What can I say? I love classic animation, and this legendary laserdisc set just fell into my lap. This five laserdisc set includes all 67 Tex Avery cartoons from his MGM days 1942-1955, including "Red Hot Riding Hood", "Bad Luck Blackie", and many Droopy cartoons. It's surprising that most of these cartoons have yet to be released on DVD, so I feel it is my duty to preserve these and put them on DVD.
This set has five discs (nine sides total as the last disc is single-sided). Here is what the process is like for each laserdisc. First, the entire disc (both sides) is captured uncompressed at 720x480 with 44.1KHz audio. The audio is digitally ripped bit-perfect from the laserdisc and fed into the PC through S/PDIF input. Then the audio is resampled to 48KHz for DVD. Before any work is done for the final DVD, an archival backup on DVD is made. So a CBR 9406 bitrate mpeg2 encode is done for each side of each disc. The audio is archived as ac3 (dolby digital) stereo at 384 bitrate. After encoding, the archival copy is burned onto DVD and stored. This set will be archived onto nine DVDs plus one or two DVDs with uncompressed wav files. 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. Next, 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 disc is finished, I erase the avi file and capture the next one.
The artwork is also considered. The laserdisc artwork is scanned on three sides - front, back, and side, and sometimes the disc label if it is interesting. The front and back are too large for my scanner, so I have to scan it in four passes and later stitch it together. New artwork for the DVD will be created in Adobe Illustrator. Some minor layout changes will have to be made to better suit the DVD. Where possible the fonts will be matched. When the artwork is complete, I'll make a 3D rendering of the artwork for my webpage. I've already made a rendering of the LD artwork as you can see above.
The DVD menu also has to be considered. I will deal with that later.
So far I have captured four sides (two discs). Screen captures are coming soon.
I reversed the pulldown on one cartoon just to see if it would be easy. I also did some fancy scripting to make things easier for me. So far so good. Now back to capturing. I've got six sides (three discs) captured and encoded and I am currently capturing disc 4 (sides 7 and 8).
Here is the first screen cap - from one of my favorites "Red Hot Riding Hood". Some great animation in this cartoon.
All five discs are captured, encoded for archival, and ready to burn to DVD. I have set chapters for four of the nine sides (each side will be archived to its own DVD). And I've even reversed the 3:2 pulldown on 10 cartoons. I always wonder when I encounter a disruption in the pattern, if something was edited out. I am sure it is a clue, because clearly, they did not do their editing digitally on a PC back then. More than likely, they edited it on broadcast quality video tape on video editing equipment.
Anyways, here are some more screen captures.
I love the gag in "Blitz Wolf", when the pigs are singing "You're in the Army Now". It pauses for a second and I thought it was an edit. But I have since come to believe that was deliberate... which makes it funnier after realizing what goes there, "You're digging a ditch, [you son of a b*@#$], you're in the Army now."
I have reversed the pulldown pattern so far on three sides. They look great so far! Some real funny cartoons too. I was a little concerned about "Uncle Tom's Cabana". It looked a little washed out in the brighter scenes, so I went back and recaptured it after setting the levels darker. But it brought back no extra detail. So I am going with my first capture using the original settings (which I now know were perfect in the first place).
Here are some more screen caps.
There is some so called "dot crawl" happening here. It's most noticeable above in the frame from "Henpecked Hobos". I will attempt to deal with that later. I won't remove it if it takes away detail or makes the colors bleed.
I have finished reversing the pulldown pattern through side five. I noticed one cartoon's ending title card said "A Tom and Jerry Cartoon". There was a mouse in the cartoon, but it wasn't Jerry, and no sight of Tom either.
Here are some more screen caps. Gotta love the politically incorrect gags.
Notice in the above capture from "Wags To Riches", there is a hint of temporal cleaning done to this one (and probably others too). I did not add that; it's on the laserdisc that way.
Finished pulldown reversal for all the cartoons. I noticed the pattern changed on "Garden Gopher" just after the dog got his face exploded. I am assuming this means a blackface gag was edited out of this cartoon.
One of the cartoons I just finished was "Droopy's Good Deed" which from what I read on some of the forums, is the subject of some controversy. The pulldown pattern did not change on that scene, indicating that there were no edits done here. The scene is as follows, Spike sets fire to the log cabin and calls in a female voice "Help! Help!". Droopy runs into the burning cabin and rescues a beautiful blonde woman. Spike then runs in to hoping to rescue another beautiful woman, but the cabin burns down while he is inside. Then Droopy runs up to him and says, "Hey blackie, any more babes in there?"
But there was probably an edit later on in the cartoon. Right as the rich man is counting money to give to Spike, the bomb explodes. The pattern changed right after the explosion. I am assuming that was another blackface gag. [edit - Thanks to Youtube, I saw the missing scene. After the explosion, he turns into a black man in rags and continues counting in a "black" voice.
Today I finished reversing the pulldown on all the cartoons. Now they are all progressive. I also dealt with the last two cartoons which are widescreen. I decided the stretch them anamorphically. Working with the last two, I had the feeling that I'd seen them before. And so I discovered that "Millionaire Droopy" is just a widescreen adaptation of "Wags To Riches", and "Cat's Meow" is a widescreen version of "Ventriloquist Cat".
Here are screen caps.
I decided that 67 cartoons will best fit five DVDs, and so I calculated my bitrate accordingly. This super-fast PC (for me anyways) will encode an 8 minute cartoon in about 36 minutes using 2-pass VBR. I mpeg encoded eight cartoons before I decided to boost saturation and darken blacks a bit. So I did that and went back and encoded the eight cartoons again. In the process I also discovered I'd missed several pattern breaks in "Blitz Wolf". It really gets screwey at the beginning during a pan. I am still not finished fixing that, so I started encoding the second cartoon. I'll have to come back and fix that one later. It's going to be a big ordeal.
These caps reflect the new levels and saturation settings. Notice there is still ample detail in the blacks while the whites are not all washed out. I toyed with sharpening them slightly, but in the end decided not to. Sharpening looked pretty good, but also brought out flaws in the film (scratches and dust) to a level that was distracting.
"Blitz Wolf" had no less than 13 breaks in the pattern! And all of them were within a few seconds of each other. I suspect video equipment malfunction when the LD was made (or operator error). Thankfully, after getting the beginning segment squared away, the rest of the short was fine. I compared it to a low quality avi and it is now frame accurate.
It's almost time to start working on some DVD cover artwork.
I took a look at the cartoons I have encoded so far on both the TV and frame by frame on the PC. I hate to say it, but I think I need to re-encode them again. My observation on the TV was that they looked pretty good, but a little bit oversaturated. So I am going to back down the saturation. And when I watched "Swing Shift Cinderella" on the PC, I noticed some blocking during some of the fast action (Tex Avery cartoons are full of it). So even though I save 20% bitrate by making it progressive, I still get blocking artifacts. Which means I need to raise both the max and average bitrates. I have decided for now to make it a six-disc set and encode the cartoons so that 11-12 will fit each disc. I'll test it on "Swing Shift Cinderella" first and see if that will do. In order to squeeze some more out of the bitrate, I am also going to lower the audio bitrate to 192. That should still be plenty for this kind of audio. In fact, the commercial "Star Wars" original trilogy movies have a 192 bitrate for the stereo (dolby surround) audio tracks. So if it is good enough for "Star Wars", then it is good enough for me.
In somewhat related news, I spent some time working on my AviSynth script. I split out all the functions I used on just about every project and made a new script called "DPH_core.avs". These core functions can just be imported into any script I make in the future, which will save me some cutting and pasting. I made it real nice too. I cleaned up the code, documented it well, and standardized on many of the functions. I also improved some of the functions. It's going to be nice using that going forward.
All the cartoons are now encoded mpeg-2 and ready for DVD. At this time, I need to design a menu for the set and also case artwork. Since I don't feel like doing that right away, I shifted gears and Xvid encoded all 67 of the cartoons for my video server. And now I think I need to finish up on the Betty Boop project.
I just realized that I had the missing scene from "Droopy's Good Deed" on the "Tex Avery's Droopy" DVD. So I ripped out that scene and added it back in. The audio took more time than the video.
Here is what the edited scene looks like.
I've recently discovered that many of the Tex Avery cartoons exist on DVD in the form of extras on various MGM movies. I've begun the process of collecting what I can. It looks like all but 13 of the 67 cartoons are available. The Droopy DVD set contains several. I've made some comparisons and the DVD material is better than the LD.
Here are some examples. LD on the left, DVD on the right.
Despite my best efforts, I could not pull that kind of detail out of the LD captures. And keeping the red color from blooming was near impossible. But the DVD stuff looks pretty nice! I've seen enough to continue collecting the rest of the various DVD sources.
I cannot locate some cartoons on DVD. If anybody knows if any of the following cartoons are on DVD somewhere, please let me know.
Here are some more comparison shots. LD on the left, DVD on the right.
"Droopy's Good Deed" suffers from a noticable amount of DVNR. Too bad. The colors look nice.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks to those that have contributed to this project. Oh, and I have no idea why they chose to misspell "complete". I heard it was a "fancy" British spelling similar to "theatre". I'd love to hear insight into that.