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Tex Murphy The Pandora Directive 25th Anniversary remaster

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth


https://bigfinishgames.com/its-all-about-the-style/

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STYLE

We’ve learned it’s all about the style

One of the things we’ve determined is the most important for maintaining the feel of the original games is “style.” It’s one thing to use the tech to re-create “a” street, or any office, especially when the technology enables you to do many more things compared to what was possible back in the 90s. But to create “the” street and “the” office is a whole other story. We must avoid getting carried away with the possibilities or losing sight of the flair that made the original so great. We’ve learned that Tex’s original sophistication is the best way to approach recreating and remastering the game. This is why the original design team (and some of the franchises’ most dedicated newer blood) is heavily focused on the aesthetic and ambiance. We don’t want players to say, “this looks great,” we want them to say, “this is Tex Murphy!”

TexOffice_Changing.gif

From sunset to moonrise, and a black sun ascending…
The above example showcases some of the real-time lighting introduced into most of the scenes. Doug Vandegrift and Mat Van Rhoon have been working closely on re-creating the mood and style of the original games while also introducing new technology to enhance the overall aesthetic.

To see the above animation in 4K, you can watch it on the Big Finish Games YouTube channel here:

Landlords of the lore
So what does an old office in the run-down Ritz hotel in Old San Francisco look like, anyway? These are the questions our team is asking ourselves when re-creating the locations in The Pandora Directive. Sure, we can throw in a bunch of new assets and give everything a fresh coat of paint, but that’s not Nilo’s style now. So instead, the attention to detail we are taking when it comes to representing the actual state of Tex’s office is just one example of how every scratch, chipped wall, scuff, and stain contributes to an overall aesthetic paramount for maintaining immersion.


PD_Environment_12a.jpg

RTeX: On. Tex’s Office, utilizing real-time lighting and shadowing to set the mood.


PD_Environment_02a.jpg

This alien landscape reminds of the old Star Trek episode where they get that distress call, then Captain Kirk meets that beautiful woman, then he and Spock barely escape, then Kirk makes that funny joke right at the end.


PD_Environment_10a.jpg

Fine attention to detail really showcases the run-down nature of the Ritz Hotel.


PD_Environment_03b.jpg




PD_Environment_11b.jpg




PD_Environment_04a.jpg

More close-up details.


PD_Environment_05a.jpg

Welcome the the Ritz Hotel.


PD_Environment_06a.jpg

The wallpaper has seen better days.


PD_Environment_07a.jpg




PD_Environment_08a.jpg

The last time these windows were cleaned, NFTs were all the rage.



Masters of the remaster
Speaking of the original team, we’d like to announce a new member who has come on board to help with The Pandora Directive remaster/remake. Many Tex Murphy fans will undoubtedly remember the name, Mark Hulka. He was one of the critical players of Access Software, contributing his talents in art, graphics, design, compositing, and programming to the original Pandora Directive (as well as Under a Killing Moon and Overseer). He has agreed to join the Pandora Directive remaster team, joining Chris Jones, Aaron Conners, Doug Vandegrift, and Mat Van Rhoon. Talk about a Tex Murphy tour de force! The band is genuinely coming back together for this one.

MarkHulka.jpg

In addition to his development work, Mark was featured as a character in various places throughout the series, including: the UAKM boardroom, NSA agent in Pandora, and the gorilla in Overseer.


Mark_UAKM.jpg

Mark didn’t take much convincing.



The AI is still churning away
We are about two weeks into our second upscale pass on the original Pandora Directive Beta SP and MII tapes. As explained in our previous article, the first upscale pass took seven months to complete, and the second pass will use a different algorithm and model to make up for shortcomings in certain scenes and objects from the first pass. The result will ensure we have the best of both models to work with. The good news is that the second pass is on track not to take as long as the first and may be completed in as little as three months. Adrian Carr has already been cutting together the video sequences using the source tapes as a reference. So, by the time all upscales are completed, we should already have a good chunk of the video sequences ready to be replaced with their shiny 4K 60fps counterparts!

In the meantime, we would like to tip our fedoras to the amazing TexBox. This amazing machine has been burning on all cores (CPU and GPU) for almost eight months straight now!

PandoraRenderingPC.jpg

The i9 RTeX Box – now with 1,000x more ram than the original. Delta Airlines Airbus A320 for scale.


Fans have been our bread and butter
We want to depart from The Pandora Directive briefly to recognize the great Tex Murphy fanbase and supporters. Without folks like you, we would never have maintained the passion and dedication towards this franchise.

Gamers like Pam from CannotBeTamed are one such example of our fantastic fanbase. She recently shared with us images of a school assignment she did on Under a Killing Moon, which her mom dug up from long ago!

UAKM_Assignment1a.jpg

Pam aptly recognizes the Ritz as the “Run down, used to be classy hotel.”


UAKM_Assignment2a.jpg

In the year 2022 we’ve got some catching up to do!


UAKM_Assignment3.jpg

We tip our fedoras at the research that went into this assignment.
Pam has kept the spark alive, continuing her thorough analysis not only in the Tex Murphy universe, but for adventure games as a whole. Her fantastic insights and reviews can be watched over on her YouTube Channel.

What about you? Do you have a Tex murphy story to share from from your corner of the globe? We’d love to hear from you, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and let us know how Tex has made an impact on your life!
 
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Wizfall

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Oct 3, 2012
Messages
816
I was quite pessimistic about the remaster as i feared the "blurriness" of the game may be usefull to hide the imperfection of the set and a too clean look would show the imperfections.
I'm still not totally convinced but so far it looks very good.
Gotta say in term of atmosphere Tex Murphy games are simply the best
 

RobotSquirrel

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I'm still not totally convinced but so far it looks very good.
The composite samples of the FMVs look very promising, hopefully, they can correct the lighting, it's a first pass so yeah it looks a bit desaturated.
But it looks like they're going with fully 3d sets for this which I think is probably going to help with the quality but we're going to lose a lot of the 90s style the game had as a compromise.

Still it looks cool. Also mmm that frame rate.
 

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
https://bigfinishgames.com/image-processing-completed-now-begins-the-hard-part/

IMAGE PROCESSING COMPLETED, NOW BEGINS THE HARD PART…

Article by Mat Van Rhoon

Ten months straight and no days off for good behavior
Last week, The Pandora Device completed its ten-month-long render, converting the 480i tape sources into 4K 60fps output. Just in time for summer too, where I would otherwise lament having an active space-heater in my office during hot days. The process involved using two AI algorithms/models, yielding slightly different results with both advantages and drawbacks, enabling us to choose which model suits each scene or shot best.

The final data footprint of the output came just shy of 16 Terabytes! Unfortunately, we had to use a slightly (barely) lossy codec; otherwise, the data footprint would have been over 34 Terabytes of data.

Here are some screenshots of the upscaled outputs…

Upscale1.jpg
Upscale2.jpg
Upscale3.jpg
Upscale4.jpg


For now, we believe we are done with the AI/machine learning upscale process. However, if there are any drastic improvements or new algorithms/models in the near future, we may consider a 3rd pass. Still, we also understand that window is closing as we draw close to the next stage of development. Ideally, even with a 3rd pass, we hope it may be a simple source asset swap for our editing suite once it is finished processing (if we explore that route).

Early composite tests yield promising results
Eager to test the new renders, I immediately began experimenting with live composites, utilizing some of our already reconstructed (though still in progress) native 4K backgrounds. We are fortunate that the footage was shot so well, with great care and attention to the proper lighting of both subjects and the bluescreen studio backdrops. This made the compositing process during the test relatively smooth.

Fitz.jpg


From the above image, we can see how the upscaled footage provides some excellent and sharp results for the subjects and enables a clean key of the actors into their environments.
But there are still challenges ahead
While early tests showcase some amazing quality, a few caveats require further exploration—for example, high motion.

Interlaced formats were notorious for being terrible at handling high-motion because of an effect called “combing.” This is because interlaced sources worked with “fields” rather than full frames. Unfortunately, each field comprised only 50% of image data, rendering every second line of the image. The A-field would render all the odd lines, and the B-field would render all the even lines. This meant if an object was moving across the screen fast enough to be in a significantly different position between the two fields, it would create a “combing” effect on the image.

CombingExample.jpg


The interlaced method was used heavily (especially in tape media) to save on bandwidth for broadcast applications. Still, it was naturally inferior to recording in full frames (otherwise known as “progressive” frames”). Thankfully, deinterlacing has come a long way since those days, and most modern tools (especially those which handle AI/machine learning) have figured out ways to compensate for this.

There are two ways you can deinterlace a source signal:

  1. Combine the two fields (presented at 60Hz) into 30 full frames, where the A and B field)is combined. This may introduce blurring.
  2. Individually reconstruct the single fields, using AI to fill the alternate lines in the field using its algorithm, resulting in 60 full frames.
Regardless of which of the above methods is employed, both result in combing. However, its effects are significantly less prevalent when the motion is happening in front of an already populated image…

DeinterlaceGood.jpg


If we look at the image above, notice how despite Tex’s hand and the glass moving across the scene, causing combing on the source image, the deinterlaced output (using the reconstruction method) results in an almost immaculate image with virtually no combing. This is because behind the motion, there’s additional image data from which to extrapolate the reconstruction. So the algorithm is basically saying: “I see the motion is causing combing, but behind the hand, I see a man’s chin, neck, and some stubble, so I will fill in the gaps using what I see.”

The algorithms are so good because they have been trained on hundreds of thousands of images and videos from a wide variety of source materials. Most of which feature people, natural scenes, and fully-populated frames. What the algorithms aren’t commonly trained on is bluescreen/chroma key footage.

This results in the following…

FieldMotionTest.jpg


Notice how, unlike in the image of Tex with the glass, the algorithms struggle heavily with the edge of Fitzpatrick’s face. This is because they are not as savvy when the edges of subjects where there is no populated data behind where the motion is occurring, making reconstruction very difficult. This means the algorithm (regardless of the deinterlacing method) has no data to reconstruct the edges with, except for plain blue, and its library of data has few examples of this exact scenario to cross-reference.

So, how do we overcome this challenge?
The short answer is: that we are still investigating. Chromakey compositing has gotten very good lately, but it also has its disadvantages. While able to differentiate between the background and a single strand of hair, this also means that this subtle combing will be preserved in the output.

Combing_Composit.jpg


The preservation of the combing when compositing the footage is our biggest challenge. One method would be to “shrink” the matte, which reduces the number of pixels considered the “edge” of the subject. It’s like taking sandpaper and sanding down the rough edges of a sculpture until it is smooth. However, much like in this analogy, if you sand away too much, you end up with a homogenized result that cuts into the details and starts to look strange. However, it is still a possibility if you pick the right field.

As explained above, two full frames are reconstructed from a single frame containing two fields. Here is an example of that output…

DeinterlaceExample.jpg


Notice how the combing appears to smear outside of the subject’s primary edge in field-A, in contrast to field-B, where the combing encroaches on the subject’s primary edge?

Here are both fields again, this time highlighting the edge of the subject…

FieldCombing.jpg


Based on this, we can see that field-A is additive with the field reconstruction data, while field-B is subtractive. So, if we were to use the “shrink” method to “sand away” at the matte to reduce the combing, field-A would retain much more detail than field-B.

But here’s the tradeoff with that method…

In order to pick only the field that takes an additive approach to the combing issue, we would have to discard the second (B) field entirely, thus reducing our framerate from 60 back down to 30. Suffice it to say; we are still currently investigating the best way to overcome this issue without sacrificing our 60fps output.

We’re getting there!
The approach we are taking with this remaster/remake is patience, precision, and passion. We know and understand many of you might be seeing this progress and are eager to play the game, but we are still a small team (albeit, a very dedicated team). We believe The Pandora Directive is Tex’s greatest adventure, and in order to preserve its legacy and even bring it to new gamers, we want to make sure we approach everything the right way. Rest assured, we believe this is the best way to deliver a stellar product that gamers (old and new) will thoroughly enjoy!



Note: this upload is compressed and not running at the full 4K target, and is mainly a sample of indicative purposes only. But, from ~500×260 running 10fps in 256 colors to this? We’re pretty happy.

To follow the latest on the project, be sure to follow with Big Finish Games and Mat Van Rhoon on Twitter…
@BigFinishGames

@MatVanRhoon
 

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Moar processing:



https://bigfinishgames.com/third-times-the-charm/

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM?

Is anybody up for round three?
Well, it turns out, the technology is continuously improving, and so is our expertise. As you would recall from one of our previous articles, we had elected to perform two passes of AI/machine learning upscaling on the Pandora Directive tapes. While both models yielded excellent results, they were designed specifically for handling interlaced footage, with which our source tapes are presented.

However, interlacing is one of those horrible beasts, a relic of the bygone era of limited-bandwidth broadcasting and lackluster management of industry standards. And that’s not say anything about the multiple tape formats used on the Pandora Directive shoot, each with its own specific format parameters! Some of them needed to be re-spooled before we could even view/capture them!

Process1.jpg


However, for all it’s strengths, AI/machine learning must not be considered a one-size-fits-all solution because the source material can be highly diverse. Furthermore, even within the same format (for example, BETA SP), the image can vary from tape-to-tape and shot-to-shot, and high-motion is a particularly troublesome beast. While both AI models did a great job, they could not handle all of the higher motion content very well, resulting in combing issues.

So, after investigating the issue further (and with the help of a couple of community members who happily volunteered some of their own insight and experiences), we explored a whole new method of deinterlacing the source videos.

C:\Pandora\Tex4.exe -v -a \v \i TFF D:\SourceTapes\Tape001.ergh
Returning to the command prompt led us down the path of using AVISynth to perform much more advanced deinterlacing of the source footage. We began testing the output, seeing if we would solve our combing issues and preserve the 60 full frames we were getting when the deinterlacing process was integrated into the AI upscaling procedure.

After playing with a few models and techniques, we settled on one particular procedure that appeared to solve our issues entirely…

Process2.jpg


Model C has entered the chat
Now that we had a pipeline in place for effectively deinterlacing the footage and recovering 60 full frames per second from the 480i source, we were now able to explore a whole new range of AI/machine learning models otherwise unavailable to us when we were directly interpreting interlaced footage.

This allowed us to get down to the nitty-gritty, tweaking more settings and parameters, eventually providing us with an even more superior output than Models A and B. Welcome to Model C…

Process3-scaled.jpg

Source tape vs. the new Model C upscale output in 4K.


Process4-scaled.jpg

A test composite using Model C, presented in 4K.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat
I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is: yes, we do need to render the upscales again, for the third time. And yes, we needed to add even more hard drive space to The Pandora Device. We just added another 8TB of storage, so the machine now has 28 Terabytes of storage in total!

We can’t estimate (yet) how long it will take to A) run the more advanced deinterlacing process on all the tapes and B) render the deinterlaced tapes using Model C. But the good news is: there is nothing stopping us from taking Model A and Model B and using them to cut together the video and commence compositing while the machine is churning away. Adding Model C back into the mix (once it is done) should be a simple matter of switching out the proxies with the newly processed videos. We hope.

We’ve come a long way
From tiny letterboxed video on a 4:3 monitor, presented at 10 frames per second and in 256 colors, it’s still an absolute miracle we can even begin to explore presenting The Pandora Directive’s legendary full-motion video in up to 4K, completely remastered. On top of that, getting right down to the fine details and ensuring it looks like it was shot yesterday is some fantastic icing on the fedora!

We consider this project to be a benchmark of what is possible for old content remasters, which is why we are taking our time and are very focused on the task at hand. We’ve enjoyed sharing the process with you and look forward to continuing sharing the journey with you.

In the meantime, here’s another short clip showcasing the comparison between The Pandora Directive’s 1996 full-motion video and the remaster.

In this example, we wanted to really challenge the technology…

In the first shot with Fitzpatrick and Witt:

There were numerous challenges. Two subjects, each a varied distance from the camera (with Witt predominantly in focus and Fitzpatrick slightly soft). Also, Witt’s glasses, which are ordinarily very difficult to manage on chromakey due to color bleed, shifting, and refractions. Lastly, there’s the high motion of Witt’s arms as he speaks.

We were able to overcome all of these issues quite effectively. You may have also noticed we used an alternative angle for this example. One of the many benefits of going back to the source tapes is the ability to pick alternative angles and takes.

In the second shot with Tex:

We were dealing with more dramatic lighting cues, resulting in soft focus and potential color bleed on his hair.

This was also not a problem. As you can see, we were able to effectively key around his hair while also preserving the structure and details of individual strands. We also used the increased resolution to perform a slow zoom on the subject, which is another huge advantage, enabling us to utilize more advanced camera and editing techniques to enhance the atmosphere and style.
 

Darkozric

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https://bigfinishgames.com/well-just-let-the-images-speak-for-themselves/


There isn’t a huge amount to report regarding the progress of The Pandora Directive remaster other than that Model C is still processing the advanced deinterlacing and subsequent 4K 60Hz upscaling of the source tapes.
We believe this model will be the best and final processing pass, but rather than talk about it further, we will let the images speak for themselves…

Tex-Murphy-Remaster-Tiles.jpg



All of the above images are composite tests. This means the backgrounds are temporary and were chosen to test and demonstrate the composite process with the upscaled 4K videos. They were, however, selected to reflect the final environments as closely and accurately as possible, so what you see here is a very close representation of what the final video output should look like in the remaster.


We once again appreciate your patience throughout this time-consuming process. We firmly believe in doing this right and are willing to take our time to do so.
 

negator2vc

Scholar
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May 1, 2017
Messages
318
Location
Greece
Wow, just wow!
The real question is now whether they will only update the visuals & UI or they will also update the story
to fit the "modern audiences".
I really hope then DON'T "modernize" the story & characters.
 

RobotSquirrel

Arcane
Developer
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Messages
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I really hope then DON'T "modernize" the story & characters.
I don't even think you can modernize them. I mean look if they cut any of the Emily scenes we riot ok! I hope they update the song though god it's cringe, you could do amazing things with that scene alone. Really sex it up because its fairly phoned in.
 
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Jarpie

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Codex 2012 MCA
The footage looks surprisingly good given that it's been upscaled from a video source, but in motion it looks pretty fucking bad as it's been "upscaled" (presumably) from 30 fps to 60, that never looks good in motion, should've kept it at 30 fps.
 
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Jarpie

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Codex 2012 MCA
Look at the hand movement in this clip in the remastered 60 fps version:


Also the picture looks too smooth in motion, and it doesn't look natural, as the original footage was not shot in 60 fps, but as I said, most probably shot at 30 frames/sec.

Edit: Comment in the latest video on their channel "The game's FMV is being mastered in 60fps to more closely match the framerate of the remastered game environments which are being rebuilt in a modern game engine and will be optimized to run at 60+ fps. Internal testing found that switching between 60fps gameplay at 24fps full screen video was very jarring for most users. However, in appreciation for players who want to preserve a more "cinematic" framerate for the FMV sequences, we plan to provide them with an option to set alternative framerates for the FMV (30fps, maybe even 10fps for a real legacy feel)."

That sounds very cool.
 

LostHisMarbles

Learned
Joined
Apr 28, 2021
Messages
956
So many fond memories of this one.. really so many.
Not touching it though, learned that lesson, thank you very much. If golden in your remembrance, leave well alone or risk souring it :)

Tempted though ^^
 

Jack Of Owls

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When it comes to video games - the smoother the better. So, if they want to reincode (or whatever they call it) 30 FPS movies to 60 FPS go ahead. I can't tolerate that in watching old movies shot at 24 FPS but for fairly brief FMV segments? Go ahead. Is that video with actor Kevin McCarthy from TPD? Never played the original.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Codex Year of the Donut
Look at the hand movement in this clip in the remastered 60 fps version:


Also the picture looks too smooth in motion, and it doesn't look natural, as the original footage was not shot in 60 fps, but as I said, most probably shot at 30 frames/sec.

Edit: Comment in the latest video on their channel "The game's FMV is being mastered in 60fps to more closely match the framerate of the remastered game environments which are being rebuilt in a modern game engine and will be optimized to run at 60+ fps. Internal testing found that switching between 60fps gameplay at 24fps full screen video was very jarring for most users. However, in appreciation for players who want to preserve a more "cinematic" framerate for the FMV sequences, we plan to provide them with an option to set alternative framerates for the FMV (30fps, maybe even 10fps for a real legacy feel)."

That sounds very cool.

looks good, you've just ruined your brain watching too much 24 fps crap

seen the same thing anytime a movie is shot in a different FPS, I barely watch any movies at all so it looks great to me but makes people who consoom media nonstop throw up
 

Darkozric

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Messages
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Rusty, I thought they found you melted inside a barrel in Pandora, what are you doing here?
 

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