A small preview

 

I’ve made a small comparison video to illustrate the improvements I’ve made to the intro cutscene. The background is already final, though Blackmore still needs a little work.

Enjoy…and rewatch it more than once. It’s rather short 😀

There’s always room for improvements

I recently discovered how to encode smk files without a noticable quality loss, so I took a closer look at how to improve the cutscenes any further. Most of them are fine, but the intro had it’s share of problems: Being heavily compresses, it suffered from compression artifacts and loss of detail. In addition to that there were a few animation errors, like frames not reaching the bottom or missing mouth animations. So I started improving. I removed a lot of compression artifacts by hand or replaced backgrounds by using later frames as a source. The result really is a big improvement imo.

I’m still planning on releasing the first beta release at the end of the month. Keep your fingers crossed…

Comparison
This frame suffered from heavy compression artifacts. By combining several frames I was able to fix it completely.
Comparison 2
This frame’s background completely lost all of it’s detail. Additionally there were a lot of compression artifacts. I fixed it by using parts of a subsequent frame.

A Little Christmas Present

christmasthrall
“Merry Christmas, Thrall!”

It still isn’t finished but I wanted to show you something until the end of the year. So here it is:

A first version of “Mix_complete22″with synced audio, added sound effects and music, deflickered and with a lot of repainted and fixed frames. I will get back to it in the future (it still needs a lot of work) but right now my plan is to complete the remaining cutscenes. After that is done, I will enhance them further.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

First meeting with Hellscream

While still working on mix_complete22, I wanted to add some sounds once again so I finished mix_complete08. Although the scene isn’t overly complex it still took its time. First I resynced all the voices. I had to edit the track quite a bit but I am amazed at how well all the mouths’ movements and voices fit together once I get the timing right. The animation studio responsible for this really did  a great job, condering that this is a game from 1998! Additionally I prolonged the song in order to remove the gap between the singing and Hellscream’s “STOP”. Now Hellscream shouts while everybody’s still singing. I mean, why should he order them to stop if they were already silent. As always I added lots of sound effects and a music track (“WarCraft Adventures – Music081”) as well.

I haven’t forgotten mix_complete22 and it’s already in pretty good shape. It just needs some tedious frame by frame editing now. I will get back to it once I have some more free time. Maybe I will upload my current work in progress version at the end of the month…or maybe I’ll even finish it. We’ll see…

1716.jpg
Thrall will be riding dragons soon 🙂

I also finished mix_Cs07. In this (very) short cutscene Thrall enters the zeppelin for the first time. I just used five sounds, but still it’s like night and day compared to the original version without any sounds.

Update

My job’s really keeping me busy at the moment, but from time to time I do have some time to work on act 09 (aka mix-complete22). The cutscene is a mess. It’s flickering like hell, has lots of animation errors and it feels like every 20th frame is corrupted in some way. But, slowly I am making progress and I even started on doing some sound work. Very basic stuff at the moment but I’m hoping to have finished a first version at the end of the month, maybe earlier.

Fixing the animation errors will be a real challenge. Easy things like Thrall taking off on his dragon at the end of the scene is already fixed. Other scenes, like Thrall changing positions while talking will be much harder.

Once again I used the deflickering filter I mentioned earlier. I have to do a lot of manual work though because of the ghosting effect that comes with it. Well, I won’t complain. I ‘m doing this out of my own free will…right? Right?

Comparison.jpg

comparison3.jpg

Never say never

I thought my work on the last cutscene was finished. As it turned out I could achieve much more:

Changelog for BETA 3:

  • I redid many scenes with an improved waifu upscaling procedure. I will write about it in another blogpost.
  • A lot of the remaining flickering could be fixed by using masks and repainting frames.
  • By analyzing the video frame by frame even more corrupted frames got fixed.
  • I restored an orc face that was distorted in the original video (00:01.28).
  • I fixed a few compression artifacts by taking a perfect frame and using it to edit all further frames with artifacts.
  • As always there were many more small things here and there.

This is it. I’m not saying I won’t return to this cutscene but I definetely need something fresh now. Enjoy 🙂

Someone cheered too soon

…and that someone was me. I was so happy with the results I was able to achieve using the deflicker filter that I didn’t notice the nasty error that came with it. Watching the cutscene on my TV screen, I noticed a ghosting effect. At first I thought it had something to do with the TV screen, but once I opened the particular frame in Photoshop I could see the ghosting, only less visible. The frame below has increased brightness to make the ghosting more visible. If your screens brightness is set to a low level, you might not even see it now. Well, I saw it and it had to go. But how?

ghosting
A nasty ghosting effect came along with the deflickering (image brightened up).

The solution was way more time consuming than I had in mind: I created a new version without the deflicker filter and combined frames from both versions to get the best of both worlds. I just had to do it for specific scenes (those with issues) but it took me over 10 hours to correct this. The new version has almost no ghosting left but is still (relatively) free from flickering. I’m really happy with the result but I am not sure what I will do about the second missing cutscene (mix_complete22), which is in need of deflickering as well. They way I did it in this case was way to time consuming.

Anyway, the next version is ready. Besides having dealt with the ghosting issue, I fixed a few more corrupted frames and corrected two animation errors. The first one was shown to me by IllidanS4:

3955old.png
Is there someone standing behind those guys?
3955new
As a matter of fact there was! An animation was set behind a static image and therefore couldn’t be seen. I removed that animation by dublicating and editing the final frame.

The second error was more of a continuity error. Thrall removes a scroll from the dead messenger orc. In the next scene this orc can be seen WITH the scroll in his hand. So I ended up removing the scroll…in e v e r y frame in that scene 🙂

2060old.png
The elder scroll…
2060new
…is no more.

Mix in a few audio fixes and you get a new version of Mix_complete17, aka Act 08. Regarding the video it is, at least in my opinion, final. If I spend another day on this I’ll surely get mad. Besides, my vacation is almost over…

A new job

I started this little project in order to add sound effects to all the game’s cutscene. What I didn’t know was that two missing cutscenes would appear out of nowhere. And I didn‘t know either, that those cutscene would be in need of some restoration work. Something I’ve never done before…until now.

A few days ago Reidor posted two missing cutscenes (see my blogpost Lost and found). Apparently they were filmed from a PC monitor and then put on a dvd. This resulted in a low quality video, with lots of flickering and even a visible mouse cursor in some scenes. Nevertheless watching it was awesome. IllidanS4 took over the job of impoving the quality. He used an upscaling method named waifu2x, which had been developed a few years ago in Japan for upscaling anime movies and images. It was a big improvement. Still, a few things needed further work. Being filmed from a PC monitor, the video had heavy flickering and many frames were corrupted. He asked for help but nobody answered. So I wandered if I could do it.

My first approach was VIVA from Algosoft. It is a professfional film restoration software, used by the recent Metropolis release. It’s a pay per use software, so a short 2.5 minutes sequence wouldn’t have been that expensive. Sadly the software crashed quite often on my machine, up to a point where it became REALLY annoying. So I searched for alternatives. I tried a plugin for Adobe Premiere, which achieved next to nothing. Then I remembered VirtualDub, a freeware video editing programm with lots of free filters. The gui is self-explanatory so things like cropping and resizing worked like charm.

virtualdub
VirtualDub is a free and easy to use video editing software.

But what about the flickering? Well, as it turned out there is an excellent free filter for that, called MSU Deflicker. With it I was able to remove almost all flickering. I was amazed about how great the result of this freeware filter was.

deflicker
The MSU Deflicker filter for VirtualDub.

The upscaling was done with waifu2x caffe, a waifu2x program, which uses cuDNN from NVIDIA and therefore is much faster compared to just using the CPU. This program doesn’t upscale video files but images. So I had to convert the cutscene into over 5000 images/frames. Once again this could be achieved with VirtualDub.

waifu2x
Like VirtualDub, waifu2x-caffe is free and easy to use.

Then the real work started. I analysed every single frame and searched for corrupted ones. Looking at over 5000 frames is not the funniest way of spending someones time, but it was worth the time.

frames
The complete cutscene consists of 5143 frames.

Even one single corrupted frame can interrupt an otherwise fluid animation. And I found a lot. So I replaced them or repaired them in Photoshop. After that I loaded most of them into Photoshop and did another cleaning pass (thank god you can automate tasks in Photoshop). Waifu2x had already done the major task, but especially lines around the charakter’s eyes were still too fuzzy. I had to leave out some scenes because they didn’t have a lot of detail in the first place and another filtering would have decreased their quality even more.

Comparison.png

Finally I reassembled the images, once again via VirtualDub, and converted the newly generated video to smk via Rad Tools. It was quite an undertaking but, considering the difference in quality between the source material and the end result, totally worth it. The filtering process made the image look a little softer but after being converted to an 640 x 480 smk file, it was much better than the original.

Below you can see a comparison between the original DVD footage and the final digital remastered version.

An now it’s time for the complete cutscene. Enjoy! [EDIT: Updated link to BETA 3]