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Black And White Movies Coloured By AI

Black And White Movies Coloured By AI

Ambika Choudhury

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Colourisation or adding colours to the black and white or monochrome images and videos has witnessed a widespread adoption for a few decades now. Traditional colourisation techniques need a lot of human efforts as well as are costlier. However, with the advent of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, these two major issues are disappearing slowly. Not only this but also we have witnessed how researchers are using deepfake techniques to swap faces of celebrities and other popular faces around the globe. 

Let’s take a look at the few movies that have been coloured using artificial intelligence.



They Shall Not Grow Old

They Shall Not Grow Old is a documentary film that was directed and produced by Peter Jackson in 2018. The documentary was created with the help of original footage taken from the First World War of the Imperial War Museum’s archives that include most previously unseen photos and videos. The movie used state-of-the-art restoration techniques, colourisation, 3D technologies, and pulled from 600 hours of BBC archival interviews to colourise the original black and white footages.

Watch the video here.

Pather Panchali

An Asst. Research Professor at the University of Maryland in the United States named Aniket Bera used artificial intelligence-based techniques to colourise some scenes from the cult classic Pather Panchali by Satyajit Ray. According to a media house, Bera explained that the footage was automatically upscaled to 60 fps, 4K (Ultra High Definition) and digitally colourised using “deep neural networks that include DAIN, ESRGAN and DeOldify. He added that the entire process is automatic and took around six-seven hours, with no manual input. The processing time per frame was around 10 mins, but it was completely automatic.

Watch the video here.

The Idle Class

Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology presented a fully automatic method for colourising black-and-white films without any human guidance or references. The researchers coloured scenes from one of the popular movies by great Charlie Chaplin, The Idle Class (1921). The framework in this research consists of a colourisation network with self-regularisation techniques to improve colourisation quality by propagating colours between similar pixels of a video frame including a refinement network designed to make video colourisation more consistent by enhancing temporal consistency between different frames.


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Watch the video here.

Factory Scene – Modern Times (1936)

The famous factory scene from Charlie Chaplin’s movie “Modern Times” has been colourised using open-source AI technology. The code used here is DeOldify and the basic colour corrections were done on the AI output.

Watch the video here.

The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station

The Lumière brothers’ “L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat” is considered as one of the 1st motion pictures ever filmed in 1896. According to Mashable, Denis Shiryaev, who is the videographer has upscaled the movie with the help of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence algorithms, which assisted in enhancing the picture by guessing at what the missing information. The tools that Shiryaev used include the Gigapixel AI from Topaz Labs for upscaling to 4K, DAIN for adding the missing frames, and DeOldify to add colour. These tools are open-sourced and are publicly available for the developers. 

Watch the video here.

La 317e Section 1964

The trailer of this old French movie, La 317e section 1964 has been colourised by Redditor, mar_cnu (Marceau C.). Marceau C. used advanced colourisation technique based on Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) where the model consists of four main components, which are a low-level features network, a mid-level features network, a global features network, and a colourisation network.

Watch the video here.

Wrapping Up

From casting directors to predicting the likelihood of a film’s success and writing movie scripts, artificial intelligence is being seen in a number of sections in the entertainment industry. Unlike the traditional colourisation techniques, deep learning-based algorithms helped the researchers to make the process a lot easier as well as time-efficient. 

In 2018, researchers from NVIDIA developed a deep learning-based algorithm that allows visual artists to simply colourise one frame in a scene and the AI goes to work by colourising the rest of the scene in real time. Sifei Liu, Researcher at NVIDIA stated that the framework is fast and can achieve real-time results. She added that the method also produces better quantitative results than several previous state-of-the-art methods.

However, currently, there are no such black and white drama films that are fully converted into colour with the help of artificial intelligence. With this pace in research, the day is closer when we will be able to witness an old black and white movie into a colourised HD one. 

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