Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Pink Colored Junk

Hey crazy people who actually read this thing,

Well, ANGEL COP VOL. 2 is officially done, and VOL. 3 will probably be checked over and wed to its' subtitles tonight. That means all I need is disc art and a final cover, though Angel Cop may well be the second title (along with Enzai) for which I give more than 1 cover. Sadly, Enzai was scanned before I had much concept of BMP superiority, and I almost wish I still owned the R2's so I could get a fresh, crispy scan of both sides and do a flip-cover. Anyway, Angel Cop has 3 covers, all of which are kinda' cool, so I might even do a (non-limited... Fuck Bethmaan's "limited to 66 units piece-of-shit-non-anamorphic-DVD-5 of some lame Franco movie everyone already owns anyway" crap) number of discs in each cover ala Andreas Bethmaan's many labels like X-Rated Kult DVD.

Experiments with color correction have led me to realize that, much as correcting a perfect DVD that's just too dark and badly flagged (like Vampire Hunter D) is counter productive, I will say that I'm still considering it for masters I KNOW are inherently screwed. Let's take a look at Oh!Great's JUNK STORY for such an example.

Junk Story has, to the best of my understanding, only ever been released on VHS. There may be an LD I've never seen or heard of before (and possibly a BETA tape), but as this was distributed by a studio primarily interested in live action pornography, which was less likely to get an LD compared to hentai releases (or seems to be from YAJ listings)... well, I'll have to assume this tape is the best master I'll ever see, even if there is a better one hiding in some Japanese pervo's basement. On the left is the original VHS as recorded to a DVD-RW, with no filters what-so-ever apart from what my VCR does naturally through NR/TBC. On the right is literally 10 minutes of tinkering with the color balance, raising the universal gamma level and taking down the red gamma considerably. What I'm left with are eyes that are white, not pink, and fresh skin that doesn't look like it's doused in hot sauce.

Now, here comes the scary part of color correction: how do I know what it was supposed to look like? Some films are intentionally shot with too much red or blue or whatever, and in some instances - like Park Chan-Wook's OLD BOY - the "remastered" version actually looks far less like the original master than the prior transfer! It's entirely possible that this decidedly red hue is how the director always wanted Junk Story to look. But there are several things that make this seem unlikely, not the first of which is the very fact that VHS is a piss-poor format, which tends to change colors drastically due to the nature of how the video information was stored on the tape. Reds tend to bleed and are given a "push" (making everything look overly 'pink'), and the format tends to be very dark and murky, even when you compare a VHS tape and a Laserdisc taken from the same D2 master tape, something I've done here prior with Kaze to Ki no Uta, and have since done with other films like the Star of David anime. LD was an acceptably stable format for NTSC colors accurately representing the video master. VHS never was. So, in a sense we can assume that the VHS release is wrong, just because.

However, here's a more scientific method: the VHS cover has an image of the girl in the above shot, though this particular screen shot (one I chose because the scene itself was dark to begin with) is from a different point in her life, thus in this image she's A) a cyborg, and B) blond. Regadless, it proves her eyes aren't supposed to be pink, and her skin isn't supposed to be red - and yes, her skin tone matches this scene as it does the rest of the OVA. If I really wanted to check the cover, I'd use something more like this...

Yes. All anime color correction should be based on boobs.

Anyway, this was brought on by some recent complaints that, of all things, Disney's Platinum edition of Peter Pan had poor color timing. I'll be honest in saying I don't give a crap if Michael Jackson's life story is presented in a pristine manner on DVD, since it just isn't my bag, but it did frustrate me greatly that plenty of Disney and general cel animation experts have said that the transfer is WAY too dark, and have removed the vibrant, lush colors that every prior video release has featured. Even promotional images have always shown Captain Hook (easily the best part of the film. Pirates rule.) wearing a bright red vest. Well, the new DVD has him wearing burgundy, which is more brown than red. In short, the exact opposite of most remasters for animation has happened: the gamma* has been turned down, as opposed to the saturation being turned up, to make older cel animation look more like the vibrant digital animation that kids these days love.

*Gamma, for the record, is the general level of brightness that the colors themselves in video posses. Turning up the brightness alone will turn your blacks into a light gray, and turning up contrast will make the brighter details disappear completely on a well lit scene. Adjusting the gamma keeps the absolute black and white levels basically the same, while adjusting the colors themselves. In most color corrections that go wrong, the brightness and/or contrast level has been boosted, when just changing the general gamma levels would have been far preferable. You can also dial down the gamma in say, just the red channel to get rid of an ugly pink hue... like I did in the above example.

Now, even with a perfect color correction I need to re-encode the video, which as Vampire Hunter D has proven so many times over, can lead to other undesirable artifacts, like a loss in background detail, pixelation artifacts, scaling bugs and other none too pretty things you want to avoid like the AIDS. Considering that everything I do is based on pre-compressed DVD masters, I'm adding a layer of artifacts onto what's artifacts to begin with. On the other hand, I'm starting with VHS (in Junk Story's case), so capturing as a lossless AVI and then encoding from that probably wouldn't make a whole lot of difference either. It's just a question of what I find more objectionable: reompression artifacts, or nasty un-corrected VHS colors.

I wish I could go with "none of the above", but insofar that ain't happening. And with my land lady trying to fist me up my anoos over a great many things, spending $60 on a new MPEG encoder on the off-chance that it might actually work just isn't in the cards. ProCoder does sound like the best encoder on the market in terms of looking like the source, but unfortunately it's completely, utterly, and 101% uncrackable. This does suck for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which being my "legit" boss is looking for cheap authoring work, and if I could do the encodes too... oh, man oh man... the debt I owe would friggin' disappear like nothing.

And that's all I got for now. If you're (un)lucky I'll come back and rant like a looney over Bandai Visual USA stealing my thunder. You'll know what I mean.

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