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This video is sponsored by CuriosityStream
and my own Nebula original series.
More on that later.
In 2019, a load of music videos that had been uploaded to YouTube
in the early days of the platform were remastered.
YouTube let the music labels keep the same video IDs,
along with all the views and comments,
so suddenly, all those old videos were in HD!
And they look...
well, it depends on the video.
Smash Mouth's All Star looks awful.
Now, there are some brilliant remasters out there.
Wham!'s Last Christmas is now in 4K, and it looks spectacular.
And that's because it was shot on film, full cinema quality,
the sort of thing you can literally project on the side of a building
and it will look great.
Same with Freddie Mercury's Living On My Own, the remaster looks stunning.
In fact, I think that looks better,
because they haven't converted it to widescreen:
they've kept it at the "aspect ratio" of old '80s television.
Because music videos weren't meant for the cinema.
They were meant for television. It's in the name: music video.
So one of the first steps in editing
will have been putting the film through a telecine,
which is a very fancy way of pointing a TV camera at a film projector
and saving the results to videotape.
It is way more precise than your average movie-theatre pirate with a camcorder,
but the result is that all that film quality gets crushed down
onto a standard definition TV picture stored on magnetic tape.
480 horizontal lines in the US, 576 in Europe. That's it.
Any more quality than that is gone.
Editing on videotape is much cheaper and easier, though,
and if you're putting the final version out on television, well...
why would you bother with editing actual physical film,
which is what you had to do back then?
A few videos might have gone to that expense, if it was part of a big concert film, say.
So the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was played at the New York Film Festival,
and you can see the cinema camera with its big, bulky rolls of film
in the background of some of the shots.
But the final version of most music videos were, well, videos.
So for the remaster of Last Christmas,
a team of engineers had to track down the original reels of film,
and rescan them using modern technology at 4K,
and then, they painstakingly took those 4K files
and recreated every edit in the original video,
frame for frame, cut for cut.
Actually, they were only able to find seven out of the eight original reels of film,
so there are a few shots in there
where the only source material was the TV-quality music video.
And you can tell,
'cause this is what an old-school, standard-definition, analogue signal looks like
when you use world-class technicians to upscale it to 4K.
It's not too bad? I guess?
Living On My Own also has a couple of shots
where the old '80s digital effects have to be recreated with modern tech,
and... they're not a perfect match.
And there are also a couple of shots that have been replaced,
or the timing slightly changed, no idea why.
But again, it's not a bad job.
Now, there is a cheaper remastering option
that doesn't involve recreating the whole edit from scratch:
you can take the final TV edit
from the best, cleanest, professional-grade videotape you can find,
and upscale that to HD.
A lot of remastered videos have done this.
It won't be as sharp as the original film,
but it will look better than people are used to.
Which is what they've done with the remastered version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
And look,
I can see why record companies would want an HD version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
It's iconic. It has over a billion views on YouTube.
But this was not shot on film.
It was recorded on TV cameras, edited on videotape—
you can tell by the look of the lighting—
and by the fact that these effects required live feedback to the camera.
you could only get this by pointing a television camera directly at a monitor,
which means there was never any high-quality film version,
this was only ever in standard definition.
And remember, old-school analogue television in Europe runs at 50 frames a second.
60 in the US, but 50 in Europe.
Half of the horizontal lines get skipped each time, which is called interlacing.
And it means you get less flickering on old equipment.
So if you want the authentic, original experience, as seen back in the '70s,
then Bohemian Rhapsody should be played at standard definition,
at 50 interlaced frames a second.
That's what was recorded.
Instead, what you see on YouTube is a computer's best effort
to make a high-definition, 25 frame a second, film-like picture from that limited data,
filling in the gaps, turning jagged edges into smooth lines.
That's called 'deinterlacing' and it's not done badly here.
'Remastering' doesn't mean 'restoration'. It means 'recreation'.
You'll see marketing blurbs saying remasters are "the way it was meant to be seen".
Which is a great tagline, but...
no, it wasn't.
Remastering is, to an extent, changing the historical record.
There are fan remasters of Bohemian Rhapsody out there,
upscaled from VHS, 50 frames a second, that are much more true to the original.
But at least Bohemian Rhapsody got a decent HD remaster.
It's not like what they've done to Smash Mouth.
Look at his face in this scene.
That's not a clear high-definition picture, that's some kind of demon child!
It's scaled up wrongly, it's over-sharpened.
Look at the diagonal lines here, they're jagged and stepped.
I tracked down a standard-definition version from years ago that someone had reuploaded,
and... yeah, I can see why a computer would do that.
And, oh yeah, it's badly deinterlaced in some parts too,
because here, you can see the cheerleader is in two places at once in the same frame.
It's not bleed-over from the next frame either.
She's in two different places there as well.
Same for this scene with the dancer.
Why is there a dancer in just one scene in this music video?
But those deinterlacing artifacts, I don't understand how they're even possible.
Did they shoot some of this on a TV camera at 60 frames a second
and then grade it to look like film?
That doesn't make any sense,
but that's the only way that those artifacts could happen.
But other parts look fine, and look like they're on film at 30 frames a second!
And the parts that they pulled from the movie that it was a tie-in to — Mystery Men
those run at 24 frames a second,
and you can see in this transition, the right side is badly deinterlaced with a ghost image
and the left side has every fifth frame doubled so the frame rates match.
I— I—
I genuinely cannot understand what has happened here.
It is a complete and utter mess.
Presumably some underpaid and overworked VFX tech was given
a low-quality, already-broken copy of it and told:
"It's just Smash Mouth, we don't care. Just make it work."
So they threw the video into a basic resizer to make it HD,
massively dialed up the sharpness,
and tried to squeeze the aspect ratio into... whatever this is.
The HD remaster looks worse than the one it replaced.
It's sharper, sure, but it's not better.
And if you are going to change the historical record,
it does seem a terrible option to make it worse.
I've got an original series over on Nebula. Here's the trailer.
I invited five people to play some games.
I trust no one. None of us are trustworthy.
...in an environment designed to slowly break their team apart.
This is real money!
But all they knew is they'd be sat around a table
trying to win real cash: $10,000.
The vibe's changed after that theft.
This is a show about trust, about loyalty,
and about Money.
Tom wants the chaos. (all laugh)
Nebula is a home for new, in-depth and experimental content
and collaborations from education video creators
that you may well have heard of.
and it's bundled for free at this link with CuriosityStream,
a subscription streaming service with thousands of
big-budget, professional documentaries and nonfiction titles.
CuriosityStream is $2.99/month or only $19.99/year.
You can get a 30-day free trial, including access to Nebula and my series,
by going to curiositystream.com/tomscott.
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