How good can the scans from the Universal be? Well, that depends on what you do with them. The Universal is a handy, modestly priced telecine unit that can provide sharp, quality reproductions of your home movies down to the grain of the film frame. While there are high end commercial scanners that cost much more, what most people don't know is these scanners employ a fair amount of digital image processing downstream of the capture to smooth out grain and increase sharpness. Because they enhance the captured frames in real time, the added processing power of these units makes them far more expensive. The Universal costs much less because it does not have this real time processing function. Does this matter? Again that depends on what look you are after. Without image processing, the scan can look just fine and many people prefer the nostalgic look of film grain. But if you want your Universal scans to look a bit more "polished" and perhaps appear a bit less archival, it is recommended to use a quality image processing program such as Neat Video to emulate the downstream processing of the more expensive scanners, right on your own PC. Programs like Neat Video not only sharpen the image and reduce grain, they can help increase the quality of severely underexposed footage by eliminating noise from dark areas in the picture. Other functions include automatic dirt and flicker removal. There are also other image processing apps available and they all work pretty much the same. Usually they come in the form of a plug-in for your PC's video editor such as Premier or other edit programs. The use of image processing is not required to get a good result on the Universal. Indeed, image processing is just a tool, like color or density correction, and the more you interface with the transfer, the better you can make it look. Used in conjunction with scans from the RetroScan Universal, you can get pro quality transfers for a fraction of the price of high end commercial units. Below are some samples captured with the affordable stock HD camera head that show the original captured frame and the same frame processed in Neat Video. We should have some 2K samples up in a few weeks.
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16mm - This first set of the girl saddling the horse was severely underexposed.
Note how image processing cleaned up the image.
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