Saturday, March 29, 2008

HEAVY Lifting

I'll be back to talk about this awesomely epic trainwreck... in the mean time, here's a short preview clip for the 1990 theatrical anime HEAVY.

Rapidshare

As you can see, the tape was in pretty sorry condition and jitters... pretty much constantly. This is a shame, as the movie is just all sorts of goofy 80s inspired awesome. Still, this'll give everyone an idea of what to expect: it isn't pretty, but unless somebody wants to pony up for an LD, it'll do.

On the flipside, it's so short I can pair it with DEAD HEAT on a single DVD-R without re-encoding.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Unbreakable Comb(filters)

My effort to restore VHS tapes to near-watchability has just increased in scope.

The biggest part of the VHS capture chain is always what VCR you're using: start with a crap deck, and you'll get crap results. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Go Video VCR, which in turn is actually a re-badged high quality JVC 9000 series deck, complete with S-VHS capabilities and a Time Base Corrector/Digital Noise Reduction feature. This was always hooked up via S-Video on my old Sanyo recorder. It just seemed natural: there's an empty S-Video port! Stuff it like the anus of a porn star, quickly and without thinking about the natural consequences that sticking a penis inside of an anus could bring*!

(*No, that's not a lame gay joke. I'm just saying A) there could be doodies in there, and B) you rail that thing too hard and somebody's gonna' wear adult diapers by the age of 35. Of course by that point they've been regulated to "Milf" or "Granny" status by then, so... wait, where am I going with all this?)

My new Lite-On lacks S-video inputs. This at once is and is not a problem, because while VHS is a component format in structure and thus the chroma (C) and luma/grayscale (Y) should be kept separate where possible, it's never actually had component material released on it or hardware built to make it happen. Ever. One can argue that S-Video (by which I mean the connection, not S-VHS) gives you mathematically better picture because you're separating the chroma and luma, but for this to inherently be true we have to assume that the original signal separated the two and that using a comb filter at some point isn't going to do any favors. Again, every single VHS - "digitally processed" and otherwise - was pumped out with the chroma and luma signals crossed, which leads to that old chestnut dot crawl. It's literally on every VHS and LD on the planet, and typically you'd only want to use S-Video if your player has a built-in comb filter, as most TVs and other display devices have their own which will only kick in when you use that flimsy yellow cable. I've actually suggested running a second composite cable for dot-crawl infected DVDs... didn't go over too well with some videophiles who have Oppo players kicking around which can kick in a comb filter over HDMI, but I stand by it for certain crap-sources as an easy way to smear composite artifacts into oblivion.

With this in mind, why would I care if there's an S-Video in?

This is why.

This is, quite literally, a 6 pound block of comb filter which would help get rid of crawling dots and sparkling rainbows in the olden days of digital TVs. It was released back in 2000 as HDTVs started filtering into the homes of the rich and/or completely obsessed, and was built to separate the Y/C signals and eliminate dot-crawl and rainbows as best was possible by offering a new S-Video (and in some cases, component) connection. It cost about a thousand dollars back when. Nowadays - if you can find one, that is - they're said to go for under a hundred bucks. This is worthless when it comes to hooking it all up to my DVD recorder, but still may be useful if I make good on that threat to start capturing video to my PC. Unfortunately, while I've had some rather good luck encoding heavily filtered DVD material (see Vampire Hunter D's last test), excessively noisy source [VHS] + excessively noisy MPEG encoder [ CCE SP] =
excessively noisy transfer. It's rather simple, really, so while I could always soften the video out to cut down on further artifacts, I'm not convinced that's really helping me in the long run when I'm softening something that already has only a tiny bit of detail (and a lot of noise).

There's also the fact that if I really need a comb filter I can always exploit those that are available in AVISynth. The trouble is once I've recorded it and introduced new and exciting artifacts into the signal, the comb filtering is much less effective, though honestly, AVISynth comb filters aren't very effective in the first place. I think Dscaler's was slightly better, but... not by enough. I actually removed a host of them from the Vampire Hunter D restoration since they added ghosting, despite a positive influence on the transfer otherwise. For interlaced tapes that feature ghosting anyway this isn't such a big deal, but as the comb filters have done very little for my first squirming guineapig, Dead Heat, I'm simply not convinced that AVISynth is the answer.

I could also just buy a second DVD recorder that supports S-Video... but now, everyone who's read the first half of this sentence is already laughing their balls off.

In effect, this entry is me going "Hmmmm..." like a John K. cartoon without actually doing anything, which isn't much like a John K. cartoon. Ah, hell. Take this as a consolation prize.


Bet you didn't see Geno-tan coming from a mile away. Next time I'll try to wax poetic about ロッキ・ザ・アニメ‼ in the near future. You'll be "glad" I did.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Blassreiter and Freelance Nautical Acquisitons

First off, everyone here should know the name ITANO Ichirou. If not, he's the man who directed Violence Jack: Evil Town, Battle Royal Highschool, Megazone 23 Part II, Angel Cop, and most recently/likely most famously, Gantz. Itano's work has fascinated me for quite some time, as it's typically a bit like being handed an uncut crystal who's sparkling jagged edges have lacerated your fingers: you can't honestly say that it's "beautiful" in the way a polished stone would be, but there's so much intensity that you can't help but marvel at the beautiful points and the sparkle that emanates from the rust colored stain running down one side.

For anoyone who's seen any of the above titles, you'll know that he has a few kinks that seem to crop up in nearly everything he does: elegant and vivid destruction of the human body, spectacularly clever minimalism, a love and respect for the young people (by which I mean anarchistic punks), and perhaps most notably, a penchant for total nihilism in which the world as we know it is cut down to its' raw, bleeding roots, and presented in such a sad and beautiful way that it'd be impolite not to stare. In the broadest sense, I think Gantz has been his best effort: it may be a little pretentious, it's certainly evasive, and I'd argue that it drag its' feet in the first season when it should be running forward with guns ablaze and heads a' popping like the Fist of the North Star '86 movie in fast forward, but I think it managed - despite these flaws - to create a brutal and strange world for a team of unlikely (and oft undeserving) anti-heroes to make a choice: wallow in their own selfish view of the world and pretend that the problems out there aren't theirs to face, or wake up and join the fight to see tomorrow with your own eyes wide open. I can't say Gantz is perfect, and I can attribute a lot of the aimless and fuzzy narrative to the manga it was based on, but the last arc in which the title character decides to up the stakes of the game - material that Itano essentially wrote himself - is some of the best in the show, and really drives home every positive quality that the show had going for it.

It also takes a needless pot-shot at America's invasion of Iraq, seemingly just for the hell of it. This is exactly why I love Itano. Nothing says "crazily awesome Japanese director" like a shot of anti-American Imperialistic propoganda inside of a show that literally had nothing to do with politics prior. I'd say Blood+ deserves mention for turning Condoleezza Rice into a slobbering horce-faced vampire monster, but doing so might confuse people reading this blog into thinking that Blood+ was any good. It wasn't. Gantz > Blood+, by at least three-fold in half the number of episodes.

Anyway.

I bring this up because I'm very much looking forward to Itano Ichirou and Nitro+'s* new anime, BLASSREITER. While only a couple short preview videos have been released, it looks (more or less) like Bubblegum Crisis done got raped by Karas, in which men wearing tight fitting bio-machines ride on rocket launching motorcycles and do back flips to puncture spindly looking robo-aliens on those random wrist-spikes I've up until now only equated with Spawn action figures. The show looks extremely CG-heavy, which is no surprise coming from Gonzo Digimation. No, the CG doesn't look as nice as Ex Machina or anything, but it doesn't look horrific, either. All I know is that Itano is directing again, and this gives me wood.

*All I know about Nitro+ is that I fell in love with this PVC figure [s/he/they] designed, and [h/s/t]that they've made a homo visual novel starring kitty-boys who were about 5 minutes late for the .HACK//sign casting call. I mean as a compliment, mostly. For better or worse, my wife is the one who spends free time playing PC games in which you call your 13 year old sister with big ol' titties fat and stupid until she begs you to stick it up her ass. I'd rather just jack off to the CG sets and not listen to her whine about how mean I am for an hour first, but to each their own.

The real story here, however, is the fact that Gonzo is finally so sick and tired of fansubbers pirating their shows that they're beating them to the punch: both Blassreiter and The Tower of DURAGA (a funky looking MMORPG tie-in... eh, I'll watch an episode and get bored, I'm sure), two out of 3 of their Spring season shows, will be streamed with English subtitles on the very same day these episodes air in Japan. Options include the standby YouTube, the controversial Crunchy Roll*, and Bost TV. Each have their own ups' and downs'. YouTube... well, their videos look like shit. CR was basically YouTube, but centered around Asian programming and with the option to pay a nominal $6 fee to watch "high quality" streams instead of those fucking postage stamp sized... things. The issue is they recently got over 4 million dollars from investors, and they're still hosting titles that have been on DVD in America for a decade. In short they've been rewarded for ripping off other people's fansubs and DivX DVD rips, so they're looked at as something of the Streaming Satan by US licensors and fansubbers (who steal shit for free, which is, like, totally different) alike. Bost TV is actually a Japanese run website that offers 2 week rentals for $2 an episode, but seems to have equal quality (if not higher) than CR, and they only host legit content anyway, which means their catalog is... rather limited. Really, does anyone outside of Japan want to watch Keitai Shoujo/Cell Phone Girls? Let alone pay for it?

*For further proof that Crunchy Roll is a bunch of sandy vaginas, AnswerZac got an interview with their spokesman here. lulz away.

All 3 of these websites will offer the content for free on the same day for both shows as streaming video. Crunchy Roll will offer a pay-download, and Bost TV offers a free download with the 2 week rental for the same nominal $1.99 fee per episode. Blassreiter is a 13 episode series, and if you sigh up before April 2nd you get the first episode (including the download) for free. So, guess who signed up for Bost TV today? Oh, did I mention these downloads are DRM free, so you don't have to watch them on only 1 PC, and you can watch them in something besides Windows Media Player? My biggest complaint against the model used by Viz on Death Note was the DRM lock-down, and Gonzo has finally realized the obvious: there will always be a DRM-free fansub made available less than 24 hours after the air time anyway, so why not just offer the same thing faster and make a couple bucks while we're at it?

All this said, I'm not 100% convinced that this will take off the way that Gonzo is (I assume) hoping. In a recent conversation I've heard from a third-party that, as of 2008, selling 2,000 copies of an anime DVD is a "good seller", while even marginally unpopular titles regularly get over 10,000 downloads from fansubs. This number is down from 3,000 about a year ago, and drastically lower than 10,000 some 5 years ago. Sales are reportedly lower than they were in the friggin' VHS era, and as tapes used to cost $20-30 for a mere 2 or 3 episodes, that's fucking depressing. I've tried to look at this issue from several angles, and while I still think that fansubs are far from the ONLY drain on the anime industry, there has been an upswing in fansub quality (with those "in the now" able to download full Japanese DVD-9 discs with custom subtitles patched in), while R1 anime DVDs have consistently offered only minor improvements over bootleg releases. Just as important, it's now common knowledge that any show released now will have a cheaper collection later, and with the insane price drops that started a few years ago even loyal DVD buyers have gotten wise to "waiting for the box set". In other words, you can't give DVDs away in this market anymore... but can you give away cheap downloads?

Let's do the math here, for Blassreiter anyway:

13 episodes x $1.99 = 25.87

4 DVDs x $29.99 = $119.96 (+$10 for the optional box)

On the one hand, the DVDs may include interviews not present on the downloads, to say nothing of packaging and English dubs... if, you're into that. Posessing a high school education and change I have no trouble reading flashing words at the bottom of my foreign entertainment, so short of the DRM-free downloads looking worse than a fansub (which I doubt is even humanly possible... see below for a great example), this honestly sounds like the solution that casual buyers who'd rather get the show now and not wait for the DVD have been waiting for.


So... that is Satoko, right?

Will anyone actually bite? How many of those 10,000+ downloaders will give a rats' ass when they figure out they have to PAY for something that's basically a legitimate fansub? My guess is "about 0.001%". Yes, these are Gonzo shows, and Gonzo titles are popular in America. Yes, Blassreiter is "from the director of Gantz and from Nitro+", but honestly I'm not sure what impact that'll have. Fansubs are popular less because anime is cherished and respected in America, and more because the culture built up around them is the digital non-sexual version of Hippie Free Love: "We do it for the anime, man, before all those evil corporations dub anime and ruin 'em by putting them on cable with all the blood painted out and all the nipples edited." This is, of course, mostly bullshit. There are a hand-full of people who genuinely love anime and use fansubs to help obscure and essentially unheard of titles to the Western masses, but all the speed subbers who are releasing Bleach episode 263: Oh no, Ichigo Needs Glasses!! Can Rukya get to the Ice Cream Social before the Shinigami Lord?* or, whatever, are doing it so they can claim to be the to have done so for the glory this gives them from people they don't know on the internet. Fansubbing was a stop-gap between hardcore crazy fans and R1 licensors to raise awareness in the hopes that 5th generation purple tapes could, someday, be replaced with legitimate and high quality media. This theoretically honorable system has been dead and rotting for years now, and while fansubbing as a whole will always serve a purpose, fansubbing titles that are already licensed for a US release just prove that any old-school ethics that form the system are dead and buried.

*Hmm? Yes, I know Bleach episodes don't have titles. Asshat.


Don't take the above to sound like I'm not going to be a leech in the future: I fully plan on stealing entertainment in the future, and will do so until it no longer seems attractive. But I also do my damndest on my shoe-string budget to support what I love. There are 2 anime TV series' I'm buying on DVD now, and I'd have gladly added Gurren Lagann to that line-up had ADV not lo... well, if I thought for a second that it was coming out in the next few months. And yes, the moment Claymore streets, I will own the box and start to slowly fill 'er up. Will I buy Blassreiter? It's possible. I'll watch the free episode first. If it doesn't turn me off, likely I'll either watch the other 12 streaming or - gasp! - pay to own downloads I can burn to DVR-R. Only time (and a quick parusal of the download's general quality) will tell.

P.S.


That's right. DEMON CITY SHINJUKU R2 Special Edition fansub patch (menus are in Japanese, but honestly, do you guys care?). HD remastered video, DTS and Dolby 5.1 audio, custom English subtitles, all on-disc extras on a DVD-9. Hit me up if interested.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NEW TOY!

While my new Lite On DVD recorder does not have S-Video ports of any kind (the fuck?), I'm still going to call it the best damn DVD-/+RW recorder I've had a chance to play with so far. Playback is better than my fledgling Daewoo player in every single way, and more importantly, the recordings look about as high a quality as I'd expect a VHS tape to look. Normally I'd post screencaps and go "Look at that! Isn't it hideous?!", but I've got a better idea:

Rapidshit that shit


The title of this obscure as crap OAV is DEAD HEAT. It's basically Nascar. With robots. Yup. Welcome to Japan. It was produced by Sunrise in 1987, runs 30 minutes + 7 minutes worth of pencil tests to show off individual animators, despite the fact that the animation is... well, it's not bad or anything, but it's hardly awe-inspiring, either. In short, it's a forgotten project from a forgotten time in which guys pilot robots with no cockpits going 320 kilometers an hour. I can't make this stuff up.

The encode is fairly noisy, but I prefer some noise to softness, and it isn't like a 21 year old VHS tape is a stellar source to begin with. I'll also say that the comb filter (assuming there is one) isn't doing its' job properly, but oh well. Truth be told, it still looks worlds better than the Sanyo recording, and with the exact same bitrate. I'm not convinced it looks as good as anything I could achieve using CCE SP, but we'll find out in due time.

Download. Play with it. Scrutinize it frame by frame, if you so desire. You know where to let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

High Bitrate Blunders

So I've been experimenting with raw AVI capture.

No, wait! COME BACK!

...okay. I've backed up some LDs in my day, and more VHS tapes than I'd like to remember while I was at it, but the overwhelming majority of these transfers looked something like...


Satanika pre-record (Extreme and Demonic)

...yeah. Better than a YouTube video? Somewhat, yes. As good as it should be? Well, you be the judge. There's a lot of artifacting around some of those lights in the background, and towards the bottom of the screen you can see some interlacing artifacts, but the transfer is so blurry that said interlacing breaks up and without being consistent, it basically makes any IVTC (even at the DVD player) impossible. This is a reasonably good cap from this sequence, too: when it comes to shots with a lot of reds I'm basically looking at a screen of fuzzy artifacts.

This is on the XP/BEST setting of my now deader than Elvis Sanyo DVD recorder, which managed to fit about 64 minutes at a bitrate of 7 mbps with a 224kbps AC-3 audio track per DVD-R. The trouble is a combination of real-time VBR encoding coupled with a host of filters built into the deck that are meant to "clean up" the source, but without any of these filters being optional it makes everything look rather soft and unpleasant. It did wonders cleaning up chroma noise on old VHS tapes, but... my fancy-pants VCR did a better job of it, so I end up scrubbing the image not once, but twice, and somehow the cheap real-time MPEG encoder built into the machine still spits out a blocky piece of crap. If I knew how you could mathematically wind up with artifacts on something that only has a fucking real-world resolution of 320x240 pixels I'd be glad to let you guys know, but it confounds me. The sad part is the Philips recorder I sent back a week or two ago is even WORSE!

I am getting a new DVD recorder, since it'll be more convenient, and it'll be a new region-free player to supplant my slowly dying several year old region hacked Daewoo which, slowly but surely, is starting to no longer enjoy playing DVD-R/W media. I may use that recorder to create archival copies of VHS tapes and laserdiscs, but as you can see, the results are kinda' lacking in some of my previous efforts. Or maybe I just expect better from cheap hardware?

The video card I currently use is so old it's an AGP, but my ATI All In Wonder 9600 is more than capable of capturing raw NTSC and then converting it all to lossless HuffyUV, which could then be re-encoded with CCE 2.67 for DVD. Sound like a pain in the ass? Oh, it is. It was such a pain that I finally gave up and bought a stand-alone recorder instead a couple years back. This was at the suggestion that the video quality would be the same no matter what I did, which I no longer believe to be the case. Unfortunately, a VHS capture at 352x480 ("Half D-1" resolution) with uncompress PCM audio equates to roughly 7~9 mbps, or the resolution of a maxed out DVD. If I capture at 720x480, this bitrate more than doubles for obvious reasons. The funny thing is if I capture at Half D-1 I'll have less noise to deal with, but if I capture at Full D-1 I'll be able to use noise reduction properly. What is a boy to do?

Regardless, my Lite-On LVW-5115GHC+*,which has been modified to be region free and has some hardware upgrades to boot (32MB video DAC converter? HELL YES!) should be here sometime next week. Me likey the part where it plays DivX, and hopefully the -RW reading powers of this unit will last more than a year, but for under $200, we'll see. IF the quality is notably better than my last recorder, maybe I won't need to capture anything with my PC. Man, wouldn't that be nice and simple...

*At least, I THINK that's the model number. The wacko on eBay who's selling the pre-modded players for $70 less than any stand alone website doesn't say which model it is because it's been modded in hardware rather than just firmware, and as such the specs are very different. It might even be a big-brother model, beats the crap out of me.

Huh. The specs don't list any S-Video connections. I'm going to hope (ie: pray) that's a mistake having plenty of good S-Video cables lying around, though I guess if all I have is VHS/LD to feed it the difference in quality would be pretty negligible, since it's all composite video anyway. I have no clue if cheaper recorders like Lite-On even have comb filters built-in, but there's only one way to find out.

In other news I'm no loner doing KURUTTA BUTOAKI (aka MUSCLE), that "Brownie Violence" gay pinku I hinted at a while back. The reason is simple: the guy who wanted me to work on it found someone else to do it faster than I could with me being so lazy and all, so he's putting me in charge of translating another pinku, which I'll do as soon as I'm done burning a bajillion DVD-Rs for him. (Seriously, I think I'll have burned 30-something discs over the past 3 days alone...) If you're interested in Hisayasu Sato's sick, sick ode to bloody boy love and Pasolini, head on over to Asian DVD Club, and download both Kurutta Butoaki and the "patch" for it. There's instructions on how to do it, but basically you're modifying the IFO files to add subtitles to the already finished DVD. Ginchy, huh? I've tried one patching experiment myself, which failed miserably, but with it being so simple and me being in no position to make any money off of bootlegging anymore, I'm going to keep experimenting. ADC has lots of other cool crap, too, including R2 fansubs (School Days, Gurren Lagann, etc.) rare and overpriced imports (Dr. Lamb!), and of course a fuck-ton of R1 DVDs which y'all reading this should be buying. Though actually, if you know me you're obsessive enough that you probably are supporting the entertainment industry as best you can, so hell, go crazy.

Oh yeah. Watched the first(...?! My mind!) 4 episodes of ZOMG Haruhi, which as I understand it is the accurate translatuion of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu. While I'd much rather follow a fictional cute and violent Japanese school girl than a self-righteous dead jew on a cross, I can't say that either of these figures are my spiritual savior. The fact that it's not the best thing since sliced mochi out of the way, the show is very well animated and amusing in its' own wink-wink nudge-nudge post-modern sort of way. Yeah, it's worthy of respect and love, but I can't say its' better than Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and if Kadokawa thinks the LE's are worth $245 they're smoking something pretty potent. Bonus disc with the same episodes in a different order, CD, pencil board, pillow case, and an alternate cover all sound great, but as someone who just wants the fucking box and maybe the alternate order of episodes I'm more than willing to pass. Plus they're offering vol. 1 (regular edition) with 2 CDs come April for $30. Tsk tsk, devaluing the pack-ins already?

I'm fully expecting at least one reply telling me that I need to die in a fire for disrespecting teh Haruhism. Two words: bring it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

No Ningen Fucking Way...

For those unfamiliar with DEATH NOTE, the spectacularly smart and stylish manga (and later, TV anime and live action movie) series about a pair of geniuses outwitting one another effectively to the death with a magical notebook, slap yourselves silly and then go watch it. All of it. I know, I was guilty myself for quite some time, going "so it's about a bus?" when pressured by strangers. You all should know I'm exactly one step ahead of US cable and one step behind the fansub circuit, but this is what taking the time to watch "old" movies does to a man.

Speaking of which, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE was pretty awesome. As was MEGAZONE 23 PART I-II. But those are other tangents I owe you at another time.

Viz Media picked up the anime version (37 episodes courtesy of my beloved Madhouse alumni) before it finished airing in Japan, and announced that it would release download-to-own versions making seeing the show via fansubs more unethical than usual after about episode 17. I tend to wait until a show is done or close-to before grabbing batch torrents, since frankly keeping up just frustrates the crap out of me and I somehow have no HDD space left ever, despite milking a 250 GB drive for all it's worth. I was broke, wasn't sure if the title was as good as the world had claimed it to be, and I gotta' tell you, the way the download-to-own market exists right now... not working. Most episode cost about $~5, which means the DVD is cheaper in the long run if you bother to get it at Best Buy, and the majority of these downloads are single-language and extraless affairs with DRM out the wazoo, forbidding me from playing it in anything but media player. In short, they're fucking fansubs that you pay for, and no, getting a slightly better translation and a higher bitrate don't make me want to line up and bend over, particularly when - as in this instance - the translators are making certain... concessions.

Dub-only? No. (Not a DN-specific problem, but plenty of other studios are guilty of it.)

Can't play in Media Player Classic? No.

Sub-DVD quality? No.

To be fair, offering 37 episodes for $64.95 is getting close to the breaking point, but no, a man must have his limits. Paying for anything that's 3mbps is simply beyond me, and the fact that I have no pretty case to add to my saggingly full DVD shelf is just the kick in the nuts that keeps me from caring. I'd have been more than happy to spring for the awesome limited edition DVDs with the 6" figures inside until I found out that Viz managed to tint the transfers green. No, seriously. Even the friggin' Australian NTSC-PAL transfer got the color timing right.

How do you even screw up the color timing on a Digibeta?!

Anyway, my point in bringing all this up is the fact that the second OP appeared on US cable last night, on the [adult swim] network, once the pulsating Aorta of the American anime fan community, which has been bleeding for so long that [as] has said that the ONLY new anime title for 2008 they've picked up is CODE GEASS, and that the blame in not bringing over more rests solely on the crappy ratings that anime brings them. A damned shame that the dozens of anime fans everywhere have already watched Blood+ and Death Note in their entirety, and thus don't really give a rats' ass about seeing it dubbed, but that's the way it goes.

If you've never seen the second OP, check it out here and then come back.

...I'm waiting...

...you done? Okay. At 0:43-1:04, the lyrics are as follows -

HEYHEY! 人間SUCKER! 嗚呼 人間‥人間FUCKER!


Over, and over again.

So what did the US cable version do when faced with a song that screams "fucker" over and over again but wants to keep a TV-14 rating? Absolutely nothing. Some bullshit subtitled about "humanity being full of wretched creatures" or something equally unlike HUMAN FUCKER were slapped at the bottom of the screen, but anyone with a love for Deathnote - or, for that matter, Engrish Hebi Metaa - knows better. Considering they've had to remove nipples in Paranoia Agent and bleep "scheiß"in Neon Genesis Evangelion this was a bit of a jaw dropper.

So the moral of the story is... scream your obscenities hardcore enough and... nobody will notice?

Nah', the moral of the story is I should really look further into MAXIMUM THE HORMONE, the J-Rock band that provided the track. I'm far less impressed by their ending theme ZETSUBOU BILLY, which sounds a bit like it's playing in Hot Topics everywhere... know what I mean, wink-wink nudge-nudge?

I'm out.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Whoring Myself: For the good of DVD bootleggers everywhere!

Good news!

First off I've finished a third disc for my legit work - damnable kanji in the trailer aside - and with that done I'll be translating some titles with a long time friend of mine for release on DVD-R a certain Asian DVD torrent site, though these releases will not be "Kentai Films" DVDs in the traditional sense: I do the Japanese-English part, and they handle the rest by patching them on top of the completed R2. Honestly this will be good for everyone interested, since the way I've always done it is translated the menus and essentially re-built the whole disc from scratch. I don't particularly like the idea of foreign language menus when I know my customer base speaks English, so I'll continue to do my thing... also, this method doesn't let you put additional material on the disc, which makes dropping in additional extras I have kicking around pretty much impossible.

No biggie though: if I can whore myself translating obscure pinku and it does the community at large a favor, I'm all for it. Plus I may be a whore, but I'm not a particularly cheap one.

The first title I've gotten busy with is an infamous little number from 1983, which was given a heavily edited English subtitles DVD release in Hong Kong. It just got a new scope R2 DVD this year, and (for better or worse) I'm actually working from the uncensored pan-scan Japanese VHS for the time being. Also, lots of terrible Engrish. I'll reveal what the title is once the translation has more than 15 minutes finished, since I'd hate to get someone's hopes up and then my basic Nihongo 6ki77z get totally 0wn3d by some obscure early 20th century monologue I can't make heads or tails of.

I'll also be translating some additional dialog and the making-of a project related to TAKAYAMA Hideki, the manga-ka behind the insanity that is Ichi the Killer. I'll trust that any of you smart enough to use google can probably figure out what this one is.

In other news, I bought a new DVD recorder 2 weeks ago. I'm sending it back tomorrow, because it has the nasty habit of dying on me completely at random. It's a region-hacked Philips 3400, and while I wish I could find something nice to say about it, I really can't. Even when it DID work for all of 5 minutes, the recording had massive EE, constant blocking (during basically still footage), and frankly the crappy Sanyo recorder I was using before was a better choice for a quality recording. Thankfully the return will be a hastle-free affair and I'll get a refund, so I can try again. Much as I was hoping a single DVD recorder could also play back all my PAL/Non-R1 DVDs, the general quality of its' PAL-NTSC conversion was awful, creating ghosting and weird stuttering where my $55 Dawoo player from about 3 years ago does an excellent job. (If only it could scale worth a damn.) In short, if I want an awesome region-free player I'll spring for an Oppo. As far as quality recorders go, I'll be doing more research and hopefully just buy a Pioneer or something and be done with it for the next several years.

Kentai VHS/LD to DVD-R transfers will happen... it's just a matter of me buying a unit that works, first.

It's official: I've finally given up on CCE SP 2.70, the overly noisy MPEG encoder that turns everything you feed it into a sloppy and grainy mess not fit to be seen on most Anime Music Video downloads. So I'm experimenting with the earlier 2.67 build, which (while a bit less user friendly) has so far given me MUCH better results than the later build. I'm still toying with the settings to get it "perfect" (ha!) but expect some VHD and/or Angel Cop screencaps in the near future, as these two ugly ducklings are my most favorite guineapigs. I don't know why 2.67 is so drastically better than 2.70, but it is. As I've bitched about in the past CCE SP 2.70 creates video files that, while lacking anything resembling blocking artifacts at high bitrates (TMPGEnc's fatal flaw), also adds in video noise like someone shook salt all over the encode, which is extremely frustrating when you consider that I spent so much time learning AVISynth to get rid of noise in the first place. There's still some additional noise, even on settings that are built to smooth the video out first (...whut?), but the results I'm getting are certainly no worse than I see on plenty of "remastered" commercial DVDs that have access to far better hardware MPEG encoders than I'll ever know exist. In short, I'm still getting better quality than FUNimation would have a year ago, and I'm only a notch or two down below what someone would expect from a "big" studio release, which isn't too bad for a punk hacking MPEG encoders in his spare time.

Looks like it's back to translating for me, either for my partners in crime on my employers in the legitimate world. Either way, they both lead to "Step 3", and we all know how much I like that step.

P.S. - Bugger waiting, here's a quick look at what CCE SP 2.67, mode Animation 4, 2-pass VBR, 5.5MBPS average, can do. "Source" is the AVISynth script, naturally.

None too shabby, eh? It's just a little too soft, but I may have to live with it, since the sharper the video gets the more noise CCE tends to generate. I'll be back with more tests, I'm sure, but to be perfectly honest if I released the Kentai DVD looking exactly like what you see above I'd have zero complaints.