Lumière’s train in 4K

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, filmed by Auguste and Louis Lumière in 1895 and first shown to an amazed public in January 1896, has gone upscale, 4K upscale, to be precise. Urban legend has it that when audiences first viewed the train barreling towards them on the screen, they screamed and ran for the back of the room. There is no evidence that any such reaction actually happened, no contemporary accounts of it in the press or police reports, but the Lumière Brothers’ thoughtful camera placement certainly created a dynamic 50 seconds of film that caused a sensation.

Surviving prints of the original 35 mm film, while still perfectly viewable, show their age; they’re grainy, faded, scratched. Upscaling film using photochemical restoration methods costs tens of thousands of dollars. Videographer Denis Shiryaev used Gigapixel AI software, an application that deploys artificial intelligence algorithms to fill in the gaps in the images and upscale the 125-year-old film to 4K. He also used the freeware app Dain to interpolate missing frames. That’s a lot of bang for very few bucks.

Shiryaev’s digital restoration benefitted majorly from a source video that had already been restored, eliminating the striations, bubbles, stains, etc. and giving him a pristine slate.

Comparison time! Here’s a version of the original with an assortment of defects typical of old film:

Here’s the digitally restored version Shiryaev used as a source:

And here’s Shiryaev’s 4K, 60 frames per second upscale version:

I’m fascinated by the richness and depth of the images, but it’s giving me a bit of an uncanny valley vibe too. He also made a colorized version which is even uncannier.

7 thoughts on “Lumière’s train in 4K

  1. Unfortunately the compression of YouTube didn’t allow me to appreciate fully the benefits of this digital restoration. The difference was marginal.

  2. It seems the 2 videos are not the same, I don’t understand (comparing background and the people walking on the platform)

  3. Yeah – not the same source footage (but extremely similar) as the original. What gives? Did someone re-stage it?

    Neat digital effects but it does come from the original as shown in the first video.

  4. “Uncanny” would it be, as soon as Marilyn Monroe and Napoleon Bonaparte happily leave the train together making animal noises.

  5. Clearly 2 different films. If the first film is indeed the oldest, it looks like a tree or large bush has grown up in front of the building across the tracks in the meantime.

  6. The last, colorized and “deoldified” video seems to still have a “throbbing” thing.

    According to my memory and backed up by [1], old silent movies in the USA were copyrighted as positives on paper. In some cases the only surviving copy of the film after age and fires would be this registration. I attended a lecture and viewing of a film restored from such an archival copy. The first problem is that there is no registration (alignment) of the frames. So the frames had to be registered by eye.

    I don’t see anything in TFA about any challenges that had to be overcome with registration of the frames. Could you somehow follow up on that subject?

    [1] Silent Cinema: A Guide to Study, Research and Curatorship, Figure 165, found with Google search “copyright registration of silent films on paper”

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