Betty Boop- The Definitive Collection DVD Project
Converting and preserving classic animation
This whole thing started because I bought a Complete Betty Boop Collection DVD set bootleg off Ebay. It's a five-disc set with approximately 25-30 cartoons per disc (I think this is the set actually, except it looks to be a four disc set). The guy claimed it was captured from the rare Betty Boop Definitive Collection laserdisc set. However, I found the quality to be lacking. Upon close examination, I discovered the frame size to be 352x480 (half D1). But the worse part was the blended frames. Instead of reversing the 3:2 pulldown pattern (or even just leaving it alone), he decided to blend the interlaced fields. To me it was completely unwatchable. Thankfully the guy was cool about it and allowed me to return it. I offered to help him capture the laserdiscs properly and make a better set but he declined my offer. I suspect the reason was because either he no longer had the LDs or that it was actually captured from the VHS set (which would prove him a liar).
So I decided that I would make my own Complete Betty Boop collection DVD. However, the LDs proved to be to expensive and too hard to locate for me. So I found a VHS set for a bargain price (used, but new condition). Only three of the 8 tapes were opened, and the opened ones were in perfect shape. The picture quality delivered by the VHS tapes is spectacular! I am not regretting not having the LDs at all (however, if somebody reads this and wants to loan me their LDs, please contact me). This webpage will chronicle my DVD conversion project, starting now.
Here is what the process is like for each video tape. The entire VHS tape is captured uncompressed at 720x480 with 48KHz audio. Before any editing is done, an archival backup on DVD is made. So a CBR 9406 bitrate mpeg2 encode is done. The audio is archived as ac3 (dolby digital) stereo at 384 bitrate. After encoding, the archival copy is burned onto two DVDs and stored. Next, working with the originally captured avi file, the starting and ending frames for each cartoon are marked. Then the video is examined to determine the 3:2 pulldown pattern. An AviSynth script is made to reverse the pulldown pattern restoring progressive frames. Some cartoons require special edits or restoration and they are taken care of at this stage.
Before encoding, the audio is synced up with the video and double-checked. At this point each cartoon is mpeg2 encoded at 23.976 fps progressive using a VBR bitrate that is calculated to allow for 16 eight minute cartoons per disc. That should allow for any overhead and variations in length. The audio for each cartoon is encoded as ac3 at 224. Once the cartoon is mpeg2 encoded, an xvid encode is done for my video server. When all the cartoons from one tape is finished, I erase the avi file and capture the next one.
The artwork is also considered. Each tape's artwork is scanned on three sides - front, back, and side. The sides of all the tapes were scanned in one pass. New artwork for the DVD was created in Adobe Illustrator. The side artwork was retraced and scaled to fit the DVD's narrower binder. Some minor layout changes had to be made to better suit the DVD. For instance, the text "BETTY BOOP" is written sideways down the binder. The same was done with "VOLUME 1". New screen caps are made for the back artwork. I searched through the video footage looking for the same frames that are shown on the back of the VHS case artwork. Where possible the fonts are matched. When the artwork is complete, I make a 3D rendering of the artwork for my webpage.
The DVD menu also has to be considered. A menu system was designed to match the DVD case artwork. An 'Index' page was also created so that cartoons can be located quickly. As time permits, I work on the menu for the DVDs. None can be done until all of them are done. They all need to match perfectly.
Checking out the other DVDs
I started by ripping the DVDs I already had from Echo Bridge and Platinum, which are by far the best DVDs available at the moment. There is one other 4-disc bootleg which is good quality as well. None of the sets are complete and there are many repeats between the sets. I planned initially to use the DVD rips for most of the cartoons in my Complete Betty Boop DVD set. I ripped each cartoon individually and wrote a custom AviSynth script to do a variety of things such as reversing the 3:2 pulldown pattern, sync the audio, and remove the "Platinum Logo" from the beginning of each cartoon. So far it looks great. There is a little evidence of mpeg compression, but not too distracting.
Here is a sample of the mpeg compression I wrote about above. The frame is zoomed in 2:1 so you can see the compression artifacts. Notice the rectangular shapes.
I had to compare the crummy bootleg with my own capture. Below is a screen capture from the bootleg which I called "Complete Betty Boop" above next to my own VHS capture. The frame shown has been resized (from 352x480) to 640x480 to show the proper aspect. This is a direct rip from the DVD, not an analog capture.
Here is a comparitive frame from my own VHS capture. This VHS tape was captured in avi format via a Hauppauge TV capture card at 720x480 using HuffYUV lossless compression. It's been resized here to 640x480 to show proper aspect. Immediately you should see the difference in quality from the above bootleg.
Want to know what 3:2 pulldown is and why blending fields is bad? Read more here.
I was initially going to make a chronological set of Betty Boop cartoons, but I have since changed my mind. Now I think I will make a DVD produced faithfully from the VHS tapes. That doesn't mean I can't go back and make a chronological set later though. I scanned all the VHS artwork and started to re-do it for the DVD. I will not be satisfied unless it is done properly, so it's got to be redone from scratch.
I started by trying to match the fonts. I've spotted several already. It actually took me a couple of days to identify and locate all the fonts. Here are my findings.
- The large "BETTY BOOP" title is "Empire" which I already had on my old Corel Draw CD. I am glad I kept that all these years.
- "The DEFINITIVE COLLECTION" is actually two fonts. I had something close to both of them on my Corel Draw CD but in the end, I just decided to scan that part and clean it up.
- The main heading text, used for "VOLUME 1", "THE BIRTH OF BETTY', and "FEATURING A SPECIAL INTRODUCTION BY RICHARD FLEISCHER" is Bodega Sans Light Condensed.
- The text used for the cartoon listing on the back is Novaresa Bk italic. This one was also on my Corel Draw CD.
I scanned in the whole set in the case so I could get a good scan of the binder artwork, which is Betty's face when all the tapes are lined up sequentially. I had to retrace the artwork in Illustrator so I could recreate that look for the DVDs. Since the DVDs are thinner, I had to reformat some things. I tried to stay within the spirit of the original VHS as much as possible. I think it turned out pretty nice.
The DVD artwork proved to be a challenge. I decided to do it right instead of just a hack job. So I am spending ungodly amounts of time recreating them for the DVD. I've had to scour the internet trying to match fonts and the like. And I actually retraced the side binder artwork and reconfigured it for the DVD so that the DVDs when stacked together sequentially will show a picture of Betty's face just like the VHS tapes.
This DVD project is turning into a major deal. But I am loving every step along the way. Here is an update:
I laid out some pretty nice DVD artwork. So far I have six of the covers done except for the screen caps on the back. I've only done the screen caps for Volumes 1 and 2 so far. I made matching menus for the DVDs as well.
Volume 1 is done.
- VHS captured, raw archived to high bitrate mpeg2/ac3 and burned to DVD
- shorts edited to correct flaws introduced from VHS transfer (the occasional jumping field)
- inverse-telecined (so they are now progressive ~24 FPS)
- mpeg2 encoded ready for DVD authoring/burning
- Richard Fleischer introduction also captured and encoded (~30 FPS interlaced video)
Screen captures from Volume 1:
Here is the status of Volume 2:
- VHS captured, raw archived to high bitrate mpeg2/ac3 and burned to DVD (two discs in this case)
- shorts edited to correct flaws introduced from VHS transfer (the occasional jumping field)
- inverse-telecined (so they are now progressive ~24 FPS)
- mpeg2 encoded ready for DVD authoring/burning
Screen captures from Volume 2:
- VHS capturing at the moment
- raw archival will happen tomorrow morning after overnight mpeg2 encode.
- need to correct a problem in the middle of "Betty Boop, MD"
- cover artwork finished
At this point, the DVD artwork is almost complete. All VHS artwork has been scanned and raw archived and reworked for DVD. Volumes 1, 2, and 3 are complete. Volumes 4-6 complete except for screen caps on back. Volumes 7-8 not started. DVD menus will match the DVD cover artwork, and are complete up to DVD 6.
I am having a blast with these old cartoons. I am seeing many cartoons for the first time and it's fun to study them frame-by-frame (something that is only possible after reversing the 3:2 pulldown pattern). They actually look pretty good. The DVNR is only an occasional distraction... much less than I was expecting. I have yet to view any of these cartoons on my TV. I can't wait to sit down and watch them.
Screen captures from Volume 3:
There was a bad spot on Volume 3. It lasted for about 15 seconds. My VCR went to blue screen and flashed "calibrating". So I had to change some settings on the VCR and recapture that part. Then I had to splice it back into the rest of my captured video. It's a perfect splice, but I am going to have to correct some jumping fields when I go to do that cartoon. Here is what the bad spot looked like.
Volume 3 is now captured and archived in high-bitrate mpeg2 and burned onto two DVDs. And I have already marked at which frames each cartoon starts and ends. Next is reversing the 3:2 pulldown pattern and correcting any jumping fields.
Volume 3 is almost finished. At the moment, "Admission Free" is encoding to mpeg2 for the DVD, The rest should be done by the end of tomorrow. I also have the artwork finished for Volumes 7 and 8, except for the screen caps on the back. The menus are all laid out. And I have started creating and programming the buttons for the menu. Volume 1 will be finished by the end of tomorrow and I will make my first test burn and finally view it on the TV.
Today I find myself considering adding some of the missing cartoons to my "Definitive" DVD. The missing cartoons are "Popeye The Sailor" which I have on my Popeye DVD set, "Buzzy Boop", "The Lost Kitten", and "Yip Yip Yippy" which I have on another compilation. I have room on Volume 1, which only has eight cartoons plus a ten minute introduction by Richard Fleischer. I also have room on Volume 8. I could sneak them in as bonus items via a hidden menu, or add a "Bonus" button to the menu. Not sure yet which way to go, or even if I should even do it.
There is also a little work involved in these extra cartoons, except of course for the Popeye one. One of them has german subtitles which I would clean off. This of course would be a painstaking process of frame-by-frame editing, something I am not looking forward to. The others have some interlacing that I am not so sure I can undo. It looks like a PAL broadcast that was converted to NTSC. So undoing the pulldown pattern on those two will be impossible to do completely without some field blending. But I haven't spent much time on them. Maybe they are fine and I just haven't found the pattern. What I am seeing could be the result of overuse of a temporal cleaner. This is what I am hoping for because that means I can reverse the pulldown pattern and restore progressive frames, but there would still be some blending of adjacent frames. But that's the lesser of two evils.
As for Volume 3, it is in progress at the moment. I am currently encoding "Betty Boop's Museum", and there are five left to encode after that. Then I will only need to encode the transitions.
I thought I should post again today about a bad spot I've discovered in "Betty Boop's Penthouse". Here is one frame out of the bad sequence.
I recaptured it several times using various settings and even a full frame TBC, but it never changes. I am now convinced that it is written this way on the tape (and quite possibly the LD too). A quick youtube search verified that it is not just my tape. Take a look at the two fields separated.
It's not just a simple shifing of the fields. There is some blended diagonal pattern to the shifting field. I suspect this is an unfortunate side-effect to the DVNR used on this set in combination with an error on their video transfer prior to the DVNR. What this leaves me with is almost 20 frames that have to be somehow restored. I am afraid that it will have to be done by hand.
Well, after coming up with a tedious but workable system, I've managed to restore the segment from "Betty Boop's Penthouse". Here is an example showing the same frame from above. It was very satisfying saving this one since it is one of my favorites. And it deserved the personal treatment.
So this concludes Volume 3. Now on to Volume 4. I will start capturing that immediately. I still don't have the menus completed with buttons yet, so maybe I ought to spend some time on that first.
Today I spent some time syncing audio a little better. I also prepared the shorts to be Xvid encoded so I can store them on my video server. Don't worry. I am still making the DVD set. I also want to learn a new DVD authoring software so I can do some custom playlists in the DVD menu. I should start capturing Volume 4 later tonight. After Volume 4 is captured, I will be able to locate the screen caps for the back artwork.
All the episodes so far have been encoded to Xvid so I can put them on my video server, and also later maybe upload a torrent. Now I am concentrating on Volume 4. I've captured it but I wasn't satisfied with the audio. It had that "video tape noise", so I had to recapture it with some different settings in hopes of eliminating that noise. The video tape noise is completely gone! I am glad I noticed. It was subtle.
So the tape is captured and now it is encoding to high bitrate mpeg-2/ac3 for archival purposes. I also marked the frame at which each cartoon starts and ends, and I even reversed the pulldown pattern of several cartoons. And while I was in there, I located the exact frames for the screen grabs shown on the DVD artwork.
Here is an example of what I am working with.
As a side note, I am falling love with Betty Boop. There are so many of these cartoons that I haven't seen before. I've only seen the more common ones found on the available DVD sets, and I have to say that the other sets are really lacking. This "Definitive" set is just full of gems! I think my favorite one so far is "Betty Boop's Penthouse". The animation is amazing, but the music really gets me too. It's great stuff! That old jazz from the 30's was great!
Once again I am faced with some frames that will need some hand edits. There is a series of frames in "Betty In Blunderland" where one of the fields is partially jumping. In other words, part of the frame is correct but part is not. I was able to solve this with some clever scripting, but still each frame had to get personal attention.
Here is a one of the bad frames before and after restoration.
I have now archived Volume 4 to high bitrate mpeg2/ac3 and burned to two DVDs. I have reversed the pulldown pattern on all the cartoons on Volume 4. And now I am encoding individual cartoons. I am almost halfway. Each cartoon takes about an hour and a half to encode, so I should be done sometime today if I can stay on it. I cannot batch encode, so I have to be here to start the next one each time. Almost ready to start volume 5!
Here are a few screen caps from Volume 4.
Today was boring day of just encoding cartoons. But now I am done with Volume 4. So I will be capturing Volume 5 VHS next... well as soon as I xvid encode the Volume 4 cartoons.
As the image above suggests, I am on to Volume 5 now. I've already captured it and marked the start and end of each cartoon. And I've grabbed the frames for the back artwork. I also spent some time working on a set of "index" pages for the DVD menu. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I wrote a script which allows me to scroll around within the index. Looks very clean and professional. This will work well within the menu system.
Here are a couple of screen caps from Volume 5.
The pulldown pattern has been undone on all cartoons from volume 5 and individual cartoons are now encoding. Should be done sometime tomorrow. No excitement this time, thank goodness.
Today was another boring day of encoding one cartoon after another. I also spent some time with the "Buzzy Boop" restoration. That one's gonna be a real bugger. But I think I will be able to restore progressive frames and then stabilize the shakiness; it's just going to take a lot of effort. And even then we will not have as good of visual quality as the other cartoons. But it will be as good as it can be. And it gives me something to do while the Volume 5 cartoons are encoding. Volume 6 is next!
All the cartoons from Volume 5 are encoded. I also made xvid files of each cartoon and moved them to my file server. Finally, I redid the index menu for the DVD so it would better match the style of the existing menu (which matches the case artwork).
In other news, I've spent a significant amount of time on the restoration of "Buzzy Boop". It was a mess. There were blended fields for every five, and every 500 or so it gets out of sync. So I broke the film up into 59 segments and cleaned up each segment individually. Next I will remove the 3:2 pulldown pattern from each segment and finally dissoves each segment into the next. There will be a little blending, but it shouldn't be too bad. It should be a huge improvement over what I had previously. It should be as close to true progressive frames as one could resonably expect to get given the source I had to work with. It looks like it was captured using a camcorder aimed at a projection screen.
Today I captured the VHS Volume 6 tape.
I got Volume 6 captured, and half encoded for archival. I made some stupid mistakes that cost me some time. But no harm done. I discovered today that my harddrive is filling up. So far this project has consumed 81 GB of my harddrive, and that is not counting the current uncompressed AVI which is the raw capture of Volume 6. So I may have to temporarily remove some things that I already have backed up since I won't be needing them right now.
"Buzzy Boop" is almost done. I have restored it to ~24 fps progressive. I am amazed that it was possible, but it did take a lot of work. Now I can concentrate on stabilizing the shakey film (and it is VERY shakey). After that I might try a slight temporal cleaner.
I hope everybody had a happy Easter today. I didn't do much work on this DVD set, but I did manage to get some things done. I got the screen captures added into the back DVD case artwork. You can see it above. Volume 6 is now mpeg-2 encoded for archival and burned to DVD. Also I have the starts and ends of each cartoon marked. So I am ready to reverse the pulldown pattern now. That will have to wait until tomorrow.
The pulldown pattern has been reversed for Volume 6. It's common to find splices in the opening credits but one cartoon, "On With The New," had two splices in the middle of the cartoon! Clearly, Republic archived their Boop cartoons onto video tape and edited them on video equipment. That sounds so old school now just over 12 years later. They better digitally scan their negatives (or film prints) now while they still can.
Anyways, Volume 6 cartoons are encoding. Currently encoding "Betty Boop's Big Boss".
Here are some screen caps of some of the cartoons from Volume 6.
I believe there may be one more extra cartoon that I need to acquire, and that one is "Betty Co-ed". I am not sure why that one was left off the Definitive Collection, but I am determined to include it in mine.
Almost done encoding. I've been slowed down by bad weather and power outages. My encodes keep getting interrupted. I should be finished this morning. Then after a quick xvid encoding session, I should be on to Volume 7.
And as for "Betty Co-ed", I have watched a Youtube version of it and have read a little about it. It seems there is some controversy over whether or not this should be considered a Boop cartoon. It has a Betty-like flapper character, but she doesn't really resemble Betty too much. But it may be one of those "evolutionary" things that ought to be included. I don't know... maybe Beck had it right by not including this one in the Definitive Collection. But what makes it confusing is that "Any Little Girl That's a Nice Little Girl" is included and it stars a similar prototype Betty character. Why was "Co-ed" left out and this one included? Furthermore, why were some of these others I have read about not included too? This is going to require some more research.
Volume 6 is done. Now on to Volume 7. The end is in sight!
Well Volume 7 is captured. And it is mpeg2/ac3 encoded for archival purposes at high bitrates. Also the starting and ending frames for each cartoon have been marked. I've only had time to undo the pulldown on one cartoon. Lastly, I've added the frame grabs for the back artwork.
On the subject of adding more cartoons, I've identified several using the Wikipedia site and cartoon listings. Some appear to clearly be Boop cartoons, while others (like "Co-ed") are on the fence. Without having seen them, it's hard to make a judgement. So more research is in order. But I would like to get done with capturing all these video tapes first.
Cartoons have all been converted to progressive frames (3:2 pulldown has been reversed), and they are currently encoding. Another day of encoding should do it barring any mistakes or power outages.
Just another boring day of encoding cartoons. Almost done.
All done with volume 7, including xvid encoding.
Here are some screen caps for Volume 7. More to come...
Volume 8 has now been captured. The end is in sight!
I grabbed the frames for the back artwork and got that done. Now the archival copies are encoding which should take about eight hours.
The archival copies are now burned to DVD. The starting and ending frames for each cartoon has been marked, and I have reversed the pulldown on eight cartoons. Meanwhile, I have started encoding them to mpeg2 for DVD. Also, since I could put it off no longer, I scanned in the "Boopliography" and the flyer. I'll probably add those to DVD-8 along with the DVD artwork files.
Here are some screen caps from Volume 8.
The Hayes Code really put a damper on Betty's sexiness. But every now and then you catch a glimpse of her garter. Makes it all the more alluring, as if it is now forbidden to even look.
Stupid mistakes and storms/lightning slowed me down with Volume eight but I am happy to report that ALL the cartoons are now mpeg2 encoded and ALL the audio is ac3 encoded ready for DVD. Furthermore, everything has been archived to DVD in high bitrate, and all the xvid encoding is done. So I at least have the cartoons on my video server.
Now I need to focus on actually authoring this stuff on DVD. I was originally going to use DVDAuthorGUI, but it does not allow for a "Play All" button. So now I am looking into GUI for DVD Author (I know, it sounds exactly the same). I am not sure that one will alow for my custom menus though.
Lastly, I have discovered that Volume 4's "Romantic Melodies" is a black/white conversion of a colorized version which is also missing some live-action sequences. Apparently, the correct version aired on AMC American Movie Classics back in 1995. I've also gotten word that "Accordian Joe" aired on AMC as well. So if you recorded that, please contact me.
Authoring the DVDs
I've tried GUIforDVDAuthor and I have come to the conclusion that it will not allow me to make the menu the way I want to do it. It surely allows me to have the programming/navigation that I want, but not the look. And as a side note, that application is confusing! Not very well organized... at least from my point of view. So now I am back to DVDauthorGUI. It does not allow me to make a 'Play all' button, but it does allow me to custom edit the xml file before authoring. So I can either add my navigation commands there (by hand coding them) or by manually adding them to an already-authored DVD by using another program called PCGedit.
I've made the navigation to get to the bonus menu, but I have not created it yet. And I also need to add in the simple navigation for the 'index' menu. I've been reluctant to add that in at the moment so that I don't make this thing too complicated until I get the 'Play all' working. But I think I just need to do it now.
I have acquired some of the missing cartoons. I intend to add them in as bonus cartoons on disc-1. Here is a listing of the cartoons I just received:
SS 05/31/1931 My Wife's Gone to the Country
SS 08/01/1931 Betty Co-ed
SS 03/04/1932 Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie
SS 04/01/1932 Just One More Chance
SS 10/21/1932 Romantic Melodies*
SS 12/23/1932 Time on My Hands
It seems that the new copy of "Romantic Melodies" is still not complete. A friend analized it and had this to say about it, "Remarkable, it seems like an original copy, but the bouncing ball sequence is also missing on this one. It clocks 5:12. Probably they cut the part out for screening on tv even on the b/w version." If there is an expert out there and you care to comment on this, please contact me.
I just made arrangements to get a laserdisc set in my hands! This is of course great news, and it ensures that the preservation of this great cartoon compilation will be as good as it can possibly be. The timing of this news (near the end of my completing the VHS to DVD conversion) also proves, once again, the existence of Murphy's Law. So keep an eye on this webpage. By the time I complete my work a second time, this time converting the laserdiscs, there is sure to be an announcement of an official DVD set. :-) Now I am going to have to add the LD logo and digital audio logos to my DVD case artwork.
As I was creating the bonus menu for disc-1, I discovered that there's probably too many cartoons on that disc if I try to include them all. So I am going to spread the bonus content across several discs. Disc-1 will have the lions share (about six) of the bonus cartoons. I might try to fit the Screen Songs on disc-4. Popeye will be added somewhere where it fits best, probably disc-6. And the last two "The Lost Kitten" and "Buzzy Boop" will be added onto the last disc. I may have to adjust my encoding bitrates a bit for some cartoons to make it fit. But I won't sacrifice quality. So it may take some trial and error. The good news is that the laserdisc material should encode more efficiently.
Back to square one as I now have laserdiscs to work from! I cannot wait to dive in to this! I've already scanned all the artwork at 300dpi (which wasn no small feat since my scanner is too small to scan in it one pass). I am toying with the idea of creating a new set of artwork styled like the laserdisc sets.
I couldn't wait. I am currently capturing disc-1. It looks spectacular of course. The VHS tapes did indeed look spectacular as well, but the nature of LD just gives a clearer picture, free of grain which is one side effect of magnetic tape. And it's just a bit crisper too. I don't see any evidence of so called "laser rot" either.
I plan to capture all the LDs and make high bitrate archival DVD backups right away. And then I will go about my work of inverse telecining and making the real DVD encodes. I am hopeful that my existing scripts will be useful if I can simply sync up the LD with my VHS captures. I will probably have to redo my restoration work on "Betty Boop's Penthouse", but that is OK. The cartoon is worth the effort. I should not have to redo my efforts in fixing "Betty in Blunderland" since all that work was in the script. Maybe I will try to script my restoration of "Penthouse" instead of doing it manually... hmmm. Well, I am getting ahead of myself. Capture and archive first, then the fun starts.. :-)
OK, get this. I just captured disc-1 side-1 and examined it briefly frame by frame. Two things are apparent.
1) The 3:2 pattern is different. I am not sure what pattern it is using, but I will figure it out. And if I cannot, then I will simply encode it without changing anything. At least then it will still be a perfect copy of the LDs.
2) The really cool thing is that this LD seems to be a different source than the VHS tapes! It just doesn't make sense to me, but I am glad for it because these LDs do NOT have the dreaded DVNR! I mean it may have a little, but not enough to remove any great amount of detail. I am shocked!! But wow, will this make a HUGE difference in the quality of this set.
Check out the example frames. VHS on the left, laserdisc on the right.
The bad news is that I will probably have to redo ALL my previous work inversing the pulldown pattern and restoring progressive frames. The good news is that there is a good chance that "Betty Boop's Penthouse" is completely un-ruined and will probably require no restoration at all!
OK weird news this time. Side B of disc one has a predictable 3:2 pattern, which is great, but it seems to have the DVNR the same as the VHS. But I am not complaining. This is as good as it gets until a real DVD comes along. But now I have my doubts about "Betty Boop's Penthouse". Now I am quite certain that it will have the same problem as the VHS.
I captured and encoded all four discs from set #1. Only when I saw "Poor Cinderella" from disc-4 did I realize that I should probably back the gamma down a notch. Some detail was being lost in the bright colors. So I made that setting and I am going to recapture the entire set. :-(
I spent some time and completely rebuilt my A/V workstation from the ground up. It used to be a P4 3.0GHz; now it is a Core2 Duo 3.0 GHz. My mpeg encodes take a little less than half the time now! So for instance, an eight hour encode now takes less than four hours.
Finally all my software is installed and configured on my new system. I've started capturing again and so far I have captured disc-4 about five times. I keep tweaking the capture settings so that I get the best possible image quality. Earlier captures were too washed out in the whites. Now there is some good definition and gradation in the bright colors. Gamma had to be backed down from 140 to 100, and contrast had to be backed down from 100 to 90.
See the difference below.
This is so cool. With my new A/V workstation, I can encode mpeg2 while capturing! The 55 minute video should take about two hours to encode. And I can capture the whole LD (both sides = two hours total) while it encodes without dropping a single frame!
Well, I just had a look at "Betty Boop's Penthouse" and I can confirm that it does indeed have the same problem as the VHS. So I will have to redo my restoration using the laserdisc as the source now. I wonder why side 1A had a different source than the rest of the set?
I captured all four LDs yesterday and encoded six of the eight sides. Today I should be finished encoding and I will burn them to dvd for archival. The captures look a lot better with the new settings.
Discs 1-4 are all captured and mpeg encoded for archival. I made chapter stops just so the archive DVDs are at least watchable. I had to recapture disc 2 side A because I forgot to save the audio. I've burned 3 of the 7 DVDs so far. I should have the rest burned today. And then I am taking a break to work on some Tex Avery stuff.
After taking some time to play with Tex Avery cartoons, I have returned to the Betty Boop project. Yesterday I tweaked my script that I used for the VHS set so I could use it for the LDs. I've cleaned the script up considerably and I've made some adjustments so that the LD and VHS sources line up frame by frame. This was important because I did not want to redo all my work reversing pulldown on over 100 cartoons. So far so good.
I started with disc-2 and have finished through disc-3 (both sides). I suspect disc-4 will be trivial as well. So far, aside from the better, cleaner picture, the LD is identical to the VHS set... except for disc-1. Disc-1 will be the challenge since it it completely different from the VHS and seems to have an unusual pulldown pattern. It will take some time to figure that out and reverse it, and I suspect it will be a very much manual process. :-(
I've finished reversing the pulldown on all the cartoons except for disc-1 side-1. For some reason, that one is different. The pulldown pattern seems completely random. However, the video quality is excellent. So I am going to try my best to restore it. The question in my mind is, should I "bob" the frames where a field is missing, or should I take the same field from the VHS and splice it in? I suppose I will try both and see which works best.
Now I am starting to capture the second set of discs (5-8).
I've finished capturing the laserdiscs discs 5-8 and have encoded each side for archival. At the moment, I am in the process of burning archival DVDs.
Adjusting my script to match the VHS frame-for-frame, so that my pulldown reversal functions work. I don't want to do all that work again, so it's just a matter of padding the video with a few extra frames at the beginning (or deleting a few). Screen caps coming soon!
Laserdiscs 5-8 are now done... as far as removing the pulldown that is. But I noticed a few frames that need some post processing, so I will need to do some quick work on those. Those must have slipped past me during the VHS conversion because I went back and checked those and the same errors were there.
And now finally, here are some screen caps from the laserdiscs. This first batch of screen caps are from discs 5-8.
I'll try to post some caps from 1-4 tomorrow (maybe).
Amazingly, I managed to get my hands on a TV-recorded "Betty Boop's Penthouse" from AMC. I kid you not, it looks better than the laserdisc! I was stunned when I watched it. Not only is the quality top-notch, but it is also absent of the bad section present on the LD and VHS release of The Definitive Collection. Also absent is any trace of DVNR. The details just jump right out at you! After viewing this, I am left with the question of why DVNR was necessary for this cartoon.
Check out the comparitive screen caps. The LD is on the left, the AMC TV broadcast is on the right.
I actually wrote a special script just for the AMC TV broadcasts and other miscellaneous sources. It shares the core functions. And in fact, I have already reversed the pulldown pattern on this episode. I'll add to the script as more tapes come in. I am expecting more TV-recorded cartoons so this is only the beginning. Here's hoping the rest look as good as this one.
I have abandoned my plan of restoring the laserdisc version of this episode for now. This clean recording (or at least frames from it) will replace it. Special thanks goes out to Ron.
As promised, here are screen captures from discs 1-4.
I finally have a great quality copy of "Romantic Melodies" from an AMC TV broadcast. It's completely uncut and looks great! It has the live action stuff with some great transitions and bouncing ball songs. It clocks in at 10:41. I have to admit, the cartoon makes a lot more sence without the cuts. In fact it's very charming and quite enjoyable to watch. I've already reversed the 3:2 pulldown on this one and made it progressive. It was easy since there wasn't a single change in the pattern (which usually indicates an edit).
And once again, there is no sign of DVNR. It just blows me away how a >15 year old VHS recording from a TV broadcast can be this much better than the laserdisc. But certain things made a huge difference: 1) it was received over a c-band satellite tranmission rather than cable, 2) recorded at SP quality/speed, and 3) with an SVHS VCR on SVHS tape. That's about as good as it gets for recording broadcast TV in 1995, and I feel fortunate to have access to these tapes.
Here are some screen caps.
After viewing the real uncut b/w "Romantic Melodies", I have decided not to give any more attention to the one that came in the Definitive Collection. I consider that one a hack! They were "colorized" in the early 1970's. The colorization process for these cartoons involved shipping it off to get the animation traced and backgrounds redrawn. The drawings look rushed and many of the little details are simply left off. And certain frames were just not even drawn. So you'd lose that fluid motion. And I just love the misspelled "Delafates" (It's supposed to read "Delicatessen"). I am frankly suprised Max Fleischer allowed his name to be put on that hack, and very disappointed that it was included on the Definitive Collection that way. It really looks like a cheap Chinese knockoff.
Check out the comparisions below. The laserdisc is on the left, the AMC TV broadcast is on the right.
After a long hiatis, I am finally back at work on these Boop cartoons. The state of things right now is sort of messy, so the first order of business is just getting organized. I am backing up all the DVD assets I created from the VHS set. I just need to let those go and now concentrate on creating new assets from the LD set.
Now that everything is backed up, I am starting to mpeg encode the individual cartoons from the LD captures. They really look great when compared to the VHS captures even with the DVNR (that they both suffer from). While I am at it, I will make some xvid encodes for my media server to replace the xvid set I made from VHS. I expect to get about eight cartoons done each day. I plan to do volume-5 through volume-8 first. Volume-1 will be tricky, so I am putting it off until last.
So far, so good. I've finished encoding DVD assets for volume-5 and half of volume-6, as well as xvids. This is going to be slow going, but not so bad. I can get one volume done every couple of days.
At this point, I am done encoding DVD assets for volumes 5 - 6, and half-way through volume 7. When I get done with volume 8, I will work backwards from volume 4 and then decide how to handle volume 1 (which has difficult pulldown patterns).
In the mean time, I have made a listing of what is on the AMC tapes and will be cross-referencing it with the Definitive Collection listing. That way I can see just how many cartoons can be replaced with the superior AMC recordings.
I just discovered I had the title wrong on the DVD case artwork for one one of the cartoons, "Betty Boop and Little Jimmy". I just checked the original artwork to see if the same error exists. The VHS has it wrong ("Betty Boop and Little Henry"), while the laserdisc is correct. I will need to correct the DVD case artwork. While I am working on the artwork, I might as well make a few more small changes I was putting off. For instance I wanted to shrink the size of the "Republic" logo on the binder to about 75%. I also wanted to add the "Laserdisc" and "Digital Audio" logos. And finally, possibly add text describing the SVHS/TV source for some of the cartoons as well as describing bonus cartoons. This error also affects the DVD menus I created so that will also need to be corrected.
I am finished encoding DVD assets for volumes 7 and 8 now. Xvids are encoding at the moment. And I have corrected the DVD artwork and menus. I found a couple more typos in the artwork which have also now been corrected. Now it's time for a little house keeping and then on to volume 4. I need to backup the DVD assets made from the laserdiscs, volumes 5 - 8, before moving on.
I've had to adjust my script in several places for these laserdiscs. I had the pulldown pattern wrong in several spots. Also, there are several frames that have required post processing. Lastly, I attempted to better sync the audio. It seems each disc has a different offset. I'll probably go back and investigate discs 5-8 as well.
I went back to disc-1, side-1 to examine it. It's a peculiar thing. Not only is the pulldown pattern wierd in the cartoon shorts, but it's also wierd in the opening "Republic Pictures" logo. I had to use the one from side-2. Thankfully the odd pattern did not affect the Richard Fleischer Introduction.
I went ahead and encoded "Betty Boop's Penthouse" (with minor fixes only) and "Romantic Melodies" even though I know I will never use them. The SVHS recordings from AMC are much better.
Finished discs 1-4 except for disc-1/side-1 which has the odd pulldown pattern. I also discovered some odd field blending. It's wierd. Looks like the even and odd fields share a slight reverse image super-imposed over each other. I am not sure it's reversible, but either way it certainly complicates things. The cartoon shorts I am most concerned with are "Barnacle Bill", "Mysterious Mose", "The Bum Bandit", and "Mask-A-Raid" since these do not exist on the AMC video tapes. If worse comes to worse, then I may have to use the Definitive Collection VHS source for these cartoons... or at least certain frames. Ugh! I don't even want to think about it!
Here is a screen shot illustrating the field blending, first showing the interlaced frame and then showing the split fields.
Today I took a little time and recreated the end copyright notice. It just looked a little ragged and I believe presentation is important.
Here's the old one compared with the new one.
I am finding myself becoming more and more distracted by the heavy use of DVNR in these shorts, especially after viewing some of them DVNR-free off of the AMC video tapes. After I finish this laserdisc set I am going to make a new set using the AMC tapes as the source, replacing as many from LD as I can. I've checked out the listing and it looks like I can replace all but 16 of them using the AMC tapes. And I can get a couple more using other sources.
I've been checking out "Poor Cinderella" and I believe this cartoon from the AMC tapes has superior color. It doesn't look washed out and absent of yellow like the Definitive Collection VHS and laserdisc. What is absent, thankfully, is any hint of DVNR. I could get used to this! I have several recordings of this cartoon, so I plan to experiment with combining two (or more) sources by overlaying them.
Check out the comparisions below. The laserdisc is on the left, the AMC TV broadcast is on the right.
Over the past few days I've taken a closer look at disc-1/side-1 cartoons. I think the wierd ghosting is a result of a heavy sharpening filter combined with accidental interlaced source. I cannot reverse it. Sadly, I have determined that the LD source cannot be used except for a few key frames. Instead, I will have to use the Definitive Collection VHS as the source. This is only for disc-1/side-1. The rest of the laserdiscs can be used.Luckily, many of the early cartoons are on the AMC tapes. I have several of them ready for DVD, including "Dizzy Dishes", "Bimbo's Initiation", "Minding the Baby", "Any Rags", and "Boop-Oop-A-Doop". I plan to experiment with combining multiple recordings when possible in an attempt to minimize what little noise is present on the SVHS tapes. None of these cartoons have any DVNR, and "Dizzy Dishes" even has some extra music not present on the Definitive Collection. Furthermore, the black/white levels are not overdone so there is more detail in the frame, particularly in the darker shades.
Here's a couple of rareties, "Betty Co-ed" and "Musical Justice". Both are Screen Songs from 1931. Neither of them were on the Definitive Collection VHS/LD set, but they will be included in mine. Both copies are pristine and of course have no hint of DVNR.
"Betty Co-ed" was one that I long believed ought to be include in the set. But after viewing it, I admit that I did have second thoughts. Even though the lead character is named "Betty", this is likely not a prototype Betty Boop character. It doesn't look much like her and it doesn't behave much like her either. However, I am still including it for curiosity's sake. After all, "Any Little Girl That's a Nice Little Girl" features a similar Betty prototype. But in fairness, that one behaves a lot more like Betty should.
"Musical Justice" is interesting because it is live action, save for a few seconds at the very end. It features a real Betty Boop, played by Mae Questal, the actual voice of Betty Boop in the cartoons. And she is cute as a button! The judge in this short is played by crooner Rudy Vallee, a regular musical guest on Boop cartoons. And it features the familiar song "Don't Take My Boop-oop-a-doop Away" which would be featured in 1932's "Boop-Oop-a-Doop". The ending animation is very racy and Boop-like.
Today I worked on "Any Rags" from the AMC tapes. It's better than the LD in terms of detail, but the levels were off in some scenes. I basically had to "ride" the levels through the whole cartoon in order to get it as good as possible. One scene in particular, Betty's only scene, needed very close attention paid to the dark levels. It needed to be darker so the line details in her face would show clearly. However, setting it too dark made her body completely disappear into the dark shadows, so I had to play with gamma too.
Check out the comparisions below. The laserdisc is on the left, the AMC TV broadcast is on the right.
60th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition Laserdiscs!
Well, today I have a new source to work from. I had long read about the 60th Anniversary laserdisc and the superior image quality over the Definitive Collection. Now I get see it with my own eyes. And for the most part, I am impressed! The first cartoon "Betty Boop's Rise to Fame" did not blow me away, but the rest of them were real nice. And all of them are absent of any DVNR.
Unfortunately, the sets are far from complete. But they do have a nice selection of cartoons. For the record, there are two volumes. Volume I has 13 cartoons and Volume II has 12. In a completely baffling move, Volume I has no chapter stops! Fortunately, they corrected this "error" in the second volume. Is there a Volume III?
As you can see, I have already scanned the artwork. And the cover artwork is horrendous too! Not only is it ugly, it's also completely inaccurate. The cartoons are not colorized. Thank God for that, because their choice of colors is bizarre. It looks like Bimbo's armor has rusted. Nor have they included "Betty Boop's Penthouse" or "Bimbo's Express" dispite showing screen caps of those two cartoons. And I am not sure which cartoon that is with Bimbo tied up looking up at Betty, but it is not included in both sets. In fact, I am not so sure it is included in either set!
Screen caps coming real soon.
I now have both volumes backed up (onto two DVDs each). I've made high bitrate DVD archival backups, just like I did for the Definitive Collection. The levels on Volume 1 seemed a bit darker than on Volume 2. But I know I have my settings right. I can correct the levels later.
I already have the 3:2 pulldown reversed. It was a piece of cake for these sets. Only two cartoons had a change in pattern. The change in "Betty In Blunderland" ocurred in the same spot as it did in the Definitive Collection, right after she shrinks and goes through the small door. The second cartoon was "She Wronged Him Right", and the change ocurred in the opening titles.
Finally, here are some screen caps from Volume-1, side-1
I am especially glad to see "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You" and "Chess Nuts" on these sets. Both are cartoons I did not have on any of the AMC tapes. Now it is two more cartoons that we have that are DVNR free! And the quality is excellent!
Here are some screen caps from Volume-1, side-2
Here are some screen caps from Volume-2, side-1
Here are some screen caps from Volume-2, side-2
I was getting overwhelmed with all the different sources for Boop cartoons, so I have decided to break this project down into phases. First, I will author version 2.0 of the DVD set. The version 1.0 set never got produced (other than an archival set) since it was based on the VHS sources. Version 2.0 will use the "Definitive Collection" LD sources except for side-1 of LD-1 which had a weird interlacing/sharpening effect. So those will come from a the VHS capture. After version 2, I plan to add in the AMC recordings and "60th Anniversary" LD sources.
The first prototype disc-1 is finished and works correctly. Today I worked on getting a "Play all" button working. Everything seems to be just right, so on to disc-2. I have to make buttons for the menu, and then it should be very quick work.
I am making the "Play all" button using a trick with DVDauthorGUI. I have to edit the xml file manually. This trick works, except I have noticed one disappointing side-effect. It seems when I play the disc on a PS3 and select "Play all", the next chapter button does not work. I need to investigate other ways to make a "Play all" button.
I changed the look of the menu buttons. Not sure if I am going to go with this look or not. I also considered getting rid of the "index" completely. In fact, I am considering getting rid of the "Play all" button and making the heading the "Play all" (for instance, "The Birth of Betty") button.
In spite of all this uncertainty, I went ahead and made a disc-2.
I took out the index and the "play all" button. In order to play all now, you have to click on the chapter heading, which is "The Birth of Betty" on Volume 1. I also went back to the red-colored highlights for buttons. They will be gold for volume 2 and so on, following the colors for each volume.