BBC R&D attempting recovery of decomposing film

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by jtiner, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maine
    If you're interested in technology and film restoration, here's an interesting three part article regarding the BBC's efforts to recover a horribly decomposed Morcambe and Wise 16mm print that's basically a solid lump.

    'You Can't See the Join!' - Recovering Morecambe and Wise (Part 1) - BBC R&D

    It doesn't appear that the entire program can be recovered, but what they have done is absolutely incredible.
    Here is the reel and some of the recovered frames:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. PaulKTF

    PaulKTF Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I have to ask... What is the point of it? To get a few still frames? How interested could a few still frames from a show be to people?

    I mean if you can recover and restore an entire show then you can at least sell it on DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Download and recoup some money from the cost of the project, but with this you have nothing that you can sell and nothing that's really all that interesting to most people.
     
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  3. Pete Sorbi

    Pete Sorbi Well-Known Member

    maybe just to see if they can...
     
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  4. PaulKTF

    PaulKTF Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I guess.. but... I mean why not put that effort towards restoring shows that can be enjoyed by people that (might) still exist in full?

    I guess this is what happens when you have endless Government money to throw around...
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  5. Starless

    Starless Well-Known Member

    It’s the BBC. It’s not all about money, it’s about recovering and preserving historically important (to the UK) images, which hopefully may lead to full video recovery as the technique is perfected.

    As a fan of many junked 60’s UK shows this is an exciting development.
     
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  6. longdist01

    longdist01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    interesting development, thanks for sharing the link. I recall Vidiot mentioning time and money though with this footage discovered it appears to be an idea to "dissect" it via xray device or like an MRI scan.

    I've read a couple articles over the years and with this exciting prospect hopefully the BBC will further mine audio, video, films and various photographs to continue developing "Classic" programs including Dr. Who which was decently documented by fans, the program has lasted this long and even had a dedicated Restoration Team help out.

    Again thanks for sharing the Morcambe & Wise footage story!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  7. davenav

    davenav Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, USA
    It's a legendary show in the UK.

    But, beyond that, this is exciting film restoration news that no one thought possible.
     
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  8. PaulKTF

    PaulKTF Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    So how will they recoup the money spent on the restoration? By selling large prints of the individual frames?

    (Hey, actually I bet some people would buy those...).

    So is this what they do with that TV tax they charge everyone over there?
     
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  9. davenav

    davenav Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, USA
    Innovation is often met with skepticism, but anything that advances film restoration is worth it. Even if it's only a few frames today, tomorrow it could be much more.
     
  10. This is very interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.

    Very innovative idea.
    It could be very beneficial for other restorations of films once considered beyond repair.
     
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  11. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maine
    The ultimate goal is to restore the program, or at least some sections/clips. The still frames were presented to demonstrate that they can pick out and un-warp the individual layers of the film.
    Some of this kind of research ultimately yields impressive results, such as restoring 60's television shows to color. Some color television shows (Dr. Who, Dad's Army, Top of the Pops, etc.) exist only as monochrome film recordings made back before the color tapes were wiped. Some years ago, BBC engineers noticed fine patterns in the film recordings and realized they were from the original color video subcarrier signal. Some BBC folks and a gentleman named Richard Russell sorted out the math and the process to reverse optical distortions from the film recording process and were ultimately able to restore the original color to many of the programs and they were commercially released.
     
  12. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    Very cool article! Besides the obvious goal of recovering images from the film, this is likely to have an impact on medical imaging.
     
  13. Claus LH

    Claus LH Forum Resident

    Brilliant stuff! This the the kind of research that can help us, say, get lost scene fragments from silent films when reels are in terrible shape, or, conceivably, help restore very badly damaged programs in the future.
    I do love the fact that the reel was found in Nigeria; much as with silent film, finding early TV programs is taking on the same kind of "world-wide search" aspect :righton:
     
  14. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    I wonder if they will mine landfills trying to find where all those early Doctor Who films were dumped. Heck, they did that searching for the Atari 2600 E.T. video game cartridges, and that game was by all reports terrible.
     
  15. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    I didn't understand much of the math in the article, but I'm familiar with much of the technology and they really were attempting something incredibly difficult - analyze a cube of chemical goo to find the original frames of film inside of it, and look for the images on each frame, which have also been warped and distorted. It's like reconstructing the original kernel from a piece of popcorn. I'd imagine someone at the CIA or the NSA is very interest in this technology, and it's application to recovering the writing from a burned piece of paper.
     
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  16. Michelle66

    Michelle66 Forum Resident

    Pretty fascinating article.

    It's too bad the laser needs to slice up the film though. Before reading, I had assumed the process might have allowed them to recover the images without having to carve up what was left of the reel.
     
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  17. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    There is no CT machine big enough to hold the entire roll. From the article:

    Technologically, a detector with sufficient resolution could be created, but this is not the fundamental problem. The physical/mathematical laws dictate that if the size is increased by a factor of n, the number of X-ray photons required for a given image quality (signal-to-noise ratio) must increase by a factor of n4 (n×n×n×n). Thus, an increase in size by a factor of 10 (10×10×10×10) would require 10,000 times the number of photons. This could possibly be provided with a synchrotron X-ray source (a large machine about the size of a football field), but no detector exists that could cope with that massive exposure. An X-ray beam that intense would also generate enough heat to incinerate the film. Oil cooling might help, but the whole film would have to be dimensionally stable to around 1 part in 40,000. After these sorts of back-of-envelope calculations, I confronted Charles with the prospect that this could not be done. Even if (a very big “if”) we could conceive of building an entirely new type of imaging system at a synchrotron, it would take three to five years to get it funded and built; by which time the film would be soup. The only other option was to chop it into manageable pieces; a suggestion I did not think would be terribly palatable.​
     
  18. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maine
    I was thinking the same thing - then I figured that if they can scan curved layers of goo, sort the layers, and fix the geometry, then fixing the laser cut in a frame from an adjacent frame should be a piece of cake.
     
  19. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maine
    The person that located the M&W episode, Phil Morris, has been on a long global search for missing BBC/ITV programs. There was a rumor that he was looking for a desert landfill where Who prints were scrapped. I'm not sure if there's any truth at all to that story.
     
  20. pdenny

    pdenny Blow up your TV

    Dang those humans sometimes come up with a stunner!
     
  21. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    Yeah, they can compare the frames and pull non-changing portions from earlier and later ones in much the same way MPEG compression works.
     
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  22. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    Regarding comments mentioning how difficult monetizing this would be, if we step back a bit and think about it, I would bet many technical advances in many aspects of our life today started with someone noodling around with no thoughts to how a profit could be made. It starts there and grows. Chris menioned this could be applied, possibly, to the medical industry/xrays. I wish our country would stop with this "it's all about the money" mandate. It's really ruining our culture. Sometimes it's nice to just do things because it can be done. Who knows where that process will go, but it can be a thrilling journey.
     
  23. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    The article goes into how other researchers were using a similar technique to image the content of the Dead Sea scrolls that can't be unrolled without them falling to bits.

    Who knows how the techniques developed will eventually be applied? Someone might apply them to ground-scatter radar, to weather modeling, who knows?

    Pure science, rather than applied research, has resulted in great benefit to the human race in ways that nobody could ever predict.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  24. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maine
    I would bet you are correct. Radio and television are perfect examples of technology built on all kinds of unrelated research projects, including some that seemed of little or no value.
     
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  25. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    When Tesla invented radio, he just used it to control a toy boat. Marconi was just applying the technology.
     

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