ideas for using old low-quality VHS footage in HD video?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by eric4, Aug 4, 2014.

  1. eric4 macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2007
    I'm working on an anniversary memories video. I'm working in FCPX and have set it for 1080p. Some of the recent video is HD or at least very clear, and of course recent photos are high enough resolution to look decent.

    However, I have some 20 year old footage originally taken on a VHS camcorder at the wedding and reception that looks bad. Maybe that's how VHS looked at the time and we didn't know any better. It's a little washed out, I can work on that. There's a few filters that I can use, etc. But it's still low res and low quality. I want to include it because it's part of the story. I'll probably only include 30-60 seconds of it in the 8 minute project.

    My main question is this: does anyone have any ideas of how to hide or disguise the fact that it is low quality? Rather than upscale it to 1080p should I display it in a small box and display a lightened blurred copy running in the background? Or slice up the screen and show other things at the same time? It looks so bad compared to the more modern footage and photos. My thought is that if it's smaller it won't look as bad on a big screen. Maybe that's not true. Not sure how to proceed ... looking for ideas ...
  2. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    Embrace it. That's the look of that era and should evoke a nostalgic response.

    Just upscale it decently, maybe color correct just the tiniest bit if it's washed out, but don't ruin it! Remember the 8mm color sequence in Raging Bull? Technically it's the worst part but it's also the most poignant and amazing. Keep it!!! The texture grounds it in an era... don't lose that, especially in an emotional edit.
  3. Alphabetize macrumors 6502


    Oct 6, 2013
    I actually spent a great deal of time digitally converting old video tapes, and the first time I did it, I upscaled them to 1080p, and improved the contrast and colors... but they looked terrible in comparison to the original 4:3 ratio. So I redid the entire project, just encoding the video as it was, and I'm much happier with it.

    I think it looked worse because going from 640x480 to 1920x1080 scaled everything up, and everything looked blocky. Another thing is that by scaling up to 1080p, you loose a lot of detail, cropping the 4:3 square into the 16:9 rectangle.

    I suggest that you encode the video as is. I think it should keep the detail higher, without cropping out any important details.
  4. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    Yes, keep it at 4x3.

    This is what I keep thinking back to and they maintain the original aspect ratio crop here, too:
  5. eric4 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2007
    Thanks everyone, I like your thoughts. I think I'll leave it as is for the look of the era - that makes sense and I do want to attach the emotion from the original event. Thanks for your comments.
  6. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

    Aug 29, 2006
    Washington DC
    This is the right attitude, but there are a few minor things you can do to help.

    1) Apply a very tiny crop to the left and right. (Like, just a few pixels.) Edges of VHS can sometimes be a big soft and giving it a nice hard line on the sides just looks nicer, I think.

    2) Play with the black levels when color-corecting. Generally they'll need to be brought down a bit to feel good on modern flat-screens.

    3) Also while color correcting, take the master color and bring everything a TINY bit away from green. Old videos always have a little bit of a florecent-light feel to me. Seriously, though, the smallest amount possible. Just going 1% away from that helps a lot. (This isn't true for 100% of old videos, but try it and see if it helps or not.)

    After you color correct, go back out to the main video effects panel and turn the color effect on and off by clicking the blue light next to it. That's the best way to learn if you made it better or not. Sometimes you try it all and find the original version really was the best one!
  7. akhilleus macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2014
    I'd recommend softening the edges of the border if possible. The whole image will lot a lot softer overall when intercut with HD footage from modern cameras, so embracing that and softening the edges will help give a nostalgic feel, like the image is bleeding in from the blackness around it. It will make your current footage look all the more sharp and crisp and impressive.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Sometimes you can place the video in some kind of frame. Perhaps you show an old TV with people watching it and your VHS tape is on the TV. The TV screen fills about 25% of the 1024p screen. Depends on the story if you can work in. An actor points to a screen on the wall and says, "Look at this old video" and we see both him and the video. (You'd have to composite or "mat" it onto the screen
  9. ProjectManager101 Suspended


    Jul 12, 2015
    Original VHS used to look good but remember those are magnetic particles that start to fall from position with humidity and because they lose magnetism and that is why the quality degrades. What you can try is to have the video in two layers, the top layer with some 90% or 80% opacity, to make it a bit transparent. The lower layer apply gaussian blur. That way you would be "melting" the pixels a bit. It would look like a glow, just play with the parameters of the blur and the transparency. That is a way to cheat lost pixels. You can add a bit of contrast and add a bit of saturation so the colors can regain intensity. Those are some basic tricks.
  10. dwig macrumors 6502

    Jan 4, 2015
    Key West FL

    • Maintain the 4:3 aspect ratio. Distorting it to 16:9 just makes the problems worse.
    • Don't upsample it or at least upsample it only a modest amount, 2x at most (~1280x960). Pad the 1920x1080 screen with a decorative background
    • Possibly trim the outer few pixels to remove the flaws common at the edge of the frame
  11. jweinraub macrumors 6502


    Jun 26, 2007
    Sol III
    Are there template like the media uses to put an "HD" frame around the 4:3 picture so there isnt all that blackspace around the SD video?

Share This Page