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TUGS (1989) - VHS to Blu Ray Preservation Project (a WIP)

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 (Edited)

Welcome Aboard!

I present to you a project that I am very excited to share. This, is TUGS.

 
What is TUGS?

TUGS is the story of the daily working lives of two tugboat companies in Bigg City Port, a stylized version of New York City during the Roaring 1920s. The series is told through the adventures of Captain Star’s proud and hardworking fleet of 7 tugs, and their rivals- the wily, devious tugs of Captain Zero, who display the darker side of the tugboat industry. Created by the same producers behind the original Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, this series was aimed at a much older audience, exploring darker storytelling and more mature themes.

Sadly after 13 episodes, the series ceased production after financial complications in-house and outside the immediate production, and has never been reissued since it’s initial run. The series footage has been bought and repurposed into an inferior Preschool program called Salty’s Lighthouse, but boasts restored TUGS footage.

The vast history combined with an everlasting passion for the original TUGS series has led to an extensive restoration of the series, to present it in the greatest possible manner like never before.
 

Our sources:

TUGS’ 13 episodes span 15 minutes each- however, 4 of these episodes were only released as 20 minute early versions in the UK. These four episodes were cut to 15 minutes for broadcast. The series received several video releases globally. Our sources for the episodes are in these tapes:

(Sunshine / Pirate): 1990 Australian VHS (20 minute versions)
(Munitions / Regatta): 1988 UK VHS (20 minute versions)
(Trapped / Ghosts / High Winds): 1990 Australian VHS
(High Tide / Warrior / Bigg Freeze): 1992 Australian VHS
(Jinxed / Quarantine / Upriver): 1990 UK VHS

(PURTILOT- Sunshine/Pirate): 1995 Finland VHS (15 minute versions)
(PURTILOT- Regatta/Munitions): 1995 Finland VHS (15 minute versions)

1993 Australian Broadcast Tape: Clean rips of 15 minute Sunshine/Pirate English Audio.
1989 UK Premiere Broadcast Tape: Clean rip of 15 minute Regatta English Audio.

Salty’s Lighthouse Digital Rips: Color reference for LUT process with Dr. Dre’s Color Tool.
 

The Equipment:

On board this project, no cost spared for this series. The VCR of our choice is a fine JVC HR-S9600EU with built in TBC. The external TBC of our choice is a Datavideo TBC-1000. Recorded with VirtualDub via HuffyUV Lossless Compression codec.

Our Avisynth script that we’ve determined to yield the best results was this:
AVISource(“MUNITIONS.avi”)
AssumeTFF()
ConverttoYV12(interlaced=true)
QTGMC(preset=“slow”, SourceMatch=3, TR2=3, Sharpness=0.75, FPSDivisor=2)
MCTemporalDenoise(settings=“low”)
Spline36Resize(width/2, height)
Sharpen(0.2, 0.0)
TurnLeft().nnedi3(dh=true).TurnRight()

This is the Salty’s Lighthouse Digital Rip:

And here’s our LUT created from the digital rip:

Of course, this was a rough preview from Dr. Dre, but this is only a small fraction of the problems the series has. The VHS tapes suffer from poor mastering, and faded colors. This is where I need your help, to restore Tugs to it’s deserved brilliance. Here’s an episode I recommend to familiarize yourself to the series (REGATTA): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rg4bWlRmA0&t

The output I intend are 1080i50 AVC files suitable for a Blu Ray disc (25p film for the episode, 50i for the titles and credits). I’d like versions for US and UK players, but we’ll deal with the framerate conversion when the project is actually completed; for now, we’ll continue in it’s original specifications. We’ve experimented upscaling with Lanczos3 in VirtualDub, but I would like to see what results members on here can come up with.

I feel that with our combined talents, we can produce a result that’s truly breathtaking. Here is a complimentary untouched HuffyUV clip from an S-Video capture, for you members to experiment with. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MqjkkznMsZXNybmEHo36dHfR--QqCbp8/view?usp=sharing
 

Clear sailing ahead!
-Sea Rogue

We must save him, he’s my uncle!

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Hi everyone, I’m back again! Me and the team did another round of improvements, and we’ve resulted in this discovery. First, I want to give an example using the script from above.

Original Raw VHS Capture:

With the Previous Script (see initial post):

Now, you might notice the pixels look a bit shifted. This is due to the TurnLeft().nnedi3(dh=true).TurnRight() algorithm resizing only the pixels that were rotated to the left on the first pass. What we did to combat this was to somehow shift the interpolated information back to it’s starting position. This is achieved by halving the width in Spline36Resize, and then introducing .nnedi3 with TurnRight() instead of TurnLeft. This resizes the pixels in the opposite orientation, shifting them to their original position.

New Script (as of 1/5/21):

AVISource(“TUGS.avi”)
AssumeTFF()
ConverttoYV12(interlaced=true)
QTGMC(preset=“slow”, SourceMatch=3, TR2=3, Sharpness=0.75, FPSDivisor=2)
MCTemporalDenoise(settings=“low”)
Spline36Resize(width/2, height)
TurnLeft().nnedi3(dh=true).TurnRight()
Spline36Resize(width/2, height)
Sharpen(0.2, 0.0)
TurnRight().nnedi3(dh=true).TurnLeft()
FineDehalo(rx=2.0, ry=2.0, thmi=80, thma=128, thlimi=50, thlima=100,
darkstr=1.0, brightstr=1.0, showmask=0, contra=0.0, excl=false)

FineDehalo has been added at the end to result in cleaner edges. Take note the significant pop in areas such as the rear deck railings, the crispness of the left eye, and the details in the lamp returned to the original position. You may notice some “ringing” around some areas (such as the right eye). This is a defect of the tape, and we currently have a lead on a UK tape without this problem (this one is an Australian pressing).

Cheers

We must save him, he’s my uncle!