One of the coolest things about my remastering and upscaling project New deep space was the people he put me in touch with around the world. In the nine months since the launch of my project, I have been contacted by more than a dozen individuals interested in launching their own projects specifically around New deep space, and at least many people curious about other late ’90s intellectual property got stuck in what I would call unassigned “VFR Hell”, including Babylon 5 (a top request), Buffy the vampire slayer, probably its spin-off, angel (I’m uncertain, but if Buffy is a VFR show, angel probably is too). Stargate SG-1 is another popular request for remaster, as is Star Trek: Voyager.
The situation with Stargate: Atlantis and SG-1 is the reverse of TNG and DS9: Atlantis, which debuted in 2004 and lasted until 2009, is available on Blu-ray. SG-1, which debuted in 1997 and was shown primarily in standard definition for the duration of its run, is only available on DVD. Amazon Prime had both shows until the end of July 2020, and only the final seasons of SG-1 were available in HD.
But this isn’t just late 1990s science fiction. There is a veritable ocean of content on DVD that has never been re-released on Blu-ray, because Blu-ray is never become as popular as DVD. In some cases, the failure of expensive Blu-ray conversions to sell as well as expected has been used as an argument as to why there is no point in investing in further remastering.
This argument may have flown before the introduction of mainstream AI scaling software, but it is falling from the sky like a leaden wonder today. I’ve talked to people who worked on everything from old Hanna-Barbera Scooby Doo cartoons, to Grateful Dead concerts, to old sci-fi shows. There is clearly no shortage of people who are willing to pay for personalized personal libraries of content on a larger scale. It has always been true. What is different is that now it is possible to do the work at home.
I would expect Ampere to deliver 1.5x to 3x performance improvement in applications like Topaz Video Enhance AI. At this point, scaling a 45 minute TV episode would take 2-5 hours – easy to manage overnight, while everyone else is asleep. The DVD quality source is far from ideal, but it is sufficient to achieve a real improvement in the underlying images.
Instead of referring to my New deep space work, let’s watch a different show: Stargate: SG-1. Here is a frame from the Season 7 finale “City of the Gods”:
And the improved and processed version:
All I did to transform one into the other was apply the same treatment techniques that I used Deep Space Nine. Objectively, these are the bad techniques. I need to tune them to run the show optimally, and I can say I need to adjust them when looking at the pictures. But as far as a naïve implementation goes, this is a good improvement.
Video upscaling is coming for the content marketplace, and while I can’t predict which shows or streaming services will adopt it first, it’s Go happen. In the long run, I suspect we’ll see these capabilities deployed in cutting edge computing and centralized options services like Netflix and Amazon Prime will use to improve their video quality before sending it to customers. AI-powered long-term scaling can replace more conventional methods of improving image quality. Imagine if, instead of sending a native 8K video stream, Netflix could send an encoded signal somewhere between 1080p and 4K, but with additional cues built into the video stream to tell the AI upscaler on the other end the better way to manage content.
But even if we see these capabilities deployed at scale, we will also see them in the individual consumer market. This is already happening. People buy content in various forms or go through their own archives to find media they recorded decades ago and run it through modern software to improve the final quality. There is nothing new about this, per se. But AI scaling software can make such a dramatic difference that it generates interest in the topic.
Since commercial, user-friendly AI scaling software is so new, I sincerely believe that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the technique is capable of. It’s not that I think fans can do this job as well as studio professionals – if anything, my work on New deep space convinced me how good it would be to have a studio that does the job in the first place. But it doesn’t matter. People don’t wait.
This represents nothing less than a radical change in the control of the final output quality. So far, the studios have exercised almost total control over the final video quality. There have always been people active in the video editing community who could help you improve a clip or refine a video. But for dramatic improvements, the film or television studio was the only realistic game in town for 99.9% of viewers. This will not be the case in the future.
The whole point of my New deep space the job is to demonstrate to Star Trek fans that the mediocre DVD version, while vastly better than Netflix / Amazon Prime streams, is just the gateway to dramatically improved picture quality. There is a tremendous opportunity for studios and content creators here, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, when the challenges of producing new content are high. It’s precisely because studios can do this work more effectively than individuals that I’d like to see more of them support remastering and scaling projects. But the work itself goes on regardless.
I created my New deep space project in part because I was angry with the quality of the show represented by Netflix and Amazon Prime and wanted Star Trek fans who were looking for “High End Deep Space 9” or something similar to find a repository of information that would show them how to create the better possible version of the show, to oppose the garbage streaming services have decided constitutes acceptable quality. Thanks to the advent of scaling, no fan of any show has to put up with all that businesses can throw up on the internet.
Businesses with an IP address belonging to once popular movies and films that weren’t re-released at 1080p or higher should take note: chances are at least part of your fan base has already noticed. the capabilities of new AI scaling engines and works by taking advantage of them. After decades of waiting to see their favorite content in near-modern resolution, there’s a lot of general impatience that isn’t tied to any specific show or movie. Anyone who does not step up to the trend now risks discovering that their most dedicated fans created their own solution years ago, to fill a void the IP owner did not want to fill.
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