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Krister's Blog
krister at hallergard dot com

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Enhance Old Videos - Part 2

I did not achieve what I wanted in Part 2 so there won't be a Part 3! My hope was to find a software similar to what the movie studios seem to be using for restoring old movies - but did not find any commercially available. I did find plenty of editing software in different price ranges, all using filters for solving each type of problem. So I decided to see what I could achieve with Avidemux. I did manage to fix the colour of some of the early videos.

The main problem with the early videos (Karlskoga, Brazil) were the artefacts introduced when filming a projected screen. Inspired by Philip Stephens (thanks!), I had the idea of redoing the videos by uncompressing the original Mpeg-2-files with VirtualDub, and then edit each frame using GIMP. But I concluded that it was more work than it was worth!

So I am leaving the problem here, still hoping that there will be a future software of the type I was looking for, for my grandchildren (or their's) to apply - anyway I have in Part 1 given them a good starting point.
Enhance Old Videos - Part 1

This project is about enhancing old videos. I started digitalizing our analogue videos well over 10 years ago. At that time disk space was expensive, so I compressed the files much more than I would do today. And in the early videos I did not know enough to get the correct aspect ratio. (I was aware of the need to correct for the unsquare pixels in mgeg-2, but not of the extra 2.5% you need to stretch) And there were artefacts at the sides and especially at the bottom, mainly when the source was a camcorder.

I have now decided to have a new go at the old videos, like the 8mm films that my father took between 1947 and 1966 and the Super 8 movies filmed by my wife between 1978 and 1983, when we lived in Brazil.
Video 7 min

Part 1 Here I take stock of all our old videos to find the best starting point for this project, checking the integrity of these source files by making test edits (correcting the above problems). Part 1 is also a kind of tutorial about video editing using Avidemux.
Part 2 is the main part of this project, for which I will have to learn a lot about enhancement filters for correcting Colours, Noise and Sharpen/Blur. At this stage I do not know which software I will be using.
Part 3 will be about finishing, such as cropping, transitions and audio overlays etc.

I went through our old backup files to find the original digitalized videos, and copied them over to my PC. There were a couple of VOB-files that were too currupt to be copied. To these I applied Bad CD Repair to rescue what was possible.

To the right is the inventory of old digitalized videos, not always the oldest, but the best of each original. All were digitlalized on our Sony DVR which we bought in 2007, and with the same PAL DVD parameters except the quality varying between SP and HQ - bitrates between 4.3 to 9.3 Mbps.

One exception though, Susanne's earlier videos were NTSC from her camcorder and I had kept them NTSC. Susanne's later videos were already PAL on mini-DVD:s, so I just copied them over to my hard disk. Almost 20% could not be copied, but I managed to rescue about half.

Family Videos - 55 hours
I decided to perform test edits using mpeg-4 codecs: XVid and AAC in mp4 containers, main reason to enable Susanne to use with iMovie (otherwise I would have preferred DivX and mp3). The reason I avoided H264 is that I would later not be able to chop to discard some sequences (without re-rendering). And I did not want to chop and trim at this early stage. This will be in Part 3.

I also decide to upscale to 960x720. The older ones had to be resized a bit more to allow for cropping, especially for the artifacts at the bottom.

Performing these test edits became an integrity check as some of the DVD:s (on the PC) would not save properly. I opened these as individual VOB-files in VirtualDub (with mpeg-2 plugin) and saved as uncompressed AVI: File size abt 80GB! Then applied the same edits in Avidemux as above and saved sucessfully.

Test Edits - Results

Above is my subjective evaluation of the edit results. I thought Susanne's Videos were excellent - not needing any further enhancement, and Susanne's Wedding was reasonable good. The top four groups of videos could certainly do with enhancement.  Addendum 2016-10-29: I had to redo all Susanne's videos with codec H264, as her iVideo software could not handle Xvid. While I was at it I increased to 4.0 Mbps - probably overkill - but don't think it can hurt.

This is where I have got to so far. When I continue with the real enhancement in Part 2, I will probably restart back from the original digitalized videos - as I believe that everytime you re-render, you make the video worse. I will prioritize the three oldest groups of videos. But first I will have to learn a lot more. Hopefully Part 2 will become available in about three or four months (?).