Old Film, Transformed

Two cities, each on the other side of the world, captured on old film which has been digitized, colorized, and upscaled using neural networks to 4k and 60 frames/second.

Tokyo 1913 – 1915
New York City 1911

Some of the technical details about what Denis Shiryaev, a YouTuber known for restoring vintage videos does to achieve his magic:

4k upscale – Each frame can be upscaled using specifically-targeted data that perfectly aligns with your footage. Our neural network will “redraw” the missing data and increase the frame resolution 4x or more.

FPS boosting – A neural network trained via slow-mo movies will artificially generate additional frames for your footage. Even 14 fps films can easily be boosted to 60 fps.

Denis also ran his algorithms across the famous Trip down Market Street film (recorded just days before the 1906 earthquake). As he narrates, over the course of half a month, he upscaled the origianl and transformed it into a 50,000 frame, 380 gb file, using the algorithms to fill in information that was not captured in the original.

More examples of his work and services at https://neural.love/

“I think that’s the bigger story”

I missed the keynote at ONA 15 last year so I didn’t get a chance to see Josh Singer, the screen writer of Spotlight, on stage interviewing the original members of the Boston Globe Spotlight team (Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Rezendes, and Walter Robinson) that were the subject of the now Oscar-winning film.

Having just seen the movie last weekend, I can now put this talk into context and it’s fascinating. We get an inside look into early efforts in data journalism and a behind the scenes look at what it was like for the team that uncovered the scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the Boston Catholic Archdiocese.

While challenging, there is real value in holding back a story until you have the full picture, when you have irrefutable evidence to state your case. This may be difficult in 2016 and the Spotlight team is conscious of the rare moment in time where the masses did not have the benefit of an internet to cross-link scandals from one parish to the next but the newspaper was able leverage email and the Boston Globe website once they published to maximize distribution and impact of their story.

Twitter, Facebook, and the overall interconnectedness of everyone in 2016 would make it almost impossible to keep something this big under wraps for so long. The temptation and business pressure to publish first would be too great.

The first Spotlight stories had the team spent months putting the pieces together. That’s an expense that most journalistic institutions cannot spare to chase down a hunch, especially for a metro story. This movie comes at a time when many of the local news desks are being hollowed out and one would hope that the movie and it’s success helps underscore the importance of a strong, independent local press that is uniquely positioned to uncover these stories which hit closest to home.

For more reading, The Boston Globe has a special section where you can dive into all the original material including the original documents that were put online and the story that revealed the scandal in 2002.

Oh, the headline of this post comes from the lead into Marty Baron’s speech in the film about why they shouldn’t rush to publish what they initially uncovered, proof that almost 50 priests had been involved.

I think that’s the bigger story. We need to focus on the institution, not the individual priests. Practice and policy; show me the church manipulated the system so that these guys wouldn’t have to face charges, show me they put those same priests back into parishes time and time again. Show me this was systemic, that it came from the top, down.

Here’s Marty’s take on the film and the process by which it came together. I’m in ‘Spotlight’, but it’s not really about me. It’s about the power of journalism.

And here’s a screenshot of the email from Marty to Walter Robinson that was in the presentation from ONA (sorry that it’s blurry, it’s a screen capture from the video).

marty baron email

Francis Ford Coppola on the Amateur

in the documentary Hearts of Darkness, A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse Francis Ford Coppola’s wife, Eleanor, chronicled the filming and production of her husband’s masterpiece Apocalypse Now. It’s an fascinating film, a meta-commentary of the American entertainment industry as a metaphor for American imperialism and the war in Vietnam. I highly recommend it.

The clip above comes right before the credits start rolling. A weary Francis looks forward to the return of the amateur who practices film making purely for the art. It’s a prescient glimpse to the world of YouTube and Snapchat artists where we find ourselves today, a refreshing support of new art forms from a lion of the old.

To me, the great hope is that now these little 8mm video recorders and stuff have come out, and some… just people who normally wouldn’t make movies are going to be making them. And you know, suddenly, one day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart, you know, and make a beautiful film with her little father’s camera recorder. And for once, the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed, forever. And it will really become an art form. That’s my opinion.

Modern Family take on Noah

Variety reports that the TV sitcom Modern Family is going to film an entire episode featuring the UI of phones, laptops, and tablets as a way to tell a story. The idea came from a short film, Noah, that debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film festival and won many awards for it’s innovative commentary on our device-mediated society.

I’ve embedded Noah below (kinda NSFW, remember Chatroulette?). I look forward to Modern Family’s treatment which will air on ABC February 25th with the title “Connection Lost”

Howl 2.0

UC Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg and documentary filmmaker (and founder of the Webby Award) Tiffany Shlain put together a modern update to Allen Ginsberg’s famous Beat Generation poem, Howl (also purportedly written in Berkeley). Yelp exhorts us all to unplug from from our endless quest for the next info-fix and, “power-down and revisit the present tense.”

They practice what they preach and encourage everyone to take a “technology shabbat” from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I love Berkeley!

They are working on a feature film which was featured at Sundance this year. Connected, An Autobiography about Love, Death & Technology.

Spielberg does Tintin in 3D

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson will release The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, as a 3D film in December. The posters were revealed today and the first clips are rumored to be online tomorrow.

I was a huge Tintin fan growing up so I’m curious to see what happens to the characters after they get the Spielberg treatment.

UPDATE: The trailer was just posted along with the movie website. You be the judge, does the character animation work for you?

Avatar, Performance Capture

I had a chance to see Avatar this evening and was blown away at what James Cameron has done to evolve the art of motion capture. Anyone who has seen the film would agree that the bar has been moved higher in capturing not only the physical motions but also the full range of emotional power of the actors and overlaying it  seamlessly onto the animated characters.

The clip below how a whole suite of new technology came together to create what they call, Performance Capture.

Hey You Potter!

For Tyler’s 6th Birthday we didn’t have a big party. He chose instead to redirect the birthday funds into a six disc DVD set of the first three Harry Potter movies. We’ve been reading the Potter books and Tyler has found a new world to explore beyond Thomas the Tank Engine. He picks up every piece of trivia, asks detailed questions, and is now studying the movies as eager as an acolyte.

Because her playmate is now entranced by the spell of Potter, Julia’s picked it up a bit as well. She hasn’t quite gotten the name of the the series down yet so she calls it “Hey You Potter” but she’s got the theme music down and both of them came to our bed this morning and greeted us with their renditions.