One of the hardest things to overcome is getting rid of unwanted video noise in post. Dark haunting scenes are a staple of the horror genre. As an indie horror filmmaker working on a low budget I can tell you that more often than not I’ve faced the wrath of the digital noise god.
I had heard some good things about Neat Video’s Noise Reduction plug-in and wanted to put it to the test. I shot a night scene using all natural light and the illumination of a nearby street light. For added measure, we flooded the shot with fog. The resulting footage as predicted had noise in the dark areas and was more prominent as the fog swirled past the camera lens.
Neat Video works by analyzing a portion of a frame of video containing no detailed image or color gradation. This analysis is almost immediate as it creates a profile of the area you have selected. My introduction of fog to the scene was an attempt to make it harder for the plug-in to analyze the frame.
Building an accurate noise profile is perhaps the most important step to achieve accurate noise reduction with Neat Video. It takes experimenting but with just a little bit of effort it’s not that difficult. Once the profile has been previewed in Neat Video’s own preview window you simply click on apply, with the resultant highly reduced noise. This profile can then be saved to Neat Video’s own custom noise profile settings and applied to another clip shot under the same or similar lighting conditions.
I carefully selected a frame that seemed to be as free from swirls of fog as possible and went to work. I was very surprised by the outcome. Neat Video did a great job of reducing the video noise from the dark areas and “smoothing” out the noise produced in the swirling fog. The whole process took me no more than 15 minutes of trial and error to get a pleasing result on my clip. Rendering on my 10 second AVCHD clip took about 5 minutes. Neat Video is by far one of the best noise reduction plug-ins on the market.
For newbies to the plug-in, the quick start guide is probably all you’ll need. I found that the PDF Manual was a bit overwhelming.
Neat Video comes in two versions. The Home plug-in does not support high-bit depth rendering and the maximum frame size is 720 x 576 pixels. It’s priced at $49.90. For $99.90 you can pick up the Pro version which is what you will need if you are working in HD.