Monthly Archives: October 2016

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]

Surferboy

WarCraft Adentures walks a thin line between being a bloody, mature adventure and real slapstick. The “surferboy” cutscene belongs to the latter. Using his shield as a surfboard Thrall crosses a yawning abyss. It feels strange and a litte bit out of place. But that’s what Blizzard tried to achieve with the game. A hybrid – a serious game, that could instantly turn into a comedy for short periods of time.

In this cutscene Thrall uses his shield the second time. The video is without an audio track but the game itself delivers a windy ambient sound and a music track. So all I had to do was to give it some sound effects for the surfing part. I ended up using bits and pieces of the sound of a real snowboarder and a stroke of a wing for his flight across the abyss.

I will upload the first finished missing cutscene I mentioned in the previous blogpost at a later date. I have to check the volume once more and right now I’m not at home so my only equipment consists of headphones from my Galaxy S7.

Missing pieces

Six days ago I wrote about two missing cutscenes being found. My biggest hope was, that it would be possible to reintegrate them back into the game. Thanks to IllidanS4 it is not only possible. Instead there is already a complete download available. Right now I am working on cleaning the audio and adding sound effects. The first of those two cutscene is almost finished. In addition to that I’m looking for ways of removing the flickering and other distortions. I believe to have found an elegant solution, but it’s too soon to make any promises.

Meanwhile I have finished another cutscene: Thrall’s escape by catapult (Mix_complete03). I will upload it within the next days. It’s a short scene and not that spectacular.

As a side note: Considering how many gaming websites wrote about the leak of the game a few weeks ago, it is interesting to see that there is NO ongoing coverage about the game. Thinking about it: I can’t remember even one article, that mentioned the missing cutscenes in the first place. So it is only appropriate that nobody’s writing about those missing pieces that have just been found. Well, I don’t really care. I am just happy that a game I really like is now more complete than ever.

A bird never flew on one wing

One intro is not enough. So here it is: The initital version (BETA 1) of the second intro from WarCraft Adventures. First I synced the audio and added lots of sound effects, for example rain, wind, footsteps, moving and using keys, opening a door, blood, falling, clothes, horses, splashes, dragging and dropping. Though the cutscene had all it’s voice over, Blackmoores laughter was missing. So I created it from the other intro. His “ah” when seeing the orc baby is the first bit of an “are” when he’s talking to Thrall.

Music is the key. I added three new tracks but fear not: There’s still much going on without music. I ended up using parts of the following tracks:

  • WarCraft 1 Orcs and Humans – “Track 6”,
  • WarCraft Adventures – “Music100” and
  • WarCraft III – Frozen Throne – “Orc Theme”.

I also removed something from the original audio track. Some of the orc laughter was looped badly. My guess is it was just a placeholder, as it was basically the same sound looped three times.

Enough said. Have fun.

The first intro

It’s time for the first intro video. The very first cutscene differs from all other cutscenes. It is the only one with a complete audio track (voice AND sound) and…it is missing it’s last minute of audio. Why this is the case nobody really knows, but fellow WarCraft fan IllidanS4 assumes, the video has been set to the wrong fps which would explain a lot. Whatever the reason: I had to recreate the missing audio. A doable task…but what about the missing voices. My first approach was mixing existing voiced but that wasn’t really that convincing. I ended up using TTS software (text to speech). Together with the official game script (again, thanks to IllidanS4) I recreated the original dialog as good as I could. After resyncing the audio and carfully applying noise reduction the first intro of WarCraft Adventures was finally ready.

First intro? If you look carefully, you’ll realize, that WarCraft Adventures actually has two intros, both telling the same story but differing in quality. The intro I recreated the audio for was made by Animation Magic. The second, superior version, was made by another studio. So in a way I have put a lot of work into an intro that is, well, in a way, obsolete. Nevertheless it’s part of the whole package and I had to do it someday. So why not now 🙂

The video below is outdated. An improved version with reduced bass and adjusted volume already exists. So consider it a work in progress.

Lost and found

In my first blog post I wrote about one missing cutscene. As a matter of fact TWO cutscenes were missing. But Reidor, the guy who had leaked the game in the fist place a few weeks ago, just found them and uploaded camera footage on Youtube.

Hopefully it’ll be possible to include these back into the game. Especially the first one filles a somewhat larger story gap. No matter what happens: Isn’t it amazing that everything seems to surface on the internet some day?

The beginning of the end

After three short cutscenes I felt comfortable to start working on a bigger one. Well, maybe I shouldn’t have chosen the ending. But…you grow with your tasks 🙂 The final cutscene is much longer (2.45 min), consists of several scenes and is in need of many sound effects. Being the end of the game it also is in need of some dramatic music. But before I could start on those things, I had to sync the audio first. Having done that, it was time to give it some flavour. So I started with ambient sounds. It’s really amazing how easy sounds can make a difference. Choose an ambient sound, say an orc crowd, some medieval battle sounds and fire, and instantly the scenery comes alive. Then the hard work began. What IS happening on screen? There are more obvious things going on, like catapultshots or explosions, but small, subtle things aren’t less important, like footsteps or, even more subtle, moving clothes. This way I ended up using more than 40 sound effects in those 2.45 minutes. In some cases I had to edit sounds. I couldn’t find an orc crowd, so I chose cheerings kids, lowered the pitch, increased the length and voilà: my orcs were screaming like hell. Other sounds had to be combined. A bowl filled with liquid falling to the ground consists of two individual sound effects: First of all there’s the bowl. It is a ceramic bowl so it can’t sound like anything metallic. Then it is filled with a liquid so it makes a splashing sound. Combining these sounds creates the illusision of a real, breaking bowl.

bowl

Footsteps are rather tricky. They have to match the ground our figures are walking on and they have to match their speed. And you need to actually hear them. Not too loud, because nobody conciously hears someone’s footsteps, but not too faint either, because then you won’t hear them at all.

But the real problem was the music. My first choice was the opening track form the WarCraft OST. A very powerful track, which matched Thrall’s anger perfectly. But, as one Youtube commentator observed: it was an obvious choice. Too obvious. WarCraft Adventures has it’s own identity and mixing it with something from the movie, especially in such an obvious way, could harm that identity. So it had to go. Instead I listened to the game’s soundtrack. It was rather frustrating. I was looking for something big, full of emotions. Instead I found a lot of ambient style music tracks. Nice for the first part of the cutscene, but definitely not what I had in mind for the climax. In the end I found one track, which had something of a melody and together with it’s drums gave the final confrontation between Thrall and Blackmoore the much needed tension.

blackmoore

As I’ve said: Finding the right music was kind of frustrating, because I was limited to what the game offered. Still, I liked the end result and I was eager to do the next cutscene.

The video below is still a work in progress. I’m planing to come back to the videos I’ve done from time to time in order to improve them further. In this case I’ve already done another version with adjusted volume and reduced bass. I won’t upload this edited version because it won’t be the last. Just know, that there’s already an even better version waiting on my harddrive…and, as a matter of fact, on my second hard drive as well. Regular backups ftw 😉