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RESTORATION REPORT #4:
The Joker

July / August 2002

Another previously existing serial is next up, and marks possibly Diane Appleby's finest hour (and a quarter!) in The Avengers - The Joker. This is the serial which, for the bulk of the air time, Diane had to carry very much on her own, as the plot revolves around Emma Peel, with Steed very much in the background.

The good news is that the majority of the serial is in fine shape. Episodes 1-5 are superb and will need only basic noise reduction and declicking. Episode 6 is unfortunately recorded at a lower level on John Wright's original tape, and hence, the background tape noise is higher in the mix. Basic quality of this episode is fine, however - no struggling to hear what's going on, fortunately!

The episodes were transferred to computer in CD quality (44.1KHz sampling rate, 16 bit resolution) on 30th July 2002, and noise reduction work was performed on the same evening, using Sound Forge. Background noise has been reduced by between 13 and 17dB, dependent upon noise levels on each episode, which did tend to vary somewhat. Episode 6 required the most severe noise reduction, though it was decided to leave some noise behind, rather than compromise the overall sound. Excessive noise reduction can often make the signal sound rather artificial, and it was deemed preferable to leave a little background hum and hiss to avoid this effect. Regardless, the background noise on this, and the other episodes has been significantly reduced.

Moving on to the declicking, Episode One was reasonably straightforward, if (as usual) a time consuming exercise. Episode Two has proved a more challenging proposition - if only due to a very strange background effect. At 3:50 into the episode, there is a high-level sound that appears to be a tape rewinding (with the sound passing over the heads). This actually obliterates a couple of lines from Oola Monsey Chamberlain - which can just about be heard beneath the racket! We decided that most of this error was irreparable, and have left it mostly as it is on the master. Any attempt to process it would almost definitely have a major adverse effect on quality of the part of the sound we want to keep. We were, however, able to save one of Oola's lines ("This way..."), patching it from Episode 1. Sadly, she doesn't say the other line in Episode 1!

After a week's holiday on the Isle of Wight (highly recommended for audio restorers needing a decent break!), work resumed on Monday 12th August 2002 with the declicking of Episode Three, which proved laborious, if no great challenge. We did notice that there appears to be co-channel interference on this episode, faintly in the background. Where possible, we replaced this in quiet sections with clean ambience taken from an unaffected portion of the episode. Obviously, it was not possible to totally eliminate this interference. It is however, only noticeable if you're listening for every click and pop - as we are!

Episode Five presented us with an interesting consideration to muse on... Whereas usually, we remove all clicks and pops from the recordings (or at least as many as we can spot and fix!), this episode contains several instances of music being played off a 78rpm vinyl record as part of the storyline. Among the sound effects played in for these sequences were distinct cyclic clicks and pops, to intimate that the records are old and have become very scratched over time. These have been preserved, as clearly they were intentionally part of the programme. Only clicks that we were certain were caused by the actors' voices were removed.

Work on the serial was completed in the very early hours of Thursday 22nd August 2002.

by Alan and Alys Hayes