Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Frankly, Scarlet Ninja...

Well, I feel foolish. When I released the first patched DVD of 緋忍伝 -呀宇種- / HININDEN GAUSU, I translated it as "Red Fern Legend". 忍 is, technically, a species of fern... but it has several other less literal meanings as well, and one in particular I can't believe I didn't pick up on.

You see, 忍 in this context is "Nin", a word that means little in and of itself. On it's own, however, it's read as "Shinobi" - a word commonly associated in the west with the image of the 'Ninja'. Even the R2 DVD menu uses fern leaves as buttons, so I'm sure there was some sort of dual-meaning that the canceled series never got to explore. What a shame.

The updated DVD will have the theoretically proper title, "Legend of the Scarlet Ninja". One other Kentai Films release has a similar oddity, but since it was never widely distributed I'll quietly fix it and pretend it never happened. If you guys only knew how many times I've done that...

I'm having trouble finding my old subtitle files, and may have to effectively recreate it from scratch... as you can imagine, I'm not looking forward to that. At least the software available to me now is substantially better than the crap I had a year and a half ago, so the subtitles should be substantially less cluttered and ugly than they were last time.

Both EAT THE SCHOOLGIRL and SCARLET NINJA will be available in their remastered form soon.

EDIT: Having effectively rebuilt the Kentai Films subtitles using the current disc SUP files as a guide, the translation is being overhauled. I can't remember if EroBeat or myself are to blame for a lot of this dicey looking dialog, but rest assured that the "Remastered" edition will be a keeper.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Combing vs Aliasing: One Man's Eternal Struggle

WEAVE Deinterlacing:
Note the combing artifacts on the mouth.

BOB Deinterlacing:
Note the aliasing on... well, everything.

This, right here, is why nobody does progressive DVDs on SD animation: There is no regular 3:2 cadence, just a mix of random fields that, if you're lucky, you can manipulate into something that looks like progressive frames with just occasional interlacing artifacts left over. Experiments have proven time and time again that it's physically impossible to remove every instance of combing in Hininden Gausu (or even *most* of them, what with the constant temporal chroma blending), so I'm sure as fuck not going to bother trying to do this manually in TMPGEnc. I may not have a life, but that doesn't mean I don't still have my pride.

This is one of those rare times where the source is such a train-wreck I am going to have artifacts... the question is, which artifacts are less irritating? TIVTC has done a mostly fantastic job of getting rid of combed frames, and only dodgy scenes with excessive video editing seem to have problems like you see above. Using TDecimate afterwards sounded like a good idea... but that turned out to be less of a perfect plan than I'd hoped. You see, the final edits were done on interlaced video hardware, forever discarding and manipulating the frames outside of regular 3:2 cadence. So I considered BOB deinterlacing fucking everything and then using a Decimate filter to restore the original 24fps framerate, but quickly found that several special effects shots were actually animated at 30fps, so dropping frames would make those whole scenes look choppy.

MKV files are able to combine 24fps and 30fps, making these mixed frame-rates no problem. DVD has the ability to mix 24fps and 30fps, but only at the encoder stage. I can't make a VFR (Variable Framerate) file, feed that to CCE SP and then get a VFR DVD back - oh no, instead I have to feed an interlaced source to the MPEG encoder and then let its' god-awful 3:2 algorithms trip over the occasional progressive frame like a blasted blind pig in a shit house.

So could I do that? Use a decomb filter, crop/upscale the transfer, and then re-interlace it? Having tried scripts that promise to BOB deinterlace "perfectly" by doubling the frame-rate and then allow you to recreate the interlacing patterns, they simply don't work.

This is the atrocity I was treated to for my sin of thinking I was an encoding God:

IVTC on the original 480i source.
Damn, that looks out of phase doesn't it...

IVTC on the upscaled "Interlaced" signal.

I also realized that I was ruining the 30fps material by "re-interlacing" the material, since I'm manually applying 3:2 pulldown in a way that doesn't allow for variable frame-rates. And so it's back to TIVTC I crawl!

The only realistic solution on this "hybrid" material is to run a field-matching filter, but keep the signal at 30fps (doubled frames and all), and finally encode that as 30fps despite the material already having been field-matched. The downside is that when you try to deinterlace this crap bad things happen, because the two fields no longer "mate" the way that they used to - not just because you're using the wrong field, but also because the upscaling has warped the size of the scan lines themselves.

Honestly, how they upscale mixed cadence 480i to 1080i is nothing short of mind-boggling... and makes me wonder if stuff like Full Metal Panic and Kiddy Grade and other JP only upscaled Blu-ray do, in fact, have completely fucked up cadence errors.

Still, random bugs like this are making me throw everything in my digital tool box, to little gain...

100% Interlaced Frames.

Out of Phase Field Matching.

Those above artifacts are - at least some of the time - theoretically fixable with manual tweaking. The trouble is every scene has dozens - sometimes hundreds! - of these little errant fuckers just waiting to pop out and ruin my day. Since they're random - essentially based on noise and a constantly flipping TFF order - I would literally have to click through all 49,635 frames, manually fixing the cadence on anything that looks off as I go. The whole point was to NOT do a manual IVTC, wasn't it?

So these relatively infrequent interlacing errors are staying. I don't like that fact one bit, but the only other reliable option left is to deinterlace the entire OAV using some complex BOB filter, which at best would soften the shit out of an already limited resolution transfer, and at worse would cause even worse artifacts than what I'm already trying to fix.

Just so nobody thinks that there are some
perfect frames in Gausu. There aren't. EVER.

See all that combing in the color that doesn't affix itself to the grayscale? The ENTIRE FUCKING FEATURE has that. God, another week of this hideous shit and I'd gladly take a hacksaw to my own face before manually fixing frames that already have combing in them...

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Carol LD Recording

Kentai Films Remaster

When I started working on this I didn't realize that there was already a R2 DVD. It's super rare and wasn't remastered anyway, so odds are this is still the best looking DVD this strange little band movie has ever looked.

No concrete plans to release this transfer into the wild just yet, but if anybody wants a DVD-R, just let me know. I've literally got a stack of anime LD's that deserve the same treatment, and frankly the walls are starting to close in on me, so hopefully I can blow through a dozen (or three!) in the next several weeks.

I've also got a strange little live action feature lined up that's... well, it needs a different VCR. It really, really needs a different VCR and a full-frame TBC (or to be junked and a new tape found). Damn it, I've agreed to record for those in need, so at the very least it'll make a fun A/B blog post.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Remnants of a Perfect Crime

DV sourced non-anamorphic R2 DVD

I'm a proud papa.

I still wonder if I went a little too heavy on the grain... oh, well. In motion the random organic-looking grain is less noxious than the sea of light gray macroblocks that I started with, so this is one of those times when seeing the finished product will say a lot more about it than whatever I can post as stills.

Here's the problem: Because the new transfer is 16:9, and the original DVD transfer was 4:3, I can't "Patch" the new transfer into the old DVD as I had planned. I got so damn caught up in the de-nastifying process that I totally spaced basic DVD specifications, the basic building-blocks of what does and does not make a DVD 'work'.

I suppose it wouldn't be the first time...

It's a funny thing about DVD - every title has to be a part of a VTS, or a "Video Title Set". Every title within that VTS has to have the same basic specs - same number of subtitles and audio tracks, and the same pixel aspect ratio. The original DVD was 4:3 all the way, so it only used one VTS. If I were to patch the new transfer into the old DVD structure, I would have to distort the special features - something I'd like to avoid for obvious reasons.

Essentially, my only option is to rebuild the DVD from scratch using the menu as a template. There's not too many elements to build, but it means several of the steps I've taken - some of them more time consuming than others - have been a waste of time. D'oh!

At least the hardest part is over with. Expect more remastered transfers of prior Kentai Films DVDs in the near future.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Eat It!

Japan R2

Kentai Films Experimental Remaster

I literally don't know what more I can do with コギャル喰い 大阪テレクラ編/EAT THE SCHOOL GIRL.

The film appears to have been shot on 16mm (probably Super 16, perhaps with the aspirations of being a "real" theatrical movie), transferred on an old-fashioned film chain, and recorded to NTSC DV as the source medium. This nasty little flick probably couldn't have looked much worse if they took the negative out back, set it on fire, and then recorded the burning images on a 1980s VHS camcorder. I don't want to give anyone over at Uplink/Nippon Erotics any bright ideas for their future DVD releases, so I'll stop before I explain my complex theory on the proper use of an ugly stick.

I have done a few good things, particularly upsampling the NTSC DV colorspace from 4:1:1 to simulated 4:2:2, which helps eliminate that nasty aliasing on bright colors (like the title card). It looks pretty subtle here, but check out how the red on the title 'bleeds' and has ugly patterns on the original. Now imagine that upscaled, through the entire film. Not attractive stuff.

Original DV Sourced Video

Properly Upsampled Video

I've also eliminated that nasty washed-out look that permeates the whole goddamn film, and as 75% of it happens in the dark, it got VERY distracting. I tried a number of settings, crushing a little here and boosting a little there, but in the end I just tried to get a reasonably solid black/gamma level and call it a day.

Ze DNR does nuzzing, because the entire feature is nothing but shifting soft-focus imagery slathered in pixelation. I almost wonder if I'm better off hiding all that blocking in heavy film-like grain and calling it a day...

I hate to say it, but that doesn't look half bad
compared to the soft-but-blocky example above.

UPDATE: Checking my bit-budget for this project, I got a little worried: Grain is the ancient enemy of low bitrates, and by Kentai Films standards, this will indeed be a low-bitrate transfer.

Custom "No Filtering" setting, 5 Mbps.
(Worst Case Compression Scenario)

Natural 4, Progressive, 5.5 Mbps
(Best Case Compression Scenario)

Even with an average of 5000 kbps, the Kentai Restoration is kicking the original DVD in the balls. This makes me a very happy smut peddler. I could always manipulate the grain a bit more, make the matrix "bigger" and thus have less grain per 8x8 block of pixels, but that'll be a last-ditch effort, since the source script looks as good as it's ever going to.

Oh - please ignore the slight change in color/brightness versus the original script. That's mostly a side-effect from opening the test M2V stream with VirtualDubMod's shoddy internal decoder, instead of relying on MPEGSource via AVISynth/MPEG2Dec. And yes, that means that the actual encodes are slightly less blocky than you see here - again, this was a worst case scenario kind of thing more than a show-off piece.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Orgy of Forgotten Adaptations

ORGY OF FALLEN ANGELS is, by far, one of the greatest erotic OAVs of the 1980s. It's loaded with psychadellic style, ceaseless sexual brutality, and a story I affectionately call "I Spit On Your Loli".

I'm not sure what the heck these are, I just know that the kanji title - 堕天使たちの狂宴 - is the same as it is the above anime feature. Sadly these covers are too blurry for me to pick out the creator's name on the live action tapes, but the original manga artist, Dirty Matsumoto (I kid you not!) either worked on, or was adapted into, a few vintage Nikkatsu Roman Porno films back in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

All of this is largely my associate's realm of expertise, so I'll have to ask him what he knows about these two features... once he gets his computer fixed.

They could be totally unrelated - let's not forget that there were two completely separate "Lolita Anime" shows kicking around in 1985 - but I'd sure be excited if there were a live action bloody loli-rape feature to go with the animation I fell so head over heels in love with a few years ago.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From the FUNi Frying Pan into the FUNi Nuclear Fallout

Geneon DVD

FUNimation Blu-ray

I have not doctored these images in any way. You're not high... well, not that I know of. Either way, you drugged up hippies you, the facts are what they are; FUNimation's 1080p upscale actually has less fine detail than Geneon's 480i DVD. Let that sink in for a moment.

FUNimation managed to create a High Definition Blu-ray with less detail than Geneon was able to keep on DVD. FROM THE EXACT SAME SD SOURCE MATERIALS.

Kentai's inner child.

FUNimation upscaling shows animated at 480i is all well and good, I guess. The problem is that they're nuking the source tapes in DNR and then over-sharpening the edges to compensate. I know, I've done it myself, but there's a big difference between me doing that to a crumby 20 year old LD transfer and FUNimation doing it to a Digibeta of a show that was clearly supposed to have a layer of digital grain in the first place.

FUNimation has been slathering all of their upscales in similar filtering, which gives us transfer like...


Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid!

And Tsubasa Chroni-

... oh my gosh, that's so terrible I can't even rag on it. CLAMP's Tsubasa Chronicle, for whatever reason, sets the bar so far underground on shitty HD transfers that FUNi would probably have to fill their AVISynth plugins folder with steroids and mining equipment to ever surpass it.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. "Lay off 'em Kentai! How good can a stinking SD upscale even look?" For the doubters, I have three and a half words for you:


Sexiness has a New Head

R1 Collection DVD Cover

I'm a whore for high quality packaging, as we've been over. A well done DVD cover is a thing of beauty, and this right here may well be the best cover I've seen all year. If only it'd been a steelbook I think I might have had an instant jizzgasm.

Anime licensors in the US moving to "complete" season sets was largely hailed as a positive - we get the same content faster, cheaper, and it doesn't take up as much room on the shelf. Perfect, right? I personally always feared - and rightly so, I'll add - that we'd start getting shafted on packaging, and that the shafting would only get harder as time went on. First we got 3 disc thinpacks. Then we got 2 discs in each thinpack. Then we got stackpacks... I don't want to discuss this devolution any further. Suffice to say, if DVD packaging gets any worse, I may start throwing it in the trash bin where it belongs.

Not only are we now getting 13 episode shows in a normal sized 2 disc keepcase, but most of the time we aren't even getting interior cover art. Getting anime fast and cheap came at the cost of collectability, and for the seven guys at the Anime on DVD forum who still give a shit, that's a real shame. English dubs also took a hit, but thankfully I could care less.

Section 23 is "Neo ADV", the shakily reformed remnants of the company that imploded when their Japanese partners left them floating in the water without any titles, money, or credibility. They've consistently released anime DVDs with interactive menus and basic special features - something I can't say for their Switchblade Pictures line - but they've generally had less than inspired cover art, and by consistently releasing shows with little more than subtitles the releases feel... empty. On the other hand, the entire Skull Man TV show will cost $40 MSRP, and if I'd known I could have saved the time and money of downloading and burning 7 custom DVDs I may have just waited.

Despite hating poor ol' Ishinomori I watched an episode or two a while back of this Bones remake. Fucking loved it! Started downloading the fansubbed R2 DVDs, but never actually watched them, knowing I'd have to wait god only knew how long for the next volume. When the release was finished, I'd amassed a leaning tower of similar DVD-R fansubs, and as it stands I still haven't finished... well, damn near any of them. Much like Kannagi and Mnemosyne, odds are I'll finish watching the R1 due to my horrible apathy towards staying current.

What's the appeal, anyway? Watching every show the minute it airs?

Japanese cover the above is based on.

Hininden Fukkatsu-Hen!

HININDEN GAUSU was produced in 2005, a time when all animation studios had moved onto digital, but weren't necessarily animating up to the digital standards we've come to more or less accept as the norm today. Particularly for cheap pronographic titles like this, making sure that the DVD would look stunning on a modern 1080p HDTV was about as far from Studio Arms' general focus as one could possibly imagine.

Still, Cthulhu and the rest of the Great Old Ones put me on this planet for a reason, and if restoring an obscure, unfinished, animated ninja porn epic wasn't it, I should probably consider killing myself now.

What you see above is the before/after of a lovely little dot-crawl eating filter I've experimented with a few times. The results are stunning on the most stubborn of analog cross-talk, and even the shimmering rainbows on the outlines seem to have ebbed.

While recordings I make myself are tempered by my DVD recorder's surprisingly powerful comb filter, anything sourced from DVD either does or doesn't have dot-crawl. There's nothing I can do in hardware to fix a finished transfer, and the fact that I've gotten results this dramatic are encouraging.

Unfortunately, it also creates bullshit like this every now and again...

Being a temporal filter, it freaks out when the chroma flashes randomly between very dark and very light, so it has to be turned off on certain special effects - particularly lightning flashes. This means I'll literally have to encode two separate transfers and then cut out the "bad" parts later. It also creates some really freaky looking artifacts on the crotch mosaics, but as seeing those brought pixelated vaginas to a whole new level of creepy, we won't be showing any of that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Space Soldiers Unite!

And why? Well, why not?

As you can see, the issue with my Starship Troopers 2 LD isn't the size of the rot errors so much as it is the frequency of them: the poor disc is literally covered in a constant flurry of digital dropouts, and while I can try my best to remove them using tools designed to remove film damage, there's no way I'll catch everything - or if I do, it'll probably have some pretty severe side-effects. I'll just have to experiment and see what strikes me.

Naturally, even if I filtered the crap out of this transfer the Kentai DVD would look better than this low-bitrate sample. For one thing, the LD transfers have pretty clear 3:2 pulldown, so a progressive transfer should be easy enough to create with a manual IVTC. For another, this would have to be denoised even if I weren't going to be removing "digital dirt", which should help immensely. Odds are I'll drop on a fine layer of digital grain afterward, but I can worry about all that once I decide how to best get rid of this monstrous bug infestation.

At least the third episode looks perfect.
For a vintage LD, I mean...