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Case Study

Remastering Blondie’s Music Videos with Continuum

4 minute read

How AI tools together with Continuum’s image restoration and key & blend plugins helped transform the iconic band’s videos into HD.

Bill Randolph is a game developer with a passion for editing and restoring video. His biggest project to date was remastering the full music video catalog of Blondie, the legendary band fronted by co-founder/singer Debbie Harry. The project was a labor of love as Randolph worked on the 23 videos in his spare time. 

“I found myself doing compositing and rotoscoping while working on Heart of Glass, one of the earlier videos I did,” says Randolph. “Using Premiere's masking was incredibly arduous, so I did some quick research and realized Continuum with built-in Mocha might be exactly what I was looking for. It was like entering a whole new world. I’ve been using Continuum inside an Adobe-based workflow for about two years now.”

Randolph used an AI enhancement tool to upscale the videos from SD to HD, often relying on different settings and even different algorithms between camera shots to optimize the results. However, it often introduced artifacts and flaws onto the images. This is where Continuum entered the spotlight. 

17_TheHardestPart1Before & After: The Hardest Part (Used by permission of Blondie)

Key & Blend

One of the most time-consuming videos to remaster was “Heart of Glass.” During the extensive process, Randolph discovered a unique workflow using Continuum’s AlphaKey effect. He took a multi-step approach to the video. 

“I rendered Debbie Harry’s hair with a set of very aggressive AI settings which brought out the fine details in her hair but also introduced unnatural shadows and lines across her face. Next, I rendered her face with a different set of more gentle AI settings,” states Randolph. “Then I overlaid the hair onto the face layer. I found that I could composite parts of one video layer, rendered with very high-detailed settings, onto another layer using Continuum’s Alpha Key. The effect’s integrated Mocha planar tracking and masking made this extremely easy. After seeing how dramatic these results could be, it opened up a whole new range of possibilities. I adopted this strategy on many subsequent videos, including ‘The Hardest Part’.”

Image Restoration

Randolph relied on multiple effects from Continuum’s powerful image restoration tools to help transform less-than-ideal footage, including BCC+DeBand, Flicker Fixer, and BCC+Beauty Studio.

“I was always on the lookout for anything that would make videos ‘look HD.’ People’s hair, details on jewelry and clothing, guitar strings, etc. The presence of these things, properly enhanced, make all the difference in making a video look ‘actually HD,’ instead of just scaled up and blurry,” comments Randolph. “But the reverse is also true. There are some defects that can make an HD video look low-res. Banding is surely one of the worst of these. Fortunately, only a couple of videos had noticeable banding. The DeBand effect did a nice job removing it, instantly making the videos look more professional and polished.”

Although Randolph wanted to avoid applying digital skin or make-up fixes to the upscaled videos (to remain faithful to the original sources), he did turn to Continuum’s Beauty Studio plugin in a few cases. The noise in the original dream-like video for 'Sound Asleep,' combined with the AI enhancements, resulted in unpleasant-looking results. “Beauty Studio rescued those shots with minimal effort,” remarks Randolph. “I used the effect in conjunction with Mocha and the PixelChooser tool to avoid processing Debbie Harry’s eyes or hair, for example, as I wanted the detail to stay untouched in those areas.”

18_SoundAsleep1Before & After: Sound Asleep (Used by permission of Blondie)

The video for “Presence, Dear” proved tricky as the original source footage was flawed and featured a lot of black static that danced around on any blue light. Randolph removed the noise using After Effect’s clone/stamp tool but was left with unsightly flicker. “Continuum’s Flicker Fixer cleaned this up beautifully,” notes Randolph. “I used the same effect on Debbie Harry’s clothing in the video as well. The color of her clothing flickered between blue and a greenish tint in every other frame (probably some interlacing artifact) — and Flicker Fixer saved those shots.”

05_PresenceDear3Before and After: Presence, Dear (Used by permission of Blondie)

“I’m so fortunate to have been able to work on this famed material. Both Universal Music and the band’s manager have expressed how pleased they are with the results,” ends Randolph. “Having said that, my favorite video is '(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear.' This video came out particularly great and shows the band at a time before they hit it big. I put a lot of effort into cleaning it up and making it look pristine. It exemplifies a lot of the techniques discussed here. I’m really proud of it.”

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