Photo Retouching – Rotoscoping

Retouched Negative Scan

Retouched – Click to Expand

Original Medium Format Negative Scan

Original – Click to Expand

I’ve been working with Photoshop since version 1.0… Yikes! In video and post-production work, I’m often asked “Can you just remove that little bad part? Clean it up and make it look better?” Uhm, well, yes… I can.. but, that’s a lot of work – are you sure? The results can be great, but it’s costly. Painting frame by frame, to multiple, consecutive frames is called rotoscoping. Although it’s quite possible, and I’ve done it, there are much more efficient tools for doing this to video than Photoshop. After Effects has a fantastic vector based roto and paint tool which I often use. I was recently asked to do this to video with about half a day to turn around several shots. Blazing fast to say the least. Touch-up work is quite time consuming even on a single frame, let alone when every frame is changing due to movement. The advantage you have on moving media is that a single frame is only seen for a fraction of a second according to the frame rate. But still, it’s tedious work. I found this photo of my Dad’s family that I cleaned up and retouched a while back as an example. There’s roughly about 5 hours devoted to this single frame. If you expand the view(click on each one) and look closely, there is a tremendous amount of dirt and scratch removal as well as overall tonality, contrast, sharpening, and grain removal and matching. A photo is only one frame that you see in perpetuity, so it needs to be exacting. I luckily had the original negative and started with a fresh, hi-res scan. Then I just pressed the “Make it look better” button in Photoshop, and voila! I kid, I kid. Having an understanding of photography, composition, fine arts, painting, contrast, grain structure, and plenty of experience with the tools is the only way to do this properly. There are certainly automated tools for video and film that can get you a long way with dirt and scratch removal on motion media. But they only get you so far. Imagine doing this to 24 or 30 frames per second on a 10 second shot! Exaaactly.

Original Medium Format Negative Scan

Original – Click to Expand

Retouched Scan

Retouched – Click to Expand

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