I’ve heard for years now that Neat video’s noise reduction plugins are hard to beat, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized this first hand. Typically, my finishing workflow is heavily focused on color grading and as such often denoise in my grading applications, and in some more extreme cases I have used After Effects’ denoising tool.
About a month ago I figured I would pick up the neat video plugin for FCP X as I had a lot of narrative and documentary themed projects upcoming (that I was producing in addition to posting), and wanted some more flexibility in camera when shooting as I typically will use fair amount of lighting to avoid bumping the ISO up too high.
Right out of the box, Neat video works exceptionally well. While you can apply it directly within your NLE, many of the necessary settings are only accessible once you step into a separate window that features the full control of the plugin. It works with two separate modes (one simple and one advanced) that allow you as the user to de-noise according to your needs and skill level.
On the simple end of things, all you need to do is select a noisy area of your footage (preferably without much detail, a wall for example would work well), and Neat video creates a profile for your camera/iso setting based on the noise that is visible. It then subtracts that pattern from your video and you are left with an amazingly clean final image. Still working in the simple (or standard) mode, you have control over the amount of noise reduction on luminance and chrominance separately, as well as having a slider for the amount of sharpening required. For the majority of basic de-noising work – you may not need any other settings. However, for more complex shots or specific issues (let’s say a camera has noise only in the red channel for example), you can have much more control by using the advanced mode which allows you to fine tune the nose reduction settings with many additional sliders related to the shadow, midtone and highlight grain.
Once you have found the settings that work for your shot and have applied them, within your NLE you still have control over how the de-noising is applied. For example, you can change the temporal radius to pull noise data from up to 5 frames before and after the current frame being sampled. That essentially means you will have a more accurate representation of the noise that needs to be removed. You can also control how much reduction takes place, but be careful not to over do it as the image can start to look synthetic very quickly.
For the purpose of this post, I stretched the contrast on a shot to expose some grain in the shadows/midtones. I then denoised it using neat video – but only using the automated presets. This image could have had an even cleaner result if more time was spent refining the process, but I wanted to demonstrate what can be achieved even with full automation. The top half of this image is untouched and the bottom has been de-noised. Please click on the image to view at full size.
All in all, I am extremely happy with this plugin. It does a better job than After Effects or any grading software that I currently use and it is relatively simple to use while still giving you a professional level of control. It means I can have more flexibility grading DSLR footage and shooting at higher ISO’s. It can also be used to soften overly sharp images. My only issue with using it is that it slows down your system immensely. It can an hour just to de-noise a few minutes of video, and as such I will usually drop the plugin on any necessary shots at the very end of my post pipeline and let it render overnight.
For more information visit www.neatvideo.com