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Fight them on the ‘betas

Rob Speight on how Dubbs and Eyeframe restored a classic WWII doc for a DVD and Blu-ray release later in the year.

London-based digital media and post-production facility Dubbs and sister company Eyeframe have announced that, after a long tender process, they have been tasked by FreemantleMedia Enterprises to restore the acclaimed 26-episode documentary The World at War.

The series, originally broadcast in 1973, will be regraded and audio-visually restored for release as a DVD and Blu-ray box set towards the end of the year.

James Nardi, head of audio at Eyeframe, is tasked with the audio restoration and creating a 5.1 mix (pictured) from original masters: “I am having to work with the original mono mix that is on the film, which as you can imagine is noisy and crackly what with it being footage from World War II. In addition, I managed to source some old Digibetas, which were international masters that have an M&E (music and effects) mix on them. I have captured in the M&E of each episode and so now I have two sources to work with,” he explains.

The Digibetas, it turns out, were the masters used when the series was originally released onto DVD around 10 years ago. Even though the audio on these masters is better than the audio on the original reels, it has not all been plain sailing for Nardi: “On channels 1 and 2 there is a full mix that has been restored, I say that in a loose sense, but the technology around then has, in parts, made some of the audio very muffled. I am also finding that sometimes the music will just stop on the M&E mix and it drifts out of sync with the full mix from cut to cut. I am having to line up the two sources in Pro Tools and edit them whenever possible to ensure they stay in sync,” he continues.

From an audio restoration perspective Nardi favours Waves Restoration bundle to clean up the tracks: “It is very subtle noise reduction and it works wonders. It is very clean now. Then I add a little gentle compression just to bring some of the quieter sections up louder and give it a bit more overall punch. I will also add a little bit of EQ across the masters to compensate for the fact that it was recorded in the ’70s. It is all about doing things subtly to clean it and brighten it up,” he says.

Finally, Nardi is tasked with creating a 5.1 mix by cleverly using the M&E tracks: “I am using the M&E for the sub and the surrounds, and then using automation to create movement such as planes swooping overhead. I’m not adding anything to it, I am just using the M&E and it works really well with the planes and the tanks and the bombs.”

Nardi’s work is then laid back to HDCAM SR tape with the restored video, courtesy of the companies Snell & Wilcox Archangel HD real-time restoration system, enabling the 37-year-old series to move into the world of HD audio and video for the first time.