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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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