Solution appended to end
Hi! I’m currently working on creating a preservation of the Japanese animated series “Stitch!” in 1080p with an English dub. I’m mainly working with a set of 1080p episodes that have a Cyrillic “Stitch!” series title, a Cyrillic episode title, and Cyrillic credits over the final few frames of animation as the episode ends. I also have select episodes in 1080i with English episode titles and watermark logos on the top corners.
I’ve been able to successfully replace the series title with an AI upscaled English title, and so far the Cyrillic credits have been easy to edit out as well. My problem is the episode title screen. I’m trying to create a clean English episode title screen, but none of the methods I have tried have provided good results.
The episode title screen isn’t static; it’s layered and the camera slowly zooms in on the center, so elements move at different speeds. Here are GIFs of an English and a Russian version of an episode title screen:
English (1080i): https://i.imgur.com/IRMCeuA.gifv
Cyrillic (1080p): https://i.imgur.com/E1TMeNn.gifv
Here are the methods I have tried:
use the lower quality 1080i English title as a base, layer the Russian version on top twice, and crop each of the Russian clips to cover exactly the area over the watermarks
convert the English clip into individual frames (PNGs), manually edit out the watermarks on each image
convert the Russian clip into individual frames (PNGs), manually edit out the title
Here is the result of each method:
the color, quality, resolution, and speed don’t match 100%; I can generally edit the color to match but it still isn’t perfect, and the scale has to be adjusted and still doesn’t line up 100%
the cloud and piece of island underneath the watermarks “warble” around wildly from frame to frame; it’s extremely noticeable and distracting
same as 2, but for the center of the island
Ideally I’d like to be able to remove the Cyrillic title from the clip in the GIF (it’s the episode with the shortest title), and use it as a template for every episode putting the English title over the clean plate. This is especially ideal as I don’t have English titled versions of every episode, and the 1080i looks dreadful, even after deinterlacing.
I’ve seen some truly spectacular work in the FE community, and after spending days upon hours on trying to make this work and banging my head on the wall in between I thought I’d come here and ask for help/ideas. If anyone has any suggestions or knows how I can achieve exactly what I’m seeking to accomplish I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks!
Here’s the solution I came up with
Using After Effects I created a simple mask around the Cyrillic title; detailed masks that followed the letters provided worse results. Using Content-Aware Fill I successfully removed the title. I tried a ton of different combinations of settings and differing amounts of segments to C-AF; I settled on two: one for the first few darkest frames where the title was barely visible, and one section for the remainder of the clip. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best I got. The brightness of the first several frames of the second segment were inconsistent with the area outside of the mask; you could even see a clearly defined outline of the mask until both sections were equally bright.
I made adjustments to the brightness of the masked area where the title was, but the results were only marginally better. I exported the clip and brought it into FCPX. I wanted to find a way to cover those “bad” frames (where the masked area stood out). I tried different effects, transitions, and opacity adjustments but nothing was working. I settled on layering a black generator above the “bad” frames and doing a sort of reverse fade with the opacity level, revealing the image about 1s later than it normally does.
Satisfied with the results I dropped a simple title over the plate. After loading Papyrus I typed in the title name with quotation marks and using the 1080i title as a reference I matched the size, positioning, etc. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why the quotation marks on mine were straight while the official episode has curled QMs. I figured they used a second font and decided mine was just going to have to look different. About to call it I thought about checking the character map, so using PopChar (Mac) I scrolled through the characters and sure enough I found the quotation marks I needed. Then I made a series of keyframes to adjust the opacity so the title faded in as well.
After exporting and watching it over and over and over and over I was more than satisfied. The title being where the masked area was covers up the imperfections to the point you don’t even notice them. Now it really will be drag-and-drop for the intro sections of the episodes!
I hope this post helps someone else in the future. Thanks!