Doctor Who - Documentary s05e06 Episode Script

The Magic of VidFIRE

(DOCTOR WHO THEME) NARRATOR: For more than 10 years now, a dedicated team of specialists has been responsible for the presentation of classic Doctor Who on DVD.
The programmes are carefully remastered and restored to ensure the best possible viewing experience.
The techniques employed during this process are complicated and numerous.
Many of them have been newly developed to deal with the unique challenges old Doctor Who episodes present.
The earliest black and white recordings originally captured to two inch magnetic video tape are often a particular challenge.
Generally, these were made using electronic cameras which, whilst capturing 25 full frames a second, stored each as two interlaced half images or fields.
Sadly, none of these videotapes survive to the present day.
What we do have are film recordings, effectively made by pointing a movie camera at a television screen, thereby transferring the programmes onto 16 or 35 mm film.
Whilst this system has ensured that episodes exist for future generations to enjoy, film recordings do come with their own inherent problems.
They can be unstable, suffering from vertical and horizontal judder.
They can suffer from damage to their emulsion.
And most importantly, because films are physically frame-based format, the film recording process has merged each of the two fields of the video into a single stored film frame.
In some cases, one of the two fields is lost entirely.
As a result, they've lost their original smooth field-based motion or video look.
This is where the unique process of VidFire comes in, a technique which restores the episodes to their original field-based video format.
In the early '90s, Peter Finklestone, VidFire's originator, was viewing an old 1960s film-recorded episode on a video player which had a double-speed viewing option.
He noticed that this mode gave an image which looked like video rather than film.
He realised that if extra pictures could somehow be created to sit in between the existing frames, then a normal speed programme could be produced which ought to look like video.
However, it took almost 10 years for computer software to be devised which could do the job.
One early retiming program was Twixtor, which stretched out footage or compressed it but, unlike the majority of its competitors, with fairly good results and minimal manual intervention, very important when dealing with tens of thousands of frames.
For the purposes of VidFire, Twixtor would generate a new frame between each existing one and the next in line, resulting in sequences running at twice the length and at half the speed.
The files could then be compressed down to their original length by interlacing each original film frame with the newly generated one which followed.
In other words, recreating field-based video.
As with all new techniques, there were teething problems, an example being that the generated pictures would be softer than the originals.
Sometimes the software would be unable to track moving objects accurately, giving a fluttery, warping effect.
However, technology has continued to advance over time and now a variety of software packages are used, each with different strengths and abilities.
The refined workflow results in a more consistent and video-like appearance.
The VHS release of "Tomb of the Cybermen"in 1992 had no restoration whatsoever, whilst the original release on DVD back in 2001 was too early in its development for VidFire to be considered for application.
Of course it was amazing to see the video of "Tomb", because we'd all hoped that maybe it would turn up, somehow we'd see it.
I didn't realise that it would be possible to make it look better than it did on VHS at the time.
The DVD was a phenomenal improvement.
Changes have been made, the clean up, the lack of dust, the stability.
And those make a huge difference.
But there was an Easter egg on it, just a little, little scene, a lovely scene of Patrick Troughton with this new process VidFire, which seems to make it look like video, an amazing thing because I thought they'd found an original piece of the videotape.
I think there was that feeling of "Isn't the wonderful DVD phenomenal? "But what if it all looked like the VidFire bit?" NARRATOR: Now that VidFire has become so firmly established, the re-release of the serial has given the team the opportunity to apply the very latest techniques.
And the Spirit telecine has transferred all the original film recordings to the best of their potential.
Manual clean-up removes unwanted artefacts such as film dirt, sparkle, burnt-in videotape dropouts which will have even been present on the original transmission and emulsion damage.
Stabilisation techniques have advanced greatly, too.
Solidly anchored images enhance the impression of video.
Sometimes, frames have been cut out of the film recordings in order to remove damage or unsightly picture distortions.
By calculating the number of missing frames, sometimes with reference to off-air audio recordings of the original transmissions, we're now able to regenerate them and fill the gaps almost seamlessly.
Some picture distortion has made it past the editor's blade and are still present on the film recordings.
Witness this jagged example, which incidentally was originally shot on film and thus has not been VidFired.
It has, however, been given the remastering treatment and is now back to its original glory.
I think the new "Tomb of the Cybermen" on DVD is an amazing step up yet again.
I didn't think it would have been possible to see it looking really as it was transmitted, as it should be seen.
It just looks like the original four- or five-line videotapes have been recovered.
NARRATOR: Hopefully, with all these intensive painstaking processes, what you are now viewing are episodes of Doctor Who that have never looked better.