Digital Destruction

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The Predator Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-Ray: Now with a waxier Ahnold.

Ah, digital restoration and remastering — a wonderful thing, really. It cleans up the picture quality, restores faded colors, gets the hisses and pops out of the soundtrack, oversaturates the colors, erases or thins out lines...

Wait, what?! Digital restoration tampering with the original footage? Blatant Lies, you say?

Well, yeah, no, it's actually pretty true. Digital restoration is an expensive, time-consuming process. It's expensive, takes a long time, requires careful attention and care...and did we mention it was expensive?

Digital destruction is often the result of people in general having the tendency to want to just get the stuff out as quickly as possible, all with a "digitally restored/digitally remastered" label stamped on it to maximize profits. That, or They Just Didn't Care. Or worse, they didn't even know what harm they were doing to begin with. Or in some cases, the availible tech is very difficult to get good results from (ask a Photoshop or video pro and they'll tell you things like noise reduction are hard to do without loss of detail).

Digital Destruction comes in several forms and can vary-from oversharpening to flat-out erasing lines of artwork in cartoons, removing whole sounds or dialogue, oversaturating the colors, Moire Patterns (fuzzy electrical patterns scattering around an image or drawing), upping the contrast, etc.

All the same, stuff like this happens a lot with restored older films and especially older cartoons...and on occasion, this even happens (or happened) to newer cartoons (as mentioned by Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy creator Danny Antonucci here).

Music is not exempt. With today's popular music lacking on dynamic range even outside of radio (stonewalling), remasterings of old classic pop music may be adjusted to be at equal volume to new pop music, losing the original dynamic range. The result sounds bland and has less information than the original. For more info, see the Loudness War.

Naturally, this is a great source of contempt for collectors, purists, and even the common customer alike (the ones that are savvy enough to be aware of it, anyways). It's the total opposite of a "great" restoration, in a nutshell.

The Trope Namer is this article from John Kricfalusi's blog, in which he feels the restorations of old cartoons are actually ruining them, rather than making them better. (The specific issues he complains about result from over-zealous application of certain adjustments, namely color saturation and sharpening.)

Also see They Just Didn't Care. Compare Remaster. For the video game equivalent of this trope, see Porting Disaster. In particularly bad instances of this, to preserve the way the footage originally looked you gotta Keep Circulating the Tapes. Also see Visual Compression.

Examples of Digital Destruction include:



  • A related phenomenon in the comic book industry was Theakstonization. To do reprints of pre-computer comics, you needed the original monochrome lineart so you can recolor using modern techniques. For many old comics, that art no longer exists — the only thing available is the actual comics. Therefore, you have to copy one of the comics and remove the color. Prior to the 1990s, the only economic way of doing this was to cut the pages out of an original comic, and bleach the color out, thus producing monochrome art. This process actually destroyed the originals, and could apparently reduce grown men to tears. In many cases, though, the cheap paper the books were printed on was crumbling away due to age, it was a rock and a hard place situation; destroy the physical book or risk the content being lost forever.
  • Another way of digitally destroying old comics is to scan them at an inadequate resolution - that way lines will become pixellated and jagged when printed. Ironically, the problem becomes worse the better paper you print on, as a hard, high quality paper soaks up the ink less than a pulpy one. Some of this occurred in the Finnish completed works of Carl Barks.
  • When a reprint of a comic is recolored using modern techniques, the opportunity for Digital Destruction is there. For example, the long-awaited Flex Mentallo hardcover collection is dramatically recolored, with saturation brought down across the board, and many objects recolored to be the same shade as their surroundings. Other objects are simply a different color (red vs. blue, for example) for no known reason.


  • The 2004 Star Wars DVDs, despite being billed as digitally restored, received terrible color correction, de-saturating the soft colors of the original films into darker, more realistic lighting, and much of the clarity and detail of the original prints is lost in the process. See a comparison here, which claims this was the result of Lucasfilm ordering the color correction of the films to be done in a breakneck pace of 30 days.
    • Darth Vader's lightsaber becoming pink is a particular standout for ridicule.
  • Citizen Kane got an accidental taste of this. In one scene, out the window there was supposed to be rain; the person in charge of the film's restoration thought it was excessive film grain, so it was digitally edited out of the restored print. Later, the Blu-Ray boasted a new restoration, which brought back such details as the aforementioned rain.
  • The original Bela Lugosi Dracula film has an odd one — at one point when Dracula throws Renfield from the stairs, in the original he's supposed to scream. On some VHS copies (or laserdisc?), the scream is either intact or removed, but on the recent DVD release the scream was once again cut out.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the mock-Scandinavian subtitle for the movie's title was missing in some DVD releases. (Thankfully, the rest of the subtitles during the opening were still there.)
  • A Hard Day's Night has gone through at least two of these:
    • The first was more Analog Destruction as it happened in 1982, back when film restoration was a new idea. The thing is, those restoring the film elected to convert the entire soundtrack to stereo on the theory that stereo is better than mono. (Modern fans of The Beatles strongly disagree, but the fandom was still redeveloping back then.) To cap it off, the restorers then threw out the original soundtrack, making a legit restoration impossible.
    • There have been two attempts to restore the film since then, in 1996 and 2001. The 2001 restoration by Miramax deliberately tried to improve on the theatrical release. While the use of a modern theatrical aspect is understandable (the film did briefly air in modern theaters), they could've made the original aspect available on the DVD. It used the controversial 5.1 speech/mono song soundtrack (by this time, stereo would've been the best quality possible due to the 1982 restoration). And while we can't be sure that 2001's picture is less faithful than 1996's (if we could, then we wouldn't need film restoration as much), it's clear that they're using different greyscale keys. The 1996 edition frequently has what looks like light reflecting off smoke in the air (which may or may not have been in the original); the 2001 edition removes that and deliberately goes for chiaroscuro.
  • As seen in the picture above, the second Blu-Ray release of the original Predator (from around the time Predators came out in theaters) relied so heavily on DNR, the movie boasts no grain, and Arnold Schwarzenegger looks more like a wax statue than a human soldier.
  • The first DVD release of This Is Spinal Tap was missing the captions identifying the band members and the fictitious old TV shows.
  • West Side Story suffered this a few times. The first DVDs released changed one of the color shifts in the overture from red to blue, to red to green to blue, and also lost the whistles that played after the Quintet. The latter change made the part where the screen changed from intense shades of red and black, to normal colors, in time with the whistling, look even stranger than it originally did. On the Special Edition DVD, the whistles returned, but the "Tonight" sequence plays with the audio out of sync. The 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray featured a restoration which corrected the syncing, but also has a flaw in which the screen briefly turns black during the red-to-blue color shift of the overture. The distributors of the Blu-Ray announced that they would fix this flaw in the near future, but their "fix" also leaves some people unsatisfied. The color change doesn't look as smooth as those that occurred during the rest of the overture. This video shows how smoothly the colors changed on one of the laserdiscs, while this showcases the transitions featured on the successive DVD and Blu-Ray versions.
  • The 2004 DVD release of Mary Poppins featured an "Enhanced Home Theater Mix" audio track, which tampered the audio quite a bit, with nearly all of the sound effects replaced, and a few bits of new music added where there originally wasn't any. (Obvious examples include the wind when Mary Poppins is sitting on a cloud, the "Poof!" noise when the character jump into the chalk drawing, the thunder and lightning before it starts raining on the chalk drawing, and the fireworks following the "Step in Time" number. Sadly, this version is also used whenever ABC Family airs the movie.
  • The 1996 restoration of Vertigo had new dubbed sound effects, along with the original music and dialogue. The clean sounds combined with the vintage audio mix made for an awkward listen. The 2012 re-release retained the original sound effects.
  • The 2008 Blu-ray release of Patton overused DVNR in its video, causing it to be blurry. The 2012 re-release didn't have that problem.
  • On the 2008 Collector's Edition DVD and the 2012 Blu-Ray, The Apartment had darkened and vertically compressed video, which were fixed in the 2017 restoration.

Live-Action TV

  • The "Remastered" versions of the first three seasons of Red Dwarf suffered from horrific picture quality, due to a combination of low-quality source material, widescreen cropping, and a nascent "filmizing" process being applied to footage that wasn't shot with filmization in mind. For good measure, the restoration artists also wildly oversaturated the colour levels.
  • The BBC DVD releases of the original Doctor Who have been criticised for this. Among the things that have been missed out during the restoration process on various stories are sound cues, music cues, certain special effect shots, and major hiccups with colour regrading. The team that does the restoration, when asked about these various mistakes, commented that because of the grueling release schedule set for them by the BBC they simply don't have the time to make sure everything is 100% okay, and so the mistakes simply have to be accepted by the buying public.
  • Generally, any show featuring music most likely taken from an old 78 RPM record (such as anything from the History Channel about the 1920s) might have gone overboard with the noise reduction on the music. If an 80-year-old performance sounds like it was recorded in the past 30 years, chances are half the band has been erased from the recording.
  • Classic WWII documentary series The World at War was reissued on DVD and Blu-Ray in an "Ultimate Restored Edition". On the plus side, most of the archival war footage is remastered from the surviving 35mm or 16mm originals, descratched, stabilised and re-graded. What kills it for some viewers is that the image is cropped and scanned into widescreen.

Western Animation

  • Happy about your Looney Tunes Golden Collection sets and Walt Disney Treasures stuff, as well as Disney's restorations of their films? If you're a hardcore animation fan, you probably aren't. The short collections by both studios frequently abuse the infamous DVNR process (Digital Video Noise Reduction, for the unenlightened) which either thins out or erases lines of artwork, and oversaturates the colors to the point where they lose their original contrast and/or start bleeding into each other. And while Disney's films don't use the DVNR process, they do have many noticeable problems — Bambi in particular has had the dark pumped up considerably, which destroys much of the original color contrasts, and if one looks carefully enough you can actually see strobing in the animation of the "restored" version.
    • The Looney Tunes sets have a lot of issues with line thinning, and the colors are way too saturated. The few shorts that seemed to remotely escape this are "Transylvania 6-5000" and "What's Opera, Doc?" (and the latter still suffers from line thinning and horribly compressed sound). Vol. 1 and 2 in particular suffer from digital compression issues, particularly during a crowd shot in One Froggy Evening. Vol. 2 also used digital interlacing for a handful of shorts on disc 4, resulting in very flickery picture. Fortunately, a replacement program was issued for that particular disc.
    • The first two of the single-disc "Looney Tunes Super Stars" DVDs include cropped widescreen versions of shorts originally animated in the squarish aspect ratio of 1.37:1. However, Warner Bros. got word of this and promised that the Super Stars releases would now contain an option to switch between full-screen and widescreen.
  • The Yellow Submarine "director's cut" restoration by Miramax, like many modern Disney-related restorations, tries to lighten, brighten, or saturate colors; after all, if you're trying to clean up a color cartoon, you don't want dingy colors, do you? This would be a minor problem, except that it was done everywhere — including scenes in Meanie-occupied Pepperland. Yes, "faded color = grey" is starting to become a film convention; but it wasn't one back then, and even the hints of medium pastel are somewhat distracting to anyone who doesn't yet accept the convention.
  • Curiously, in the 2009 DVD release of Disney's Pinocchio, Jiminy's line "Look out, Pinoc!" from the end of the "Give a Little Whistle" song has been edited out—apparently this was the result of a sound mixing error, as the line can still be heard in the films mono soundtrack, but not the remastered stereo soundtrack. Not an atrocity by any means, but anyone who was seen earlier prints of the film will take notice of this. Fortunately, as of April 2011, Disney started allowing owners of the Blu-Ray to exchange their discs for copies with the line restored.
  • When The Lion King was rereleased for IMAX theaters, several scenes were altered and/or reanimated for unknown reasons. The later DVD releases promised to include a remastered version, which would include the reanimated scenes from the IMAX release and add a new song imported from the stage adaptation, and the original 1994 version... except the "original version" is identical to the remastered cut, though with "Morning Report" removed. Not really that big of a deal, but naturally, it drove the purists insane.
    • For the Blu-Ray, not only did they retain the reanimated scenes, but in the scene where Simba begs his father's ghost not to leave him, the giant cloud formation caused by Mufasa's leaving has disappeared. Records claim this flaw also existed in the IMAX version, but Disney corrected it for the original DVD.
    • The cloud was absent from the 2011 theatrical rerelease.
  • The Woody Woodpecker collections (the two official sets, anyways) got a very nasty case of DVNR treatment — the ones that get hit the worst are the shorts directed by Dick Lundy (i.e., "the best shorts"). Curiously, the earlier, sloppier shorts were considerably less ravaged. The unofficial Columbia House mail-order DVD sets use the unaltered prints, however.
  • The 70th anniversary DVD and Blu-Ray release of Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels was "restored" by cropping the footage into widescreen and using a deplorable, blurry, DVNRed transfer! The 60th-Anniversary Winstar DVD release uses a far better transfer, but that version suffers from digital interlacing which causes a lot of frame ghosting.
  • The "Bugville" DVD release of Mr. Bug Goes to Town is an inexcusably lazy rush job, marred by atrocious digital compression that makes it painful to even look at—you would think you were watching a bootleg of it, and it's supposed to be a official release!
  • A stunning aversion of this trope would be the first official Popeye the Sailor DVD set, almost completely averting this Trope. Yes, almost — if one looks very carefully in certain bits of the shorts, there is some very mild line thinning and/or erasing that you would usually need to purposely look for in order to spot. And as John K. pointed out in his blog, the color specials have had some bizarre altering — "Popeye Meets Sindbad" has had the pink turned up considerably, and while "Popeye Meets Ali Baba" is very close to actual 1930s colors the purple bits in the cave have been pulled up.
  • One particularly notorious example of Digital Destruction would be the infamous Betty Boop: The Definitive Collection series of VHS tapes and Laserdiscs. One only needs sit through one to tell that They Just Didn't Care — in every single short there is blatantly obvious, horrendous line thinning and erasing. This is the Trope at its epitome, and enough to make a grown man cry...especially when you consider this is the only official releases of all of the Betty Boop shorts!
  • Another infamous case of DVNR would be the Eastern-only DVD release of "The Complete Tex Avery" — almost all of the shorts have been ravaged with horrible line thinning and erasing, almost making one wonder if the price of this import-only set is worth it, especially when it costs more than just getting a laserdisc player and a laserdisc copy of the released-in-America, un-DVNRed "Compleat Tex Avery" set.
    • On a side note, the Tex Avery's Droopy DVD has some DVNR damage in four shorts, and it's only truly noticeable in two of them...although the collection shuns this Trope for the most part with the other shorts.
  • The MGM Oneshot Cartoon "Tom Turkey" has blatant DVNR damage at several points in the film.
  • In the original Disney film of Cinderella, she had orange hair and a silver dress. The Platinum DVD versions, however, have blatantly altered the colors to look a little closer to the Disney Princess merchandise (blonde hair and blue dress).
  • Even John K. apparently couldn't avoid DVNR completely with the DVD release of Ren and Stimpy, as there's some noticeable line thinning and art erasing in bits of the episodes. This may have been why John K. got on this soapbox in the first place.
  • The DVD release of An American Tail was horribly tampered with, as is discussed here. Background music and sound effects were changed or added, new voice-overs were inserted, and the orphans who bully Fievel near the end had their voices re-dubbed for unknown reasons.
  • The Blu-Ray release of Thunderbirds cropped the episodes into widescreen. This only serves to exaggerate picture shake and grain, which are very noticeable in the VFX shots.
  • Warner's DVD of the Superman Theatrical Cartoons claims to include transfers from the original masters, yet still includes some changes. These include plastered end logos for several shorts, missing sound effects from two cartoons' opening credits, and an audible jump during the prologue of the first short.
  • In the Blu-Ray release of Fantasia, many colors look drastically different from the original DVD, often using Orange-Blue Contrast. Compare the DVD version of "Night On Bald Mountain" with the Blu-Ray version and you'll see that, among other things, Chernabog has been changed from black all over to purplish-blue and faint orange, and everything that was originally dark and ominous is now excessively bright. Which version looks less like the 1940 movie has yet to be confirmed.
  • The Blu-Ray of Beauty and the Beast has an unusual glitch altering the ending of the "There's Something There" number. Originally, it ended with the objects watching Belle and the Beast read by the fireplace. Since the extended version follows this song with a scene of the objects cleaning the castle, it now closed with the objects in the hallway, closing the doors to give Belle and the Beast some alone time. Selecting the "Original Theatrical Version" on the Blu-Ray changes the ending of the song to the objects about to close the doors, but abruptly cuts to a different scene before they shut. Frustratingly, the corrected transition currently appears only on the 3-D Blu-Ray.
  • Rhino's original DVD releases of Jem suffered from an interesting case of this - they were taken from 35mm film sources, so they were sharp and detailed. Unfortunately, only the rough, uncorrected versions were on film, so the episodes on Rhino DVD have more animation errors than the TV broadcasts. They also redid the color timing, turning Pizzazz's neon green hair into an ugly "moldy mustard" green/yellow. The new release from Shout! Factory used the broadcast masters of the final episodes, so the color is more accurate and many animation errors are fixed, but because these were tape masters the video is less sharp.
  • Like Jem, Rhino's DVDs of The Transformers utilized film sources containing sharp picture, but also some animation errors. Some episodes even ran shorter than originally broadcast because of Rhino's dependence on the filmed versions. On top of that, the soundtracks received 5.1 "remixes" containing additional sound effects. Shout! Factory decided to rectify this by releasing DVDs containing footage from the broadcast tapes spliced into the filmed episodes, which also play synced with the original soundtracks. The picture quality of these versions fluctuates between looking sharp and looking soft.
  • The original DVDs of How the Grinch Stole Christmas starred a Grinch with an unexpected mustard-yellow skin tone. When the special later turned 40, a new restoration turned the Grinch's fur back to its natural green.
  • Universal's DVD of the 1972 Animated Adaptation of The Lorax gave the Lorax brown fur for half of the cartoon, as opposed to orange. Warner eventually rectified this by releasing a Blu-Ray where the Lorax's fur has a consistent shade of orange.