Thursday, June 14, 2007

Digital Restoration = Digital Ruination - Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom (1953)

How many ways are there to destroy old films? I'm losing count.

Here's one that drives me crazy: THEY CHANGE THE COLORS

This opening to Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom used to be beautiful.

It was a pan where the color families changed gradually as the owl ran down a branch to the schoolhouse.

Originally all the colors were grayed down and had many subtle tints and hue variations in it. I used to get my BG artists to study it and apply the ideas to my cartoons. I must have watched the cartoon a hundred times.

It was gorgeous.

WAS...

Then they did this to it.
Now it's all primary and secondary colors turned up to the brightest vulgarest saturation and all the fun is gone.

The BG colors are so over saturated and glowing that they bleed into the character.


Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom was a grand experimental film by Ward Kimball, Tom Oreb, Eyvind Earle and other mighty Disney talents.

It has been turned into a modern gaudy looking Saturday morning cartoon.












The backgrounds in the classroom scenes were originally all subtle greyed colors too, and now they have been arbitrarily changed into purples, oranges, blues and other neon colors.

You can barely make out the characters against the backgrounds anymore because every color is equally bright and right in the middle of the hue.




These are the latest video transfers that are on those silver box sets-"Treasures" or whatever they are called.

Well the treasures have been destroyed.

Here are some other strange digital "restoration" tricks that they use to take the fun out of the cartoons.

LINE SHARPENING
They take the lines in the cartoons and thin them out. To the point where they are so skinny, that you can see the video scan lines cut through them. Now the once beautifully inked lines have ragged edges. The BG colors bleeds over them on one side, and the interior character colors bleed into them.

PULSATING VIBRATING COLORS
I don't know exactly what they do here or why, but the colors vibrate in intensity-even when you still frame them. The Looney Tunes box sets do this too. It makes it really hard to follow the characters when they are pulsating, strobing and the ragged edges shimmer and shake up and down the outlines.

MOIRE (MO-RAY) PATTERNS
Inside the flat cell colors, you see all kinds of electrical patterns dancing around. They look like when you put a dot tone on top of another and you get weird otherworldly patterns.

DVNR
Many of the cartoons on the treasures are DVNR-ed. That Moose cartoon is particularly bad.


UPPING THE CONTRAST
We met with someone who actually worked on these transfers and she told us they purposely changed all kinds of things in the old films. One of the things they do automatically is to up the contrast.
This means that dark colors turn black and you lose lots of detail in the BGs.

GRAIN SMOOTHING
You ever see when all of a sudden the film grain freezes in an old film?

Now they try to smooth away all the grain and while the grain gets polished off, so does the painting details in the backgrounds.

Sometimes you can make out the film grain in the background, but none in the characters and that creates a really strange fakish effect.


STROBING
Everything strobes now in modern film transfers of old cartoons. Especially during pans. Bambi jitters and shakes all over the place. That movie was once noted for its smooth naturalness and flowing animation. Now it looks like a modern made for TV video.

The BGs have turned black. The lines are all jagged and too skinny and everything strobes.

CHANGING THE SOUND MIX
They remix the sound so that everything happens way in the distance. All the original careful balances and rich choreography of sound is gone. You have to really strain your ears to hear what's going on. Everything sounds like a modern MTV video mix now. The voices have lost their contrasts in volume and color and so have the sound effects and music.

It sounds really digital and whispery.


Well it's all very depressing. My guess is that within another 10 years, these films will be completely unrecognizable as they keep coming up with new digital toys to help engineers change the art that the original artists made. Soon they will invent :"on-modelization" and they will go in and change all the character designs in the cartoons to make them match the current licensing guides. Bambi will wear a backwards baseball cap and all the forest creatures will rap the story.



Is there a site somewhere where someone documents all this destruction and tampering?

Is there anything we can do to stop it?

The best video transfers I have seen in the last 10 years are the ones done by cheap fast houses, who basically just telecine the films and don't tamper with anything, but that's all becoming ancient lost history now.

Better save all your video tapes and laser disks from the 80s and early 90s. Those are as close to the original films as you will ever see.

Or get over to the Asifa Archive and see the best possible available existing prints of rare films.

52 comments:

dmcgee said...

First up, I hear your cries. There's so much that's automatic these days, upping contrast, tuning levels, losing the old desaturation in favour of modernising.

One thing I was wondering tho - what sort of connection do you have between your tv and your dvd player? The guys working on this sort of thing often have direct RGB connections, and on theirs the colour fidelity is much stronger, the lines don't jitter and pulse.

On composite connections (the standard AV cable) and even on SVideo to an extent, hot colours and high reds will bleed through the rest of the colours, and you'll get composite crawl - diagonal lines have jagged pulses running up and down them.

Obviously they should be taking the average user's setup into account and they aren't, but is it possible that the compositors are seeing something different to, and much more pleasant than what we get on a tv with an AV cable?

Kali Fontecchio said...

SADDD!!!

I'm gonna dig mine up right now!!!!

Peggy said...

Heh. Lately I've been trying to put full-spectrum rainbows in some of my stuff in a way that doesn't make me feel like I'm doing grievous harm to my color sense - in fact my current desktop image is one I did that with. I'm glad to see an example of it that passes your filters, at least before it got "restored". I've seen TWP&B a few times but I've never analyzed its shots; that grab of the BG pan is lovely.

Because all cartoons should be super-saturated, right? Saturated colors are fun for the kiddies!

ah well. back to putting this AG property on-model. I've been procrastinating on that all week because I knew it'd involve boring up most of the drawings.

Robert Hume said...

I'm going to the Animation Archives this weekend...this was a very depressing(yet important) post.

Pseudonym said...

Just so you know, they're called "Moire patterns". (Or, I guess, moiré patterns.) Moiré is a type of textile that produces patterns like this when you move it.

Hammerson said...

>> They take the lines in the cartoons and thin them out. To the point where they are so skinny, that you can see the video scan lines cut through them. Now the once beautifully inked lines have ragged edges.<<

Correct video transfer should look good on every equipment, but some of the issues you mentioned are caused by hardware more than the video transfer. What kind of display and connection are you using? The jagged edges, strobing, pulsating colors and moire patterns are in most cases completely gone on the progressive displays (plasma TV, video projectors, computer monitors and some of the recent high-end CRT TV sets). You'll get clean smooth lines without any ragged edges, and also much better still-frame images on such displays. Sadly, there's no cure for DVNR and idiotic color/contrast pushing that plagued so many DVD releases.

Rogelio T. said...

Have you tried writing to the companies that manufacture the software and equipment. Maybe they could do a little more on educating engineers on how to use this equipment on cartoons.
Show them the negative effects that it has had on animation (when you try to do too much with it) and maybe they can come up with some sort of a solution. That might be a little better than what we have today.
It is in their best interest because these things make their expensive video products look crappy and embarrassing. I'm sure they know how easy it is to mess up a film with their equipment but if they knew how big (and common) of a problem it is with cartoons they might do something about it.

I personally do think old cartoons usually look better untouched but I don't see digital restoration going away any time soon.
To me, Porky Pig on those Looney Tunes DVDs dosen't even look or seem like the same cartoon character anymore and that's a pretty awful thing.

Kali Fontecchio said...

"Have you tried writing to the companies that manufacture the software and equipment. Maybe they could do a little more on educating engineers on how to use this equipment on cartoons. "

Are you kidding? They're proud of their achievements! It's their little contribution to the art.

Stephen Worth said...

What kind of display and connection are you using?

The oversharpened stuff looks just as bad on my 30 inch Apple Cinema Display as it does on my JVC CRT monitor, I'm afraid. Some of the thinning of lines is due to Disney's technique of rotoscoping the character off the backgrounds for clean up, then aliasing them back onto a "cleaned up" still frame of the background. When the character comes off and goes back on, the exterior lines get realiased and get thinner and crunchier.

See ya
Steve

C. A. M. Thompson said...

When you did the commentary on A Gruesome Twosome did it look as bad as on the final DVD? The colors are completely eye-searing.

Shawn said...

I'm looking forward to seeing Bambie rap.

Not really...It pisses me off too.

Lyris said...

Hey John, regarding this one:

>> PULSATING VIBRATING COLORS
I don't know exactly what they do here or why, but the colors vibrate in intensity-even when you still frame them. The Looney Tunes box sets do this too. It makes it really hard to follow the characters when they are pulsating, strobing and the ragged edges shimmer and shake up and down the outlines.

What kind of video cable are you using to connect the player to your TV?

Hammerson said...

>> These are the latest video transfers that are on those silver box sets-"Treasures" or whatever they are called.<<

Just one thing about Walt Disney Treasures DVD sets... most of the volumes have fine video transfers, free of major digital tampering. I think they simply used the best available prints, and transfered them without any particular attempt at "restoration".
However, the "Rarities" DVD that contains "Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom" was one of the exceptions, and it was widely criticized because of the wretched video quality. From what I understand, instead of re-transfering cartoons from good prints, they used the old composite masters intended for VHS and TV broadcast, and tried to digitally "enhance" them. The result is every bit as ugly as you described. But it's not a good representative for the whole Treasures series, because some of the other volumes look pretty good (Goofy, Donald vol.1, The WWII collection, etc.)

Lyris said...

Hey John, some of those problems definitely sound like the way things are hooked up. I agree that "restored" cartoons have plenty of problems though.

I totally agree about Contrast mangling and Film Grain Removal. I can't understand why the hell they'd want to remove Film Grain from a Film!

I also totally agree about many of the best transfers being done quickly and on the cheap. Telecine it, encode it and slap it on an HD disc... that's the ultimate. But all of the people that get to gang-bang the video insist on playing around with it.

Bill said...

I was sad to see that the nwe Droopy set suffers from the same thing. There are moments when the line sharpening is so bad that the lines disappear completely! Whoever is doing this to these cartoons needs a good smack on the head. There must be someone at some 'restoration' company somewhere that we can call and complain to...

Raff said...

Oh the irony...I try to find ways to put grain and texture into my Flash stuff so it feels more like cels and film and here are a bunch of companies taking the real million-dollar McCoy and making it look like Flash.

Sheesh. Help-save-subtleties-dot-org!

JohnK said...

Hi Lyris

I use the same connections I've always used. RCA.

It works fine for all my video tapes and laser disks and any DVDs that don't have all that restoration crap happening.

It's only on the big studio dvds that the problems happen.

It's on the dvds, not in my connection.

Liloo said...

Hello John,

I write from Guadalajara, Jalisco, México. I´m part of the Creanimax organization committee: http://www.creanimax.com/
(English version) http://www.creanimax.com/ing/

Creanimax is an initiative from the National Chamber of Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technology (CANIETI), the IT Institute of Jalisco (IJALTI), the federal and state government and the growing industry. The event looks forward to promote the creation of content regarding 2D, 3D animation, special effects, and videogames, also to serve as a space for expression and interaction to all developers in Mexico and Latin America.

The objectives of Creanimax this year are:
Create a bigger and better event.
Get together in the same space developers, universities, potential clients and general public from the animation, multimedia and videogames area.
Expose the different developments from national companies and independents to show their creativity and technical capabilities.
Detect, promote and stimulate the creation, design and development of animations and videogames.
Create an expression forum where developers can share experience, ideas and Works.
Train developers in the most advanced techniques in the World.

I really like your work, so I proposed you for the committee. We’d like to invite you to participate on this festival, giving a workshop or conference here the days of the event.
If you're interested contact me for more information at:
liliana.co@gmail.com


Thank you

Liloo said...

Hello John,

I write from Guadalajara, Jalisco, México. I´m part of the Creanimax organization committee: http://www.creanimax.com/
(English version) http://www.creanimax.com/ing/

Creanimax is an initiative from the National Chamber of Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technology (CANIETI), the IT Institute of Jalisco (IJALTI), the federal and state government and the growing industry. The event looks forward to promote the creation of content regarding 2D, 3D animation, special effects, and videogames, also to serve as a space for expression and interaction to all developers in Mexico and Latin America.

The objectives of Creanimax this year are:
Create a bigger and better event.
Get together in the same space developers, universities, potential clients and general public from the animation, multimedia and videogames area.
Expose the different developments from national companies and independents to show their creativity and technical capabilities.
Detect, promote and stimulate the creation, design and development of animations and videogames.
Create an expression forum where developers can share experience, ideas and Works.
Train developers in the most advanced techniques in the World.

I really like your work, so I proposed you for the committee. We’d like to invite you to participate on this festival, giving a workshop or conference here the days of the event.
If you're interested contact me for more information at:
liliana.co@gmail.com


Thank you

Brian B said...

It's because they have to do something to account for more special editions and making more money off films they've banked on countless times already. So they change them. What better way? It's the only way you can continue to reintroduce a film that old - or rather the easiest way. Change it and tell people "you don't have this!".

I wish we could get the actual artists who grew up on this stuff, and were inspired by it, to help out in preserving the art. Subtlely improve things that are true to what the original intent was, not drastically change it to show off how different and improved the "restoration" is. Then sell the film off a true-to-vision restoration, and extras analyzing and distilling the film in it's place in time. I'd buy those all day long. But as is now, I feel like I'm being betrayed and that's a crappy feeling.

JohnK said...

I doubt that would work either. No one would remember what it looked like.

The Rolling Stones supposedly supervised remasters of their 60s records, and the CDs ended up sounding nothing like the records. They sound digital and whispery. The rock and roll is gone. It sounds like easy listening now.

They should just transfer the stuff intact and not tamper with it.

80s and early 90s videos looked just fine and looked like film. Now everything looks like it was made in photoshop by graffiti artists or something worse.

Jim Rockford said...

Superb post!,This is a topic that pisses me off and really needs to be addressed.
"Digitally Enhanced" is the worst thing to happen to films since the colorization fad that at one time had everything from Laurel and hardy to Buster Keaton films tinted poorly in garish hues.
I want to see old films and cartoons exactly as they originally were,not re-interperated and digitally tweaked by an overpaid computer geek.
This is kind of the equivalent to the "electronically rechanneled for stereo" fad that took place in the late fifties and early 60's when record labels began re-issueing mono recordings that had been "enhanced" to take advantage of the new stereo fad.
I'm glad I have my old videotapes of these cartoons from before the studios had all these techno tools to wreak their havoc with (and before they removed the so called "politically incorrect" scenes that might offend some humorless sourpuss with to much time on thier hands.)
What I dont understand is why there arent more people up in arms about the way these films are being ruined.maybe if enough voices were heard the message would sink in?
Disney and the other studios must be spending thousands having these computer engineers take a digital rattle can to works of art.
THEY'D BE SAVING MONEY LEAVING THEM ALONE!

I have always loved the tasteful subtle seemingly endless hues used back in the 40's and 50's,the palet was so broad and beautiful,now everything is splattered in preschool primary colors.
those grabs from toot,whistle,plunk and boom make me want gouge my eyes out.you have to wear sunglasses to look directly at them.
this needs to be stopped!

Kevin W. Martinez said...

Well, the Popeye set coming up is, with two exceptions, entirely comprised of Black-and-white cartoons, so those of you who hate "pulsating colors" and DVNR might find that to be a little more palatable.

And for Toot, Whistle Plunk and Boom, it's definietly an old transfer. I'm not even sure Disney even did any sort of "digital tinkering" to it.

And animation hasn't been the only thing restored for DVD that's been accused of being tinkered with. Ask people at other forums/blogs what they think of the restored DVD's of The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, etc. and you'll get responses similar to the posts made here.

Kevin W. Martinez said...

I just remembered: Part's of Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom (inclding the opening John analyzed in detail) were excerpted in this, presumably unmodified: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQKW9oEG6G8&mode=related&search=

How to the colors here compare to those in
John's screenshots

Lyris said...

>> Hi Lyris

I use the same connections I've always used. RCA.

It works fine for all my video tapes and laser disks and any DVDs that don't have all that restoration crap happening.
__

I've found that the RCA/Composite video outputs of LaserDisc players are of a much higher standard than on a lot of DVD players. With LaserDisc and VHS, the video is stored on the tape/disc as a Composite signal.

But DVD uses Digital Component colour which needs to be converted before going out over the regular RCA jack. The bit that really makes me wonder is when you say the pulsating vibrating colours problem still happens even when you pause the disc.

And yeah, Steve, the over-sharpening is a total pain in the ass. The companies run their master tapes (which as John has said already have annoying 'restoration' problems) through automated filters that suck out the finest details to make the video easier to compress. It leaves ugly ringing around stuff, especially visible when you look at it on high-res equipment.

Out of interest, has anyone else here seen the Looney Tunes that are on the "Robin Hood" HD DVD disc? "Robin Hood Daffy", "Katnip Kollege" and "Rabbit Hood" are on there and are great to see in High Definition. I'm sure they've still bungled the colour though and I'd like to hear how they compare to real prints.

mike f. said...

Why are dime-a-dozen computer monkeys overruling creative color decisions - made by the original artists - on films that were created before they were even born?

Because in the modern world, they're "creative", too!

This big idea that anyone can be creative, not just trained artists and people with natural talent - is more than wrong-headed. It's criminal, and it has infected all aspects of society.

DJ's - another name for someone who owns a turntable, apparently - take pre-existing records and "re-scratch" them. No one says "boo", (or, more to the point, "Why the hell are you ruining that record, fuckhole?")
Classic films are re-colored, squeezed, stretched, bleached, sped, "sound-enhanced", and worse...

Now, I'm not talking about broadcasters editing films for time or content for purely commercial reasons, which is bad enough, but at least you can almost understand it. I'm talking about presumptuous non-artists re-thinking a pre-existing work, and overriding the creative decisions of the filmmaker - a hijacking the creative process itself.

Where is it all leading? What if plumbers and bike repair mechanics were allowed to veto surgeons' decisions and "re-imagine" operations?
In a sense, that's already happening: oxymoron terms like "creative executive" and "graffiti artist" have entered the language, and are used regularly without a hint of irony. Jeezis!

It all began with the concept of "found" art in the twenties. Contrary to popular belief, it didn't begin with the hippie generation, although they ultimately gave it it's modern credibility...

I'll have to get back to this subject after I go beat the crap out of a marketing exec who thinks Bugs Bunny is gay and Tweety is a woman. Man, I'm riled...

Adam H said...

"Bambi will wear a backwards baseball cap and all the forest creatures will rap the story."

I'll have my single-shot pistol ready.

peldma3 said...

I don't undrestand the process, but I HAVE seen the damage done....My question is WHY? Why is this happening, is it just ineptitude?
It just doesn't make any sense.

Gus said...

John you have to stop your ramblings ok!! Of course remastring can be done carelessly but most of the time it's just good. You cant mean that the creators of films,cartoons and music wanted their art to look and sound like video and laserdiscs. Laserdisc is as far from 35mm stock you can come and cant reproduce it either and video just look like crap and int the end disinegreate. When it comes to music i have only good examples just look att the Blue Note Jazz Reissues, they sound like the musicans are playing in your house or that you are hanging in the studio with them and if you think about isn't that what they wanted. To put it out on vinyl was the only way at that time to get the music out there.

I.D.R.C. said...

The concept of restoration is not a bad one, it's a good one. The practice of lying about what you are really doing when you say restoration is utterly deplorable. It just sound better than, "arbitrary changes somebody feels are more suited to today's viewers".

It's just like those "cookies" advertisers leave on your computer. Sounds like something you actually want. Sounds much better than "little turd".

The Rolling Stones supposedly supervised remasters of their 60s records, and the CDs ended up sounding nothing like the records.

They supervised the transfers, but they were the bank transfers.

Tim said...

Frankly, I'm not sure even the early 90s tapes are safe. Remember when Disney got Kodak to "restore" Snow White back in 1993 for theaters, or when Disney released an "enhanced" version of Fantasia in 1990? They've been trying to "restore" cartoons for the past 15 years on video (unless you think VHS restoration is superior to DVD restoration).

Also, call me crazy, John, but I can't really tell the difference between the original version and the DVD version of Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom. They seem very subtle to me. Can you post a shot of both cartoons next to each other, as dumb as it sounds?

Hammerson said...

>>... the CDs ended up sounding nothing like the records. They sound digital and whispery. The rock and roll is gone. It sounds like easy listening now.<<

You're absolutely right about this. Most of the modern audio "restoration" and "remastering" techniques are remarkably similar to their video counterparts, and equally destructive. There's NoNoise (the audio equivalent of DVNR), unnatural and harsh EQ, extreme compression and limiting, etc.
While there are some genuinely good remasters of the old rock and jazz recordings, the majority of CDs made during the last ten years sounds headache-inducing and completely unlike the LP records or original master tapes. Everything's nowadays mastered so loudly and overcompressed until the last traces of the original dynamics are gone, and every note sounds equally loud. Google for some articles on "loudness war" for more info about that.

CartoonSteve said...

I think Toot was an extra on the Fantasia 2000 dvd. I wonder if it was also massacred?

Good thing I taped "Ink and Paint Club" shows from the Disney Channel - back when they aired cartoons. Granted, they were only on at 4am and edited for political correctness, but better than anything on their channel now.

I'm searching my tapes for a Disneyand show from the 50s where animators from Sleeping Beauty were sketching trees - later to result in a beautiful b&w short about an old tree.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

It's sad. Very sad. It's impossible to understand why the video industry is blind to this.

Taylor A said...

I too find this post somewhat depressing, though maybe not surprising...

I noticed you are nominated for the Best celebrity blog over at the Blogger's Choice Awards but that you do not have a badge here to promote yourself.

You should definitely grab the embed code and throw up a badge to promote yourself. You've got my vote today, but you'll need to promote yourself a bit to mobilize the rest of your readers! Best of luck!

Jorge Garrido said...

FUCK! This frustrates me to no end because alot of times the films on the DVD's are making their video debuts! So you can either choose to see them raped and violated on DVD or not even available! I just want to be able to see them, dammit!! IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK, TO BE ABLE TO SEE A FILM, YOU INEPT MISCREANTS?!

Where do YOU get classic cartoons that aren't commercially available? Any good websites?

Why can't they just release them as is in chronological order, or by director, untampered??

Is The Archive allowed to see the films on DVD from their prints? I would buy them all, especially Popeye and Clampett.

Jorge Garrido said...

By the way, the best swing music CD I ever bought was one of those cheap 80 songs on 4 CDs box set from Costco for $15. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Tommy Dorsey, Danny Kaye, all unremastered and unrestored. So cheaper is usually better quality.

I also picked up a similarly priced Johnny Cash Sun records box set at Costco. They never have enough money to give you anything but the music, which is fine by me.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Wow Jorge! You said something that was true, and useful.

It's sad how you have to hunt down the good stuff. Truck stops and places like that also have good unmodified cd's of old country classics and what not. It's also sad to think of all the people buying those wretched mp3s online. Take e a good old recording, transfer it to cd, half the quality is gone, transfer it to mp3, half of that quality is gone, buy it online as an mp3, more information is lost. What are you left with? Poo on a stick.

Jim Rockford said...

Mike F said-"This big idea that anyone can be creative, not just trained artists and people with natural talent - is more than wrong-headed. It's criminal, and it has infected all aspects of society"


Amen!,the feel good concept that exists today where "everyones a star" and wants to be patted on the back and called creative or talented for just breathing air is moronic.
This undiscerning mentality is responsible for the ugly crappy cars we now drive..,the horrible music we hear,and the wretched special effects driven,poorly acted movies we see.
Today it honestly seems it takes little or no talent to do anything,everything seems half-assed. Talent is becoming irrelevant.
How many times have we heard the media use the term "Rap Artist"
What an offensive misuse of the term!, where's the art or talent required in stringing together a profanity laced sentence that ryhmes to a synthetic beat?
Thank God for old records,movies,books,cars,buildingsand other survivors of the past,they are an inspiration to us and what we were and are capable of.
Real talent is rare,and for some button pusher who knows how to use some a shiny new computer program to be allowed to make arbitrary changes to an artists work under the guise of "restoration" IS criminal in my opinion.

JohnK said...

Peter/Thad:

I have the old versions and the new versions of these cartoons.

They are completely different.

I've watched them a zillion times.

The other night a few of us watched the new ones and saw all the modern tampering that I listed in the post.

They didn't have DVNR or line thinning in the 80s...

PCUnfunny said...

I have a theory of about these restoring technicians. They're hacks who don't know a damn thing about art so they try and make there own by ruining someone elses work.I have question for you John, was every single Looney Tunes cartoon released on previous home entertaiment format ?

Rogelio T. said...

>Is there anything we can do to stop it?

Please don't think I'm crazy I'm just giving possible suggestions.

How about creating a cartoon review panel.
Similar to what the RIAA was originally intended to do for the recording industry.
This group could watch a cartoon set and decide if it's up to aesthetic snuff.
If it is then the company producing the set can stick a official looking seal of approval on the disc.
If a film dosen't pass you send it back and tell the company why it didn't pass and how to fix it.

With this seal the consumer can be sure they are purchasing a decent transfer of the original film.
Without the seal you really don't know what you're going to get.

Cheesy but it's the best solution I could think of at the moment.

Don't misunderstand though, I hate the idea of unnecessary standards and review panels.
That's why this committee should solely be there to preserve the cartoon's artistic integrity.
So it won't turn into a censoring committee ten years from now.

William said...

Now, while I don't completely agree with your ideas of how cartoons should be, I am %100 with you on this drat digital restoration. I don't get excited about animation releases on DVD anymore because I'm afraid some asshat studio goon will ruin it. I was pretty happy with WB's "Tom & Jerry" Spotlight DVDs. I love seeing them in their proper aspect ratio for once. I wonder how the "Droopy" collection came out.

I'm looking forward to the "Popeye" DVD set coming out, but because of studios mucking with the transfers, I'm a little afraid. If they do it right, I'd love to see a good "Betty Boop" collection.

I was surprised how well the "He-Man" DVD transfers came out. I thought, "Why can't other bigger studios do transfers this well?"

Operation GutterBall said...

I hear you John! Check this out: Princess Mononoke(1997) on laserdisk is true to the 35mm version. The film was shot on a camera stand and they would place 3 blank cels(which you know look slightly yellow or gray when stacked)inbetween character levels to create depth and atmosphere. Anyways, when transfered to DVD all that subtlety got lost and everything turned varying shades of purple and everything was knocked down to the same intensity! People think I'm crazy! I'm glad you see this digital crap too.

Tibby said...

It's hard to explain but transferring raw footage that was never intended for such fine resolution in a digital format is not always intentional.You make it sound like they are doing this on purpose just to ruin the original footage and I assure you that is most likely not the case. Film colors and raw video footage will gain or loose some resolution. Based on the type of processes used - the result will indefinitely end up altering the original piece. Film is CMYK - video tape is RGB. Digital is RGB - and the translation between RGB and CMYK becomes altered because of the nature of the beast. It isn't because they purposely wanted to destroy stuff. Depending on wear it was made and who mastered it and the DVD printing house - you'll get a different result all the time. They are trying to make up for the differences in the formats. The older the material, the more balancing has to be done to make up for the differences. GAH!! My techy husband can explain it better than I can.

Times are changing. And so is animation and how ppl view media these days.

All this talk about technology made me remember something.
Animation fields have to change to a widescreen aspect ratio. The old square box 12x12 field doesn't work anymore. Most digital/LCD and Plasma and projection TVs are widescreen capable and it is much preferred by the audience. Don't make your cartoons in a box anymore - make them in widescreen. It's much better.

We are setting up our home theater system in our new house. I intend to dig out all my Ren & Stimpy DVDs and watch them in big screen format very soon. 100 inch widescreen projection. Surround sound theater audio ... sweeeeeeeeet!

Jim Rockford said...

I think another big part of this problem is public apathy.
Most people probably dont even notice that these cartoons are being ruined and just blindly stare into the neon colors and are glad they are being "restored".
Thats pretty scary!

Joseph said...

RIP
Pecos Bill's cigarette.

Nelson C. Woodstock said...

Maybe next they'll begin widecreening fullscreen shows like FUNimation did with their restored Dragon Ball Z discs.

Karma said...

"Maybe next they'll begin widecreening fullscreen shows like FUNimation did with their restored Dragon Ball Z discs."

Oh yes, I bought those. I wish I hadn't. They really ruined those. Some of the worst video mangling i've ever seen.

To be honest, I appreciate Akira Toriyama's unique art style, even if the animation on that show was a bit on the bad side.

But seeing the show ruined the way it was was awful.

kurtwil said...

John, while there is some good remastering and restoration going on, here are some thoughts:

1. Thanks to the widely used Discrete Cosine Transformation (.264 / bluray is a little better), digital video encoding is often murder on line quality. Look closely at DVD's and Netcasts and you will see noise, jaggies and other crap eating away at them.

2. Some restoration color timers have completely forgotten cel paint colors were chosen with the quirks of TECHNICOLOR in mind. Example: some Disney and other restored title colors appear based on the actual paints used on cels and BG's. It can be argued that paints are "accurate", but those colors were not the final intended result as extensive TECHNICOLOR translation charts at Disney and others reveal.

3. Image Processing that attempts to remove scratches, camera shadows and other defects can introduce glitches such as excessive background or character"haloing", revealing wires holding up props, smear/bleed of character lines into painted areas, etc.

It's a tricky process and one often compromised by wish to keep file size and stream bandwidth small, smaller, smallest (VHS won out over the technically superior Betamax for just that reason).

Ironically, while older video transfers were hobbled by the NTSC limitations that severely restricted color resolution in red and blue, many of today's digital standards have exactly the same or worse color bandwidth !!

Also keep in mind the older film-video transfer devices actually introduced some "frame-frame" blur because of CRT phosphor persistence. The Laser-based or other newer scan and print technology no longer does this.

Tibby is absolutely correct about color space translations and viewing area. The former can loose information, the latter (thanks to so many new video formats including HD) is in total flux as the 1.33 ratio of old films and TV spirals into oblivion.

BTW, The only film-based color restoration process I know of that actually works without digital enhancement is the RCI process developed by Peter Kuran of VCE fame, used by a handful of companies.

kurtwil said...

Meanwhile, D's CINDERELLA's most recent restoration included reordering walk cycle cels and replacing missing cel elements, as well as zapping cel level brightness pops, camera induced cel shimmer, paint errors and various registration border crawling.

Film history has been modestly changed, but other film makers such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and other filmmakers change their older films too.

kurtwil said...

One more for the world:

George Pal's WAR OF THE WORLD went through a restoration process a few years back. As a result, the thin piano wires supporting the Martian space ships, essentially invisible amidst the grain of the Technicolor prints, have become painfully visible thanks to the grain removal processes.

Then again, other films such as METROPOLIS and Alastair Sim's A CHRISTMAS CAROL actually benefited from their relatively careful digital restoration.

Digital tools can refine or destroy, depending on how they are used and who is using them.