Current State of Restoration Software

Grace McKay Apr 6, 2016

  1. for those of you going to NAB, could I ask a favor? If you happen to be looking at the various resto packages, could you please post comments of interest to those of us still looking? hs-art Diamant is going to be there. Apparently PFclean is not. Phoenix is there, and MTI. This year, I cannot go. So any comments thoughts recommendations, etc. If they will quote prices, that would be great. I think prices may be a moving target, but who knows.
  2. I'll be checking out Phoenix.

    Definitely planning on taking another look at Diamant, but the most recent price quote I got was on par with Phoenix (that is, expensive), and I'm not really impressed with the user interface.

    I think MTI has a couple new features but it sounded like their focus would be on Cortex this year, when I talked to them a couple months ago.

    My advice with PFClean is to run, screaming, in the opposite direction.
  3. Grace

    I will be in LA after NAB, happy to give you a tour nd a catch up on Phoenix if you'r like.

    Email me,


    Patrick Morgan
    Product Manager: Nucoda and Phoenix
    Harris Charalambous likes this.
  4. Back from NAB. While there I got demos of the current versions of MTI DRS Nova, Phoenix Touch and Diamant.

    MTI has made some progress on a few things: They have a nice tool for dealing with lab mis-timings, where you'd get 1/4 or so of the frame with the previous shot's grade. We see this a fair bit on older films and it can be a pain to repair, so it's nice to have a dedicated tool for that. They also showed a tech demo of a new automatic dust tool that's really semi-automatic. You define several points of dust and then it looks for matches, you can then add or remove false positives manually before running the pass. This is a nice way to clean up a lot of stuff at one time without leaving it all to an algorithm. It also means you're QCing as you work, which is something I think is really important to save time. So I like this tool, but I think that automatic cleanup algorithms are getting better and soon we'll be at a point where they can be trusted to do the right thing without having to do an extensive QC pass to look for false positives. MTI remains a largely manual toolset, and it does a fantastic job of that, but it's also a slower workflow, and we now have more clients who want us to do less expensive fully-automatic cleanup, so we're keeping an eye on this for now.

    Phoenix Touch looks really nice. It's a bit expensive compared to what you get from PFClean and MTI in terms of overall toolset, but it's fast and it does a nice job. Like MTI they showed a demo of a soon-to-be-released automatic dirt fixing tool that was really impressive. This is more of a fully automatic tool than the MTI, and it was able to find both small specs and large blotches, and clean them seamlessly. We're very seriously considering adding a Phoenix system to our lineup this summer.

    Diamant is promising, but I didn't get a very long demo on it. I kind of feel like if we're going to spend that kind of money, it's probably going to be on Phoenix, because it is kind of a funky user interface. It looks a lot more streamlined than it was when I last used it, several years ago, and I think it's a contender, but I'm not sure it's the tool for us.

    Regarding PFClean: They weren't at the show, but I did get a message from them that they're closing down their Facebook page since they never use it, and that they'll soon be making new announcements. We bought a system last summer, but it has been a complete disaster with constant crashing, project file corruption, weeks of lost time (seriously - we've lost weeks of meticulous restoration work that we had to re-do). Unless they really get their act together, we're done spending any money on PFClean. The 2016 upgrade had better be something really special, and they'd better offer us a good deal on it, because it's been a complete mess from the moment we got the system up and running.

  5. Thanks for that report, Perry! I have to say, 1-perf optical mislights have vexed me for 30 years, and since we started having power windows about 20 years ago, it was very time-consuming to have to pop one of those out and figure out how to compensate for those flash-frames. I'm glad to see that MTI Film has stayed on top of this with a solution.

  6. There are ways to deal with that in PFClean, and in some instances, in the previous versions of MTI, using the paint or deflicker tools. What's nice about this is that you basically just draw a box around the defect and it's gone. poof! That's the kind of tool I like. When you're spending more than 20-30 seconds on cleanups for a single frame, you're losing money...
  7. Thanks guys for your input. Now I am getting emails about a PFClean update. Perry, what do you think?
  8. Hmm. I haven't received any emails yet (though I've seen other cases where someone gets an email and mentions it on a forum, but I don't get the message for several hours). Did you just receive this?

    Honestly, the *only* thing I'm interested in as far as PFClean goes is stability, which there is very little of in the 2015 version...
  9. So far three emails, each featuring a new video about the next version. Perhaps I am getting these because I have not yet purchased. Here is a link to the videos.
    I am very interested in your thoughts, Perry, as you're experience with PFClean has me very wary.
  10. Hmm. Well, from what I see in those videos, it looks like they've made some major UI changes. Some look like they're for the better. others look like they're just trying to be fancy with the interface, which I can tell you is something they seem to be hung up on. None of it looks particularly new other than the UI changes.

    One of the big problems with PFClean is that it tries to be a tool that does everything from restoration to grading to mastering. We've never touched the grading tools since we have a separate system for that. We don't use it for outputting final masters because that's largely broken. That is, if you want to Export something to multiple formats, you can do it, but it's likely to either fail (Quicktime) or do something wrong. At least, on Windows that has been the case, but PF folks have told me that it shouldn't make a difference what platform you're on.

    The UI is built on an overly complex node system, which might be useful for some people, but with restoration we typically work in one of two scenarios:

    1) We have a set of clips we bring in, clean up, export and then edit back into the master in an NLE or Resolve

    2) We have an entire film, which we break up into cuts, then go through linearly from beginning to end.

    We never have more than one node pipeline, and even that seems like overkill (to export, you have to first drag your bin to an 'Item List' node then drag the Item List node to a "File Out" node). This is a completely extraneous step. You should be able to simply export the bin with the option to export it as a continuous timeline, or as the separate clips.

    Basically, they're sharing the core UI with their other tools, PFTrack and PFDepth, which seem to be where they're really concentrating their efforts. Maybe the nodes make more sense there - I don't know because I don't use those. But within PFClean it's clunky.

    Truthfully, all they need to do to make it into a perfectly good restoration tool is make it not crash all the time. We can reproduce crashes in numerous ways. We've reported these as bugs, some of them many many months ago. Some bugs were fixed. Some were fixed and rebroken. Some they say they're not fixing in our version. We paid $10,000 for software with a lot of bugs in it. I realize software evolves, but crashes aren't given very high priority - instead, we get "don't do that" from the developers, which is just arrogant and obnoxious.

    My big problem with 2016, from what I see here, is that we're going to have to deal with another learning curve on the UI, after it took us months to get into a groove with the current interface. They seem most fixated on the way the application looks, rather than the way it behaves. If you're going to drop $6000 on software (the current price), I kind of feel like you have a right to expect it to not blow up in your face multiple times a day...

    I may be a little biased here, but we're going on close to a year with PFClean and it's been a complete disaster, so I'm not optimistic they're going to get 2016 right.

    Marc Wielage and Jason Myres like this.
  11. My list of questions to them would go something like this:

    * Does the system still eat up all your memory when you're using auto dirt fixes on 4k footage? (we can max out the 64GB RAM in our machine in a few hours)
    * Does the application still crash if you click on the project manager button from inside the edit panel? (that's the only way to get to the project manager, so the workaround is to quit and restart the app every time you want to do this)
    * Does the application still crash and corrupt your project if you click on something in the Paint effect while the current fix is processing?
    * Does the application understand that 29.97fps != Drop Frame Timecode?
    * Does the application allow you to change the timecode type from drop to non-drop or vice versa?
    * Does the application understand that it should be exporting at 23.976 when pulldown has been removed? (currently it does it at 29.97, completely screwing up the project duration)
    * Does the application still insert pure green as filler in some fixes (that was supposed to be fixed, but it's re-broken in a recent build)
    * Does the application allow you to export to an uncompressed Quicktime file on Windows without crashing?
    * Does the application let you import a Quicktime file for a feature without crashing and corrupting your project?
    * Does the application still make certain clips disappear (the "Gap" problem) when it crashes? (the workaround is to reimport your source, cut out the clips you need to re-insert, then edit them back in manually. That may be the only thing the node pipeline is good for, though simply relinking the media would be easier).
    * Do you have a manual that doesn't require being inside the computer or in a web browser to see? (It's unsearchable).
    * Is the manual still full of UI examples for interfaces that no longer exist?

    Given enough time I could probably come up with a lot more.
  12. Perry,

    First of all i would like to apologize for mistakes i'm about to make. I don't speak English very well so i hope you'll do your best to understand me and to forgive me.

    Perry, you absolutly right about pfclean. i've been working on film restoration for more than 17 years, i know pretty well and used every restoration softwares except algosoft viva and i've never seen such a baffling software!

    Very bad workflow, lots of crashes......all you say is absolutly right!
    it's too bad because their algorythmes are very good!

    i 'm a phoenix refine and mti nova big fan . i know them very very well! they complement one another. the first one is more automatic the other is manual.
    Refine does what nova don't and nova does what refine don't!

    If you don't know phoenix refine let me tell you this! won't do a whole restoration with it. You'll need nova to finish the job

    But i have to say that i use also pfclean because for some defects it does a very good job and have options that refine and nova don't have.

    here's how i work.
    i do stabilisation with refine if footages have only a small jitter else i use nova.
    the refine stabilisation tool doesn't handle with rotation!!
    dewarp with nova!
    the refine dewarp tool is 100% automatic and is not efficient at all
    Then i do the deflicker (the best ever!) auto dust (best ever!)and paint with refine . the refine paint tools are not bad but could be much better
    for the scratches i use also refine but a lot of options are missing so i also use nova because sometimes you want to show manually what scratch you want to get rid of....only nova gives you that option!
    if refine doesn't see the scratch there is no way to show it where the scratch is!.......and you're f...d!
    if the scratch is moving on a few frame from left to right or right to left, that scratch won't be 100% vertical and if the scratch is not 100% vertical refine doesn't see it at all.....and you're f....d one more time!

    for small scratches (as if it was raining on the footage) i use pfclean because you can tell it what kind of scratch you want to get rid of. you can set the width the heigth the contrast etc.....and pfclean will do the job automatically and you can manually undo the wrong fix on each frame or a range of frames with a paint brush or a rectangle and so on........
    Refine doesn't care about small scratches and doesn't have any option to undo a wrong fix. If you want to avoid artefacts you need tu use masks......time consuming!!!!!

    for lens dirts i use pf clean
    for hairs i use pfclean and compositing software like nuke AE fusion
    Missing frames or torn frames i use refine paint (interpolation auto fix) and AE.

    roughly let sum up!

    Refine 50%
    nova 30%
    pfclean 15%
    AE, nuke, fusion or whatever you want....5%

    With these software you can restore everything no matter what

    i would says that the perfect restoration software could exist. It's Nova, Refine, Pfclean mix together.

    there's only one thing that i'm sure of...........when these guys from digital vision mti pixel farm etc...make their softwares they do what they think we need but they never ask us what we really need. The first company that will ask us what kind of options we really need will gain the restoration market

    i didn't talk about diamant because it never does things to the perfection
    it's good for stabilizing but not the best
    it's good for deflickering but not the best
    it's good for fixing scratches but not the best.........

    i didn't talk about revival because it's dead even if the dewarp and deflick Tools are very good

    if you have question about phoenix refine don't hesitate asking me. Don't be afraid of this's not full to the brim with bugs!

  13. Jack Jones Colourist

    Jack Jones Colourist Original Member

    Hi Jean-Marc,

    As a Nucoda user with full DVO I agree with you how fantastic it is. I don't really do much restoration but I would love to tell you how much Digital Vision are listening to their customer base at the moment - it's fantastic!

    Drop Patrick Morgan an email or a PM on LGG as he would love to hear what ideas are out there. He even came to visit me today to ask for my thoughts and feedback. DV are really going out of their way to help their customers more than ever!
  14. Thanks for that feedback. My experience is with MTI (11+ years) and PFClean. Phoenix is something I've had demos of at NAB several times, and we're interested in Phoenix Touch, as a way to do some automated and manual work in a more stable environment. There's a new auto dirt removal tool for Phoenix coming out, which I saw at NAB, that was most impressive.

    PFClean does a great job at a lot of fixes. In fact, we bought it because of a specific project that we couldn't clean up easily in the MTI (which we were leasing in 6-month intervals). PFClean's Fix Frame simply made the problem go away in seconds, but in the MTI it took 20 minutes of manual work. And there are hundreds, if not more, of these defects in that film. But it's so damned unstable that it's lost us a ton of money. I can't tell you how many times it corrupted files or lost days worth of fixes and we had to start over from scratch. All I want is for them to make it work without crashing. As you say, the underlying algorithms are just fine the way they are, but they keep messing with UI and ignoring the underlying stability issues. It's really frustrating.

    The MTI is a fantastic tool for manual work. And that's their philosophy - that you get the best results with manual work. It was mine too, for many years, until I started seeing what some of the automatic tools like Phoenix and PFClean were capable of. I hope they can catch up, because they're a great group of people, and I really love how seamless you can make a manual fix in their tools. But they've always lagged on the automatic side.

    I've used a very early version of Algosoft Viva, years ago when it was brand new. It's a really interesting looking tool and I'm hoping to get some more time on it at some point, but we're mostly interested in a toolset like what PFClean has (at least for restoration), but that actually works. I think you're right that it has to be a combination of tools, which is frustrating because it's slower and requires more storage resources. It also makes it harder to revisit a project a few years from now if you need to make adjustments. It means backing up two sets of restoration projects, one for each application you use, and then remembering what was done in which application. It's a lot easier if it's all there in one project file...

  15. Jean Marc

    Please drop me a line if you want to chat or have specific requirements for Phoenix, we love to hear form users. Especially an post like the one you did, thank you very much for the compliments, I'll take 50% of the workflow for now ;-)

    Paint is being worked on, as is Scratch, Dust 2 - it will hopefully change the world ;-)

    So, as Jack said get in contact with me patrick,

    Perry, great to meet you at NAB.

    Regards all

  16. Patrick,

    Sorry for answering late. I've been a little bit busy.

    Thank you for your answer. I know you would have prefered reading from me that i use refine for 100% of the workflow!
    i hope one day it'll be possible.
    I really appreciate REFINE!

    if you check your email box you'll find emails from me (from october to november 2014)

    > Hi,
    > My name's Jean Marc Pourchel and i've been a Refine user since 2010. i've been working in film restoration since 1999. I've been working for EclairGroup in Paris France and i used refine to restore, among other films, "Les enfants du paradis".
    > I also know and use MTI correct, PFClean, Diamant,Revival and 2d/3d software like After Effects, Photoshop, Nukex, Fusion, Combustion,Toxik, Media Illusion, Cyborg, Matador
    > I just wanted to know who i have to contact for new features request.
    > We are very limited in our restoration process because some dvo effects don't have the needed options to achieve a full restoration.
    > thank you very much in advance
    > Best Regards
    > Jean Marc Pourchel

    i sent you some diagrams to explain what Tools i would like to have in refine.
    you did answer me that's true!

    what i wanted to say is that companies like pixel farm, DV, MTI etc.... have their own philosophy about restoration and it's sometimes far away from ours (users)!
    Keep in mind (and i know you are aware of it) that restoration tools have to be automatic AND manual.

    For instance your DVO FIX didn't have rotation and scale options to fix dirts so some companies use nova to fix dirts. Now your tool have these options but it's too late because they got into a "mti paint" groove and they won't change their workflow even if your autofix algorythme is really brilliant. That's why i think ( but i may be wrong) you should first ask users for the options they need before releasing a new tool and always give us the option to do things manually if the automatic way doesn't work

    Send me an email if you want to know why i use refine for this nova for that pfclean for this compositing software for that etc....i'll answer with pleasure!
    And if you come to Paris don't hesitate asking Bertrand Chevaugeon from SAV the french reseller to arrange a meeting. He knows me well!

    jean marc

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