Porn Remastering Pt. 1: Simple Restorations

Posted by Guest Blogger Miriam Webster

 

I’ve been working on remastering many of the Bijou Video titles for the past 11 (nearly 12) years and I’ve yet to write a blog about the process! I’m currently working from home and therefore not on additional restorations during this bizarre point in time in which we’re living. (Hoping many of you are also able to stay at home as much as possible or are as safe as you can be if you’re someone who has to be out there caring for others). Taking this opportunity now to fill you all in on how we approach remastering these classic porn titles.

Often the movies that wind up looking the best in the end, when the customer watches them on DVD or on our streaming site
are much simpler to work on than the movies that wind up still rough around the edges. We try to find the best possible sources to use, but finding great copies of some movies can be tricky and there are many variables at play. Some of the movies were originally shot beautifully and we have well-preserved film prints or negatives available - or, if they were originally shot on video, well-preserved copies on VHS, Beta, or ¾” or 1” tape. This is the best-case scenario. Sometimes, however, there are not many options available as a source for a particular movie and the available ones have not held up well over time. Maybe we have a heavily projected film print that’s scratched and dusty. Maybe it’s a VHS tape with some tracking issues. Maybe it’s a video copy that’s missing chunks of the movie because it was released on video at a time when certain acts were heavily censored (like fisting) - and optimally, in that case we have another source from which to pull those missing sections.

Our goal is always to put out the best possible version of a movie, given the sources and resources available. We're often redoing restorations of the movies in our catalog when better sources turn up and will continue to do so.

One collection from which we have excellent copies of many movies is Hand in Hand Films (all of which you can find at both BijouWorld and BijouGayPorn), an important early gay porn studio and distributor. Bijou Video bought their collection in 1988 and many of our Hand in Hand releases (including The Idol, Drive, A Night at the Adonis, and Centurians of Rome) come from digitizations of well-preserved original film prints or negatives. We were recently able to remaster a beautiful, high quality scan of a well-preserved film print of one of their movies: Tom DeSimone’s Hot Truckin’ (1978), starring Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers. (Available on DVD and
streaming.)

 

Hot Truckin' before/after images 1
Hot Truckin' Before/After color correction images

 

This film fit all of the ideal scenario categories: it was originally well-shot by DeSimone, whose movies were extremely professionally made; the print, while initially looking very red (which often happens to aging film prints), wound up still containing a lot of color information when I brought it into our editing software and began tinkering with it; and the digitization was a recent, well-done one and extremely high resolution.

 

Hot Truckin' before/after images 2
Hot Truckin' Before/After color correction images

 

Working with a film transfer usually yields better color results than a video transfer, as there is often more color information present (unless the print truly has deteriorated to a dramatic degree). Though this project was satisfying and relatively simple in that the source held up well and responded well to color adjustments, there were still a number of stages to go through in working with it.

 

Hot Truckin' before/after images 3
Hot Truckin' Before/After color correction images

 

I had to first sync the image to audio from our previously-released video source of the movie, because this print was image only. The transfer included a little bit of room beyond the frame, so I adjusted the scale to remove the excess edges, then cut every shot apart to prepare for color correction (and occasionally made cuts and transitions within shots where shots contained a shift in color or lighting with different adjustment needs). I went through every shot and adjusted the color to make it look as natural as possible. I removed splice lines (thick lines across the frame from where shots were edited together on film). The splices, in this copy, made the film jump in the gate momentarily, but since the transfer contained a little extra room beyond the frame, I was able to adjust the position of the image during these moments to reduce or eliminate the jumps. This print had minimal dust and scratches, but I removed the handful of large scratches that were present. This print did not yet have the opening credits laid onto the footage, but had them separately over black before the start of the film for someone to later superimpose. I was able to reference the previous video release for the correct placement and fades into/out of these credits and replicate these digitally.

 

Hot Truckin' still with credit Directed By Lancer Brooks
Credit for director Tom DeSimone's pseudonym, Lancer Brooks, in Hot Truckin'

 

A recent release from a video source, Joe Tiffenbach’s Tall Tales (1986), was also a relatively straight-forward restoration process, if a less glossy final product than Hot Truckin'. Tall Tales was made during the video era and shot on a cheaper format and all in a room full of yellow and green decor. Often, older video sources make skin tones overly yellow, so this initially appeared to be pretty far in that range, between the decor and image quality. However, the VHS copy we used had held up well, with well-preserved sound and image and not much video noise or tracking to worry about, and it was luckily pretty responsive to color adjustments. We digitize video sources in-house, so I transferred this tape. I ran it through a plug-in to reduce video noise, then cut apart every shot and adjusted the color to make skin tones look natural and to find more of a color range beyond the yellow/green scenario. I made sound adjustments to reduce audio noise and enhance clarity. Next, I watched through the full movie to fine-tune it, cutting out the handful of significant tracking glitches and further tweaking the audio (this movie had recorded the dialogue at very different levels, so I had to manually balance these). This was all a fairly quick process, as far as restorations go, without a lot of major troubleshooting. I was able to make improvements to it and wind up with a decent product, so it also fell into the camp of being satisfying to work on.

 

Tall Tales post-restoration images
Post-restoration images from Tall Tales, available on DVD and streaming

 

Read the second installment in this restoration series, discussing more challenging restoration processes, whether this is from source deterioration, needing to cobble together multiple sources, or other issues. And now the new Part 3!

 
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Christopher
I'm so happy to know that someone is doing remasters of vintage gay porn! It is my favorite kind of gay porn. I would rather watch... Read More
Sunday, 26 April 2020 15:09
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