AI and the future of film restoration

I don’t think this has been discussed here and I wondered if others had thoughts about it.

Until the recent arrival (and rapid development) of generative artificial intelligence, it was reasonable to assume that many deteriorated and lost elements of old movies, such as our beloved SWs, could never be recovered; that they were in fact forever lost, like so many of the folk who made them.

Amazingly, this no longer appears to be true.

Soundtracks: there are many instances of scenes cut for distributions in particular countries where that language dub has either been lost or was never made. It’s already clear from services offered by Eleven Labs and others, that it’s now possible to clone voices by sampling and recreate very authentic sounding performances. This can be done by inputting text with performance instructions or by audio translation from the performance in a different language. Although it’s still in early development, there are services like Heygen which synchronise the lip movement to match the translated speech.

Image resolution: it has always been a universally accepted and inescapable truth that once you’ve lost the camera negatives, you’ve lost the chance to reproduce the film in its original resolution. And if the best elements that survive are on a 16mm dupe, an 8mm home movie or, God forbid, VHS, well that’s the best you’re gonna see.

Again, AI generative algorithms are turning this on its head. How’s that possible? Think of it this way - provided you have high res samples of, for example, the actors’ skin texture in other surviving movies, AI can ‘import’ this into the inferior images. Of course it doesn’t have to be the skin texture of a particular actor. If that’s unavailable, a more generic matching texture can suffice. This of course applies to all detail within the image.

As a purist, you may say, “but this is a recreation, not a restoration; we’re not resurrecting pixel by pixel the lost film grain”. True, but I think this may be where my purist qualms take a back seat to viewing pleasure.

What do you folk think? Does the future hold an answer to all our niggles about missing dubs, cut scenes and films that only exist in degraded form?


Though not a spaghetti western, since I was a kid I have always wanted to see Lon Chaney’s London After Midnight and there is no full copy known to still be in existence. It would be awesome if the technology eventually comes to take the existing footage and the script to recreate the entire movie.

Then, if we are truly lucky, we might eventually get to see the lost classic Chrysanthemums for a Bunch of Swine. :laughing:


The really crazy thing is that, in theory, AI technology could reach the point where we could just tell the software to make a new original spaghetti western with our favorite actors/characters and it could be produced in seconds in the style of whatever director we want. This endless entertainment will indeed come in handy as we pass the time in our 10’x6’ cubicles waiting for our organs to be harvested for the aging elite human cyborgs.


It sounds like a very expensive process, and therefore is it likely that any small distributor is going to spend mucho dinero on these type of ultra obscure films ?

Personally I dislike the idea … if it’s lost to time, then so be it :wink:


Probably in 150 years or never.

In dubbing this is already a huge thing. Just seconds of someone’s voice is enough to emulate, so you could dub any movie with any 70s actor’s voice as you’d see fit, there’s plenty of sample material to train the AI with, and that’s probably a very simplistic AI use.
In image restoration, AI is already long established as well. If you have millions of little pictures to train the AI with (you do), then it becomes fairly easy to for example have an AI correctly identify a tear in the image, or a dust speckle, and so on, and clean it up correctly… the technology is fast progressing. I suspect AI is already used in modern TVs as well (mine has an AI sticker, not sure what it does), most likely in “smart” upscaling of non-UHD content to an UHD image… and so on


Almost certainly so at the moment but these things move fast. AI is developing at an insane speed and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this sort of software available at a very cheap maybe even free cost sooner than you think.

The unanswered question of course with all this AI stuff is who owns the rights to what. If you clone an actor’s voice or image surely their estate is owed something even if the actor themselves has passed on. or does it just get considered some sort of advanced level sampling which becomes so prevalent that nobody bothers to challenge it. We will see.


I have heard of companies buying these rights from hapless widows for cheap

A.I carpetbaggers ! LOL


precisely. not sure what the legal situation is, if there are no offspring to buy these rights from. I wonder, is the voice of someone a matter of public domain some X years after their departure? these are interesting questions :slight_smile:

I hope it’s a long way off … as for my money CGI isn’t nearly as convincing as it thinks it is - Look at the mess film makers have already done attempting to make actors in their 70s look as though they are 30 … ‘The Irishman’ is the main offender.

It’s certainly impressive as technology, but I can’t realistically think of a partical application, when 20 year olds these days have no idea about actors and musicians from the 20th century.


Having seen some of the imagery produced by Sora, I’m actually looking forward to AI-generated spag-slop. The results are probably not going to turn out very coherent, but then again, spags aren’t a paragon of coherency to begin with.

A bounty hunter (Jeff Cameron) is tasked with tracking down a vampire (Dino Strano) preying upon the local population and hiding in the midst of Roman gravel pits. With a special appearance by José Manuel Martín as the town rapist. Coming soon to your computer screen.


Type cast even in the cyberworld !