'You Can't See the Join!'
December 31, 2017 2:34 AM   Subscribe

How a previously lost episode of the tv show Morecambe and Wise was recovered involving a 'diseased' film, a trip to Nigeria, dentistry, lasers, X-ray tomography, algorithms and some goo 1, 2, 3
posted by fearfulsymmetry (13 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This is good news, i'll have to keep an eye on the story and hope they release it on the iPlayer or something for future viewing. Now if only there was a way to insert it into the correct location on the DVD box set without ripping it and rebuilding it.

Fascinating use of a mixture of technologies, and even python scripts, to recover lost data.
posted by diziet at 4:50 AM on December 31, 2017

You can say that again.
posted by unliteral at 5:48 AM on December 31, 2017

What if it was possible to use an X-ray scanner to lock onto the metal content within the film emulsion layer and turn it into a visible light image? Could we scan the film without unrolling it? Without even touching it?

Those wacky archivist/archaeologists!
posted by sammyo at 5:59 AM on December 31, 2017

Hallo, Bongo!
posted by briank at 6:32 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Very cool. I hope that this technology can be applied to other lost films.
posted by octothorpe at 6:58 AM on December 31, 2017

What's really interesting to me is how ephemeral early TV broadcasts were regarded. One and done...off to the ether never to be mentioned again because you'll do another tomorrow. Unlike now, where every fluff promo interview outtake and random jerkhole's YouTube cooking video shot on their phone is perfectly indexed for perpetuity.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:30 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Obligatory: All the right voxels, but not necessarily in the right order.

This is seriously fascinating and I adore that the BBC has an R&D department who are empowered to chase things far beyond the point of easy low-hanging fruit. Not to mention the university that permits its researchers to "play" around the edges of their official posts for the general Betterment Of Things.
posted by BuxtonTheRed at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Fascinating use of a mixture of technologies, and even python scripts, to recover lost data.

Which ones? The Spanish Inquisition? Or maybe the gasmen, or...

Oh, I see.

Carry on.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 1:37 PM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

> Hallo, Bongo!
Wow! I remember watching that! Thank you briank! Damn, I miss being 19 .. or at least, the world when I was 19; actually being 19 wasn't much fun as I was failing in uni.
posted by anadem at 10:28 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fascinating article. I think my dad was a writer on this show, BTW.

I see they never do get all the way to recovering footage they can broadcast, but it's still an amazing idea. I suspect they will regret the whole "cutting it up into cubes with a laser" stage, just to make it bite-sized fot the current generation of MRI machine. It's too lossy. While staying inside the laws of physics they could have come up with a servo mechanism to move the reel around inside the scanner to present different volumes for scanning, given a large enough void in the scanner body (i.e. a more expensive or specially constructed scanner).

The BBC did some interesting stuff recovering Dr Who episodes a few years ago where they combined a color home video with a black and white film copy to make a decent res color master.
This is obviously way beyond that.
posted by w0mbat at 2:14 PM on January 1

If damage tends to be localised to a specific region of a frame, then I imagine it should be possible to patch it in many cases by interpolating from adjacent frames. And it's unlikely that adjacent frames would have damage in the same region unless there is a lot of damage.

Of course, interpolation/tweening works best on static or predictably changing content. Though I wonder whether, if enough data can't be recovered by conventional means from the film, some kind of convolutional neural network trained on similar content might be able to fill in the gaps by hallucinating plausible fill-in content.
posted by acb at 2:37 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

I see they never do get all the way to recovering footage they can broadcast, but it's still an amazing idea.

It sounds like further updates are forthcoming?
posted by atoxyl at 1:05 AM on January 2

What a great project and article series. Thanks for posting this!
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:54 PM on January 3

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