Interview

Never Too Late: Restoration of Kylie

H1H4

Earlier this month, the long-awaited re-issues of Kylie Minogue’s first four PWL albums were finally reissued. The 2CD+DVD collector’s editions and the box sets (with vinyl picture discs) both featured DVDs packed with promo videos, bonus material and BBC TV footage. Unusually, PWL went to the trouble of getting the video professionally restored by professional restoration service Pup.

Kylie Minogue biographer Nigel Goodall has spoken to video director, editor and restorer Dan Hall about the challenges of the work involved in restoring Kylie…


Nigel Goodall: What brought you to work on the Kylie videos for the PWL reissues?

Dan Hall: I was first approached at the conception stage by PWL archivist Tom Parker. He had followed the work of my company Pup Limited on the Classic Doctor Who DVD range. I had commissioned the high-profile DVD range for several years. The releases contained restored episodes as well as new documentaries. Tom’s original idea was to apply the Classic Doctor Who DVD model onto the Kylie releases.

NG: Are you a fan of the Kylie PWL era?

DH: Indeed I am. I must be one of the few PWL / Springsteen / Suede fans in the UK! Pete and the team made some absolutely smashing melodies, and it has been an honour to be a part of bringing them back to audiences. The PWL concert a couple of Christmases back was one of the best nights of my life. I lost my voice for two weeks after.

NG: Restoring the videos then, must have been like a work of love.

DH: Absolutely a work of love. We were unable to go down the same restoration route as for the Doctor Who DVDs because of budget. And so Pup developed a whole new series of restoration techniques. These were designed more for short-form content, like music videos, as opposed to longer-form television shows. There is always some more work to do, always another piece of drop-out that can be improved. The more you fix these things the more errors begin to show. And of course nobody wants to let content out that could be improved. So you do go on and beyond budget, but with a willing heart.

NG: Did you play a part in finding any of the footage, like the original and location-based versions of Got To Be Certain, or were these in the PWL archive?

DH: All the footage was sourced and found by Tom Parker whose passion for the project drove us on. He has a fantastic knowledge of Pete Waterman’s legendary barn in which many of the masters are stored. Tom had the key knowledge about different versions of videos and where they might be found. We did have one fortunate find towards the end of production. A couple of videos had been missing from Tom’s original masters delivery. When getting these transferred we uncovered superior quality versions of many of the titles. By this point we all but finished restoration, so much of the earlier work was scrapped. But the time was by no means wasted as our improved techniques could now benefit the new masters.

NG: Was there any other major restoration work done apart from what has been seen in the Pup showreel?

DH: Absolutely! Every single one of the videos averaged two or three days’ work. The promo only shows the “greatest hits”. Although these videos aren’t hugely old, it is alarming how quickly videotape begins to fail. Information is lost causing what is called “drop-out”. These are brief flashes of lost data, usually shown as a bar of colour. There are also dirt and scratches which we remove. Grading is always controversial. This is where you alter the colours in the picture to give a mood. It can have a massive effect on audience’s perceptions. For example Locomotion was too yellow, which we fixed resulting in a more natural skin-tone. On Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi we took a gamble and completely disregarded it. The original was super-80s in colouring and brightness, and yet it was set in 1940s France. So the re-grade played on this with a more brown austerity grade to complement the fantastic sets. For Finer Feelings we found the beautiful photography was undermined by a low-contrast master. So the blacks were pumped down a tad to give it more gusto. Out of all her videos this is the one that I feel deserves our reappraisal most. The photography and editing really is first rate.

Pup – PWL / Kylie Minogue Restoration Showreel from Pup Ltd on Vimeo.

NG: What can you tell me about the restoration process and did you have any say on what videos should be included and ones that shouldn’t?

DH: Tom and PWL very much led the editorial of the release, although of course they were happy with my input. But frankly they were one and the same. We all wanted to make a definitive set of releases that showed the passion of those who had put it together. As for the restoration process, we investigated investing in automated technology. But it was quickly apparent that it was no match for careful human eyes and hand-crafted fixes. Music videos are available, pirated for free all over the internet. If we are going to persuade people to part with their money we have to provide something special. And I do not think pumping a video through a rough, computerised clean-up is going to cut the mustard.

NG: Were there any videos that you were given to work on that you felt wouldn’t benefit from restoration?

DH: Every single video was restored. Even later ones like Word Is Out, which had very little dropout, suddenly had huge green splodges on several frames. Each video was their own challenge had their own unique set of solutions.

NG: How good or bad was the condition of the BBC footage that you worked on? Did the Beeb give you any other footage that is not included in the sets?

DH: The BBC material was in okay condition. The sound isn’t fantastic on some of the Wogan episodes, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Part of the texture of archive is its faults, and sometimes you make a judgement call to leave things as they are. In the case of Wogan the music wasn’t replaced as people are watching it for the archive, rather than the song. However, almost all the BBC footage had a lot of what we call noise. This is lots of tiny dots that look a bit like a slightly off-tuned television. So we cleared those away and gave the colours a bit more punch. Everything that the BBC provided for us was placed on the discs. And great it is too! I loved the old Top of the Pops graphics so much that they were recreated for the albums’ four promos.

NG: Who initiated the restoration work on the videos? Did you have any say in it because you felt that the original videos could do with restoration?

DH: It was Tom Parker who first approached me, and he had previously done fantastic work for both companies. Without realising it I’d been buying Tom’s fantastic reissues for quite a while! I imagine the whole thing was driven first by him. Later on, Ian Usher took over the reigns and led the project to completion. I have a lot of self-interest in wanting the videos to be restored! So quite rightly I wouldn’t have a say in whether they should be done or not.

NG: Most of the video promos have been released before on various DVDs. Did you wonder why they had not been restored to the picture quality you have now given them?

DH: I can absolutely understand why, because there may not be the demand. But now videos are pirated all over the internet, labels and artists have to take quality to the next level if they are going to persuade people to part with their money. This will hopefully encourage people back to official sources and off YouTube. In addition, a scratchy and unattractive video does undermine the song and the audience’s perception of the material. We do live in a very visual world, even those of us in music.

NG: Would you say they are near enough blu-ray quality? They look like they are…

DH: That’s very kind of you to say! The first part of Pup’s restoration process was to boost the standard-definition masters up to high-definition. This is where very computer software ‘guesses’ the extra pixels that are needed by an HD picture. Our restoration work was then carried out on these new HD masters. It was only the very end of the process where the HD was scaled back to standard definition for DVD. From your question I’m guessing our specially developed restoration technique worked!

NG: Are there any more videos and footage that could be restored?

DH: Oh, goodness yes! I look at the wonderful work of artists like Kate Bush, David Bowie and the Pet Shop Boys and long to get my hands on their material. Bush’s Cloudbusting is a stunning video, but it desperately needs cleaning. Same goes for the wonderful Pet Shop Boys feature-length concept video, It Couldn’t Happen Here. Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes is iconic, but covered in dropout. And Queen… who wouldn’t want to get those fantastic promos looking sharp?

NG: What condition, visually and in terms of the audio, were the original promos in?

DH: The audio wasn’t brilliant, and a tad muffled and quiet. But this was fixed with wonderful new audio masters from PWL. Visually the conditions varied a lot. Locomotion, Got To Be Certain and Never Too Late were particularly bad. The PWL masters of If You Were With Me Now had an eight second section that was unplayable. For this I sourced another copy from a different source and compiled a new master. What this showed was that often it is believed that somebody else is looking after the master. The TV companies think the labels are, the labels think the agents are, the agents think the producers are, etc. If we are not careful we’re going to lose some of the iconic promos of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. On Better the Devil You Know we discovered one single frame of a shot that had been left in by accident way back when. So this was removed as it is ‘illegal’ for broadcast. There’s an exclusive! The restored Better the Devil You Know video is actually 1/25 second shorter than the original.

NG: How painstaking was the restoration and what were the primary technical processes/tools you used?

DH: Very painstaking! Each video has at least ten passes, and for some we slow it down to 50% in order to allow us to extrapolate every possible piece of visual data. I won’t go into exactly what we use or how we use it – it’s our magic formula! – but suffice to say the technique was developed by Pup using a Computing Science PhD wizard.

NG: Is remixing sound for a DVD a completely different process to the remix of a CD set and did you work on any of the CDs?

DH: Sometimes one can get too close to a project and forget that at the end there is a consumer – and hopefully one that is smiling. This is a brand new restoration process that Pup has developed especially for music videos. I sincerely hope that we’ll get to cast our magic on more titles. The sound was provided to us from PWL, remastered and sounding fantastic. For DVD we simply put a small amount of compression to keep it from going too loud. But really on the sound the hard work was done by Tom and PWL. All we had to do was match the old sound to the new. That said, it was tougher than it first seemed as the sound on those videos didn’t run at a consistent speed. These errors had to be forced back into the remastered audio in order to keep things in sync!

NG: Was there a specific rationale for the video tracks that were chosen for the new DVDs?

DH: From my understanding the only rationale was: “Is it relevant” and “Is it available”. With those two simple criteria PWL and Cherry Red were able to pull together a brilliant set of releases.

NG: Do you know if Kylie has seen any of the restored videos? If so what was her reaction?

DH: I don’t know whether she has, although I’m sure Pete would have made sure she knew about them. As an artist I’m sure she’s wary about spending too much time looking back, when there is an expectation always to move forward. That said, I hope it reminds her how much people value and enjoy her fantastic back catalogue.

Nigel Goodall was speaking to Dan Hall. This interview first appeared on Nigel’s blog. The Kylie reissues are out now.

Kylie (BOX SET)

Kylie (deluxe 2CD+DVD edition)

Enjoy Yourself (BOX SET)

Enjoy Yourself (deluxe 2CD+DVD edition)

Rhythm Of Love (BOX SET)

Rhythm Of Love (deluxe 2CD+DVD edition)

Let’s Get To It (BOX SET)

Let’s Get To It (deluxe 2CD+DVD edition)

You might also like…

20 responses to Never Too Late: Restoration of Kylie

  1. Stefano says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this, Paul.

  2. bob says:

    I love these insightful interviews. Whoever would have known that so much hard work went into restoring these videos for this project.

  3. Kiki says:

    interesting to hear that someone would like to restore the “It couldn’t happen here” movie !!!

  4. probablyrustin says:

    now for the prices to drop slightly and i’ll be eager to scoop them up!

  5. Leslie Hanagan says:

    A very interesting interview. Thank you.

  6. Shane says:

    And yet some people said the dvds are out of sync. Myself, I only noticed that some videos are in low quality.

  7. Georges says:

    Excellent work! I’m wishing to get these deluxe editions :)

  8. Darren says:

    Some people who had video’s out of sync were/are playing them on the wrong DVD players. I have all the re issues and have to say I was totally blown away with the quality with the whole collection. Fantastic interview too. Thank you!

  9. Eric says:

    Very interesting! I wonder if such a careful process hiked up the price of the sets, it looks like a lot of work. Mostly, from that clip, the results are amazing. I have to admit the B&W and heavily-filtered videos seem to benefit the most, the colourful 80s ones look slightly washed-out (especially I Should Be So Lucky and Got To Be Certain).

    I’m glad there are people out there still fanatically and skilfully able to restore archive footage, audio and/or visual. And to do so to a high degree of quality!

  10. Bob says:

    That is some really great video work. I love when people take the time to make things from the past as “pretty” as possible instead of just throwing it out there in whatever questionable quality might be there. Makes me feel better about spending my cash. Thanks for posting this!!

  11. Nigel Hall says:

    Brilliant stuff! I wondered why they looked so good :-) Dan and the restoration team’s painstaking work on the Dr Who range set so many historic benchmarks for the recovery and restoration of ‘old’ video so it’s great to see them being applied to other material too!

    Now if only someone would let him loose on some of the other artists he mentions- it would be absolutely fantastic to see restored versions of classic PSB or Kate Bush videos…

  12. bob says:

    That’s the first time I have noticed that there are three guys on the sleeve of Let’s Get To It.

  13. Shane says:

    Erm, what do you mean they’ve been playing the DVDs on the wrong dvd players? There are “wrong” dvd players now? I thought dvds were universally playable in any dvd player…

  14. Leemondo says:

    The restoration work they have done is incredible. My only complaint? The remastering done on What Kind Of Fool (Heard All That Before) is awful. It looks overexposed. The whiteness of her dress almost blinded me. The original from the previous Greatest Hits DVD looks so much better.

    And i’ve no issues with glitches etc. Mine seem perfect!

    It’s a shame they couldn’t dig out the U.S. Version of The Loco-Motion to really complete this collection. It’s the only alternative version of any of her PWL videos that has never been officially released. It includes extra footage not in the original Australian or International Versions and is still shown on U.S. music channels I believe. It was under the Geffen label.
    It is rumoured that the Hand On Your Heart video also had alternative shots in originally but was pulled after it’s first transmission and re-edited. I’d love to see that!

  15. NeilKelly says:

    Great piece. Very interesting. I bought all 4 and 3 are still sealed lol. I’ll get around to them one day though!

  16. Gary says:

    Be interested to know what that frame one that was took out of Better The Devil You Know that was “illegal”. So that means it’s still on the other DVDs ?

  17. Ron says:

    I would definitely part with my $ to get restored videos! Congratulations Pup and thanks for this wonderful interview!

  18. D B says:

    Wow, after watching this I may have to buy these.

  19. Billy Dojcak says:

    Wasn’t going to buy these, but suppose I have to now.

    I think the companies treated music videos as throw away product. Video tapes always looked bad. Most dvd issues were not quite as bad.
    PSB PopArt is how they should be done. With the commentary track. An updated version would be nice as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>