Monday, September 22, 2014

Cleaning Up Old Movies

I'm starting to work on cleaning up some old movies, ones from the 50s and 60s. At work, we've got a bunch that are still in 16mm reel-to-reel form that we're digitizing. At home, I'm playing around with DVDs of medieval costumer schlock from that period. If you were wondering, you digitize 16mm film by projecting it on a wall and recording the wall with a digital camera. Seriously, that's how you do it.

Old film can have all kinds of artifacts in it and can decay to the point where it goes in and out of focus as you play it. While you can't add details to low-quality film, you can work to extract details hidden by noise. I'm just starting out with this and one of our video experts turned me on to a simple trick with brightness, contrast and sharpening.

Below is a clip from the 50s British TV series, The Adventures of Richard the Lion Heart. It's total schlock, from beginning to end. The DVD I got is foggy and messy. A little work with Adobe Premiere revealed a bit more details. You can see the processed version on the right and the original on the left. Here, the brightness is increased, causing some over saturation, but giving me enough light to boost the contrast quite a bit which goes a long way towards getting the gray fog out. Increasing the sharpness accentuates color differentials, giving you better demarcation on edges.

This is a start on learning how to make the most of poor quality video, but I liked the results so far.


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