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Thread: Suggestions wanted on how to degrade video quality

  1. #1

    Default Suggestions wanted on how to degrade video quality

    I am considering options for adding computer generated graphics to video footage taken with a camera. However, the cam I shall use is of low quality; and the CGI is extremely high quality.
    For example, my cam has a poor lens and optical sensors. The results are fuzzy, poor in contrast and colour. I want to reduce the quality of the CGI image so that it fits (via masks and rotoscoping and camera movement matching) seamlessly.

    I generally use the effects in Premiere to fiddle with video, but I can also use a PC with 'After Effects'.
    Does anyone have any suggestions over what 'effects' I should consider using to match my two input sources, or any tips?

  2. #2


    I'm tempted to say just load the CGI on YouTube they usually do a good job of mucking up video quality.
    Have you tried rendering it out at a low bit rate with a highly compress codec then use that. If you want to do it by FX, I would take the sharpness off with a very slight blur then, if needed alter the saturation to match the footage you are using and finally use colour curves to adjust the contrast. There are other FXs you might try like a graining effect if you feel it's right.

    The other way to do it is spend thousands of pounds on a really good camera.

  3. #3


    Just to take what has already been mentioned a little further and in a tad more detail. The first matching consideration is obvously colour work.

    Then looking at quality I use the "match grain" effect in After Effects, but that's with good quality video footage. I don't know how it would go with poorer quality video, even if it's not great maybe it would work as a base.

    Again, as mentioned already, softening the image to match could be good, but ideally you'd be better to work with depth of field settings in the 3d camera to achieve this.

    The "optics compensation" effect can be useful too. Draw a grid on a piece of card and shoot it with the same camera (zoom through to get all focal lengths) and use it as a reference layer to match it on the CGI layer with the settings on the "optics compensation" effect for good results.

    This is something I thought of before but haven't had the chance to test it out. If you try it let me know if it works any good. Shoot a plain white and a plain black background (seperately) with the same camera your trying to match, try both of these bits of footage in a layer over the CGI layer with different blending modes and see if you can get a nice result.

    You'd probably need to stop the blend passing through the alpha on to the video layer below. There are of course different ways to do this, a "track matte" or a "pre-comp" being the first that come to mind. But it could maybe be used on the alpha to really add to the composite, who knows.

    I think it has good potential.


  4. #4


    I did some very heavy degrading of a video I did in October. A halloween invite to be exact. It was shot in HD 1880p at 24 frames a second. I used after effects to add in a lot of the elements and degrading. It was not too hard to do just use some noise blur etc. Here is a link to the video..... Also check Commercial Video Production Company Syracuse NY Final Edit Video

  5. #5


    Many thanks for the responses. In particular, David's suggestion AE's "match grain". I have now had a chance to examine the effect. With over 30 parameters available; I need to sit and read more before trying again. (I have find ignorant and aimlessly fiddling with AE values is not fun). It appears to be exactly what is needed, but I need to learn how to read more about the nature of visual noise.
    I shall hold back from David's other, elightening suggestions, until I fully understand 'match grain'.
    As MB and Flldjlc, Simply degrading an image can be relatively straightforward. But, not so easy when wanting to match clips. I believe AE samples the noise from one clip, and applies it to another clip. The 30+ parameters affect how it does it.

  6. #6


    I wanted to report back. I don't have full time access to an AE machine, but managed to spend a few hours examining 'match grain'. Sadly, the effect is complex and likes alot of CPU, so progress was slow.
    I tried DW's suggestion of matching against plain backgrounds. That works rather well and I became mildly convinced. But it is clear that my cam performs progressively worse when the scene has complex changes of colours/shades/brightness or when there is movement in the scene. My amateurish attempts have only confirmed the obvious. 'Match Grain' works best when the clips are similar and MB's suggestion of buying a decent camera would make things easier.
    Whilst that project has joined my pile of other useless ideas; I am now looking at ways to effect the cam's image to appear more like cgi-like; perhaps like a cartoon or a line drawing style. Whilst AE has an interesting looking 'cartoon' effect; Premiere Users may have some fun from the 'free' plugin at

  7. #7


    In respect to making poor quality video cartoon/drawing like, I tried exactly what you are trying, in the past. I found there was no other solution than manual rotoscoping to do this cleanly.

    I was getting decent results from combining "smoothing/smart blur type" effects in after effects with roto masks, but it was still very time consuming, the clip at the end of this video I done from high quality video, but it shows the best results I got combining video with animated masks on solid colour layers at different transparancy levels, and low transparency blending modes.

    Since then this appeared, I messed around with it a bit a while ago, and I've seen some interesting graphic style results from it. But as with all the automatic, auto/manual combined, methods I messed around with you will find the same problems. You always get better results from having good quality, well lit, clean video to start off with. The noise that is in your video translates to jittery movement when effects get applied.

    Creating a Cartoon from Video : Adobe Illustrator Tutorial

    I'd be interested t hear if you find anything interesting in your experiments. I also just rememebered there is a free cartoonise plugin available for virtualdub, I messed around with that in the past too.


  8. #8


    My thanks to David for those thoughts and the very helpful clip. Having tried a few cartoonising systems; I recognise that my poor quality footage does introduce too much noise. If I ever buy a proper camera; I am sure to return to this subject.

    However, I saw this advert on TV; which, in a way, demonstrates the problem. Why (other than the absurdity of it) does this pastry person not look real?
    Jus-Rol Pastry

  9. #9


    And who said advertising has the highest budgets, that doesn't look so great at all. The biggest issue is with the lighting, the CGI lighting doesn't match the video lighting very well. The other major problem is that the video has been shot with a narrow DOF and the CGI camera has been set up in full sharpness. They have completey disregarded every aspect of the video's characteristics.

    A clip from one of my favourite CGI character composites can be found here:

    once were farmers

    It's at about 25 seconds in, the characteristics of the video has been considered as much as the character, together they work really well.


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