Sunday, December 09, 2007

Anamorphic Angel Crap

I know, I know. Angel Cop was finished. In the can. Finito. Owari desu.

But you know me... I like slamming my head against brick walls.

The upside is what I've done was something that took like an hour, and was fun, so wither I do anything with it or not is anyone's guess and I haven't actually been wasting precious time that should have been spent on other things. Okay, I haven't wasted much time. Genocyber and Mystery Pink (or would that be Mystery Brown...?) Project #2 still have priority... assuming I do this it's merely to prove that my AVISynth is better than yours. And possibly to shave a clunky 3 DVD set down to 2 discs, since while I love R2s with overly massive bitrates I'll be honest and say you can get better results with a more careful implementation of a lower bitrate.

Here we have the original R2 DVD of ANGEL COP episode 1. I'm showing off ep. 1 because, frankly, it has the least level of detail to save or lose. See, the animation was excellent, the film stock used was utter shit, and this led to a washed out, grainy, likely 16 mm print damaged nightmare. Well, okay, it's no worse than the average 1980 TV show internegative, but this was a 1989 OVA, and as far as OVAs go, it looks awful. The only video release out there used the 1989 tape master which, while far from unwatchable, wasn't exactly good either. There are a lot of aliasing shots after cuts which look suspiciously like video editing, yet they still IVTC for a nice progressive transfer (unlike Vampire Hunter D, which ghosts just enough to make that impossible). They're also composite tapes, which means dot crawl and rainbows and all that nonsense. Component masters were never really used until the digital age, so this isn't too surprising. The masters simply look like a product of their time, and the DVDs which are a few years old don't help anything. The level of grain and even detail varies from frame to frame, which is a sign of poor MPEG encoding where the I-frames look awesome, and the B-frames are compressed heavily. Mind the R2s have a crazy high bitrate as seemingly all R2 DVDs do, so this is more a matter of the encoder being primitive than the compressionist being an idiot. In short, the DVDs look okay... but I think I can do them one better.

What we have here is an upscaling experiment using Lanczos, which - for my money - is the best up-scaling algorithm out there (and knowing that it has "sharpening" qualities I may experiment with it further). I stand by upscaling non-anamorphic content doesn't get you any "more" detail, but I also know from experience that non-anamorphic prints can lead to all sorts of heacaches if it has subtitles or is being played on a nice high-end monitor. The R2 is also swimming in film grain and compression noise, which I took off with a mild NR filter. I tried the "god of anime sharpening", mfToon, and I have to say I don't like it: it manages to add really harsh EE while making the colors look like an oil painting, and while I can see it's usefulness on stuff like AMVs, its' use should end there. The end result between the whole chain is a little bit soft, but not only would this look far better on a 16:9 monitor, it wouldn't look any worse on a 4:3 monitor because all of the detail that was on the 4:3 version is still there (assuming your DVD player doesn't just blow at scaling 16:9 content to 4:3). Compare the rivets in the background, or the small scuffs on Angel's jacket... I can't honestly say the anamorphic version is perfect, but it looks no worse than the original, and with less grain and MPEG noise the whole thing will look "smoother" and more pleasant without actually lacking any detail. It's also worth saying that this episode is 100% progressive, or at least I think it is, since none of the problem spots I expected to flip out have so far. Telecide isn't nearly as good as a TMPGEnc manual IVTC, but man, it works wonders on a clean source, which Angel Cop happens to be. Plus, CCE tends to add a little noise no matter what settings you use, so the final encode will look slightly grittier, which in turn makes people think it has more detail.

God bless AVS and what little you can learn between everyone screaming "FUD!" and arguing over wither or not Blu-Ray or HD DVD has the bigger optical penis. I still swear that stands for 'Fuck You Dipshit', though apparently it actually means "Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt".

So, what do you guys think? Honestly, if you see something wrong with this remaster, let me know. If the final disc looks like crap, it completely negates the "remastered" principle I'm going for. (I'm not FUNimation goddamn it.) On the other hand, if you think the new anamorphic version looks decent, sweet. Keep in mind that later episodes were a bit wider than the first, and as such there will be less bars on the side. I actually tried cropping the first episode to 1.66:1, the standard ratio for episodes 3+, and found that I was constantly chopping off heads and titles. Well, that wasn't cool. If I get bored I'll show off more pictures of episode 2, which because of the wider aspect ratio actually looks a bit more detailed and helps justify me taking the time to do this in the first place.

I may try using some sharpening features in the scaling algorithm itself, but only because even without the NR in place the R2 is simply out of focus. Not nearly as bad as the old Manga Entertainment VHS tapes (which were NTSC-PAL and back to NTSC!) mind, those were basically a dark blur with Vaseline on the TV set, but blurry none the less. Playing with stuff like MSharpen proved to be disastrous though, so I'm not expecting this to look much better. I also doubt a color correction is possible beyond a saturation boost. The blown out contrast is the result of the film stock used, and there really isn't anything you can do to "fix" it, apart from crushing the blacks. Though honestly that might do a little good in later episodes. This is all very experimental, of course, but I'll figure out what does and doesn't work some time after the next few projects are done.

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