Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Could Get A Job As A Digital Restoration Artist

Look how great these backgrounds are in Banquet Busters. By Fred Brunish. Very rich with natural colors, not bright flat primaries and secondaries.

My guess is that on the new dvds coming out, they will look more like this:That's how many of the Warner's cartoons look like now that we have advanced digital restoration techniques. I ruined the frame with simple cheap Photoshop controls. They have much more expensive controls that do a better version of ruining classic films.
Original lush colors from 1948. Enjoy them while you can!

Actually I really hope I'm wrong, but all the DVDs I've bought in the last 10 years look and sound awful thanks to "Digitally Remastered" promises.


Sean Worsham said...

Hey John,

Does this mean I should stop purchasing the Looney Tunes Gold Collection? I can't think of anymore ways I can support further distribution of my favorite cartoons. It's hard to expose the new generations of artist to the golden age of cartoons. Heck I know one 25 year old who hardly saw Tom and Jerry and proclaimed he hated it. I'm afraid to bust out my dvd to show him how wrong he is.

Sean Worsham said...

Note I'm not trying to refer to Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry being the same thing in my last comment. I'm just referring to them as examples of Warner Bros. distinct lack of quality when it comes to remastering and restoring old classic cartoons.

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

Your restoration hurts my eyes. It's perfect!

Back when my grandparents first got a color TV I used to go over there and make Fred Flintstone purple. I was always ahead of my time.

Okapi Figment William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pinkboi said...

Remastering requires judgment. What works for one thing doesn't work with another. You must fiddle with the controls meticulously and have good eyes and ears. My feeling is that many remasterings (be they audio or video) were and are too automated. The computer can do awesome things, but it can't think for you.

Semicolon said...

You're just a bit too pessimistic sometimes John. I don't see any reason to believe this sort of thing will just get worse and worse, digital video technology is still in its infancy, and the next higher definition generation of media is rearing up on us, standards for quality and faithfulness to originals will only rise.

JohnK said...

>>I don't see any reason to believe this sort of thing will just get worse and worse<<

Look at the last 12 years or so of remastering. The films DO get worse and worse.

The more remastering tools they invent, the more choices engineers have to change the look and sound of the films.

I've spent a lot of money buying films that promised to look better than the last remastering, only to find them more and more changed from the original.

There is nothing in the trends that indicates it will get better.

Sean Worsham said...

>There is nothing in the trends that >indicates it will get better.


There is always a way for it to get better, we just have to be more optimistic. However all I know is that there are less and less options to even expose new audiences to show my favorite old-time cartoons.

Most people I know don't have Boomerang, No network or syndicate channel will show anything old anymore and these dvd's and blu-ray discs are looking more and more like the only way we can show anything from the past nowadays. The best we can do is write and complain but who knows that may even shorten the chance of big studios releasing more of our favorite cartoons.

To me showing clips on You Tube of my favorite cartoons is even a bigger travesty as the quality on that sucks and the internet is certainly no way of watching animation in top quality form (damn compression artifacts).

But then again I'm only paying for these dvd's because that is the only way most of us and our kids in the future are going to see the cartoon treasures we've known for years. That and ASIFA is miles from where most people live. I can't imagine this great art dying along with me, I want my kids to see it and hopefully appreciate it too so it can influence the future John K's out there.

NateBear said...

Dear classic animators,
We here at Time-Warner-AOL-Verizon-Mobilecom & Sid Inc. regret to inform your that your painstakingly crafter cartoon figure outlines are in actually scratches and pubic hairs. We apologize for any inconvenience this confusion might have cause.

While we hav eyour attention, we would like to offer you a brand new set of colors that your tasteful mind never dreamed possible for animated cartoon. Imagine an icy blue Bugs Bunny emerging from a purple hole in a neon green patch of grass while harassing a orange-suited , magenta-skinned Elmer Fudd. How much more delightful and stimulating would little kiddies find that compared to the hand-mixed watercolors you were stuck with back in the day. Wouldn't you like to enhance your bedroom experience?

Everly Tingonwong Witmerica

Oliver_A said...


do you refer to cartoons alone, or life action movies, too?

I think the worst phase was around 1999-2002, when they filtered almost every movie to death with DVNR algorithms. Nowadays, at least in life action movies, they got aware of the problem, and leave the original film grain as it is.

The problem, what you may percieve as digital sterileness, may also be that in many cases, much better materials have been found. For example, Technicolor dye prints have a certain colour look and atmosphere, but lack a little bit in sharpness due to the process of manually combining the 3 dye layers. Now, you have digital technology, and when you find the original 3 strip black and white seperation masters, you can scan them in digitally, and recombine them with perfect alignment, yielding a much sharper picture. Wizard of Oz and the original Robin Hood have been restored that way.

Since almost all classic colour cartoons are originally distributed as Technicolor dye prints, chances are that they may be restored that way. That they didn't scan in an original release print but went back to the seperation masters, because they are much sharper. The problem arises of course that they need rebalancing teh colours in software, but you could easily avoid that problem if you take a release print as a colour reference.

The Woody Woodpecker examples you posted are definately struck from an original Tecnicolor dye print. They have that warm, strong but darker feeling to them which is typical of this process.

Kali Fontecchio said...

They admit it too! I remember when we met someone from Disney who said, "...ya we up the contrast etc." and was proud of it! They had just done some new version of Bambi. Scary.

Nice saturation skills, John- hahahahahaha.

David Germain said...

Did Tex Avery ever make any Woody cartoons?

No, but he did make two Chilly Willy cartoons while at Lantz.

Oliver_A said...


They admit it too! I remember when we met someone from Disney who said, "...ya we up the contrast etc." and was proud of it! They had just done 'some new version of Bambi. Scary.

In case of Disney, it is even worse than that. In Cinderella, they digitally repainted some of the backgrounds. Snow White was digitally recoloured to a large degree, it doesn't look like film anymore. Redrawing lines is also one of their cruel practices in destroying their own body of work.

DVNR on Warner DVD's is really bad enough, but no one has treated their own work more badly than Disney. Amazingly, they left the Classic Shorts on the first Treasures Sets untouched. No DVNR, and all grain structures intact. Like John said, perhaps they didn't want to invest money to have them destroyed.

Lyris said...

John, I don't know if you're aware of a new type of digital mangling method. There's no official name for it that I know of, but I call it BACKGROUND FREEZING.

Basically, the 'restoration' people grab a still frame of a scene and video-freeze it, so that the film grain doesn't move (there seems to be this phobia of film grain that I don't understand). Then they 'cut holes' in this electronically frozen background to allow the moving parts of the scene to appear.

The problem is that since the film naturally jitters around a little bit as it moves through the film scanner, the unfrozen parts aren't in quite the same place as they were in the frozen frame so whenever something moves, there's this weird sort of warping effect around the area.

It's difficult to explain, but the new DVD of BAMBI has it (as well as some DVNR artefacts). The High Definition versions of DRAGON'S LAIR (not really a huge loss I know) also have it. There's a video at the bottom of this post here, it looks terrible:

Anonymous said...

If anyone wants to know how to help PROPERLY preserve animation's original elements and cartoons, learn how on my blog.

Oliver_A said...

The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is dedicated to archiving classic animation artwork, children’s books, films, illustration, comics, and other things you and I care about, to preserve them on permanent, indestructible COMPUTER data forever.

Actually, I think it will be due to our modern obsession with digitalization, that large parts of our culture which we know now will be lost in 100-200 years.

There is nothing more fragile than digital data. One click, and the data is simply gone. A few bytes currupted, and the file is unreadable in the worst case. File formats and operating systems are changing quickly. Optical mediums like Compact discs already have started to deterioate. Floppy discs are dying in large quantities.

This coming from a computer science student.

Shawn said...

It's a shame about the digital remastering, but HOOOOLY CRAP, those drawings look cool! I can't wait to get that Woody Woodpecker DVD set this summer (as well as the Popeye set). By the end of July, nobody is going to see me, because I'll be busy watching cartoons!

Tim said...

"Remastering requires judgment. What works for one thing doesn't work with another. You must fiddle with the controls meticulously and have good eyes and ears. My feeling is that many remasterings (be they audio or video) were and are too automated. The computer can do awesome things, but it can't think for you."

You're correct in that there can be a science behind it, but I doubt enough people complain for them to really care to focus on "true" remastered cartoons that are as close to the originals as possible. I want to see it the way the artist originally intended, not the way some random guy wants it to look. Given the fact that a lot of those old films have degraded, remastering is pretty much a neccessity, but who's doing the quality control there?

Jim Rockford said...

I despise the term "newly remastered" LEAVE THE CLASSICS ALONE!,
One such instance of this blatant disregard for the artists original conception is the dvd sets of Gumby,all of which have been basterdized,gone is the original hi-q Seeley,loose production music,replaced in the 80's with cheesy synthesizer crap,and whats worse is even the voices have been redone,all to fit in with the gumbys made in the late 80's.
this "new and therfore improved" attitude doesnt stop,it just seems to get worse and worse as seemilgy every old movie or album has to be "re-mastered" and sterile in order to be released.
Whats wrong with todays society,stop trying to inflict modern day technolohical "tweeks" on our old shows,we dont need garish bright and shiny re-issues and clean sterile new music in the background.I have LP's which display far better fidelity than the CD re-issues that have been digitally remastered so every tick and pop is gone.
when WGN was showing re-runs of the Camrbria Stooges Cartoons the title music had to be re-dubbed.
Needless to say I wont be buying any more Gumby dvd sets.hopefully someday they will release the originals intact.