Experience Footage of Roaring 1920s Berlin, Restored & Colorized with Artificial Intelligence

Offered the chance to trav­el back in time to any city in any peri­od, sure­ly more than a few would choose Berlin in the 1920s. Ide­al­ly it would be Berlin in the mid-1920s: after much of the social and eco­nom­ic dam­age of the Great War had been repaired, but before the Great Depres­sion reached Ger­many at the end of the decade, doing its part to enable the rise of Hitler. The clos­est expe­ri­ence to step­ping in that time machine yet devel­oped is the video above, a series of clips from Walther Ruttman­n’s 1927 doc­u­men­tary Berlin: Sym­pho­ny of a Metrop­o­lis, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here in Open Cul­ture — but smoothed out, scaled up, and col­orized with the aid of appli­ca­tions pow­ered by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.

Describ­ing it as “the real Baby­lon Berlin of the 1920s” por­trayed “from dawn until dusk in three min­utes,” the video’s poster empha­sizes that the Berlin of the Weimar Repub­lic (the Ger­man state from 1918 to 1933) “was a mul­ti-cul­tur­al city” — which it is again today, though a lit­tle less than a cen­tu­ry ago it was one “teem­ing with flap­pers, bobbed hair, cloche hats, and the danc­ing girls of Berlin’s infa­mous cabaret scene.”

Dur­ing these Weimar “Gold­en Years,” Berlin expe­ri­enced a “cul­tur­al explo­sion,” the vivid­ness of which is under­scored by the myr­i­ad enhance­ments per­formed on Ruttman­n’s already strik­ing orig­i­nal footage. These include the use of DeNoise, the inter­po­la­tion of motion “using a deep learn­ing open source pro­gram Dain-App,” and the addi­tion of col­or with Deold­ify.

You may rec­og­nize the name of that last appli­ca­tion, which was used a cou­ple of years ago to cre­ate a “remixed” ver­sion of Fritz Lang’s Metrop­o­lis, now nowhere to be found on the inter­net. Oth­er, more benign uses of DeOld­ify include the col­oriza­tion of dance sequences from black-and-white films like Stormy Weath­er and Hel­lza­pop­pin’, as well as of an 1896 snow­ball fight orig­i­nal­ly cap­tured by the Lumière Broth­ers. Ruttman­n’s work, and that of oth­er cre­ators of “city sym­phonies” in the 1920s, builds on that of those cin­e­ma pio­neers for whom real life was the nat­ur­al sub­ject, cap­tur­ing live­li­er urban envi­ron­ments with dynam­ic and inno­v­a­tive shoot­ing and edit­ing tech­niques to match. If you enjoy your three min­utes in the DeOld­ified ver­sion of his Berlin, why not spent a lit­tle more of your day in sim­i­lar­ly deep-learn­ing-enhanced Paris, New York, and Havana of the past as well?

via Messy­Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Gold­en Age of Berlin Comes to Life in the Clas­sic, Avant-Garde Film, Berlin: Sym­pho­ny of a Metrop­o­lis (1927)

Dra­mat­ic Col­or Footage Shows a Bombed-Out Berlin a Month After Germany’s WWII Defeat (1945)

See Berlin Before and After World War II in Star­tling Col­or Video

Berlin Street Scenes Beau­ti­ful­ly Caught on Film (1900–1914)

Watch 1920s “City Sym­phonies” Star­ring the Great Cities of the World: From New York to Berlin to São Paulo

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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