Manchester Movies


"We can't do anything about overexposure," he says. "At least we can get something out of underlit (underexposed) pictures." One show features a clip of a man in a talent contest. As he walks across the floor, he falls on his backside. Although the original was very dark, it was a good clip and, luckily, Brian managed to "pull it out of the gloom".

"We probably won't need to do anything to this," he comments, as we watch a viewer's video of a small girl on a swing. Nevertheless, he tweaks the controls on the colouriser, putting some detail into a shadowy garden fence. For no particular reason the tape cuts to a shot of a pig which is up to some unbroadcastable antics.

There are some drop-outs: white lines flash across the screen. "This is probably a dub of the master, in which case the drop-outs are printed on," explains Brian. In other words, they have been copied along with the original picture.

"I'm afraid we can't do anything about that. If we had the master tape I could use our drop-out compensator." This replaces the missing line with the one from the previous frame.

"We don't use digital-noise-reduction on You've Been Framed!" says Brian. "It's rather odd. It takes out all the blemishes in a picture but actually puts on a fixed noise pattern. No matter what anyone tells you, you will lose some resolution with digital noise reduction."

The next stage is to put the clips through a Crow equalizer. Brian points out some colour smearing on the edges of a red and yellow pedal-car. "That's typical. The colour has shifted slightly. I can use the equalizer to move the colour."

"The little girl's face — that's where definition errors show up most with VHS," he says. "You can use the equalizer to try and give the pictures a little bit of edge." This 'edge' effect is similar to that obtained by using the sharpness control on a domestic VCR or video enhancer, though much more sophisticated.

"There are no sharp edges on VHS," Brian complains. "The first things you lose when you reduce bandwidth on a TV picture are the vertical edges."

The final stage, before going into studio, is to transfer between twenty and thirty of the best clips for each show.

Two, usually identical, Betacam SP tapes are made up. This safeguards against damage and gives "nice easy joins" between the clips, as they are played alternatively from one tape then the other. This 'A and B roll' technique is standard practice in television.

There are dozens of enhancers on the market for home use. The most basic offer little more than simple adjustment of brightness and contrast.

At the other end of the scale, Sony's XV-C900 Hi-band Colour Corrector offers full correction of white and black balance, control over gamma and peak black and white levels.

Sound, which up until now has been transferred without any kind of correction, is adjusted during the recording of the programme.

Professional technology is also finding its way into domestic VCRs. Akai's new VS-865EK features digital noise reduction which, they claim, will improve a poor quality broadcast or videotape picture.

Of course, you can't beat starting out with a good quality picture in the first place, as Brian Thomas points out: "Basically, the picture from (low-band) camcorders is not very good. We're talking about a resolution of 200-250 lines. In a TV studio we're used to well over 500 lines. Now S-VHS and Hi-8 — I've actually used them in a television programme and they're excellent. Despite its increased luminance boundaries, S-VHS hasn't really cured the chroma bandwidth problem, but nevertheless, I think S-VHS and Hi-8 are going to make a big impact on home video."

And, as the gap between home-video and broadcast standards gets ever narrower, it can only mean a welcome increase of programmes which, like You've Been Framed!, take their inspiration from the viewer.

This article appeared in the March 1991 issue of Video Camera magazine. All rights reserved.