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AB Soft Neat Video

Noise-reduction plug-in By JG Harding
Published October 2010

Neat Video is designed to deal with the kind of chroma (colour) and luma (black and white) noise that appears in digital video and digitised footage, especially where high gain, ISO or ASA has been used in the recording process. It also aims to eliminate some of the noise and artifacts produced by video compression, as long as the codec is of high enough quality to produce relatively uniform noise patterns, and uses intra‑ and inter‑frame algorithms to reduce noise. Neat Video is available for After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Studio, Vegas, Pinnacle and Virtual Dub.

As complicated as the mathematical process is, it's incredibly easy to get amazing noise-reduction results with next to no input. Neat Video uses the frame you're currently viewing to create a 'noise profile' for the current clip, and the easiest way to create this is to press Auto Profile. This exciting button picks a featureless part of the frame that reveals noise clearly, giving you a percentage figure of 'quality', or how useful this area is for profiling noise. If it's below 60, you're best selecting another frame for profiling.

Standard settings allow percentage control of chroma and luma noise‑reduction, as well as image sharpening. The sharpening itself is great, but extremely noisy footage will always look 'soft' once processed, as the detail simply isn't present with very high ISO video. Advanced mode allows detailed control of fine-, medium- and coarse-grain noise‑reduction and sharpening levels, as well as individual colour channels (Y, Cb and Cr). Inter‑frame settings involve telling the plug‑in how many frames to use before and after the current frame, and how aggressively to adapt to changes, with render times and noise-reduction quality increasing as more frames are used.

The reduction itself is quite a revelation and, given the price point, I'm not embarrassed to call Neat Video an essential purchase. When shooting in low light, Neat Video allows that bit more creative freedom on set, opening up another few stops of ISO where normally the footage would be too noisy to use. High render times (even with an i7 940 processor) are the only price you pay for this performance, so efficiency should improve in future updates. It'd be nice to see an option for Nvidia GPU acceleration too! FCP users get the best deal, as one Neat Video license works for the whole Studio package, while Adobe users need separate licenses for After Effects and Premiere. In all, excellent performance and an idiot-proof automatic mode make Neat Video indispensable for budget post‑production. The Pro version allows 32-bit rendering and high resolutions, while the Home version is limited to DVD resolution and 8-bit rendering. J G Harding

Download $99 Pro version; $49 Home version.