Instant HD 1.0

A few years ago, Magic Bullet was the most widely used film-look tool in the video filmmaker’s kit. It had loads of film stock simulation presets, the ability to repair digital artifacts and add analog ones, and a very good deinterlacer. I didn’t use it much, because I personally preferred Re:Vision’s Fieldskit for all my various field adjusting needs, and After Effects had enough image tools that I could make my own presets. However, a few days ago, Red Giant Software introduced a brand new tool that fills a relatively new void.

Instant HD is a plug-in for Adobe Premiere, After Effects, and Final Cut Pro that up-converts standard definition video to HD. Using specialized sharpening and antialiasing algorithms, Instant HD tries to fill in the missing data and smooth the edge details as it increases resolution. There’s a limit to how well this can work, but after a few minutes, I got some pretty good results with some DV footage shot on an XL2.

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What you see in that tiny thumbnail is part of a football helmet facemask. When the original image (left) is resized in AE (center), it is much softer than Instant HD’s result (right). You can see the original DV frame here (500k), and the full 1080 results here (2mb). For a more direct comparison’s sake, I didn’t mess with the aspect ratios.

Nevertheless, the end result is quite good. Since the software can only use a progressive image source, I deinterlaced the footage with Fieldskit, and then added the plugin and selected a 1920×1080 image from its many presets. It works best with high-contrast edges, like the player’s name and the facemask; the edges are sharpened but not blocky. The texture on the grass, socks, and skin is a little less convincing, but still low-noise and not obtrusively low-res. The next test was much harder.

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Again, check the original DV and resulting HD frames for exact output, again again it’s the hard edges that look best. The collar and jersey number are punched up pretty well, but the soft highlights on the face stay soft. It does an amazing job on the creases of the clothing and the shadows under the bleacher seats, but because there isn’t much detail to begin with, the face looks out of focus. Obviously, a shot with less overwhelming background detail would have produced a much better result.

Obviously this is no replacement for a real HD camera, but for emergency last-minute projects or adding SD footage to an HD edit, the $99 pricetag is incredibly reasonable. I’m sure we’ll see more such tools in the future, as HD broadcasts and media become more widespread. Quantel has a good upscaling algorithm, and Algolith has its own suite of noise-reduction, deinterlacing, upscaling tools, but I haven’t had a chance to use those. In any case, I’m very impressed with Red Giant’s latest effort.