DVNR: When Cartoon Restoration Goes Bad

Bimbo's Initiation DVNRThere’s been a lot of griping and grousing recently on animation message boards (HERE, HERE and HERE) about DVNR. What’s that you say? DVNR stands for “digital video noise reduction” and it’s one of the many ways that studios ruin classic cartoons when they release them onto home video. The telecine technology was originally intended as an affordable way of digitally cleaning up dirt and grain when film is transferred to tape. It typically works fine for live-action films, but if used carelessly with animation (as it most often is), it ends up erasing and distorting parts of the image.

For a more detailed explanation of DVNR (also known as DNR) and how it compromises the integrity of the cartoon image, here’s a link to a piece I wrote back in 1999 while I was working at ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE. You’d think six years later, the studios would have learned something, but they’re as negligent as ever. Recent releases of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Woody Woodpecker, Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes have all been marred by DVNR technology. The irony is that many times when studios release a “digitally restored/remastered” version of a cartoon, it looks worse than in previous “unrestored” editions.

Here’s a terrific new piece at Lyris-Lite.net that specifically illustrates the DVNR artifacting in WB, Disney and MGM cartoon releases. Though the article shows examples of a DVNR’d Disney cartoon, they are incidentally the studio that has been best at preventing DVNR and deserve praise for their generally careful restoration of classic cartoons.

UPDATE: Thanks to Boing Boing for their post about DVNR.

Tom and Jerry DVNR