Monday, 4 January 2016

Improving Beatles 1 videos

Penny Lane - colour improvement
Whenever Apple/The Beatles are releasing new products for the home video market, Beatles video collectors are going to complain about some of the production decisions. This holds true for all the Beatles movies, including the recent blu-ray releases which are the current versions, and also for the recent Beatles 1 and 1+ video compilations.
One example is the Penny Lane video. The two main sources of the film is a two inch video tape made for The Hollywood Palace screening of the film in 1967 in USA, and a badly faded Ektachrome dub which the two inch tape was made from. Both these copies of the film were saved by one, now deceased, member of the production team of The Hollywood Palace television show. The two inch tape was the version used for the Anthology TV/Video/DVD series, and also distributed to television companies for screening on music video programmes. It had vivid colours, but was not up to scratch in the resolution department when the video was slated for inclusion on the Beatles 1 blu-ray. So they went to the other source, the 35mm colour positive film. Unfortunately, time had taken it's toll on that film, and the colours were badly faded. The production team took some measures to restore the colours, but they were still quite more dull than the previous, video-sourced version.

Sample 2
In steps the afore mentioned Beatles video collectors. Some of these are professionals when it comes to video restoration, and a new version is circulating which is a clear improvement on the version shown on the Beatles 1 blu-ray. What the restorers have been able to do, is take the colour information from the video source and apply it to the Beatles 1 version.

Sample 3
Unfortunately, the video source was cropped smaller than the Beatles 1 version, so the edges of the film still has the duller colours of that version. As you'll recall from our earlier review of the new version Penny Lane, some short scenes from an outtake reel had been spliced into the film. These scenes have been kept, because they did not have any colour fading issues.

Another problem with the official Beatles 1 and 1+ release was that certain videos had been transferred at the wrong frame rate. On the first disc, all are 29.970fps except the following are 23.976:

Eight Days a Week
Eleanor Rigby
Get Back
Help
I Feel Fine
Lady Madonna
Let It Be
Penny Lane
Something
The Long and Winding Road
Ticket To Ride
I Feel Fine
We Can Work It Out
Yellow Submarine

On the second disc, all are 29.970fps except the following, which are 23.976:

A Day In The Life
Day Tripper 3 (Ringo sawing)
Hello Goodbye 3 (the fun one)
I Feel Fine 2 (eating fish & chips)
Strawberry Fields Forever
We Can Work It Out 2 (Paul laughing hysterically at the end)

So it looks as though they had deinterlaced all the 65 Intertel videos and slowed them down to 24fps. This did of course cause problems with these videos, with jittering and other unwanted effects. Then along came the iTunes Beatles 1+ version, where all frame rates were 25fps. So half the clips look better than the blu-ray, whereas the other half look worse. This lead to high end Beatles video collectors having to create their own Beatles 1 and 1+, by substituting the offending tracks from the physical release with their iTunes counterparts. Once again, Apple had released a product with flaws, making the diehard video collectors having to take matters into their own hands, to improve upon the commercial release.

13 comments:

Real Quaid said...

Is the improvement supposed to be on the left or right of those screens? Because left looks way better.

Westfield said...

I totally agree. This was largely a disappointing release for me. So many omissions. If you are going to open up the vaults then release EVERYTHING.

Martino said...

I compiled myself the videos in hd and with hq sound and the results were 84 (70 originals and 14 extras). I think is everything.
If you want it right then do it yourself.

Unknown said...

of course, there's also the historic Ed Sullivan tapes.
i could not help but notice while watching recently syndicated Merv Griffin shows from the same era that the Griffin shows look much more vivid and clear than the Sullivan DVD's- both shows were recorded on the same format 2" quad tapes. possibly because the Sullivan tapes are from broadcast air checks (Sullivan was done live, and have original commercials), possibly because the Griffin shows came from the quad decks in the studio/theatre where they were recorded for later broadcast. also possible that the Griffin tapes were "High-Band" quad recordings and the Sullivan tapes were "Low-Band".
even possible the Griffin production had better cameras...
unknown if CBS has better quality recordings in the vaults.
then again, NASA erased the moonwalk tapes...

DirectorDonP said...

Can someone answer this? The itunes Beatles 1+: Are the Intertel clips at 25fps - and a proper blend of the 50 fields of information? i.e. without the terrible 'saw-toothing' evident on the Blu Ray (where it looks as though only one field has been used, and repeated)?

LanceHall said...

I wasn't impressed with the color correction on some things just going by the Youtube clips.

Apple made a huge mistake not letting Ron Furmanek oversee this project.

A year or two ago someone released far better video copies of the 1966 Sullivan tapes. Does anyone know if the the new disc reflects those better copies or is it the same as Anthology?

Helter Skelter said...

Playing devil's advocate here :-)
Colour correction is very subjective. We must remember that some of the original films were graded with lower saturation, and this is possibly how the band wanted them to be. A good majority of Hollywood films are desaturated by 20-40% - this is a 'look'.
Adding saturation to a clip will improve the colour instantly to most viewers, but this may not be how the artist wanted it to be.
For me the colour grade on Penny Lane pushed the red in the coats but dulled the saturation on the rest of the frame - this was a conscious choice. So it's hard to say this is wrong. That said, there is some ropey grading in 1+.
The frame rate errors on the other hand are unforgivable, why de interlace anything? You are losing half the information instantly.
But fans are so hard to please, and I think that Apple actually did a top job on this release, the soundtrack was brilliant, and for the most part the videos were breathtaking upgrades.

Unknown said...

Someone released better copies of the Sullivan shows? Source please - bootleg or an official apple release? Also by 1966 Sullivan was in color - they only appeared live in 64-65 , after that sent film or video to Sullivan, but I'm nitpicking....

Beach Boys Opinion Page said...

The wonky frame rate things going on for some of the clips is far more egregious than the color grading on the Penny Lane film, which is indeed far more subjective.

They have the original negatives for the Penny Lane outtakes to reference, so the subdued colors *may* be relatively accurate.

LanceHall said...

"Someone released better copies of the Sullivan shows? Source please - bootleg or an official apple release?"

Someone posted the "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" promo clips (the videotape promos not the filmed ones) to a video blog site (not YT) and the quality was far crisper and cleaner than anything seen before and made the Anthology clips look like a VHS dub.

Unfortunately the video stream could not be captured and I lost the link.

LanceHall said...

I think a lot of the skin tones (judging by the YT promos) are graded too pink/red like they did with MMT. They need to be graded to a more sallow tone.

The 16mm stuff has that degraded 16mm negatives look I see in my own film transfers with the blotchy pizza faces. Scanning film at too low an exposure setting does that also.

On the "Penny Lane" clip they digitally selected specific areas like faces and coats and goosed the saturation while leaving the background basically washed out. So you ended up with something halfway between a restoration and a manual colorization and the result is weak. They should have just sent a HD copy to the best colorization company and let them work on it.

I'm not bugged though because this just gives bootleggers a reason to improve the color grading and swap out some of the poor remixes for the real mixes. Some of these mixes are really harsh or wonky sounding to my ears. There was nothing wrong with the originals.

Darren Peacock said...

I'm disappointed with the Paperback Writer and Rain videos compared to Anthology. The Beatles 1+ look washed out compared to the Anthology versions. What happened?

Sime's World said...

The BBC acquired a very good copy of Penny Lane back in the 1980s for their programme Video Jukebox. I was amazed that the Anthology version was SO poor - and the version on "ONE" isn't much of an improvement.