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Who Shot Poor George / XR40?

May / June 2002

Who Shot Poor George / XR40? presented many problems in its restoration. Some of them will manifest themselves in all subsequent remasters (click removal, noise reduction, for instance), others are fortunately less apparent on most of the other recovered recordings. Of the nineteen serials now existing complete, this one is arguably the most challenging to restore, for all episodes were in a pretty poor state on the tapes donated by John Wright. The recordings exhibited a high level of tape noise and, to make matters worse, were lacking in high frequency response (and of course, by tweaking the frequency response to brighten the recording, you simply add to the hiss!).

We dubbed the recording, untreated, to compact disc on Sunday 19th May, using John Day's Revox A77 reel-to-reel tape recorder to play back the tape. A Pioneer hifi-separate CDR deck was used to make the recording, which of course was analogue rather than digital and sampled at 44.1KHz in stereo. The recordings are of course monoaural, but, unlike Minidisk, compact discs are stereo (or in this case, 2-track mono) only. This recording was intended to be dubbed to our PC for processing.

We spent a frustrating day on Sunday 2nd June, attempting to renovate the recording on the computer, but found that the sheer amount of processing the recording required produced an unacceptable result - digital artifacts could clearly be heard on the processed sound. This 'burbly' effect is common on software audio restoration tools - and we don't have the money to afford a hardware processor - so we had to think of a different way to spruce up the recording that would keep the 'burbliness' to an absolute minimum. We elected to do a new dub from the master tapes, direct to our PC, giving them a huge analogue graphic equalisation. The results were considerably more impressive than our first attempts, and meant less digital processing would be necessary. The less processing needed, the less noticeable the burbly effect. The Cool Edit 96 program was used to import the episodes to the PC, capturing the audio at a sampling rate of 44.1KHz/s (CD quality) in 16 bit resolution.

All restoration work on Who Shot Poor George / XR40? was carried out in Cool Edit 96, a superb audio toolbox from Syntrillium Software. This involved noise reduction - whereby you select a section of what should be silence, and get the program to make a noise sample which is then applied (in controllable amounts) to the whole waveform - light graphic equalisation (to bring out the voices more clearly) and some very involved manual declicking. Most audio programs feature preset automatic declicking/depopping filters, though the results from them can be variable to say the least. None seem to work without affecting the overall sound quality, so for us, there was no real alternative to going through the waveform of each episode in minute detail, manually declicking all the way. The results are far more impressive than any of the auto filters, but each episode represents about an hour's work. Groan! After a while you start going blind... and deaf! And you carry on mentally declicking in your sleep too!

On the graphic equalisation side, there were a couple of highly problematic sections in the middle episodes where characters play back a tape recording of Steed and Pelley's conversation. This was extremely muffled (and it can be summised that even on broadcast it wasn't particularly clear) and needed close attention, and rather more excessive processing than we would have liked. Consequently, these sections are now more audible than they might have been, at the expense of 'audiophile' standards!

With the final step being amplification to bring all the episodes in at a regular sound level, these remasters were completed on Sunday 16th June 2002.

by Alan and Alys Hayes