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Avengers on the Radio designed, maintained and Copyright © by Alan and Alys Hayes.

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RESTORATION REPORT #9:
A Grave Charge

February to May 2003

In something of a departure from the norm, this serial was chosen for restoration by visitors to Avengers on the Radio by means of an online vote in January 2003.

The results were as follows:

Rank

Title

Score

1st 

A Grave Charge

36

2nd 

All Done by Mirrors

35

3rd 

Too Many Olés

31

4th 

A Case of Interrogation

30

5th 

The Quick-Quick-Slow Death

23

6th 

Stop Me If You've Heard This

17

7th 

A Deadly Gift

12

=8th 

The Fantasy Game

11

=8th 

The Super Secret Cypher Snatch

11

10th 

Get-A-Way!

6

=11th 

Love All

5

=11th 

Train of Events

5

Restoration work on A Grave Charge commenced on Sunday 8th February 2003. A cursory examination of the CD back-ups of John Wright's tapes prior to transfer to computer left us a little daunted. This must be the first serial that we have approached to date where every episode of the six has different audio characteristics! All episodes were found to include an unusually high level of hiss, but beyond that, each episode had varying equalisation problems. The recordings of Episodes One, Three and Five are the best, being quite clear. Episodes Two and Four are very muffled. Episode The final episode is of a similar quality to Episode Five, but very boomy. With these problems in mind, it was decided to equalise the sound as much as possible with an analogue graphic equaliser whilst transferring the episodes. The bulk of the hiss has been dealt with in this way, and episodes that needed 'brightening' have been processed in this way. The end result is that the episodes now demonstrate similar characteristics, though, as usual, noise samples will be taken from and applied to each episode individually, as due to the varying nature of the analogue processing, hiss levels vary on the cleaned-up episodes.

Still with us? We hope so!

A more in-depth listen has highlighted major problems in Episode Two, all related to what appears to be a mis-tuned radio or a broadcast fault. There are occasional instances of loss of signal - these we hope we can improve, although clearly we are unable to completely remedy them. Sadly, there is a total breakdown for about thirty seconds within the episode. Half of this is static with nothing from the episode audible. It then restores itself but at a very low level, quite indistinct. After this, the normal signal cuts back in suddenly.

Noise reduction was performed directly following the transferring to computer, using SoundForge. Unfortunately, noise levels were still excessive, and we simply have done the best job we can. We've had to leave some of the noise, as taking more out than we did caused the programme material to become affected with unpleasant digital processing artifacts.

After the noise reduction session, this restoration was put in abeyance for two weeks while we attempted to deal with a domestic crisis - right in the middle of freezing cold weather, our heating system packed in. We've been getting quotes for repair, then replacement when it became clear that the system was not fixable. All the running around, panicking and general trying to keep warm meant that, unfortunately, the restoration of Avengers radio serials was relegated down the pecking order somewhat.

On 27th February, we took another listen to Episode Two and decided that we should try another tack. We applied graphic equalisation and minimal noise reduction to a new transfer from the master disc, and have left the full transmission breakdown in. The episode sounds a little better than before (although the breakdown section is not fixable, like a certain heating system!), and we will shortly, real-life crises permitting, be undertaking work on declicking all six episodes.

Episode One was successfully declicked on Sunday 9th March in Cool Edit and we made the decision to apply a little more noise reduction to this episode, as hiss levels were rather intrusive. This was, as usual, carried out in Sound Forge, where we dropped the hiss by 10dB.

----------------------------------------------

After a long-winded attack of real life, we've been able to re-commence work, with Episode Two being declicked on Monday 12th May. The episode proved to be every bit as difficult to restore as we expected. We have been able to deal with some of the sybillance using the declicking tool, although there is still plenty which proved impossible to fix. In the end, we gave the episode as much noise reduction and graphic equalisation as we dared, and the end result, while undoubtedly the worst sounding episode we've worked on yet, is happily a considerable improvement on the source tape.

Episode Three was successfully declicked on Thursday 15th May, following a further pass of graphic equalisation. Episode Four, as noted above, was rather muffled and brightening the sound quality meant loads of hiss... This is one instance where we've had to compromise the signal somewhat to deal with the hiss, which was incredibly intrusive. As a result, the episode sounds a little artificial, features unwanted artifacts, but at least you can hear the voices over the hiss - which, at times, you couldn't before! It's not ideal, but it's the best of a bad job, to be blunt. This episode was declicked, along with Episode Five, on Friday 16th May. Five down, one to go.

The final episode received some preparation work on Saturday morning, with light graphic equalisation and noise reduction performed. The episode is clear but has a high number of clicks. These were tackled on Sunday 18th May, bringing to close the work on the serial.

Sincere apologies for the huge delay in completing the restoration work on this serial, but if you've been keeping up with progress (or lack of it) here, then you'll appreciate that the last few months have been something of a rocky road. We're mostly sorted on the home front now, so things should improve around here quickly, with the Restoration Project back up to speed before long.

by Alan and Alys Hayes