Upscale progress, music remastering, and a new update from Adrian Carr

A new update on the progress of upscaling the source video tapes, the music remastering, and news from Adrian Carr.

The machines are learning.

Our AI machine spent the last five weeks burning non-stop through the 43 “A” tapes from the production. Throughout the process, the more content that was analyzed, the more it began recognize our beloved PI and his companions, continuously tweaking and refining the image output. So far the results have been stellar. As the last tape made its way through processing, our machine was able to breathe a brief sigh of relief before being put back to work on the “B” tapes. It’s likely the machine will be burning through these conversions for another three weeks.

Here are some examples of the fantastic work our AI friend has been doing upscaling the content from interlaced SD to full 4K 60fps…

Comparison image of Tex Murphy, showing before and after AI upscaling.
The clarity, the color, the smoothness, just delightful. But enough about the bourbon…
Comparison image of Tex Murphy, showing before and after AI upscaling.
From navigating pixels to navigating a real jungle.
Comparison image of Gordon Fitzpatrick, showing before and after AI upscaling.
Over time, the system begins to learn Kevin McCarthy’s features for excellent reproduction.
Comparison image of Tanya Roberts after AI upscaling.
She was already beautiful, to be honest. But in 4K, wow!

Let’s talk about the music

Ask anybody who has played The Pandora Directive, or ask any Tex Murphy fan, and they’ll tell you one of the most quintessential components of the Tex Murphy experience is the music. The Tex Murphy series used a combination of orchestral/pre-composed soundtrack (for the full motion video sequences since Under a Killing Moon) and MIDI for the environmental music. Back when The Pandora Directive was released, most games utilized MIDI due to it’s much smaller data footprint. Remember, this was before MP3 and other efficient compression formats were released or widespread. So, to save on space, many game soundtracks were presented with MIDI, which was a series of digital commands designed to “perform” the music on the user’s soundcard. Unfortunately, the quality of MIDI music was entirely dependent on the sound card and instrument set (commonly known as sound fonts) on the player’s machine. This resulted in inconsistent delivery of the in-game music soundtrack. Sometimes it could sound great (if you were lucky enough to have a Roland Sound Canvas, or an MT-32), or terrible if you used a more basic AdLib compatible or entry-level Sound Blaster.

Thankfully, we no longer have this limitation! We have been dedicating some time to loading up the original studio MIDI files and remastering them using modern sample libraries with a little bit of live embellishment. The end result is far more dynamic environmental music. We were even lucky enough to find some orchestrated versions of the original MIDI music in our archives and are working hard to provide players with a soundtrack experience that presents the music at the highest fidelity, while maintaining the musical soul of the Tex Murphy universe.

Here is an example of the remastered environmental music from The Pandora Directive…

 

The fully-orchestrated music is also receiving a remastering treatment. Going back to Matt Heider’s original studio sessions and recordings, we are remastering all the cinematic music. Throughout the composition of the soundtrack, various considerations needed to be made regarding the final output to ensure the music could be presented within the limitations of the technology at the time. This meant a significantly reduced dynamic range and stifled stereo image (to prepare the tracks for their mono presentation). Thankfully, the original sessions did not adhere to these limitations. We have taken the various versions and stems of each track, and through the mastering process we have mixed and melded together the definitive Pandora Directive soundtrack.

Here is one such example of a remastered orchestrated track (and my personal favorite)…

 

With all that juicy news out of the way, let’s hand over to Adrian Carr to talk more about his upcoming involvement in the project…

A word from Adrian Carr

G’day!

Once we reach the editing stage, Chris has given me permission to dig back into the original footage with the goal of re-editing scenes to make them sharper, more dramatic, more emotional and have greater impact, something I could not do at the time due to our launch deadline. I’m excited to for the opportunity to make this Anniversary release… The Director’s Cut. 

I’ve been following the video upgrade process and I gotta tell you, the quality is outstanding and the composite tests I’ve seen are superior to what we could have achieved back in the mid 90s. 

Mat Van Rhoon understands camera lenses and their individual qualities and he has been experimenting with corrected perspective and refinement of the photographic depth of field in the test shots.  Based on these results, together, we hope to meticulously match edit every FMV shot in the game, correct angle perspectives and add the correct focal depth of field.

Recently, we reframed a couple of the close-up samples to what they were originally intended, along with the correct perspective and depth of focus, and we achieved what will be a fuller cinematic experience for the player.

The extraordinary clarity on actors’ faces increases the emotional impact their performances will have on players, you might wanna have some tissues handy for certain scenes. 

With Mat, Doug Vandegrift and Brian Johnson back on the case to freshen up the sets and environments it will be like buffing Pandora Directive to a deep, dazzling shine. 

One aspect I cannot wait to experience though, is the SOUND enhancements. To hear Matt Heider’s score as it was originally recorded in all its high-fidelity magnificence and not the compressed version, which was a necessary evil at the time we made Pandora Directive. 

I also asked Mat (Van Rhoon) about the dinky sounding midi-music, which I personally felt cheapened the overall music score, but I understand it was essential to the game at the time of release. I was highly encouraged when he told me that he has located all the original midi recordings as well, and wants to remaster them using realistic instrument samples to create a more symphonic sound for all the searching mode sequences, which will complement the music. 

Alas, for now, I must bide my time till we get further down the track, but I’m itching to dig back into Pandora and bring my contribution to renewed life. Who’s with me?

 

As you can see, the wheels are turning, but it’s still early days. We are still lining up all the components required to bring this project to life and into full-swing, but will continue to update players and fans throughout the process.