Can AI Topaz Labs SD to HD up-scaler significantly improve old video and film footage?

Well, both yes and no.

The old adage used to be, ‘shit in, shit out’. And that’s still true. Kinda.

I have been experimenting with a tool from Topaz Labs called Video Enhance AI. It takes in old footage, typically say Standard Definition video, and then up-scales it to HD, 2k, 4k, whatever you like. It can also double frame rates from say 25fps to 50fps as well as de-interlace rather well. None of this is new, but where Topaz is different to other tools, is they claim to leverage AI to kind of create the missing data when it’s up-scaled.

As I had a few videos on my blog from many years ago, I thought I would pass them through to see what comes out the other end. So far I have done a Behind the Scenes from a Calendar Girls Shoot and one from the Rhode Island Film Festival journey with Gone Fishing.

In some ways the results are impressive. In others, some may struggle to see much difference if any.

Above is the export from Topaz of a Behind The Scenes I made for a music video I made in 2008. It was shot in MiniDV PAL (shot fake progressive as the files are in fact interlaced). The video above is the one that Topaz exported (note, I am using settings that I settled on after lots of tests, there may be better settings to choose).

Below is a side by side comparison of the two – the original SD on the left and the new HD on the right.

It’s frustratingly hard to see the difference above, but trust me, it’s there. It’s also worth remembering this is a compressed MP4 (now in HD) and Vimeo will have added its own recompression in order than I can host it here.

The Interface for Topaz is pretty simple, input on the left, out put on the right. And there’s a load of different presets you can play with on the left. I have mainly used a preset that de-interlaces, up-scales to 1080p and renders out at 50fps.

I was also working directly from the original Avid project, so the video files were technically the same as the DV tape files, so the input material was as good as it could possibly be.

What I have learned…

  1. Topaz release regular updates and they are big updates, not just tweaks. I get free updates for one year on my licence (I also waited till they had a sale and got it for way less than $199)
  2. It’s SLOW… Of course it is, it’s doing a LOT of work, but I don’t mind leaving it to run overnight.
  3. Lots of testing with the preview will help you choose the preset and tweak individual elements for best results.
  4. The workflow out of Avid and into Topaz took some time to get right, but now I know it, it’s super easy.
  5. For large projects you would be wise to do several passes with different settings. Some shots and sequences work better with other presets. You may need to rebuild the whole project sequence by sequence.
  6. Weird artefacts can sometimes show up forcing a re-render, hence point 5.

Things to consider…

  1. Is it worth doing now? AI may get WAY better. Topaz itself is likely to get WAY better too.
  2. Is it really any more than a smart sharpener? Maybe not. But maybe yes. Either way it’s an improvement to my eye.
  3. A fast GPU will make a HUGE difference. If you are editing already on a good computer, what is inside is likely enough to get you going.

You can get it (and also download a free trial) HERE.

At some point I plan to take a look at my early feature films too. I only have SD versions of these so it could really bring them to life. As a first test I just did the trailer for Urban Ghost Story, shot on Super16mm and transfered in 16:9 on Digibeta, back in the day. You can see it below..

Let me know what you think.

Chris Jones
Filmmaker, Author and Firewalk Instructor
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2 Responses to Can AI Topaz Labs SD to HD up-scaler significantly improve old video and film footage?

  1. JakeHar September 17, 2022 at 10:37 pm #

    Cant wait to see all of my favorite music clips in hd

  2. Alex December 13, 2022 at 2:31 pm #

    Hi Chris, this was a great blog article and interesting points and feedback on using Topaz. You might want to consider trying Filmworkz’s Loki for your upscales and standards conversions – it can do everything Topaz can and more, with faster and often better results!

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