Monday, June 21, 2010

Black Hair Affairs

BLACK HAIR VELVET SOUL is just about ready for release. The transfer took longer than I had anticipated due to some framing oddities in the final reel... basically, the script I use to keep the film from shaking has the side-effect of making the entire frame "twitch", and if you don't manage to crop the frame it can look like the telecine had a seizure. I had cropped the frame properly, but there's two shots which - for some reason - are much less wide, and those had to be fixed or they'd look like the edge of the DVD was vomiting up its' own brain. The rest of the frame, however, looked pretty goddamn good.

I'm almost disappointed that SoftEncode's built-in filtering was enough to eliminate the worst of the analog hiss all on its' own. Don't get me wrong, the filtering I put the source through still had quite a bit of merit, but it'd be like if CCE SP had its' own built in comb filter rendering my attempt to eliminate dot-crawl all but pointless.

On a "Serious" note, another official DVD production project has seemingly been checked off the list - at least, barring licensors wanting the subtitles changed for one reason or another. I don't think the guy I'm working with has ever dealt with them before, so this might be a learning experience for both of us.

Fun thought: Any of you guys out there ever heard of Homeroom Affairs/他人の関係? It was evidently a two-part OVA from 1994, based on a manga by Ichirou ARIMA, and as far as I can tell may have been the only title released on home video from the short lived Star Anime Enterprises company. Well, that and some show about a kid who plays soccer with... dinosaurs?!


...the fuck was I just talking about? Oh! Homeroom Affairs, got it. I stumbled across both episodes on DVD recently, figured it sounded cute enough, and downloaded them on a ratio-scraping whim. I've only had a chance to watch the first 10 minutes or so, but the short of it is that it's about a younger girl who uses her blossoming sensuality to emotionally torment an older professor who has zero interest in her as anything but a student, and maybe just a casual friend. Now where have I seen this story used in recent days...

...nope. Can't think of any.

I guess my point is less that Kaworu WATASHIYA is a filthy concept stealing frog-beast, and more that people need to chill when a concept gets re-used so often. The last film I worked on was effectively a fantastic retelling of Romeo and Juliet, and I didn't really have a clue that it was for the first two reels says you can spin an old yarn into something you've never seen before and still enjoy it quite a bit. If anything I'll be curious to see how Homeroom Affairs keeps the show spicy and hi-larious without needing to resort to exploiting vaginas under the age of 12. That's just got to be an upskirt uphill battle.

Have I ever mentioned here that Kodomo no Jikan is a much more charming and introspective title than its' lolita complex satire roots would suggest? Probably not. Consider it said, then.

So, if you need me I'll probably be playing inFAMOUS for the next week before diving head-long back into productivity. Yeah I know, I'm a cheap bastard and always wait 'till nobody cares and the price drops to less than half, but it's still fun a year later, damn it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

To Felch A Predator

A rhetorical question, ladies and gentlemen:
Which of the above images looks more like film?

Caveat emptor: The upcoming "Ultimate Hunter Edition" of PREDATOR - favorite cult film of 1987 for being a sensation for action junkies, alien aficionados and vaginophobics alike - is kind of a big old piece of shit.

Grain oblitherating DVNR in and of itself I can try my damnedest to ignore, but it looks like Fox has gone so far as to replace Arnold with a freakish lifesized action figure of himself. That's probably a better alternative than looking at the flabby Govenator running around jungles with his shirt off today, I admit, but with Predator having been released nearly 25 years ago, this is just plain silly.

To be fair, not every shot in the new Predator: Greased Piggy Hunting Edition is quite this bad. The whole transfer has a boosted, filtered look, but since DVNR algorithms these days automatically tune themselves lower on material that doesn't "look" as noisy, the level of smoothing varies from shot to shot. Even so, the fact that any shot looks this bad - despite a higher bitrate and a superior video codec! - is only totally inexcusable.

The original Blu-ray had blocky bits of MPEG compression noise mixed in with the analog film texture anyway, so it really wasn't that high a goddamn bar to jump in the first place. There are a multitude of grouchy videophiles who were less than pleased with the initial release, and I wouldn't doubt that a newer telecine could have improved color and grain structure... but generally speaking, these people are crazy. The old BD was sharp, gritty and every bit as ugly as Predator always has been on home video, and the post-production work on this is somewhat infamous for having used plenty of optical tricks to zoom-in less than ideal footage. Fox may well have "remastered" Predator by blurring the snot out of it to shut the people who didn't like the original release the hell up, which makes me more sad than I can rightly explain... you get it pretty much right the first time, and then screw over the Ultimate Edition to please the ignorant masses. Brilliant.

What's a guy who loves both extras and great transfers to do? The old Blu-ray literally had no extras at all, and having sworn that I'd never buy a BD without  at least comparable extras to a DVD set I already own*, that puts the original release out of the running. The new release also includes a coupon good for a free ticket to see Adrian Brody vs Predator this summer, so in reality the $22 is asking for it is really less than $15, assuming you planned on paying to seeing Danny Trejo get his head blown up by a purring space-bug on the big screen. And don't pretend you weren't. Meanwhile the 2008 bare bones release is a mere $12, or sometimes even less at K-Mart and the like, but no ticket, no extras, and rampant compression issues... crikey, what's the lesser or two evils here?

Personally, I think I'll just keep my 2 disc DVD until they both drop to less than $10 a pop. It's no reference disc, I admit, but I'd rather keep a decent DVD I've already paid for than upgrade to a mediocre Blu-ray with the same exact content.

The worst part is... I'm Having Deja-vu. I swear, if the upcoming anniversary edition of Total Recall is a freshly smeared diaper of a disc, I'm blaming Schwarzenegger himself.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's Kentai's complaint of a... "Real" Life?

Yeah, it's been awfully quiet in these here parts, I know. It's like Shigeru CHIBA always used to say; No Requiem For The Wicked! Get Your One Way Ticket to Hell Ready!!

The good news is that THE BEDROOM is done - went up about two weeks ago - and if y'all keep track of the cool things in my sidebar, you may find a pleasant surprise in it being fully subtitled. Yes, even the exclusive interview with the man himself, Sato HISAYASU! That'll be far from the last Sato film I have to work with... but holy hell, what am I supposed to do with this?!

What's on your mind, Chuck?

So, I've finally learned how to successfully use VTS Bridges that allow me to - basically - use a worm-hole within DVD Spec allowing me to seamlessly jump from one titleset to another. This will come in handy for titles that have plenty of special features in differing aspect ratios or language options, and you can expect to see it in action sooner or later.

Dan Oniroku's 1982 SM classic BLACK HAIR, VELVET SOUL is next up on the Pink Restoration Block, and it looks like this will be another manual IVTC for a perfect 480p24 FILM transfer, rather than the usual deinterlaced clusterfuck. This is also one of the earliest Nikkatsu Roman Pornos to have been fraimed at 1.85:1, though oddly enough I'm working on another Japanese production circa 1982, and it's framed at 1.37:1...I'm not sure when, or indeed *IF* the Japanese film industry officially switched to the 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 Hollywood standards at a massive level, it's just interesting to see which studios decided that the middle-ground of flat widescreen gave them the best bang for their buck in the theater and the living room alike.

Still a Work In Progress, but you get the idea.

The audio has already been cleaned up, eliminating the prevalent analog hiss that dates back to the original mono recording. VHS audio is a reasonably high quality analog source - you can actually hear the static switch from being rather inoffensive to downright harsh once the 35mm sourced Nikkatsu logo pops up. All digital aural noise reduction I've experimented with give the final mix a certain digital "harshness" that's hard to describe without doing an A/B comparison, but I've found a combination of noise removal and low-pass filtering in Audacity 1.3 have given me results that minimize the analog problems without making the whole film sound like it was dubbed underwater with Fisher Price equipment.

Curious? Here's some free SAMPLES, comparing the original recording to the restored track. Feel free to crank up that volume to really wallow deep in how much analog hiss was there.

The video is just a bit more... complex. I've given the whole 66 minute film a manual IVTC, and the result is a progressive 480p24 source, but with some chroma combing. For whatever reason - probably the ancient video suite used to add pixelation on some of the more daring shots - the color signal is not only delayed by about two frames, but it's also got additional noise and combing problems that seem totally independent of the relatively stable greyscale it's riding on top of. Odds are most people would never notice it if I never brought it up to start with, but it's things like this that drive me bonkers.

The print has been stabilized and given a scratch removal pass, both of which have improved the source dramatically. I may still give it an additional pass of noise reduction before adding grain and encoding it to DVD, but I'm worried that using DVNR would remove what little detail the source had to offer. The analog noise on display is lighter than many comparable tapes from Nikkatsu's catalog (maybe because it was taken from a "flat" print rather than a scope film, which was probably shot on two-perf?), and a great deal of it was eaten during the scratch removal phase, so I'm likely going to skip the DVNR entirely. Yes, that means keeping some of the yucky analog squiggly crap that VHS is so prone to, but I think the results are still pretty acceptable. You'll all be able to judge soon enough if I'm right.

Anyway, I'll be buried in both Kentai and Official work alike - plus all of that "real life" crap I keep bitching about from time to time - but I'll make it a point to poke my head back in here and tell you whenever something new is done. I may also have a couple things to say about various culty releases too, but those'll be lower on the to do list, so don't hold your breath with anticipation or anything.