Film Restoration Software Vendor Overview

RHMG – Bill Werba

The industrial grade film restoration application space is not an overly occupied one.  You can count the number of these software vendors on your fingers.  Some are well known and well entrenched in the industry, yet others are relative new comers attempting to take a piece of the market pie in this narrow niche.  Did I say the tools are expensive?  The least expensive with a common set of filters costs $3000 and goes up from there.  Not your average pricing for the everyday Joe to buy into.  Packages range from software only to combined hardware/software systems bound together to yield the best efficiency and results.

Most old film regardless of its gauge, suffers from one or more effects of poor processing, bad handling and long term environmental stresses.  The larger 35mm to 70mm film sizes has and continues to have the benefit of professional restoration services due to the availability of industrial level financing driven by the urgency to preserve for historical reasons.  On the other hand the smaller amateur gauges like 8mm and Super 8 being a consumer gauge have been and are largely ignored.  Cost being the out of reach factor.

I have been looking into the software tools for professional film restoration and have compiled a list of these vendors along with some commentary.

The hardware platforms needed to run the software, even in its minimum system configuration is at the high performance end of the spectrum and thus will drive cost as well (in most cases the computer platforms cost more than the software).

Ok, so here they are:

Film Fix
A tool from Red Giant software.  Target users are consumer to semi-pro.  The product is discontinued.  It appears Red Giant is working on a revamped version with no indication of when it will be re-introduced.  It is a plug-in for After Effects v6 to CS3.  I tried this tool in CS3.  It’s clunky to use, but it does work quite well when it doesn’t crash.  Learning curve is so-so.  Render times are long.  Adobe and Red Giant offers render farm support, but I didn’t try it.  Introduced at about $2K about 5 years ago, but can be found on Ebay sometimes for $125.

Diamant by HS-ART
Based in Germany, these big boys have been around awhile.  They have three product lines, two just for dustbusting called Dustbuster (who could have guessed) and Dustbuster+.  The other called Diamant-File Restoration IV.  The latter has a sizeable set of restoration filters which can operate in automatic, semi-automatic and manual modes.  The tool is resolution independent (SD, HD, 2K and up and handle multiple bit depths) and works in Windows on moderate platforms.  Cost is unknown.  Offers free trial download for Dustbuster+ only.  Fully functional but cannot save your work.

Cinema Craft – ReNeat
Another big boy based in Japan, $50K for a typical system (software/hardware solution).  The associated US web site is better.  It looks like a limited number of filters.  Resolution support only to 2K.  Operates in Windows on a specially configured platform using their software to take advantage of SIMD (Single Instruction Multiple Data) computing techniques.  Let’s just say SIMD works very well for this type of computing.

PFClean
Another big boy, if price is any indication.  This product is distributed and supported by Pixelfarm in the UK.  It costs about $20K.  Has a powerful, but in my view a limited set of filters when compared to DaVinci Revival.  The claim to fame in support of the price I guess is the power of the algorithms in doing a superior job in defect removal.  Going to the forums however suggests otherwise.

Davinci Revival
Black Magic Design bought this long known venerable brand.  It comes in two flavours, one for about $1.5K, is limited to manual operation and has only one filter, Dustbusting.  The pro version is about $10K and has a lot more filters and offers automation.  Only MAC and Linux support.  If you want the Linux version it must be bundled with a custom configured hardware Linux box, (did I say the cost just went up?).  The turnkey hardware systems are sold by Film Systems which really drives the cost up beyond the advertized software only sticker price.  You can’t buy just the Linux version software from Black Magic.  The MAC version is sold as software only by Black Magic Design and FilmSys.  Marketing blurb looks glossy.

Fdshows Resto
Pricing on this product looks really promising for the many useful filters it offers, about $3K to $5K depending on frame resolution.  But their web site is way short on information and no one seems to be home when contacting them.  No blogs or forums, yields much info on these guys.  I wonder how they intend to sell this product without basic support!!  Laying out 5 grand for a piece software without any key information to make a confident decision is just plain dumb.

AVISynth
Open source software with many plugins, though have limited set of restoration filters.  Have to use a script to integrate filters of your choice.  No biggie, easy to learn.  Most of all it’s free.  Great for command line programming if you like that approach, but can also be integrated into GUI type interfaces for more intuitive operation.

VirtualDub
Another open source software with many plugins.  This product also has a limited set of filters available.  Again, you have to use a script to integrate them for use.  It’s also free.

MTI Correct DRS
From the web site, it looks like they have been around awhile.  It appears they have a good number of robust filters available for restoration and accepts up to 4K image sizes.  No indication that the software must be tied to some recommended hard ware platform.  Of course claim to fame is they are the best.  The web site is not very clear on the operating system(s) it supports either.  Overall from an information point of view, the web site needs more detailed content to make an informed evaluation of the product.  Cost was about $20K reduced to about $12K.

MSU Modules
Moscow State University has developed and offers a great number of image processing modules. Many are compatible as plugins for AVISynth and VirtualDub.  Require a licence agreement if commercial end use.  Many filters are free for the individual experimenter.  Some of the more fancy filters require MSU approval for use.  Cost between Free and license $$

Stoik Imaging
This company has some powerful yet low cost image processing solutions.  The product in question is the Stoik Video Converter Pro, a stand alone application for Windows.   Buried within this tool are some useful and effective filters.  Denoising, scratch removal and rudimentary dustbusting.  I do have a beef with some annoying aspects to the user interface, but this tool offers a lot of functionality and is very reasonable in price, just $29, yes just $29 bucks.  There is no HD support, other than an up-scaling feature.

Neat Video
From Neat Video.  Not really a film restore product, more like video de-noiser, but does bang up job on noisy video.  A Premiere Pro plugin, supporting versions 1.0 through CS5, 32bit or 64bit (ok, also supports Final Cut, Pinnacle, SONY Vegas, Virtualdub and OpenFx).  Supports SD and HD size files.  A very nice and effective denoising and smoothing tool for many formats of video.  I tried it out with stunning results.  You do need to tweek settings for best outcome to eliminate the effects of motion compensation.  Just drop the filter on your video loaded timeline and go.  To access the full filter set and its controls a little button is available (not overly obvious) and takes a little investigation to find out where it is.  Read the Help notes dummy.  Render times are about 1.5x to 3x normal.  The product is very easy to use.  Cost is just $49US.

Magic Bullet Denoiser
Another piece of software from Red Giant Software – they got some neat tools, you should check them out.  The cleanup tool features lots of flexibility in dramatically reducing video noise particularly in the image shadows and mid-tones as per its claim to fame.  The tool is a plug in for Adobe After Effects CS3 through CS5.  For what you get, $99 is a great deal.  Supports both Windows and MAC machines.

If there are more film and video filters out there not mentioned here please let me know, I’ll add them to the list , credit your name and post them with some comment if applicable.


31 Comments

  1. fabian ag

    All products promise incredible restorations, but down the road, the concepts are the same as the results, which varies from one product to another is the warranty, plugin support and some other … Dustbuster, Davinci revieval, mp clean … I’ve used, but personally I prefer clean by cost pf service, have improved and matched with Dust Buster and the davinci revival, the system restoration algorithm is equal to or a little better competition .. . has necessary, dusbuster, davinci, charging plug, brand updates, which are but other than marketing, because in the light of results, all perform the same, but with another name, greetings.

  2. Tonisha Bolan

    Keep up the good work i will return often.

  3. U truly constructed many outstanding points with ur blog post, “film
    restoration software companies”. I am going to remain coming back again to your web
    page shortly. Thank you ,Marian

  4. “film restoration software companies” seriously makes myself think
    a tiny bit extra. I personally enjoyed every particular element of this post.
    Regards ,Adriene

  5. Very interesting article.
    I was wondering: is there a software that can stabilize an unstable (animated) title from the beginning of an unstable footage? Can this be done with the current technology?
    And again, I’m not talking about a static title, which can probably be stabilized by using one frame for the entire sequence – I’m talking about an animated title over an animated/moving background.

    Cheers

  6. have a look at this site, they are doing lot of restoration and colorization works.

    http://www.trikonatech.com

    we got one work done at this facility, it was done with excellent result.

  7. hallo bwerba
    auch ich habe interesse an dieser restaurationssoftware über weitere auskünfte würde ich mich fruer vielen dank

    • Guten Tag Roland

      Vielen Dank für Ihr Interesse. Ich hoffe, dass diese Übersetzung in Kontext ist. Die Filmwiederherstellungssoftware wird zur Verfügung zum Verkauf früh nächstes Jahr stehen.

      Thank you for your interest. I hope this translation is in context. The film restoration software will be available for sale early next year.

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  8. Hi,
    I am user of DIAMANT since their version 1 and they are really good in FILM & VIDEO RESTORATION.
    I am still using DIAMANT and getting very good result.
    Any one can contact for any help in FILM & VIDEO RESTORATION.
    Good Luck.
    S.Tushar +919892105582
    CLEAN FILM

  9. Rajesh Sarkar

    i want help for film restoration.which softwere is best.

    • Hi Rajesh,

      Is this a one shot restore project or to you plan to do many restore projects? The cost of these tools and supporting hardware is quite high for a single project. If it is a one shot project, perhaps going to a professional facility would be a better investment. As far as which tool is better, I can’t tell you off hand other than what I have investigated in writing this article. Of the vendors that offer free trial downloads, would be a good first step for you to find out for yourself.

      Take a look at the last blog entry from AlgoSoft, the tool is free to use, but you must pay a ‘recovery’ fee if you want to get back the corrected files in your native format. However, cost is really low. Be warned however, that the software install process requires a lot of attention. It is quite clunky.

      If you are not in any hurry, my company RHMG, will be releasing a film restore package this fall that will incorporate the latest in image processing focusing on the many anomalies of aging and abused film. Cost of tool set will be more than reasonable. It will come with a series of video utilities, have CUDA and other GPU support to speed up the processing.

      • I would be very interested in knowing more about the film restore package that RHMG is developing. Please let me know more details when it is ready to go.

        Thanks,

        Robert Blair
        VCI Entertainment

        • Robert,
          We are close to finishing the development project. I hope to offer professional level film resto services soon at attractive introductory prices. I’ll keep you informed with more details as we approach software release. Once fully debugged, I plan to offer the software for sale at for the B2B and B2C market. Thanks for your interest.

          Bill

          • Very interested in your resto project and happy to beta test.

            Regards and hope to hear from you

          • Hey Pat,

            That’s great. I’m in the process getting the sign up web forms ready and the terms of the testing arrangement. Should be soon.

            Bill

  10. For better understanding how software Viva works we have placed on Youtube the
    Tutorials:
    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1D297A9922DDD255

  11. Hi Bill,

    New VIVA’s release was uploaded today.
    The version 3.6.0.0 has 2 main differences from 3.5.0.3:

    1. Viva and most of its libraries were recompiled with VS2010 C++ compiler.GPU related libraries were recompiled with the new CUDA 4.0 nvcc compiler.
    As a result, VIVA became more stable for low end GPUs.
    2. The staying alone (but being launched from VIVA) decomposer (Video2BMP.exe)of video files for some popular video formats was added.

    More details are in ReadMe3.6.0.0.
    Any questions or comments are very welcome.
    Inna

  12. Hi!
    You can find prices for logo-free frames on our website: http://www.algosoft-tech.com
    Output (and input) formats are DPX/ BMP/TIFF. Some of video input formats will be available soon. “Fingerprint” and decoding files are in our inner format. Please find more information on our website. But don’t hesitate to ask us for details.

  13. Hello!
    Today our restoration software VIVA (former “RestoreIT”; it had been used to restore the most complicated footage (“Metropolis” and others)) is now free
    for download and risk free for use.

    Recently, we gave access to our software for everyone on our website http://www.algosoft-tech.com.

    VIVA package consists of VIVA AUTO (automatic batch mode) and VIVA LITE

    (manual retouch and stabilization).
    VIVA AUTO (de-flicker, de-grain, de-dust, stabilization and simple color
    correction) and VIVA LITE (manual retouch and stabilization) are free for
    download. After applying VIVA AUTO a user gets restored frames in a special
    format with our logo “VIVA”. If a user likes the results, he sends a
    fingerprint of the footage that he wants to release and pays a price, we believe, affordable for
    everyone, including home movie owners.
    After the payment a user gets back the decoding file and releases the
    footage in selected standard format. Afterwards a user may use free VIVA LITE for
    manual retouch, stabilization, and final rendering.

    No restrictions, limitations, pre-payments: you buy the results if you like them.

    • Hi Inna,

      This is a different take on the film restoration model. How is your pricing determined? What file format is the “fingerprint” footage in? What file formats are supported after “fingerprint” payment?

      • Hi everybody,

        After fingerprint release, the user may get either DPX or BMP output.
        The payment is taken one time only for the final result, i.e. it doesn’t matter how many modes were applied in the restoration.
        For those who doesn’t have an appropriate hardware we would recommend to use very affordable restoration service from http://www.filmtransfer.com based on technology VIVA.

        Please contact us for available discounts.

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