A Trip Through New York City in 1911: Vintage Video of NYC Gets Colorized & Revived with Artificial Intelligence

Denis Shirayev is at it again! The man who only a few weeks ago put one of the most famous pieces of film history–the Lumiere Bros. footage of a train arriving at La Ciotat station–through a neural network to bring it “to life,” so to speak, has turned to another fascinating slice of history.

For his next installment, he has taken footage of New York City daily life in 1911, eight minutes of tram rides, horse-drawn wagons, the elevated train, and the rush of crowded streets, and applied the same deep learning algorithms to make it all look like it was shot yesterday. This time he had a bit of help from another YouTube historian/technician Guy Jones, who had already speed corrected and tweaked the footage, as well as adding environmental sounds. Shirayev has used AI to upscale the footage to 4K and to 60p.




The original footage was shot by Svenska Biografteatern, a Swedish newsreel company, and begins with a shot of the Statue of Liberty as if seen through a spyglass. The film continues as travelogue and as an introduction to the immigrant experience, as the camera shows boats docking, passengers disembarking, and then the overwhelming experience of New York City.

The footage is clear enough to take in storefronts and advertising on trams and the sides of buildings. But the atmosphere is too clogged with daily smoke to get a real clear vista of the skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge.

At the time, Manhattan had a population about 2 million. Interestingly, that was its height. Over a hundred years later, that has declined to 1.6 million, with a significant decrease in population density. This Observer article ascribes that to gentrification, and a change of residential areas to commercial ones.

And let’s repeat what we said about Shirayev’s previous 4K footage: this is not a “remaster”. This is not a “restoration.” This is using the power of computing to interpret frames of film and create in between frames, as well as create detail from blurry footage. (I’m not too sure about the colorization–it doesn’t really work as well as all the other software…yet).

Now we know that Shirayev is making this a thing, please note his pinned message in the YouTube comments: he’s taking requests.

via Laughing Squid

Related Content:

Iconic Film from 1896 Restored with Artificial Intelligence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Version of the Lumière Brothers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station

Pristine Footage Lets You Revisit Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Brothers

Immaculately Restored Film Lets You Revisit Life in New York City in 1911

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.


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