Saturday, January 12, 2008

MipSmooth is a wet nosed puppy

Really, there's nothing else as amazingly awesome as MipSmooth except for a chubby, fuzzy puppy that just wants to chew on your toes and whimper at you so it can go outside and make doodie.

I've never had a puppy. Sad, isn't it? But forget that and feast your vision-holes on the following comparison, since I'm doing this while (finally) finishing off the GENOCYBER menus. They're quite a bitch, and I find that multi-tasking helps me ignore how much I hate copypastaing the same template over and over and over again.

First off, forget the last script I was using on Angel Cop. Good as it looked, it was smoothing over a bit too much detail in the long shots, totally smooshing out stuff like windows in skyscrapers. In short, it was giving it that "Velveeta Effect" where the restoration has turned all fine detail into a nasty thick blob of wannabe cheese. It wasn't doing it too badly, lest I never would have bothered using it, but it was doing it just enough to piss me off, and I thought that, just maybe, I can do better.

And then I found MipSmooth.

Here we have the original frame from the R2. Horrible, isn't it? Take a look at all that nasty grain-looking noise on the chief's jacket, and all that nasty crap in the upper left-hand corner. Even the radio and map are just drowning in noise. See, this isn't film grain - not entirely, anyway - this is noise created at the NTSC video level, and is exactly what NR filters were created to destroy. Of course, the detail is hiding in that noise, so if you over-do it you lose precious detail along with the noise. This is what I THOUGHT I wasn't doing last time but, surprise, I was. On a small scale. But you guys know me, a small scale is enough to give me a fucking brain hemorrhage. So, the idea is to minimize all of this grainy nasty shit without making everything so soft that I actually end up losing anything important - say, the text on the map in the background. It may seem trivial, but the point of this restoration is to give Angel Cop more usable resolution. Which quickly becomes a moot point of the transfer is so soft that there's nothing in that resolution to actually be seen.

Now, what we have here is the same frame, same scaling via Lanczos and Telecide based progressive transfer as last time, but this time the noise reduction is being handled by MipSmooth instead of the relative detail-eating monster that is Deen. As you can see, the fine detail in the image - stuff like the text on the map and the pages on the books - is still as clear as it is on the original image. What I really love about this filter though, is the fact that it manages to de-noise without smoothing everything over. Compare the top left corner. While the R2 was crawling in harsh, gritty, nasty looking noise the new filtered version manages to look less gritty without becoming a big nasty blob lacking any detail whatsoever. Also, check out Taki's jacket. It's still noisy, but less so. This is exactly what I wanted and couldn't get with the half-dozen or so filters I played with, and the most amazing part was this was using a preset - AnimeHQ, for those interested - and I found that further tweaking only made things look worse.

MipSmooth is simply the best denoising filter I've been able to find. It does its' magic in a way that's strong enough to combat ugly MPEG-2 compression and horrific chroma noise, but light enough that it doesn't look like somebody smeared Vaseline on the camera lens. In short, it does exactly what noise reduction is supposed to do: combat redundant data without destroying the integrity of the original signal. The only problem I have now is the dot crawl - I've tried both BiFront and DeDot, and I can say I see absolutely no improvement - and once I find a filter that manages to actually... y'know, do something about it I think we'll have the first truly satisfactory Kentai Films DVD-R Restoration. I'm actually curious if the R2's were comb filtered, since while the dot-crawl is readily visible in virtually every shot the rainbows are pretty minimal. While BiFrost has done absolutely zilch for the dot crawl it has reduced the rainbows when I'm zoomed in to about 150%, and considering there's very little to speak of in the first place I guess it's doing exactly what it's supposed to after all.

Just a shame it isn't any better at it...

EDIT: D'oh! Forgot to show what it would look like if I wasn't filtering out the noise in any capacity:

There we go. As you can see, it's a massive improvement despite being a subtle change. I've tried moving the filter up to after the upscale, but I think that blurs out the detail too much. The last goddamn thing I want to do is just blur all the detail out of the image. That's Manga's job, not mine.

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