Today, I received a press release whose title was "FixMyMovie Launches with James Bond-Style Video Enhancement".

This did not fill me with joyous anticipation. "Video enhancement" is one of those ridiculous action movie cliches - any old security camera footage can be "enhanced" to hundred-megapixel detail whenever it's necessary to move the plot along.

FixMyMovie does not, however, actually make such stupid claims. It would, in fact, probably be perfectly useless to James Bond.

What it aims to do is apply MotionDSP processing muscle to low quality video, to make it better looking without losing detail. At the moment you can make a free account on and upload any video clip smaller than 352 by 288 pixels in resolution and 20 megabytes in file size, and see what transpires.

So I did.

When I reviewed the Aiptek Pocket DV2 toy digital video camera back in early 2003, I strapped it to the top of a model tank and took it for a drive around a park. The Pocket DV2 produces grainy, fuzzy, nine frame per second 320 by 240 video, which is pretty much on par for cheap phone cameras these days. FixMyMovie is specifically designed to enhance phone camera video, so I figured one of the Aiptek clips would be a good sample.

Here's a Google Video version of the clip. [UPDATE: Now moved to YouTube.] Video of this quality is one of the few things that GooTube compression won't make a whole lot worse, but it's still lost some quality; you can download a DivX-compressed version of the original footage, which looks almost exactly the same as the original Motion JPEG video but is quite a bit smaller, here.

Here's the FixMyMovie-d version. If you can't see it, you probably need the latest beta Flash plugin. [UPDATE: This post is years old now, and the above FixMyMovie player code doesn't work any more. The YouTube version of the stabilised video is below.] If you've got the right plugin already, you've probably noticed that the FixMyMovie player currently has a MySpace-style auto-play function, which you can't turn off. Sorry about that.

The difference really is quite impressive. FixMyMovie has gotten rid of the prominent blocky compression artefacts in the original video, without noticeably blurring it. It's not an amazing, incredible, action-movie-bulldust improvement, but it's very worthwhile. Rapid camera movements - an acknowledged weakness of the enhancing technique - leave noticeable ghosts from previous frames. But they're only noticeable if you're trying hard to see something wrong with the video. The improvements far outweigh the problems.

The deal with FixMyMovie - once it leaves its current beta state - is that it'll only enhance the first ten seconds of any clip for free. If you like the look of it you can "Order" a fully processed version, which will cost money - 99 US cents, to enhance this clip.

(It took quite a long time to process this clip, presumably because people are already hammering the FixMyMovie server. You get an e-mail when processing is finished, though, so you don't have to sit there refreshing the My Videos page.)

At the moment, you get $US25 credit when you create a free account - and no, you don't have to give them a credit card number; use a disposable e-mail address if you're really paranoid. $25 should plenty to try the service out.

The player lets you play the whole clip even when only ten seconds have been enhanced, seamlessly connecting the enhanced beginning to the unprocessed rest of the video. Click the bar on the right-hand side of the video and you can compare processed and unprocessed still frames with a nifty mouse-drag interface.

As the FAQ explains, once you've fully processed a video, you can download it in various popular formats, including native h.263-encoded FLV flash video format, for upload to YouTube, which will then not recompress the video.

Here's the video on YouTube - I only just uploaded it, so it ought to be viewable in a moment. If you can't be bothered installing the new Flash player, or if it's not available for the computer you're using, this is pretty close to the version.

Google Video and YouTube still aren't completely harmonised; you can upload FLV-format video like this to YouTube, but not to Google Video.

The enhanced WMV and MOV versions of this dinky little one-minute clip were fifteen megabytes in size. They've got a bit more detail than the online Flash version - they look a bit better than the 7.5Mb FLV-format version too - but they're not nearly better enough to justify that huge file size.

The FixMyVideo enhancement hasn't done anything to the frame rate (which is good), but it's blown the file resolution up to 640 by 480, which along with 64 kilobit per second audio (which the crappy-camera original didn't have) accounts for the file size inflation.

The smaller FLV-format version is 320 by 240, as it should be, because that's the native resolution of GooTube.

The big file sizes aren't really a problem, because this enhancement technique is based around interframe interpolation; it tries to find the same image components in different frames, and overlay them to leave the image data and eliminate various forms of distortion. So it's kind of like speckle imaging and image stacking, but for motion video. Sticking with the original resolution would have thrown away some of the interpolated detail.

In brief, though: Yes, FixMyMovie works. I don't know how much value it'll have for video that looks OK to start with, but if you've got some crappy phone, web or toy camera video that you'd like to improve, check FixMyMovie out while it's still free.

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