video
  • grainy handheld video
  • very, very narrow tracking range. Sometimes faint/brief tracking artifacts can be seen on screen, in the very middle of the screen. Auto tracking is not good on any deck, these were manually tracked in a Panasonic AG-1980P.
  • the original camera had a rolling shutter on pans -- this cannot be fixed, it is only being mentioned
  • color loss
  • a number of indoor unlit dark scenes, with bright sunlight coming into windows, creating silhouettes, shadows and other optical errors
  • mildly hissy/noisy audio
The second video has similar issues.

Restore work/notes:
  • The video was filtered significantly in hardware. Sharpening, de-noising, dual TBC, proc amp for color / contrast, image NR.
  • Follow-up work was performed primarily in Avisynth and VirtualDub, using custom settings on various filters for NR.
  • Custom final encoding settings with MainConcept, for optimal DVD output. Shaky video requires multi-pass high-bitrate encoding.
  • Grain suppression is a mix of in-frame and inter-frame (temporal) filtering. The benefit is clarity of the image, although there can be some slight blurring of motion during very shaky video or on those pans. However, the pans are already blurry with rolling shutter, so those moments are already damaged -- a little more won't hurt, considering the benefits elsewhere in the video.
  • Audio work performed in SoundForge with our custom presets. A few new presets were created just for this project. It had been pre-processed with an audio board on input.

Updates and version info...

This is the new information for the client. What I've decided to do is give you two versions on the first tape.
  • One is a "mild restore", which took out most of the grainy video noise, and fixed the audio (removed hiss/noise).
Looking at the mild-restore video, however, you could still see some of the tracking noise from time to time, very faint, but present. It was also still a bit dark. In order to fix this, however, the video has to get worse, before it gets better. Lightening underexposed/dark video results in excessive grain being added, when coming off VHS sources. The filters needed for hiding/masking tracking noise can also be pretty brutal to interlaced video quality, so it needed to be deinterlaced with a high-quality method.
  • The second is what I call a "heavy restore". It has a processed look to it, but certain scenes are partially improved, in terms of seeing the people and the interior rooms. Tracking noise is now near-transparent on key scenes that had the interviews. Because those scenes are so still, the heavy processing is harder to see in those instances.
Because client tastes can vary, both versions are being provided. The heavy restore work is continued from the mildly restored master file, so there wasn't too much extra work involved.

Knowing how important these tapes are, I felt it worth a little extra effort to clean up those key scenes.

The second tape converted, but filter work is not 100% done yet. It may not need the extra restore steps. It does not contain scenes or footage that would benefit from it.

It's looking good.

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