Restoration for dummies

Many people would like to start a fan restoration project – some have good ideas, I must admit – but almost no one has patience, time and skill to do one in person; they keep asking someone else to do it for them.

So, it’s time to reveal an hidden truth, feared by all of us, fan restoration project makers… the truth is…

EVERYONE COULD MAKE A RESTORATION WITHOUT EXPERIENCE!

you just need few things – no computer, fancy software, 4k monitors, steep learning curves… only a bit (just a bit) of time and patience, and you could start your project right now! REALLY! Of course, not every kind of restoration is possible, but following this guide, anybody – yes, even you! – will be able to do his/her own project, and finally say “I did it!”

Let’s start!!!

***

Things you need – without them, you can’t do anything, sorry…

  • Time. Not too much, but you can’t do it in ten minutes… let’s say, few hours for each project
  • Patience. Not a lot, because everyone could follow this guide easily, with zero trials & errors
  • Source. Of course… you would restore a movie, right? You need one!
  • Player. A DVD, BD, even a VHS player. A TV broadcast could be used, but you need more skills.
  • Display. A TV set. Better if it’s a LED/plasma/OLED, but an old CRT could still be used.
  • Camcorder. Or a phone which could record long video. Don’t forget tapes/disks/memories!
  • Stand. To put your camcorder, or phone
  • Other small things you usually have at home; project dependent, more on these later

OK. If you have all this things, you are ready to start. First, check your connections (is your player connected to the display?), your camcorder (is the battery full charged? is the tape/disk/memory inserted? is there enough space to record the movie?), your watch (have you enough time to do it right now?)

If everything is OK, we could start! First, let’s prepare the “studio”

  1. Take the source (movie, usually, but a documentary, concert, TV episodes etc. will do) you want to restore
  2. Note the source duration; read the techniques you want to use to calculate the time needed for your project
  3. Put the source in the player, press “Play” and let it play – don’t forget to turn on the display!
  4. Put the camcorder on a stand, in front of the display, at the right distance, so you are able to cover the whole display, and not anything else
  5. Record a minute, watch the result, adjust settings and repeat until you reach the desired quality
  6. You are ready to go! Don’t forget to turn off the lights to achieve a better result.

Now, you can record your movie “as is”; but you want to do a restoration, right? Then, now it’s time to discover the secret truth… each point teaches you how to make a certain effect; more kinds could be combined for each project; sky’s the limit! Don’t forget to record the movie AFTER you have applied the effect(s)!

***
  • Old cinema

Don’t you think sometime a contemporary movie would look better in black and white? It’s quite simple! Take your display remote, go to the image menu, find the color setting (sometimes called saturation) and put it to zero (or lowest level); magically, the image now is black and white!

  • More details

Sometimes, especially with old movies, details are not so clear, and seems out of focus. Just take the remote, search for sharpness setting, and raise it high, until you could see more details.

  • Lifelike image

Why, when you go to any electronic shop, you see TV sets with brilliant colors that “pop” out of the screen, bright images, that seems almost alive, and when you are back home, your almost-brand new TV shows pale colors and dull images? Want a particular movie to be more alive? Just find a setting like “image mode” or something similar, and turn it to “dynamic” (or vivid, or the like); is it enough? If not, turn up color and brightness, and eventually contrast, too!

  • Documentary style

Ever wanted to turn a boring movie into something like Blair Witch Project? You need to stay behind the camera the whole time… can you? If so, just tilt gently the camera every twenty/thirty seconds, for a second, no more, so that the camera record the display just few inches off the center; change direction every time. Also, defocus helps – you can manually do it, if your camera has a manual focus, or just slide the camera/phone slightly towards the display, and back – best results is to make it not more than ten times for the whole movie, let’s say once every ten minutes.

  • Open matte to letterbox

This depends from the source and display aspect ratio. If you have a 4:3 source, and a 16:9 display, you have just to find out, in your display menu, the size setting, and set it to zoom (or letterbox). If you have a 4:3 source and a 4:3 display, procedure is slightly complicated, but not too much! Just decide how big you want your black borders; done? Well, you need black cardboard, wide as TV – just cut it to cover top and bottom part of the image, tape them to the TV, and voilà! you have letterboxed image! If you haven’t black cardboard, you could use some kind of tissue, or just the black adesive tape – use it ONLY on glass-covered display, at your risk! Also, this last technique could be used if you have a 16:9 source and a 16:9 display, and want to obtain an higher aspect ratio – like 2.35:1 for example.

  • Logo removal

Sometimes you find that old TV show, that is impossible to find on any format, but you hate that little logo in the corner? Well, just remove it! The best way to do it is to cover it with a piece of paper, or, better, cardboard, shaped as the logo that should cover, and tape it to the screen; you could leave it blank, or write something on it, just your own logo for example! For better result, I suggest just to cover the logo only with transparent adesive tape; logo will not be recognizable, and image seems more “professional”! Of course, same risk of display damage, so keep in mind the previous point!

  • Add subtitles

This could be obtained in different manners. If you have a DVD/BD source, just switch on the subtitles – remember to do it in the menu, not during the movie, or you will record menu as well! If you have a laserdisc source, probably it has a Closed Caption track; just find the setting on your display menu – or you need a Closed Caption decoder. If you plan to record a TV broadcast, often subtitles are available, just find the setting on your display menu as well.

But, what if no subtitles are available on the source, like, for example, in a VHS tape? This requires A LOT of patience, time, and some skill, but could be done by anybody. You need also a lot of paper, a pen or better a big colored marker. A friend is really useful in this task… Ready? Take the paper and the marker, start watching the movie (DO NOT RECORD YET!), listen to the dialog, pause the movie, write down the dialog – literal transcription is better, but it’s up to you – in the top half of the paper sheet. You could use different colors for different actors. Write down in the bottom half of the paper the movie time when the dialog is placed – if you have a player that shows time, or just a progressive number. Repeat the steps until you have written down all the dialogs of the movie. Now you have some hundred paper sheets, ordered from the first to the last dialog, right? OK, now start to record, and be ready to place the top half of each paper in front of the display, so the camcorder will take just the written dialogs, and not your hand holding the paper; you could share this task with a friend, one places the odd numbered papers, the other the even numbered ones. Just do it well, fast, and don’t forget to remove the paper when there is no dialogs… and you have your homemade subtitles!

  • Extended edition

(this requires good timing skill) Ever wanted to include deleted scenes back into your favourite movie? Is it possible, but this technique requires also patience and time. First, play the movie (DO NOT RECORD YET!) possibly with friends or relatives (the more, the merrier – they will help you to remember) to have it “fresh” in mind. Then play the deleted scenes, and try to understand where, more or less, should be inserted. Play again the movie (DO NOT RECORD YET!) and find the exact place where each deleted scene should be inserted. Write down time for each scene. Ready! Play the movie and record it. Wait until the time when the first deleted scene should be, and suddenly PAUSE the camcorder. Now go to the first deleted scene, press PLAY on the player and PAUSE again (or record) on your camcorder. Be prepared to PAUSE again the camcorder when the deleted scene is over. Go back to the movie, at the scene that will ideally follow the first deleted scene, press PAUSE on the player. Now be ready to press PLAY on the player, and PAUSE again (or record) on your camcorder. Repeat the steps until the last deleted scene, and let the movie play until the end. A remote for player and/or camcorder is really welcome!

  • Fan edit

Basically, it requires the same skills and technique used in the extended edition, but this time you have to eventually cut scenes, replace them with deleted or extended scenes, or even a scene from a different movie – in that case, you obviously need the other movie, too. First, think of what kind of fan edit you want to make – which scenes to cut, move, replace etc. and write down them in a paper. Now play the movie (DO NOT RECORD YET!) and keep track of every scene you need, and write down begin and end time. Do the same for the eventual second movie. Now you have a kind of beat sheet. At this moment, you should know what you have to do… if not, just read again the previous point!

***
  • Sound tracks replacement

Always thought that your favourite movie has a wrong soundtrack, or, simply, one or more tracks should be replaced with better ones? Now you could do it! For this technique, you need an audio player, with the desired soundtrack, or songs. Also, you need to be fast and have good timing. First, play the movie (DO NOT RECORD YET!) and write down begin and end time of the track(s) you want to replace. Keep the CD/audio tape/record ready. Play the movie and start to record. Keep attention at the time, because you must press the MUTE button on your remote AND press start to play the music you want to use at the same time. Also, don’t forget to stop the music AND press MUTE again, to listen back to the original source track.

  • Change audio track

Sometimes there are great movies on BD, which has the wrong mix, or is redubbed… the only way to listen to original audio track is to obtain an old VHS or laserdisc, but obviously the quality of video is inferior… so, you thought to use the video from the BD and audio from the VHS (or laserdisc)? Pronto, it’s quite easy! For this, you need a second TV set, or an audio system, and a second player. Put the BD in the player connected to the main display. Mute the main display. Put the VHS (laserdisc) in the second player. Turn on the second TV, or connect the player to the audio system, and use the main display to check the VHS (laserdisc). Take both sources at the beginning of the movie. Put them in sync using, for example, the first frame of the logo, and pause them at the same time. If you have one display only, just switch the input to the BD source. Start record, and press AT THE SAME TIME the PLAY buttons in both players. Now you will see images from BD, and hear sound from VHS (laserdisc)… it’s kind of magic, don’t you think?

  • Mute cinema

(best result obtained when combined with the old cinema technique) Simple version is done just settings the camcorder, or display, volume to zero. Advanced version requires subtitles, and soundtrack replacement – as the mute movies usually has someone who play a piano song, it will be the best solution to have a piano player ready to help with your project!

***

OK, it’s time to decide which movie will be treated in your restoration project, and which technique(s) to use to improve it in some way. Have fun, and post your project on Youtube – instant fame!

Hint: before your mom/granny/relative decides to call a technician, because the TV doesn’t work well anymore, don’t forget to put the image and/or audio settings back to their original status!

Leave a Reply

Your email will not be published. Name and Email fields are required.