Saturday, February 02, 2008

Head Meets Wall: The end of the Vampire Hunter D Saga

Vampire. Hunter. D. Is. Unfixable.

There. I've said it. And I farking mean it this time.

It dawned on me comparing the 16:9 version to the 4:3 version - whilst experimenting with the Godly power that is FFDShow, another happy thought for another not depressy time - that there's a shot on the Japanese DVD that's... literally a long shot of nothing. Here, I have a screencap and everything:

Rarw! I'm a scary shadow of mosquito noise and crushed blacks!

And here we have the German transfer.

S'up muh niggaz!!

If your monitor is on the dark side, try turning the brightness up a little bit. If need be, play with it in photoshop even. See, in the bottom shot there's a black reptilian shadow, right in the middle. See it now? Yeah. There's Waldo. That's actually Cloverfield - no, really, a teeny tiny baby Cloverfield. Not a land whale. Now try cranking the brightness with the Japanese shot. There's... maybe a neck? But not really. There's nothing there. The transfer is a large black blob of nothingness, and god help me it's still a better transfer than the wobbling and torn black hole that is the R1 DVD that Urban Vision shat out years ago.

Literally, the German DVD is the only transfer of Vampire Hunter D I think I can stand to watch anymore. Considering it's cropped 20% of the picture out, words can't rightly describe how sad this fact is, and how frustrated I am that the majority of my efforts to make the JR2 look "better" have been for naught.

I'm not God. I just play him on TV.

I fought the good fight. I've tried to adjust contrast, gamma, brightnees, saturation, hue, quite literally every single setting that I as a man working from a pre-encoded NTSC DVD can changs. But it's a lost cause. The monster isn't there. At all. Maybe he never even was, I... I don't know anymore. I really, really don't. Maybe the German DVD found an alternate animation sequence. Maybe there are two monsters and the first one disappeared, and now he's hanging out at the Starbucks in the mall listening to The Stooges on his iPod and living it up, having not had his skull blown off and everything. Maybe he's really the Fifth Beetle. I don't know. I just, don't know.

With this realization, that no matter how awesome my intentions are Vampire Hunter D is the sole definition of "lost cause", I give up. I've "perfected" a set of restoration filters that don't involve making it brighter, since every time I do that I just wind up with a completely grey screen instead of a completely black one. Despite the daylight scenes looking like they're at dusk, I'd rather have almost solid blacks.

So, what's my secret plot?

There's comb filtering.

There's noise reduction

There's sharpening.

There's saturation boosting.


Oh sure, I've tried to perform an IVTC. I can't do a 100% accurate "by hand" Inverce Telecine. I've tried, quite literally, at least a dozen times in TMPGEnc Plus. The reel changes are 100% interlaced for some frames and the 3:2 pattern is a never ending lost cause in others. The automated IVTC algoritms are even worse, leaving me with interlaced frames smack in the middle of perfect 3:2 No Brainer Progressive Country, and as I can't make a "partly progressive" file in CCE SP (or if I can, I sure don't know how it's done) I guess that just leaves me with interlaced, doesn't it? It's also worth pointing out that if I want to comb filter I have to do it after the IVTC, lest I get temporal ghositng like a bastard out of Hell, so if I were to use CCE's own IVTC algorithm (which was programmed in Greek, I swear) I'd have ghosting. Yeah, that's right: ghosting on a fucking progressive 24p transfer.

But it wouldn't have any rainows, right?

This sucks. This really, really, really sucks. Frankly there's so much noise and so many compression artifacts - even after the rather heavy NR scrubbing - that it really doesn't make a bit of difference in the end: this OVA is crawling in disgusting funk that drags all of those Witchblade screencaps I put up this week into the wood shed and goes to town on them La Madre Terza style, and fuck it, it always will. Vampire Hunter D was the single worst evil plot I've EVER had. It's fundamentally the hardest project on the planet to do, and it was the one that - had I understood how far gone the whole thing was over 2 years ago - I would have given up on. Every new "bright idea" I have on the topic just makes the AVISynth script look even worse than it was before, and to quote Phillip J. Fry, "You can take my money for so long, until you have it all, and I say enough!"

I'm sorry, ASHIDA Touyo. I thought I had something here, but I was just a big stubborn jackass who's wasted more sleepless nights than I can count due to the brain cells I've lost trying to perfect what amounts to this:

mpeg2source("C:\Blah\Vampire Hunter D OAR.d2v")
MipSmooth(preset = "MovieHQ")

Can you believe it? 2 years. 2 years! For that measly scrawny little stupid piece of scripting shit. All right, some of that time was spent figuring out how to make CCE SP spit out a watchable video file too, but not nearly enough of it. Most of this time was spent essentially smacking the Great Wall of China with a ball-pein hammer and wondering when the fuck I was going to strike gold. No, I'm serious, I've been that amazingly stubbornly retarded.

...bloody hell. Watching the video in motion the comb filter caused temporal smearing even on the interlaced version. I guess you know what this means:

mpeg2source("C:\Blah\Vampire Hunter D OAR.d2v")
MipSmooth(preset = "MovieHQ")

Even with that tweak it's all a glorified "smooth it out and sharpen it up" affair, the very principle that most of the time I speak agasinst (though for good reason as it's usually applied by douchebags who don't know that "grain" and "noise" aren't the same fucking thing). Christ, what difference does it make at this point? I might as well slap the R1 transfer on there and call it "Remastered" because it has a stereo Japanese track!

Sorry for getting all bitch like this on you, dear readers, but it's always a harsh moment when you have to look your work in the eye and realize that it's all fucking shit. It's sort of like spending your days studying to become a fine chef only to find you can't even make a Big Mac, or showing up at a porn audition thinking 6 centimeters - rather than inches - is the size of the average prick. It's just painful to realize, and there's no one but yourself to blame.

Well, I've wasted quite enough time on this restoration... and this particular blog. Back to working for my legitimate employer, and as soon as that's over with it's back to Genocyber. Yeah, you thought I forgot... but nah', I can't forget what it is I do. I'm not a restoration expert. Just a subtitle guy with benefits.

P.S. - For the sake of argument here's a shot of the Urban Vision R1:

As you can see, it really is just a black hole. Which is only slightly worse than the R2 disc being a noisy gray hole... I guess? Damn you all. Why couldn't OVA Films have just done their restoration in 4:3?

Listening to the English track I'm hearing a lot of echo, but it's not consistent echo. It comes and goes at random. I don't know for certain if this is because the dub was poorly produced or if it was a side-effect of the 5.1 mix. Could be either, and without getting the goddamned LD I guess I'll never know. I'm also incredibly confused why the Japanese audio track on the R1 is basically a mono track that shifts between the left and right channel. The film was always Stereo on video in Japan, but the US LD and German DVD list the mono Japanese audio as the "original". In short, Vampire Hunter D is a bitch, and even if it popped my otaku cherry I've come so damned close to hating its' guts its' depressing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo, what words..., a brilliant idea