Is it possible to improve the image of Dragon Box?

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Is it possible to improve the image of Dragon Box?

Post by ronaldnorth_03 » Sun Dec 01, 2019 10:12 pm

I would like to improve the image of Dragon Box to make it look like Kai. What do I do to reduce noise without aggressively affecting the image?

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Re: Is it possible to improve the image of Dragon Box?

Post by Robo4900 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:41 am

First thing to understand is that the Dragon Box is a standard-def master, and thus will only ever have standard-def detail. AI upscaling and the like can attempt to artificially create new detail, but the results are mixed at best. So, you're working with a standard-def DVD master that will only ever have standard-def DVD detail.
But, the right work could make it a much nicer standard-def master. That's what you're aiming for in any effort to improve the Dragon Box.

Second thing to understand is that Dragon Ball Kai, while being a HD master, had such a heavy denoiser applied, that the image is so soft, its detail level is barely above standard-def. You can downscale it to standard-def size and the image will look practically the same on your TV as it would at full HD size.
So, despite being shiny and superficially clean-looking (and having VERY nice colours), ultimately Kai isn't a very good HD master. However, it isn't that bad as a template for a look you might want out of a standard-def master...

Third thing to understand is that cleaner does not mean better. Funi's Season BDs, 30th anniversary sets, and of course, the Orange Bricks, are very "clean", in fact they're the "cleanest" masters of the Z series. Ditto for their Season DVDs of DB and GT. But these are also all the worst masters of the relevant series. While DB and GT's DVDs are only subpar, the Z releases I mention are outright shit, thanks to the flashy "clean" filtering.
Ultimately, all denoising will do is give an artificial "clean" look while obliterating detail (see: Kai. Again, the denoising was so heavily applied, it's not really got HD detail to it. Do that on a standard-def master that's already quite soft like the DBox, and your results will be very poor). Naturally, too much grain can be distracting to some, so many companies will justifiably pull the grain/noise back a little. The Dragon Boxes have already had their noise pulled back quite significantly, to a level well within acceptable bounds for a standard-def master. Further processing the noise of the image in the Dragon Box is a foolish pursuit, and can only serve to harm the image. (See also: Toei's HD remasters of the movies. The Amazon masters are close to perfect, meanwhile the Blu-ray releases are just a strictly worse version of those. They're not outright bad, but they used a denoiser/DNR filter, and then put a sharpening filter on top. Neither filter actually does anything for the picture other than give an artificial "clean" look while destroying detail and ultimately just harming the image. The underlying remaster is still good, and the filters are subtle enough to not totally ruin the image, but it's 100% a downgrade from the pre-filtering Amazon masters)

So, to address the question in your post, you have no option to reduce noise without aggressively affecting the image. If you apply the denoiser strongly enough to actually make a noticeable difference to the picture, you will be destroying detail on an already quite soft transfer that has already been noise-reduced to an acceptable level, and ultimately all you'd be able to do by denoising that anyway is give an artificially "cleaner" look that doesn't actually do anything to actually address the problems with the image of the Dragon Box (which are numerous, but noise is not among the problems).

The problems with Dragon Box are that it's a very soft master with poor colours, bad audio, iffy frame alignment, chroma bleeding, and crushing (as in, dark areas were pushed further into darkness, and light areas were pushed further towards white, making detail in the extremes of darkness or light very feint, or sometimes totally removing such detail).
There are filters to deal with the choma bleeding (though you have to apply them rather carefully), the iffy frame alignment is unfixable but tolerable (though the one time it's a serious issue, episode 53 of OG DB, where the frame alignment is set so low, the bottom of each frame intrudes on the top of each next frame, you can crop the bottom few pixels off the picture), the bad audio can largely be fixed by syncing up widely-available broadcast audio, and the poor colours and crushing can be fixed with a colour correction (which is very difficult to do well, everyone has very strong conflicting opinions on what makes a good colour correction, and you'll never get a coherent answer on how to do it well from someone here; ultimately though, colour correction is an art unto itself which is time consuming to do, and takes a lot of time and work to get any good at. There's no shortcuts to being good at something worthwhile), and the softness of the picture is due to the cheap, poor-quality transfer of the film elements, and is thus unfixable.

So, there's no easy "Make the Dragon Box nice" filter you can apply. It's all just messy, finnicky filters that can easily be mis-applied in ways that'll result in an image worse than even what Funi puts out.
To do it right, you'll have to spend A LOT of time on each episode, and have already spent a lot of time in advance learning the craft of colour correction, familiarising yourself with tools like Avisynth, and getting to grips with the insurmountable limitations you're working under with Dragon Box footage.
It can be done, but don't be under any illusions that it's even vaguely easy unless all you're looking to do is create a crappy but flashy-looking "clean" thing you can throw up on YouTube to get a bunch of likes from people who like the look of Funi's DVDs/BDs and the work of Enigmo/CNXToonami.


TL;DR: Yes if you want to put years of work in. Otherwise, no.
A somewhat self-indulgent thesis on my current outlook on Dragon Ball fandom, which I feel should be below every post I make from now on:

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Re: Is it possible to improve the image of Dragon Box?

Post by BlazingFiddlesticks » Tue Dec 03, 2019 11:04 pm

The Amazon Video Japan presentation of the movies just makes me sad now, because when they were coming out it looked like the movies had finally gotten "their due"- some of them at least. Then the blu-rays hit and they're a more benign version of what Funi's doing. :yawn:
JacobYBM wrote:
Pannaliciour wrote:Reading all the comments and interviews, my conclusion is: nobody knows what the hell is going on.
Just like Dragon Ball since Chapter #4.
son veku wrote:
Metalwario64 wrote:
BlazingFiddlesticks wrote:Kingdom Piccolo
Where is that located?

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