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DOG SOLDIERS: fixing the Koch Media release
#1
DOG SOLDIERS is one of my favourite films. I grew up watching horror and this is exactly the kind of mix of horror and black comedy that I love. But here's the trouble: there is no definitive release of this film.

It's a UK film, but since the UK is a PAL region, my DVD copy is not ideal. As far as Blu-ray goes, I think there was one US release from the old DVD master, and then after that Scream Factory did a new scan of a print in association with the director, which unfortunately looks really really poor because it is after all a scan of a 35 mm blowup a few generations away from the original 16 mm negative. The best visual fidelity to date is one Koch Media released in Germany last year, which is reportedly constructed from the original 16 mm negative (interesting because this was previously declared "lost", hence Scream Factory scanning a print). But even that has significant problems.

Some issues with the German UHD / 1080p release:

  1. The video levels appear to be wrong, as if it was accidentally encoded with PC RGB levels (0 to 255) instead of standard home video limited levels (16 to 235). When you play it back, it's as if the player thinks it's limited but it's actually full, because blacks look extremely washed out and grey.

  2. There appear to have been missing or damaged frames in the OCN elements somehow, because several frames seem to have been inserted from what looks like the Scream Factory (35 mm blowup) release, which makes the quality inconsistent.

  3. Another inconsistency with the quality is that every time there's an optical effect, the generational difference between the actual negative elements directly from the camera and the several-generations-removed frames containing optical effects is extremely jarring, because there is so much additional grain and so on. This is normal enough for optical effects, but it's severe here because of the 16 mm to 35 mm blowup making the grain significantly more apparent.

  4. Frequently when there is a hard cut, the new 2 or 3 frames are misaligned before the framing is then realigned and remains in place for the remainder of the shot. I found that the Second Sight open matte restoration of BASKET CASE had this same problem, which is also something I have a vague plan to fix (I'll probably crop it back to its original theatrical presentation which will mean I can stabilise each cut, but it'll take forever to do that). I may also consider doing the same with DOG SOLDIERS, but this would be extremely time consuming and tedious and I've got far too many things on my plate as it is.

  5. The English audio has been screwed up pretty severely, with at least two moments I know of thus far where the music or some other part of the audio is completely out of sync, causing it to obscure or even completely replace dialogue. Around 00:03:25 or so, the music builds to a crescendo then stops abruptly in every other audio track (e.g. DVD, Scream Factory BD, and German 5.1 track off this release) but in the English 5.1 Koch has the music fall behind so that it's still blaring when a character speaks instead of being almost silent. There's a similar issue a few minutes later as well (as described here) where a helicopter sound is duplicated in place of an actual line of dialogue, which is subtitled but not actually present in the audio (Koch on left, Scream Factory on right):

    [Image: Dog-Soldiers-Koch-Media-00h07m44s-line-missing.png] [Image: Dog-Soldiers-Scream-Factory-00h07m46s-line-present.png]

  6. The *German* audio seems to be sourced from a sped up PAL master, because it's all pitch-shifted upwards by ~4%. This makes it somewhat less useful for patching the English audio with, though not necessarily entirely useless.
So basically, this is a right big bloody mess.

I actually quite enjoy watching the crappy Scream Factory scan, because this film suits a more grindhouse-y presentation anyway and it means that when the opticals kick in there isn't a huge and harring drop in quality. However, the majority of the film looks undeniably superior on the Koch release because of the much better source, and the Scream Factory scan appears to be significantly cropped down to 1.78:1 (16:9) instead of its correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There is a Japanese release due out soon which seems to be sourced from the Koch scan, but I have no idea if they'll bother to fix the audio or any of the issues with the video and I don't think it's likely I'd be importing it to find out because it would be really expensive to do so and if it turns out they just left it as is I'd be really annoyed at wasting so much money.

I'm going to experiment with a few different approaches, starting with the simplest. Initially, I planned to try to simply sync the audio off the old Scream Factory release to the Koch Media one, but figured I might have to patch missing frames from the Scream Factory scan. Turns out that it might be almost the other way around somehow, since the Koch release's English audio for some reason seems to get ahead of the Scream Factory audio rather than the reverse. I'm wondering if maybe it's a 24 fps vs 24000/1001 fps issue, since it seems to get worse and worse as the film progresses (on the Koch release).

I'm assuming I'll need to actually go through both releases frame by frame to see if they actually contain the same frames of the actual film (video-wise) because the audio is all over the damn place. It might be as simple as just ignoring the Koch audio completely and figuring out a delay to apply to the Scream Factory audio that works reasonably well with the Koch video, but not if they have a significant difference in video frames.

To *really* do this justice I think somebody (probably somebody with a lot more skill and experience than me, unless I come back to this much later) would likely need to start with the Koch release but use the Scream Factory and/or earlier releases to fix the audio problems, as well as somehow figuring out how best to stabilise all the dodgy hard cuts and probably apply a grain plate to the shots sourced straight from the OCN so that they look more similar to the shots containing optical effects. Finally, the render would need to be done at the right video levels to get rid of the minging grey "blacks". But right now, the main thing is probably to sort the audio out, and *maybe* re-encode to fix the video levels (or if possible, just update the headers to flag the content as full-range, but I don't know if that would actually work in practice).
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Thanks given by: LucasGodzilla , DoomBot , PDB , Hitcher , alleycat , dvdmike
#2
Although it's up to you, I would recommend also trying to color match the Koch release to the Shout! release due to the fact that the Shout! 35mm print scan would be the most theatrically accurate in terms of color and contrast. That way, you can have the details of the 4K OCN but correct OTP color grading (it'd also likely help fix the video level issue you mention).

You'd pretty much have to sync the two masters up side by side anyways to be able to check them frame by frame for mistakes and whatnot. Once you have that set-up, you could just take a snapshot of some frames in both masters and auto-align them in Photoshop and make a large frame compilation to stick into Dr. Dre's color matching tool.
[Image: ivwz24G.jpg]
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#3
(2020-06-07, 11:30 PM)LucasGodzilla Wrote: Although it's up to you, I would recommend also trying to color match the Koch release to the Shout! release due to the fact that the Shout! 35mm print scan would be the most theatrically accurate in terms of color and contrast. That way, you can have the details of the 4K OCN but correct OTP color grading (it'd also likely help fix the video level issue you mention).

You'd pretty much have to sync the two masters up side by side anyways to be able to check them frame by frame for mistakes and whatnot. Once you have that set-up, you could just take a snapshot of some frames in both masters and auto-align them in Photoshop and make a large frame compilation to stick into Dr. Dre's color matching tool.

I agree with this, yes. Although whether it's actually ended up correct on the Scream Factory disc is potentially a matter of debate in itself. For starters, because it's a 16 mm to 35 mm blowup, a lot of the colour info that would've been present originally appears to have been lost in the process of getting it onto 35 mm, if the Scream Factory release is anything to go by (see the screenshot I posted, it's really washed out compared to the Koch release).

Personally, I'm not capable of doing the level of work I want to do with this yet, but this could be the project I learn on. We'll see. Audio first though, methinks.
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Thanks given by: LucasGodzilla , alleycat
#4
My second favourite werewolf movie - the first being American Werewolf In London - so interested in what you can do to improve it. For me the Shout! release was too bright from what I remember it being back in the day. Check the werewolf vision of the cottage about halfway through for comparisons.
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#5
(2020-06-08, 10:06 AM)Hitcher Wrote: My second favourite werewolf movie - the first being American Werewolf In London - so interested in what you can do to improve it. For me the Shout! release was too bright from what I remember it being back in the day. Check the werewolf vision of the cottage about halfway through for comparisons.

Aye I agree. I think the highlights are pretty screwed. This is probably sacrilege but as much as I love American Werewolf, I actually think I'd even put Dog Soldiers above it. I love it. But y'know, I'm Scottish, so I appreciate the dark sense of humour.

The Koch release is probably more appropriate in terms of overall brightness and so on but the levels do appear to be wrong so still not great.
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#6
A cool and worthy project, hope it goes well.

It might be possible to keep the luma from the Koch and the colors from the Shout as to not suffer with the blown highs.
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Thanks given by: pipefan413
#7
(2020-06-08, 05:09 PM)PDB Wrote: A cool and worthy project, hope it goes well.

It might be possible to keep the luma from the Koch and the colors from the Shout as to not suffer with the blown highs.

That's exactly the kind of sorcery I would like to learn but as yet am 100% incapable of. We'll see what I can manage, but it's going to take time. The audio is hard enough, it's really badly misaligned and not just in one or two places - it seems to get progressively worse and ends up nowhere near by the end of the film, so I'm going to have to go through bit by bit to get it sample-accurate.

I hope I can at least improve this to some degree, even if it's not immediately as brilliant as I'd like.
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#8
(2020-06-08, 05:33 PM)pipefan413 Wrote:
(2020-06-08, 05:09 PM)PDB Wrote: A cool and worthy project, hope it goes well.

It might be possible to keep the luma from the Koch and the colors from the Shout as to not suffer with the blown highs.

That's exactly the kind of sorcery I would like to learn but as yet am 100% incapable of. We'll see what I can manage, but it's going to take time.

I think if you did the compilation LUT and then blended it with the original Koch luminosity in something like Resolve or After Effects, then that shouldn't be an issue. I tend to do that in my projects I do nowadays as a safeguard to recover any accidentally blown-out highlights and / or crushed shadows.
[Image: ivwz24G.jpg]
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Thanks given by: pipefan413
#9
At the time Shout did their BD release, there were claims they said the OCN was lost and that ppl were saying it was a cover up to reduce costs. Dog Soliders was a UK production funded by a few European companies and Millennium Entertainment (who owned distribution rights and were the ones who licenced it to Scream) did not have any film elements at all and only had the 1080i HD master used for the First Look DVD and Blu. They had done a search for the OCN and the IP in the UK, but nothing turned up. The films director had a personal 35mm print Shout used, and the director claimed it's washed out and gritty appearance was intended and that the First Look master was over-processed and saturated.

Koch Media eventually located the 16mm OCN in possession of one of the European backers. That was the source they used for their 4k remastered BD and UHD, but had also used sections from the Shout 2k print sourced master to fill in missing or damaged frames of the OCN.
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Thanks given by: pipefan413 , Hitcher , LucasGodzilla
#10
(2020-06-09, 12:53 AM)SpaceBlackKnight Wrote: At the time Shout did their BD release, there were claims they said the OCN was lost and that ppl were saying it was a cover up to reduce costs. Dog Soliders was a UK production funded by a few European companies and Millennium Entertainment (who owned distribution rights and were the ones who licenced it to Scream) did not have any film elements at all and only had the 1080i HD master used for the First Look DVD and Blu. They had done a search for the OCN and the IP in the UK, but nothing turned up. The films director had a personal 35mm print Shout used, and the director claimed it's washed out and gritty appearance was intended and that the First Look master was over-processed and saturated.

Koch Media eventually located the 16mm OCN in possession of one of the European backers. That was the source they used for their 4k remastered BD and UHD, but had also used sections from the Shout 2k print sourced master to fill in missing or damaged frames of the OCN.

This basically confirms what I did not know for certain but assumed (I knew some of what you said but not all of it). Thanks.

I remember seeing Marshall talking about the Scream Factory release and saying how this is how it was meant to look and thinking, "Wait, really?" Cropped to 1.78:1 with the highlights blown to hell and more grain than a sandpainting? But yeah, to be honest, if it weren't for the fact it's obviously not supposed to be cropped in on the top and right edges to fill a 16:9 screen, I'd be happy enough watching the Scream Factory transfer because it's the kind of film that benefits from looking all messed up like that. The detail in the Koch scan is obviously nice but the inconsistency caused by cutting to the inserted print-scanned frames and optical effects shots (mostly gunshots) is bloody distracting. And yeah, so is that weird unstable hard cut thing that I mentioned (same as Basket Case has on the Second Sight release).
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