Footage taken of New York City has been colorized and upscaled using artificial intelligence (AI) more than 100 years after it was shot, and the results are astonishing.
In 1911, Swedish production company Svenska Biografteatern visited the United States and shot extensive footage of the streets. Over a century later, still in mint condition, it was cut by YouTuber Guy Jones, and slowed down to a more natural speed. The result, A Trip Through New York City, can be viewed below.
From that footage, another YouTuber (loving your work here YouTube, prefer this a lot to your anti-vaxx and pseudoscience content) was able to upscale and colorize it using neural networks. As well as giving it a bit of color, Denis Shiryaev boosted the framerate to 60 frames per second, increased the image resolution to 4K, and restored sharpness. The result is quite something.
The color was added using DeOldify, an open-source AI tool available on GitHub for retouching pictures and videos using Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN). It uses two neural networks – the generator and the critic. It's not the first AI to colorize old films and photographs, but it's a lot more convincing.
"This comes from setting up training of the colorizing model to involve a second model – the 'critic' – that basically is there to 'criticize' the colorizations and teach the 'generator' to produce better images," creator Jason Antic told Hackernoon.
"Because the 'critic' model is also a neural network, it can pick up on a lot of the nuances of what makes something look 'realistic' that simpler methods just can’t."
There's been somewhat of a craze for "deoldifying" early video footage lately (we're not complaining). Earlier this year a restored version of The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1896), shot by the Lumière brothers went viral (you'll see why below).
A train arriving at a station may not sound that thrilling (it's no Shrek, or its superior sequel Shrek 2) but the original version astonished audiences back when it was first released. You probably know of this footage from tales of how people reacted to it when they first saw it. The legend goes that when it was first shown, audiences panicked and stampeded out of the cinema to get out of the way of the train.
There's no evidence anyone did actually run away from the screen, and more recently film historians have said it is likely just an urban legend. However, perhaps they would have done if they'd seen the restored version in color below?
There are countless other examples out there, using footage of anything from Doctor Who to the 1935 UK general election.
Check out a few more restored videos below.
Although we'll admit the upscaling can occassionally be pure nightmare fuel.