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The Best Video Denoiser


Sooner or later, every editor deals with video noise. Here’s how to get rid of it.

Cover image via Shutterstock (noise added in post).

Whether it’s footage that another videographer gave you or footage that you shot yourself, you’re going to see some noise now and then. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, especially in documentary-style projects that involve shooting conditions beyond your control.

However, thanks to companies like Red Giant and Neat Video, we can all breathe easy when we see noise in our dailies. Even After Effects features a Remove Grain effect (more later).

Sometimes the grain is subtle, and you may only need a little bit of polish. Other times, you’ll need to bring out the big guns. So which Denoiser should you use in which situation? I took some footage and created some of the grainiest nightmare images I could (using grain elements from our Emulsion pack), as well as some more natural and subtly grainy images, and compared the results. Here are my thoughts.

After Effects Remove Grain

The Best Video Denoiser — After Effects Remove Gain

Footage via Shutterstock (noise added in post).

After Effects has an effect called Remove Grain (pictured above). A major limitation of using this effect for noise removal is that it’s only available in After Effects. If you’re in Premiere, you’re going to have to send your footage over to After Effects by right-clicking and selecting Replace with After Effects Composition and then go back and forth. You can read about the process in this PremiumBeat post).

The limitations don’t end there. The biggest thing that holds this effect back is that it’s extremely slow. The plugin defaults to showing you a preview region, so to view the final output, you have to change the Viewing Mode to Final Output. However, once you do this, you’ll notice that it takes forever (preview options always slow things down). For some of the more grainy shots (like the one above), to get an even passable result, you need to turn up the Noise Reduction level to at least 2 or 3 and raise the Passes to around 3 or 4. This slows things down severely.  At times, with some of the most grainy images, it would take almost thirty seconds to view one frame of the final output.

If you fiddle around with the settings a bit and try to find the best of both worlds in terms of performance and natural-looking images, you can get good results. You just may have to wait a while, especially if you have multiple shots to process.

Red Giant Denoiser III

The Best Video Denoiser — Red Giant Denoiser III

Footage via Shutterstock (noise added in post).

Back in October of 2016, Red Giant launched their new Magic Bullet Suite 13, which included a new version of their Denoiser plugin.

I gotta say, this new version is phenomenal. The biggest thing this new version has going for it is that it renders on the GPU, which means that the results come almost in real-time. It is by far the fastest noise-reduction solution. For this new version, the developers completely re-wrote the entire plugin with speed in mind. It’s pretty much a drag and drop effect. For most scenarios, the default settings on the plugin will get you where you need to go. However, if you have a particularly noisy shot, you’ll need to mess around with the settings a bit.

While this plugin is very good for speed (and is particularly useful for situations involving minimal noise), sometimes it struggles if the noise is particularly bad. Every once in a while, you’ll get some images that look a bit blotchy and unnatural. However, this usually means there were some pretty serious noise problems in your footage to begin with.

The full version of this plugin is $199, but that will get you access to the plugin in After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro X. There is also an upgrade path ($99) if you own previous versions of the software.

Neat Video Reduce Noise

The Best Video Denoiser — Neat Video Reduce Noise

Neat Video has been around for a while (they are currently on version 4) as a go-to noise reduction solution. It’s always been very powerful, and over the years, it has only gotten better.

It works by creating a Noise Profile, which it uses to get rid of the noise while leaving the majority your image unchanged. To create a Noise Profile, you have to select a decently sized area of your image that is uniform. For example, the gray street area in the image above would be a usable area. The plugin then takes that information and decides exactly what the noise in your image looks like, and then denoises it accordingly. This is really useful because it tends to keep your image looking nice and natural.

There are only two drawbacks to this plugin compared to other solutions. One: every once in a while, you won’t be able to find a uniform area in your image. Sometimes there is just too much going on in your background to find any sort of area that is acceptable for the plugin to analyze. So, it may be a good idea to find a gray wall or solid surface in your scene and record a plate of it for later use (if you think your footage may be noisy). This way, you can apply a noise profile from one shot to any other that you like. Two: it’s a bit slower than the Red Giant Denoiser. It’s nowhere near as slow as the After Effects Reduce Grain effect, but it can still take some time to render in certain instances.

This plugin is definitely good with extreme noise. There has been a time or two in my career that it has completely brought a shot back from the graveyard. This is the plugin to use when you need to bring out the big guns, as it still somehow achieves a pretty natural-looking image.

This plugin costs $99 for the full version; however, you’ll have to buy a new copy of it for each bit of software you want to use. So if you want to use it in After Effects and Premiere, you’ll need to pay twice. However, they also have an upgrade path for $50 if you own previous versions of the plugin.

Which Is Best?

The Best Video Denoiser — Best Option

I don’t know, to be honest. They both work really well. To me, it comes down to your needs. Most of the time, your noise is just a by-product of lowlight shooting that needs a bit of cleanup. For general purposes, you’ll almost always get away with using Red Giant’s Denoiser III. It’s fast, and it’s easy — and it can occasionally be good in some pretty noisy scenarios.

If you have an extremely noisy shot, and you just need something that will make an image usable, then Neat Video might be the way to go.

When it comes down to it, I think you could make an argument for owning both and deciding to use one or the other based on the situation and the amount of time you have — because when you consider the alternatives (blowing an entire shoot) the cost is pretty low for both options.