Urban legend has it that in 1895, when the Lumière brothers’ “L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat” — one of the first motion pictures ever — was shown to an audience in Paris, some people ran away from the screen in panic, thinking the train will run them over.
By today’s standards, however, the original footage, which shows a train pulling into the La Ciotat station, is pretty shoddy.
But thanks to the wonders of artificial intelligence technology, we can now see the movie (below) in glorious 4K at 60 frames per second, and it looks pretty great (via Reddit). Some details, like the reflections on the train, look as if the footage was taken with modern equipment.
Videographer Denis Shiryaev has upscaled the movie using artificial intelligence algorithms, which enhance the picture by making guesses at what the missing information should be. Not everything is perfect; looking closely at some of the faces you’ll see where the AI struggled to add the missing details, but on the whole, it’s mesmerizing to look at.
Shiryaev even added sound to the video, which sounds impossible but somehow works fairly well.
But there was still room for improvement. Shortly after uploading the original video, Shiryaev shared a colorized version, which basically looks like a short film taken in the 1970s.
Shiryaev didn’t share much details on how he created the video, except the tools he used: the publicly available Gigapixel AI from Topaz Labs for upscaling to 4K, Dain for adding the missing frames, and DeOldify to add color.
There’s also some confusion surrounding the source. Shiryaev says he was working off of this video, which is different from this widely-shared version and has far higher quality. It’s unclear why two versions of the video exist, but the one used by Shiryaev appears to be genuine.
The result is impressive — and one may argue that it’s even more impressive because it was apparently done by one person using freely available tools, instead of a professional studio leveraging expensive equipment and software. Shiryaev has upscaled a few more movies in a similar fashion, including the Apollo moon landing — check them out here.