EA Went Digging Through Old 90s Tapes Trying To Remaster Command & Conquer's Cutscenes

Illustration for article titled EA Went Digging Through Old 90s Tapes Trying To Remaster iCommand  Conquers/i Cutscenes

The team behind the upcoming Command & Conquer remaster have posted a video that’s partly about the process behind cleaning up the 1995 original’s cutscenes. Mostly, though, it’s a fascinating look inside the archives at loads of dusty old tapes that are crammed with bonafide video game history.

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You’ll find the video below, in which after a bit of digging EA found that in the depths of their archives were drawers and drawers full of the original tapes that Command & Conquer’s (and Red Alert’s) cutscenes were filmed on, which meant they thought they had access to video that was of far superior quality to that available from the games themselves (which, as was the style in the 90s, was grainy as hell).

After finding the sole vendor on the entire US West Coast that could digitize the old, weird Sony tape format that Westwood had used at the time, EA got a hard drive back with everything found on the tapes and it was....the copies of the same files that appeared in the game, not the original recordings. Indeed, thanks to the decomposition of physical media, they looked even worse than the videos we all saw on our CD-ROM drives back in the day.

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Bummer. This meant EA had to resort to upscaling the existing videos, so working alongside members of the C&C community (who had already done stuff like this for fun), they built an AI upscaling algorithm to make the 90s videos a little more presentable for 2020, helped by the fact that they could use the mpeg videos from the console versions of the games, since they upscaled better than the PC’s original weird format.

It’s a cool story, and exactly the kind of things people interested in remasters of classics love to see. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, though, at the fact EA had to uncover all those tapes in the first place. It’s a meme at this point, but the rate at which EA have bought up then closed storied, famous developers over the decades is still a sore point, and seeing all of that amazing, historically significant Westwood material just lying around unnoticed made me pretty sad.

It also makes me wonder what else is buried down in EA’s archives, gathering dust and decaying, that once belonged to studios like Origin or Bullfrog.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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The best cutscene in C&C history is still available in high quality though